FairEmail developer calls it quits and pulls apps from Google Play

Martin Brinkmann
May 19, 2022
Updated • Jun 8, 2022
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The developer of the open source email client FairEmail pulled all of his applications from Google Play and announced that he would stop development.

fairemail google android

Update: FairEmail is available again and the issue on Google Play is resolved.  End

FairEmail was a popular email client for Google's Android operating system that was free to use. It was privacy-friendly, had no limitations in regards to email accounts that users could set up in the app, supported unified inbox, conversation threading, two-way synchronizing, support for OpenPGP, and a lot more.

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Marcel Bokhorst, the developer of the application, announced major changes to the project yesterday on XDA Developers. According to the thread on the forum, Bokhorst pulled all of his applications from the Google Play store and announced that he would stop supporting and maintaining them.

Earlier that week, Bokhorst received a policy violation email from Google stating that Google believed that the FairEmail application was spyware. The full statement has not been published, but Bokhorst believes that Google might have misinterpreted the use of favicons in the app. He resubmitted a new version of the application that had the use of favicons removed.

The appeal he received as a response "resulted in a standard answer". While the content of the answer is unclear, it appears to have been a generic answer that Google Play Store developers have been frustrated with for a long time.

Bokhorst decided to pull the application and all of his other applications from the Google Play Store. The apps won't be maintained and supported anymore according to the info.

Other factors played a role in Bokhorst's decision, including the discrepancy between answering thousands of support questions per month and the application's revenue, and the inability to do something against unfair reviews in the Google Play Store.

He considered keeping the applications on GitHub, but this would result in an 98% loss of audience.

The GitHub repositories are still available but archived. Users may still download the latest release from the repository and install it on their devices. The unsupported apps will continue to work but there won't be any future updates anymore. Eventually, the apps may stop working altogether.

The application could get forked and another developer could take over development of the application. Whether that is a realistic scenario remains to be seen, considering that the Google Play Store policy violation is still looming over the app.

Closing Words

FairEmail users may continue using the application for the foreseeable future, even with it pulled from Google Play. FairEmail's developer is not the first who experienced the often unfriendly nature of the Google Play Store policy violation restoration process.

If you're looking for an alternative email client, you can try K-9 Mail, it is also open source.

It is not a good day for Android apps, Total Commander's developer was forced by Google to remove the ability to install APKs from the File Manager.

Now You: did you use FairEmail?

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FairEmail developer calls it quits and pulls apps from Google Play
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FairEmail developer calls it quits and pulls apps from Google Play
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The developer of the open source email client FairEmail pulled all of his applications from Google Play and announced that he would stop development.
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Comments

  1. Pierre said on May 19, 2022 at 7:54 am
    Reply

    Wow.
    I didn’t use Fairmail, but NetGuard was a nice piece of software… What a shame.

  2. Jim said on May 19, 2022 at 8:53 am
    Reply

    The developer is a bit of a drama queen and he stresses too much over silly things (like retards posting 1 star reviews).

    Still, it’s a shame.

    1. flar2 said on May 19, 2022 at 11:28 pm
      Reply

      You have no idea how stressful it is for developers. I’ve spent years working on my own apps and live in constant fear that all my hard work could go down the drain for some arbitrary reason. I have a whole bunch of great ideas that I won’t implement because I worry they may violate some obscure policy. This is why so many devs quit, it’s not worth investing the time in something if it could be banned arbitrarily with no recourse.

      It doesn’t matter that I’m honest and not trying to steal info or scam anyone, I’ve had many violations already.

      Meanwhile, the Play Store is still full of garbage apps and outright scams.

      1. John Smith said on May 20, 2022 at 1:19 pm
        Reply

        This. Google is the worst company I have ever dealt with of all time.

      2. Bruce said on May 20, 2022 at 6:17 pm
        Reply

        Why not host your good apps and implement your good ideas at apk pure, fdroid, or some other location? I understand that your audience reach would be drastically reduced but a truly excellent app like fairmail would draw it’s users and more. The initial presence on Google play would introduce users. Features would maintain and grow audiences anywhere… unless I’m missing something.

  3. GoodMeasure said on May 19, 2022 at 9:08 am
    Reply

    Yes, I have been a paid NetGuard user for sometime. Awesome software firewall for Android phones. I think it is on F-Droid, too. Marcel has been frustrated for a long time about negative reviews on the PlayStore site. It was clear it really bothered him. Some hard news. Long live open source.

    Oh, and yeah, K-9 is pretty good!

  4. Tacito said on May 19, 2022 at 10:15 am
    Reply

    Fairmail is among the best email clients (both open source and not).
    Is it possible that F-Droid and GitHub didn’t detect anything?
    The question deserves to be investigated to understand who is playing dirty!

    1. Anonymous said on May 19, 2022 at 6:15 pm
      Reply

      @Tacito
      if “maybe they didn’t detect” is true, then F-droid is a complete failure because when they ask developers to have a complete open-source and buildable app, where everything has to be build by F-droid in order to be allowed, if it didn’t detect something, then why would be the point?
      The way F-droid works is already stupid, specially when updates take longer to arrive because of it.

