Author Archives: Wilson White

Google and U.S. developers find agreement over Google Play store

The Android app economy has helped create nearly two million American jobs; developers around the world have earned more than $120 billion using the Google Play Store. We’re proud that Google Play helps developers build great apps and rewards them for doing so. And we know that a successful ecosystem must benefit both developers and consumers, which is why we have rules of the road to keep the store secure, protect privacy and prevent fraud. While we strive to make Google Play the best platform for everyone, Android also provides consumers and developers the opportunity to use other app store options.

Today, we’re pleased to share a proposed agreement that will help ensure that both developers and consumers can continue to benefit from Google Play. Google and a group of U.S. developers have reached a proposed settlement that allows both parties to move forward and avoids years of uncertain and distracting litigation.

As part of the settlement, we’re establishing a $90 million fund to support U.S. developers who earned two million dollars or less in annual revenue through Google Play during each year from 2016-2021. A vast majority of U.S. developers who earned revenue through Google Play will be eligible to receive money from this fund, if they choose. If the Court approves the settlement, developers that qualify will be notified and allowed to receive a distribution from the fund.

In addition to the fund, we’re committing to maintain a number of existing practices and implement new benefits that help developers innovate and communicate with their users:

  • To continue to provide developers with a tiered pricing model, we’ll maintain Google’s 15% commission rate for the first $1 million in annual revenue earned from the Google Play Store for U.S. developers, which we implemented in 2021.
  • We’re revising our Developer Distribution Agreement to make it clear that developers can continue to use contact information obtained in-app to communicate with users out-of-app, including about subscription offers or lower-cost offerings on a rival app store or the developer’s website.
  • In new versions of Android, Google will maintain certain changes implemented in Android 12 that make it even easier for people to use other app stores on their devices, while being careful not to compromise the safety measures Android has in place.
  • To showcase independent and small startup developers building unique high-quality apps, we’re creating an “Indie Apps Corner” that will appear on the apps tab on the U.S. Google Play homepage and shine a spotlight on these developers.

These commitments, including the $90 million fund, build on a number of ways we already support developers, such as providing tools that help developers build great apps, lower their costs, and grow their businesses. In fact, compared to other prominent digital content stores, we provide developers more ways to interact with their customers.

Finally, we’ve heard developers want to understand more about how Google Play operates, which is why we’ve agreed to publish annual transparency reports. The reports will share information about the Google Play Store, including statistics such as apps removed from Google Play, account terminations, and other data regarding how users interact with Google Play.

We’re pleased that we worked with the developers to propose this agreement for the Court’s approval. As the agreement notes, we remain confident in our arguments and case, but this settlement will avoid protracted and unnecessary litigation with developers, whom we see as vital partners in the Android ecosystem. We remain steadfast in our commitment to building thriving, open platforms that empower consumers and help developers succeed.

The facts about the temporary Match Group agreement

No other mobile platform is as open as Android and Google Play, and no other platform has shown more willingness to champion user choice, invest in change, or collaborate with developers. We are currently defending these points in court against Match Group, and at the court's request, on May 19 we reached a temporary agreement while the case is being heard and we prepare our planned countersuit.

On May 20, Match Group disregarded the stipulations it agreed to in court with a misleading press release that mischaracterizes what happened in the proceeding. We want to once again set the record straight to make sure the rest of the developer ecosystem is aware of the facts.

The court asked us temporarily not to remove Match Group’s apps from the Play Store on June 1 for its violation of our terms until a full trial in exchange for the following:

  • Match Group has to put up to $40 million in an escrow account to begin to account for the service fees it owes us.
  • Match Group must also provide Google with a monthly accounting of all in-app sales of digital goods and services from June 1 through trial so we can track what it owes for the immense benefit it receives from Google Play.
  • Match Group must work in good faith to further enable Google Play’s billing system as an option for users. Google agreed to work in good faith to continue to develop additional billing system features that are important to Match Group, as Google has already been doing for years with countless developers, including Match Group.

And Match Group’s claim that it can't integrate Play’s billing system because it lacks key features contradicts the fact that Match Group has been proactively and successfully using Play’s billing in more than 10 of its apps. Match Group collected hundreds of millions in consumer revenue in over 50 countries through Google Play’s billing last year.

Not only are we confident we’ll succeed in defending against Match Group’s unfounded complaint, we will be filing a countersuit against Match Group for violating their obligations under the Developer Distribution Agreement and to ensure Google Play remains a trusted destination for users.

Setting the Record Straight on Match Group’s Cynical Campaign Against Google Play

Google Play has been the launchpad for millions of developer businesses to connect with consumers around the world. That’s because we’ve earned the trust of billions of users as a safe place to find great apps and games. Google Play’s billing is an important part of our business model, and it allows us to provide consumers with critical safety protections from things like payment fraud and subscription abuse. But Match Group would have you believe that all Google Play provides is payment processing. This simply isn’t true, and Match Group knows it.

