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Google pulls Easy Root from Android Market

An application called "Easy Root," created for the single purpose of rooting a handset, has been pulled by Google. Does it fly in the face of Android and openness?

Easy Root

Since its beginnings, Android's identity has hinged on its openness and customization. Unlike Apple's iOS, Android allows users, handset manufacturers, and carriers a lot of room for tweaking their devices. But even with so much freedom, a select group of folks demanded even more customization and decided to "root" their handset. And up until now, that has been possible with the Easy Root application in the Android Market.

For the uninitiated, rooting lets users overcome limitations or restrictions imposed by wireless carriers or handset manufacturers. It's very much like jailbreaking an iPhone. It may sound like a natural step on an Android phone, but on Saturday, Easy Root abruptly disappeared from the Android Market.

To be clear, this app only works if the user has a Motorola Droid, Motorola Droid X, or Motorola Milestone running Froyo. It should also be noted that rooting a phone carries potential risks and could ultimately result in a bricked phone.

According to the developer, Easy Root was designed to "make it as easy as possible for people to fully use the hardware they had paid for." Sounds heroic, no? Given the recent U.S. Copyright Office's ruling, these are smiling. The reality, however, is much different.

Carriers such as Verizon Wireless look past any user benefits and only see developer claims that Easy Root helps users circumvent the $20 (or more) add-on fee your wireless provider has imposed. It's likely the final decision to remove the application came from Google, but only after a little prodding by a carrier or two. Though Froyo can add mobile hot spots and tethering, the Droid and the Evo aren't getting those features with their respective updates. Rooting a Froyo phone, however, simply removes any carrier tollbooths that keep users from tethering their phones. Should Google be considered heavy-handed now since it stepped in and pulled the app? Not in my opinion.

Fundamentally, Android's success hinges on the willingness of handsetmakers and carriers to play ball with Google. Providing a free, open-source platform is great, but if the players don't feel like Google has their interests in mind, they may walk away. The last thing any provider wants is to tout a next-generation, high-speed network that chokes and underperforms. The same goes for the handsetmaker. Motorola will worry about the user experience and whether the phone simply works as expected.

In the end, the Easy Root situation resolved itself by way of Android's basic tenets. Rather than worrying about the Android Market guidelines and policies, the developer, Unstable Apps, decided to offer the app directly through its own Web site. Android developers have the freedom to deploy their apps any way they see fit, including giving it away as a free download. It's my belief that people wanting to root their Froyo-powered Droid or Droid X are going to find their way to the site anyhow. In fact, Easy Root doesn't have to worry about getting lost in the shuffle or rated poorly by users who don't understand the application.

I'd love to hear from you on this one. Do you think Google overstepped its bounds?