Early in February, Samsung followed Apple’s lead by introducing support for ad blocking for its web browser, the default installed on its Android smartphones. The update allows third-party developers to build apps that will block ads from its web browser, allowing users to surf the mobile web faster and consume less data. The catch, of course, is that Samsung owners have to use the company’s own browser, and not a third-party browser like Chrome or Firefox, in order to take advantage of the new function. The addition of the content blocking app made Samsung the first major Android smartphone maker to introduce ad blocking, after Apple’s major announcement late last summer.
Shortly after Samsung announced the news, developers began launching their own versions of ad blocking apps on the Google Play Store for supported Samsung phones; amongst the most popular were Crystal and Adblock Fast. The latter, which was one of the first apps to appear, was banned from the store just a few days after its launch. Google’s app review team claimed that Adblock Fast violated Section 4.4 of the Android Developer Distribution Agreement, which states that developers can’t release apps interfering with “the devices, servers, networks, or other properties or services of any third-party including, but not limited to, Android users, Google or any mobile network operator.” Crystal, another popular app, was slowed down: Google prevented its app update from going through, citing the same violation of the Developer Distribution Agreement. It seems that while Google allowed browser apps that contained an integrated ad blocker, they did not tolerate third-party extensions that blocked ads on specific web browsers.
In the characteristic speed of the tech world, however, it seems that ad blocking apps are now back on the market for Google. Today, AdBlock Fast’s appeal to its takedown was accepted, and the app was republished. Crystal’s update was also accepted, and other ad blocking apps like Adblock Plus remained untouched. Though Google declined to comment on the recent changes, the potential implications of an authorization of ad blocking apps for Android are plentiful.