Match Group knows Google Play provides tools and a global distribution platform that helps developers grow their business. And Match Group knows this because they have used these tools and our platform to build a very successful global business. They want access to Google Play’s global distribution platform and users, they want to unfairly leverage Google’s substantial investments in the platform, and they want it all for free.

Many other developers recognize the value of Google Play and are partnering with us to grow the ecosystem in a responsible way, but Match Group is attempting to freeload off our investments rather than being a responsible partner. Now, after years of reaping the benefits of Google Play, Match Group is doing all it can to avoid paying for the enormous benefits it receives–including misusing the courts, lobbying policymakers, and even suggesting to investors that alternative billing systems would exempt them from paying for the valuable services they receive from Google Play.

And because Match Group doesn’t believe it should have to pay anything for the substantial services we provide, it’s willing to compromise user safety as part of a global campaign to smear our business and how we operate. We think the facts speak for themselves:

  • Our fees cover the full range of services that Google Play provides, not just payment processing. Just as it costs money to build an app, it costs money to build a platform. Android and Google Play have expanded consumers’ access to affordable devices and services, provided cutting edge technologies to empower developers to build new features and experiences, put a global consumer base within reach for businesses around the world, and kept consumers safe on their devices at a scale that’s unparalleled. Because of the investments we’ve made, Google Play has built a dedicated consumer base of more than 2.5 billion 30-day active users in 190 countries around the world. It’s no small feat to earn that kind of loyalty, and the trust we’ve built has created economic opportunity for millions of developers that have built great businesses with us. Our service fee helps sustain this thriving app and game ecosystem.
  • Our fees are the lowest among major app stores. Google Play is the first major platform to move away from one-size-fits-all pricing to meet developers’ different needs. Today, just around 3% of developers are subject to a service fee and 99% of those developers qualify for a service fee of 15% or less. Match Group’s apps, for example, are eligible to pay just 15% on Google Play for digital subscriptions, which is the lowest rate among major app platforms. Developers have praised our approach. Match Group claims that they’d suffer if they complied with our policies, but they already comply with the policies of other app stores that charge much more than Google Play.
  • Regulators are investigating Match Group’s safety problems. Match Group wants to continue imposing its own billing system, a billing system that has repeatedly faced regulatory scrutiny for things like subscription fraud. Google Play’s billing system is focused on protecting users from these same types of abusive practices by providing transparency and easy-to-use features to manage purchases and subscriptions. Match Group may not like these protections, but consumers do.
  • Match Group has had ample time to make changes. Match Group has known about Google Play’s billing requirement for years, and certainly since September 2020 when we began to bring previously non-compliant apps onto Google Play’s billing system. For the few developers like Match Group that weren’t offering Google Play’s billing to their users, we provided an additional 18 months to give the entire developer community ample time to make any necessary changes.
  • Match Group isn’t interested in true user choice billing. While Match Group claims to support user choice, it has yet to offer its users that option in South Korea, where user choice billing is now available on Google Play. Likewise, they inaccurately allege that users “sometimes” pick Match Group’s billing 3 to 1 over Google Play. But many of their apps only offer Match Group’s billing. In the cases where Google Play is theoretically a user choice, it isn’t presented as a fair choice and is hidden in small text at the very bottom of the app.
  • We’re the only major app store piloting true user choice billing. We recently announced a pilot to invite developers to help us test and iterate on user choice billing in other markets outside South Korea. We started with Spotify as our first partner as they have made substantial investments in the platform and have deep product integrations across all of Android’s form factors. We are actively looking to add more partners in the coming months and developers can express interest.
  • Android is the only mobile platform that offers Match Group alternative distribution choices. More than half of Android devices come preinstalled with 2 or more app stores. Android is a uniquely open operating system and provides Match Group with multiple ways of distributing their apps to users outside of Google Play, including through other Android app stores, or directly to users via their website. And Match Group can of course distribute through Google Play as consumption-only apps.

As a platform, we’re always looking to work in good faith with partners to grow and evolve the ecosystem, but we’ll stand firm against false attacks on our business, especially when it puts users at risk and endangers our ability to continue investing in and serving our developer community.

No other mobile platform is as open as Android, and no other platform has shown more willingness to champion user choice, invest in change or collaborate with developers. Google remains focused on helping developers succeed and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners to grow and improve Google Play.

A lawsuit that ignores choice on Android and Google Play

We built Android to create more choices in mobile technology. Today, anyone, including our competitors, can customize and build devices with the Android operating system — for free. 

We also built an app store, Google Play, that helps people download apps on their devices. If you don’t find the app you’re looking for in Google Play, you can choose to download the app from a rival app store or directly from a developer’s website. We don’t impose the same restrictions as other mobile operating systems do.

So it’s strange that a group of state attorneys general chose to file a lawsuit attacking a system that provides more openness and choice than others. This complaint mimics a similarly meritless lawsuit filed by the large app developer Epic Games, which has benefitted from Android’s openness by distributing its Fortnite app outside of Google Play.