      Google has rights to question anything, if the developer decides to quit over Google concerns, then the developer just either was guilty or didn’t want to deal with it, and maybe wants to have some peace, I don’t know, but making drama for a guy that decided to archive his repo is stupid.
      It’s not like people can’t get the source code and keep working on it anyway.

    2. Anon said on May 19, 2022 at 6:50 pm
      Reply

      It was investigated on another site. The app parses your contact list and sends info to a remote server to get favicons. It only sends out the email address domains.
      Is it malicious or playing dirty? Nah. Does it technically violate Google Play policies, yea.

      If I’m just looking at this incident alone, the dev is being pretty unreasonable with how he’s reacting to this violation. Just change this part of the app, like remove favicons if you have to, or add a disclosure to the privacy policy. He doesn’t need to keep arguing with them about it. However, it seems like the dev is just fed up with everything related to this app, from user reviews, customer support emails and past Google Play encounters.

      1. Jfftck said on May 20, 2022 at 9:40 pm
        Reply

        The article states that he removed the favicons and still was having issues with publishing the app.

  5. TechnoViking said on May 19, 2022 at 12:48 pm
    Reply

    I just updated my FDroid repos and the app is still there. Last update 1 day ago. That might not mean much though as FDroid, being a volunteer project, is a bit slow to update. Time will tell to see if its pulled in the coming weeks.

    1. TechnoViking said on May 19, 2022 at 12:52 pm
      Reply

      In addition.to K-9 mail, there are also p=p and SimpleEmail that you can find on F-Droid for open source options

  6. Anonymous said on May 19, 2022 at 5:06 pm
    Reply

    That’s why I don’t use the Play Store. I use Aurora Store if it’s the only way to get an app is from that source. Otherwise, F-droid or Github is more trustworthy. The more we boycot, the more (hopefully) goolag will feel the pinch.

    1. Anonymous said on May 19, 2022 at 11:04 pm
      Reply

      I agree. I stopped grabbing garbage apps from play store and found open-source alternatives on F-droid. No more ads, dark patterns and tracking on apps.

  7. Lawrence said on May 19, 2022 at 10:17 pm
    Reply

    I use FairEmail, and paid for it. It is a great app, works so well, and will be missed once it disapprears or breaks.
    Thank you Marcel. All the best for the future.

  8. Joe McDaniel said on May 20, 2022 at 12:15 am
    Reply

    I switched to FairEmail on ChromeOS because of Google’s refusal to fix an obvious bug — reply/forward didn’t work. While I’m not in-love with FairEmail, it worked and support was incredibly good.

  9. Sol Shine said on May 20, 2022 at 1:24 am
    Reply

    A problem with FairEmail was that it was updated too frequently (often a few times each week). It looked like Marcel was too obsessive with getting fixes and new features out as fast as possible. I thought he could not maintain that pace for long, and it seems I was right.

    He is a great developer, and I hope he continues to support NetGuard. It is the first app I install on a new phone.

    I encourage all of you to check it out and support it financially.

    It is much more than just a Firewall that controls other apps access to the internet.
    It also has a hosts file taht you can use to ads, trackers and malware.
    It has a log to see which domains a app is trying to connect to.
    Just clear the log, close all other apps and open the app you want to analyse and use it for a while, and the log will show which websites were contacted.
    You can do this analysing of suspect apps on a cheap second phone using a public wifi, to protect your privacy.

  10. JustMe said on May 20, 2022 at 3:51 am
    Reply

    Look, google is turning into Apple. With the claim of ruling out 3rd party clients in June and from above “preventing APK installations” via the file manager, Android is not what it used to be. Sad – now there are no decent options.

  11. kevin said on May 20, 2022 at 7:17 am
    Reply

    Pegasus Mail also made a similar announcement: https://www.pmail.com/newsflash.htm

    Seems like Google wants to make sure that 3rd party client don’t have access to Gmail. They will only allow users to access Gmail using their own client.

    1. GoodMeasure said on May 20, 2022 at 2:28 pm
      Reply

      Oh wow! Everyone should read this link. I don’t use Pegasus Mail anymore (it has been a great program and David Harris has dedicated his life to this impressive free project). But Google charging all that money? And to not provide real human support to developers who get locked out?

      The tech world has allowed big companies like that to have unfair control over the market and our data. Please, everyone should reduce their exposure to this corporation. Don’t be evil.

  12. Usia said on May 20, 2022 at 7:59 am
    Reply

    A shame that such things happen to good apps. I like Fairmail a lot and even paid for. But I don’t like android in general (well google android) but still there are some apps only available on playstore I need. I will hopefully switch to postmarketOS on my oneplus 6 soon. It got realy mature in the past year, though it is not fully daily drivable till now (at least on the oneplus 6). I would love to see more good developers contibute to thouse alternative linux distributions.

