Android Pulls Tethering App? Goodness! You Mean “Open” Isn’t Open?


The hoopla around Google’s Android mobile OS, and the resulting apps in the Android Market, is pretty strong. It’s laid on thick and fast. You know the drill; it’s “open” so it’ll be free from all the constraints imposed by The Man, etc.

Oops, maybe not. I’m not sure why people believed the steaming pile of hyperbole coming out of the “open” pundits, but it was just a matter of time before reality stepped in. Google has pulled tethering apps from the market.

There was no way this kind of filtering was not going to happen, and I said so here and here. In fact, in the latter article I even used tethering as a specific example:

Another example: Tethering is not allowed on the G1, but what if someone like, say, Nullriver posts a tethering app on the Android market place? Hey, it’s “open”, right? Who’s to stop them? Naturally, T-Mobile will go to Google to get the app pulled…

Despite what some may claim, “open” does not mean it’s open season on copyright violations or any other activities prohibited by TOS, contracts, license agreements, etc. We may want it to mean those things, but that doesn’t make it so. With all the advantages of a central app store comes the responsibility to police it. One can certainly argue that such policing is not done evenhandedly, or favors the larger partners involved, but this too is par for the course and beside the point anyway. The point is that “open” does not mean anything like free reign, and never did.

There are some who may argue this limits innovation, and while I see the point, I’m not sure I can agree. Certainly it doesn’t apply to tethering, which is hardly new. There is no innovation going on there from a software or hardware standpoint. The innovation needed from tethering must come from the carriers in how they handle this extremely useful feature (and that’s the subject of another article).

It’s hard to make a case for honoring contractual obligations or EULAs, or not violating existing copyrights, as being blocks to innovation. I see them more as blocks to questionable legal activity.

Meanwhile, the “open” community will probably condemn Google’s action, then deny it, then rationalize it, and then defend it. Finally, they’ll get right back to touting how “open” is the panacea; the cure for all that ails us, and everything Apple’s App Store is not. As before, they’ll be wrong, but I’m sure some will still believe it.


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