In the recent months, news has been coming out about the US Government taking action against sites that host pirated Android applications - specifically “applications hosted without the author’s permission”.
While I’m not sure whether the recent crackdown was initiated by Google, I am happy to see it finally happen. Apple’s been very authoritative on their stance against piracy, and was always quick to act against it, while my impression has been that Google’s been turning a blind eye to the rampant piracy of Android apps – including some fairly brazen ones that ran on paid membership systems.
I don’t want to blame the app’s lackluster sales on piracy necessarily – software companies do this all the time and come up with some fairly ludicrous numbers. Still, given that the top Google search term for Spark 360 was ‘spark 360 apk’ for as long as I can remember, it would be naive to say that it didn’t have at least a moderate impact on the app’s sales.
For myself, I hesitate to put any sort of figure on the issue, since I know that some of those who pirated the app would probably not bother to actually pay for it, while others would simply just hoard it and not use it. Ultimately, what made Spark 360 unfeasible as a commercial app was Microsoft’s official Xbox Live app – it killed almost 90% of the daily sales (which had already plummeted in February – for reasons still unknown).
My experience with being a mobile developer has been an odd one – it’s exposed me to various less-than-savory “businesses” that routinely contact (read: spam) me with offers of mutual collaboration, free app hosting, paid app hosting, and even the odd “we have created an account for you and uploaded your app, here’s your password”. I still get emails and offers about OpenSpark – an application that hasn’t even worked for two years. Hard to imagine this experience being unique – I’m fairly certain that many others app authors get the same treatment. Android’s open nature has sadly attracted the unscrupulous masses eager to turn a quick buck – it’s a fact of life for those of us who prefer an open platform.
In any case, I’ve always enjoyed supporting open source software – the pros certainly outweigh any cons – and am happy to contribute once again.