  13. Yash said on May 20, 2022 at 9:13 am
    Reply

    Well well well. Android – open source but since a monopoly with Apple the only alternative which is closed source, Google is doing what Google wants. Same thing is happening in Chromium but hey security!

  14. Paul said on May 20, 2022 at 11:58 am
    Reply

    Such a pity. I hope he reconsiders and finds a viable way to come back. FairEmail is beyond amazing.

    Google monopoly is awful and someone finally needs to regulate them hard. All of these tech giants.

    1. vikingvista said on May 21, 2022 at 8:55 pm
      Reply

      Monopoly incentives are bad for consumers. Unfortunately, the regulators you refer to are a literal bona-fide monopoly with those incentives on steroids.

      Probably the best solution is to take advantage of the fact that the Alphabet giant isn’t a literal monopoly (beyond its patents, anyway), and then develop & direct disgruntled folks toward fledgling alternatives–which at least, without a literal monopoly, are allowed to exist.

      Or be patient. The domince of such market giants is always short-lived as competitors learn their innovations, and fads die down. We see this already with Facebook decompressing.

  15. Kim Schulz said on May 21, 2022 at 7:37 am
    Reply

    Long time user of fairemail here and I would gladly pay some more for the continuous development. It is by far the best email client for android. I have tested hundreds and nothing comes even close – especially in terms of privacy filtering.

    Hope he decides to continue but with another platform than Google play store.

  16. Juha said on May 21, 2022 at 10:08 am
    Reply

    Exactly the same thing happened to my open source app baresip+. I got email from Google telling that the app contains spyware that uploads user’s contact list information without asking permission. It was completely false accusation. The app does not upload anything anywhere, period.

    I asked for more details several times and all answers felt like coming from a robot. I then kept creating new versions of the app that fixed bugs and added some new features. After three or four such cycles, Google suddenly re-accepted the app. My guess is that there are serious bugs in their verification software.

  17. F Bibfeldt said on May 23, 2022 at 12:09 am
    Reply

    I use FairEmail to access all the accounts I’m moving off Google Mail. I’ve never had any issues. I would gladly pay to support it on another store.

  18. betty said on May 24, 2022 at 5:35 pm
    Reply

    Would have been nice if he could have sent us a notification instead of having to discover this fiasco accidentally because none of my emails are being sent. Anyone got any recommendations?

    1. George said on May 26, 2022 at 2:14 am
      Reply

      @betty Yes, keep using it. Things have taken a positive turn: https://faircode.eu/faq.html

      Your emails not being sent is not related to this, since FairEmail never stopped working.

  19. Jon said on May 25, 2022 at 10:29 pm
    Reply

    Development is back on, as shown in the XDA thread

  20. wow-WOW said on May 26, 2022 at 9:19 am
    Reply

    Its obvious that Google has an anti-trust case against them, they are systematically misusing their automated bullshit to harrass anyone who offers better and bullshit free, spyware free competing solutions.

  21. Peter Parker Kent said on May 30, 2022 at 9:21 pm
    Reply

    I strongly recommend getting the FairMail app on F-Droid and, more importantly, ALSO paying the guy: https://email.faircode.eu/donate/

    Bought this last fall, haven’t regretted it since.

  22. Heartshaped said on June 7, 2022 at 11:03 pm
    Reply

    This article is old – the project is alive and available on several app stores. Read the project’s github page for more updated information.
    You can even buy the pro version of the app without a google account directly within the app.

  23. Andy Prough said on June 8, 2022 at 2:29 am
    Reply

    Both Fair Email and NetGuard have gotten new lead developers with new github repos, and both are shipping new releases, including on Fdroid. There should be an update to this article.

  24. Alfan said on July 18, 2022 at 7:07 pm
    Reply

    +1 for FairEmail. I used it for my business email also. No doubt.

  25. Joshua said on August 18, 2022 at 11:44 pm
    Reply

    we are in August 2022 app still being updated and both in fdroid and play store

  26. Vern said on August 26, 2022 at 5:09 pm
    Reply

    Googles synopses used to be DO NO EVIL.
    Since then, they removed the word NO. It’s now…
    WE CONTROL YOU!
    WE CONTROL YOUR CONTENT!
    WE WILL CONTROL YOUR LIFE!
    YOU WILL HAVE NOTHING TO SAY ABOUT ALL THIS!
    EXPECT MORE CONTROL SOON!
    .
    Google’s going through one lawsuit, illegal use of your image.
    IF they continue this current path of CONTROL, MAYBE a lawsuit big enough to FORCE THEIR SHUTDOWN?
    Sorry to say, google had good intentions, in the beginning. Since then this popular phrase has been changed to, ”ABSOLUTE POWER, CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY, CORRUPT POWER BECOMES ABSOLUTE CONTROL”
    The reason for this phrase change is this rather long list… MSM, Google, Democrats, LIBS, Lefty’s. BLM, antifa and DOZENS of other smaller entities latest world actions.

  27. Anonymous said on November 1, 2022 at 12:26 pm
    Reply

    I’m using the app, it’s still being updated and works like a charm!

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