Here’s more detail on how this lawsuit gets it wrong:

Google Play competes vigorously and fairly

The complaint limits its definition of the app marketplace to Android devices only. This completely ignores the competition we face from other platforms such as Apple's incredibly successful app store, which accounts for the majority of mobile app store revenues according to third-party estimates. We compete for both developers and consumers, and if we’re not providing them with the best experience on Google Play, they have other alternatives to choose from.

Android increases competition and choice

This complaint alleges that consumers and developers have no option other than to use Google Play. But that’s not correct. Choice has always been a core tenet of Android. Device makers and carriers can preload competing app stores alongside Google Play on their devices. In fact, most Android devices ship with two or more app stores preloaded. And popular Android devices such as the Amazon Fire tablet come preloaded with a competitive app store and no Google Play Store.

An image of a Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphone, showing a Galaxy Store and a Play Store. Text: Most Android phones come preloaded with more than one app store.

Consumers can also “sideload” apps, meaning they can download them from a developer’s website directly without going through Google Play at all. People sideload successful apps like Fortnite, as well as entire app stores like the Amazon Appstore, neither of which are distributed through Google Play.

Contributing to this openness and choice, we also give developers more ways to interact with their customers compared to other operating systems. For example, Google Play allows developers to communicate with their customers outside the app about subscription offers or a lower-cost offering on a rival app store or the developer’s website.

Google Play helps developers succeed

The complaint suggests that Google Play somehow inhibits developers’ ability to grow. Even though developers have a range of distribution options on Android, we’re proud that, as of February 2020, developers had earned over $80 billion through Google Play. And in 2020, the Android app economy, including Google Play, helped create nearly 2 million American jobs

An image of the United States in blue. Text: In 2020, the Android app economy, including Google Play, helped create 1.98 million American jobs

We provide resources to help developers build great apps, lower their costs and grow their businesses. This includes tools that help developers reduce testing burdens, run beta tests and monitor their app at scale. We also invest significantly in security. Google Play Protect, our security service, now scans more than 100 billion apps every day; in 2019, it prevented 1.9 billion malware installs.

The economic model of Play and Android benefits developers

The complaint is peppered with inflammatory language designed to distract from the fact that our rules on Android and Google Play benefit consumers. We stand behind apps distributed on Google Play, so we do have some rules to keep the store secure, protect privacy and prevent fraud. For example, we have rules around spam, app reviews and inappropriate content. These rules don't harm consumers; they help protect their safety and security. People want and expect this when using their phones. 

Under our Google Play billing policy, the 3% of developers who actually sell digital products or content use Google Play’s billing system and are subject to a progressive service fee: 15% on the first $1 million earned (99% of developers who pay any fee earn less than a million dollars), and then 30% for earnings above $1 million. Some large app developers, like Epic, want preferential rates and want to use their own payment processing system, but that would harm the ecosystem as a whole.

Two bar charts with a line from the first to the second. The first chart shows 97% and 3%, with text saying About 97% of developers will pay nothing. The second chart shows 99%, with text saying Of the 3% who do, 99% pay a reduced fee of 15%.

  • First, our current business model benefits the overwhelming majority of developers. About 97% of developers today don’t sell digital content on Google Play and therefore aren't subject to a service fee. Less than 0.1% of developers — who are the largest and most profitable on Google Play — are subject to a 30% service fee on some transactions. This lawsuit is essentially on behalf of that 0.1% of developers. Moreover, the complaint conspicuously fails to mention that our fee is comparable to other rival digital stores, including the Samsung Galaxy Store, Amazon Appstore, Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and Apple App Store. 

A comparison chart of four different app stores. Google Play charges a 15-30% transaction fee, the Amazon Appstore charges a 20-30% transaction fee, the Galaxy Store charges a 30% transaction fee and the Apple App Store charges a 15-30% transaction fee. Disclaimer: Fees may vary based on type of content, subscription, or otherwise agreed-upon values.

  • Second, a centralized billing system protects consumers from fraud and gives consumers an easy way to track purchases in one place. It also enables us to provide robust parental and safety controls and subscription management tools that are critical to consumer trust.

Even with these rules, it’s worth reiterating: Developers who don’t like our policies can still distribute their apps to Android users directly or through rival app stores without using our billing system or paying us a cent — and many do. 

A meritless lawsuit that ignores Android’s openness

We understand that scrutiny is appropriate, and we’re committed to engaging with regulators. But Android and Google Play provide openness and choice that other platforms simply don’t. This lawsuit isn’t about helping the little guy or protecting consumers. It’s about boosting a handful of major app developers who want the benefits of Google Play without paying for it. Doing so risks raising costs for small developers, impeding their ability to innovate and compete, and making apps across the Android ecosystem less secure for consumers. 

For more information on Google Play, please visit our Android developer blog.