Android Market Data: Empowering the Bad Guys

Lots and lots and lots of people ask how to get information off of the Android Market programmatically, whether it is the roster of available apps or their permissions or their comments or whatever.

Officially, there is no solution. Google has not supplied anyone with a legitimate feed or API for this information. We’ve asked Google for this from time to time — I did myself over a year ago — and nothing has transpired publicly.

The reality, of course, is that lots and lots and lots of people are pirating the data. The canonical library for accessing the data is even hosted on code.google.com.

Whether or not Google supports some sort of API is one thing. But we really could use an official statement from Google effectively authorizing the android-market-api client or similar community efforts. I don’t especially care whether Google states that the data structures the Market publishes are subject to change without notice and that there’s no place to turn for technical assistance. I do care, though, about the piracy Sword of Damocles hanging over everyone’s heads.

As it stands, the ostensibly “bad guys” win. People who actually wish to respect Google’s rights are screwed; those who are willing to ignore Google’s rights are empowered.

Please understand that I don’t want android-market-api shut down, or for Google to take steps to block unauthorized access to the Market data. Those are eminently likely steps for Google to take, but they are similarly likely to be pointless — there are lots of other places to host source code samples, and figuring out ways to mimic legit clients of the Market APIs shouldn’t be that hard even if they change things up.

Also, please understand that I consider those using the unauthorized API to be “bad guys” simply because the API is unauthorized. One blog post from Google authorizing the use of this stuff clears that up in a jiffy.

But it’s really disappointing that Google seems to be willing to look the other way when people pirate the data, yet won’t authorize people to do the same. It makes for a very curious message to the community, if nothing else.


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