WireGuard is an open-source protocol and application for Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) that has been generating some excitement in the industry as a relatively new project that promises better speeds and better security.
A competitor to the likes of OpenVPN and IPSEC, WireGuard has already received the backing in the form of donations from VPN providers such as Private Internet Access and Mullvad, among others.
As a new project still in its early days, finding a business model to sustain it financially is of great importance. Donations are one major way of securing this, often used by free and open-source projects like WireGuard – but all this is apparently of little interest to Google.
According to messages posted on a mailing list by WireGuard’s author Jason Donenfeld, Google recently first manually reviewed and approved a new version of the software on the Play Store – to then reverse the decision within 20 minutes and remove the entire listing for the application.
The reason? The WireGuard app contains a donations link, and that runs afoul of Google’s payments policy. Donenfeld’s appeal was also swiftly rejected – he suspects, this time in an automated process.
The developer then submitted a new build of WireGuard with the donations link removed, which Google accepted, reinstating it on the Play Store.
Like many of Google’s heavy-handed decisions not taking into account developers and their work, the tech giant, in this case, caused inconvenience at best and damage at worst to an app by making it disappear from its store. As Donenfeld noted in his message, at least F-Droid – Play Store’s free-and-open source, privacy-minded counterpart – still had the app available in its repositories.
Then there’s the issue of why Google is making it difficult for a new and growing project like WireGuard, that has the potential to significantly improve online security and privacy, to fund itself.
Why are paid apps and those that include ads welcome on Play Store – but a free and open-source app with a donate button is not? Could it be simply because Google can’t take a cut on donations?