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The Many Faces Of The Minds App

Mark EdworthyMay 26, 2019, 9:07:30 PM

Community members might be aware that there has been tensions surrounding the Google Play Store version of the Android based Minds application (aka. Minds app).

This is due to the fairly restrictive nature of Google’s terms of service and the Minds development team have tried to resolve this by producing two versions of the app (one version that is available via the Minds website, which provides full, unfettered access to the Minds platform and the Google LLC approved version which provides restricted and limited access to content, that is accessible via the Google Play Store).

Firstly, I want to state that I do understand and appreciate the reasons for producing two versions of the Minds app. I also appreciate that for a large population of community members, an app is the preferential method for accessing the Minds social media platform but I believe that there is an alternative approach to this issue that the Minds team have not fully explored, which could possible be acceptable to Google’s service conditions and also provide further access to the full (unfettered) version of the Minds app via the usage of the Google Play Store.

Before I attempt to explain my alternative idea, I have been reviewing the recent batch of Minds Help and Support posts. During my review, I noticed a post that asked about Google polices and a senior staff member replied, stating that future updates of the full version may not include the facility to automatic update the app (due to reasons of linking to the Google Play Store version). I consider this action as being fairly short sighted and could potentially limit access to new features and security updates for a percentage of community members.

I have spent some time considering all the issues and believe that there is an alternative solution which involves a chain-loader style approach. This chain loading approach would provide an app to be submitted to the Google Play Store that would only act as a pre-downloader for the actual unfettered version (I understand that other organisations, such as Microsoft Corporation, have also used a similar idea within some of their previous projects).

How I foresee this working is by providing an app (downloadable from the Google Play Store) that would provide community members with some form of button (or some other user interface element) that would then allow for the downloading and installation of the actual (unfettered) version of Minds app. I believe that this approach would circumvent the issues of Google’s fairly restrictive polices.

Also, as a method to maximise the availability of the Minds app (and therefore, to strengthening the advertising reach of the Minds platform and services), I suggest that this approach is also replicated within other alternative Play Store (deployment) platforms (ie. Amazon Appstore, F-Droid, Aptiode, APK Pure, APKMirror and the AppBrain platforms).

As a follow-up to this blog article, I have included a link to a corresponding GitLab ticket and also links to both the Google Play Store, Apple App Store and the Minds unfettered versions of the Minds App.

Also note that due to the very restrictive nature of deploying (installing) the Minds App on any Apple Inc. produced and marketed devices, the above idea can not be considered for use with any of Apple’s products.

References & Other Resources:
* Minds App (Full Unfettered Version)
* Minds App (Google Version)
* Minds App (Apple Version)
* GitLab Ticket
* Technology and Open Source Blog

June 08 2019 -
After discussing the issue with Minds Chief Technical Officer (Mark Harding), I was referred to the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement, in which section 4.5 states:

"You may not use Google Play to distribute or make available any Product that has a purpose that facilitates the distribution of software applications and games for use on Android devices outside of Google Play."

Therefore, unfortunately the above chain-loader idea can not be considered as a viable solution.

For further information about this, please refer to the following links:
* Gitlab "Release It On F-Droid" Ticket
* Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement