There are more than a few apps on Google’s Play Store that help users have an ad-free web browsing and gaming experience. But it seems Google isn’t too chuffed about them.

The Mountain View company showed its displeasure with such ad-blocking apps by unexpectedly dumping them from the Google Play Store. Exactly how many apps are affected is currently unknown, but TechCrunch reports that four of the most popular ad-blocking apps – AdBlock Plus, AdBlocker, AdAway and AdFree – are no longer available for download in the store. We did a cursory search on the web version of the Play Store and no relevant results showed up for terms like “ad block” and “ad blocker“.

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The “ad block” search results didn't turn up any relevant results

Reportedly, Google began sending out removal notifications early in the day and developer Jared Rummler was one of the first app-creators to share publicly what Google had to say. It seems Google considers developers of ad-blocking software as violators of the company’s Developer Distribution Agreement.

The agreement in question is very ambiguous in terms of ad-specific clauses. But it does say that developers cannot release apps that damage other third-party apps. Here’s the 4.4 Prohibited Actions section that has seemingly been violated by developers: “You agree that you will not engage in any activity with the Market, including the development or distribution of Products, that interferes with, disrupts, damages, or accesses in an unauthorized manner the devices, servers, networks, or other properties or services of any third party including, but not limited to, Android users, Google or any mobile network operator. You may not use customer information obtained from the Market to sell or distribute Products outside of the Market.

However, current users of ad-blocking apps need not worry. The app will not suddenly stop working or cease to exist on your device. Google’s directive only says that these developers can’t list them for download in the Google Play Store, but users can be given access through a sideloadable APK. Of course, the Google Play Store is easily the most convenient way for users to get apps, but developers do have the option of releasing their apps outside the market. Moreover, there are several third-party app stores as well, where these apps can be listed. AdBlock Plus, for example, hosts a downloadable installation APK for its Android app on its website while AdAway’s creators have made the app available in the Play Store alternative F-Droid repository.

While the aim of ad-blocking apps may be called noble, blocking ads that support other developers and Google obviously does look like a case of interference even if that is not intentional. Till Faida, co-founder of AdBlock Plus, was scathing when talking about the new development. “Users should have a right to control what kind of content they want to allow on their devices just like you can deactivate JavaScript or Flash in your browser if you choose to do so,” he said, before adding, “Google’s alleged differences to Apple in terms of freedom and choice don’t hold up when it comes to revenues.

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