Looks like Google changed the Play protocol again

Dratz! I wanted to release Raccoon v4.1 this week. But unfortunately it looks like Google changed the data format, used to communicate search results between server and client (again). In consequence, Raccoon will, for some queries, get confused and not show a list of apps, but only four buttons that seem to still be loading data. I’m afraid, that’s a showstopper.

What happened? As far as I can tell so far, Play got “smarter”. In the past, a search request would simply return a single list of apps that matched the search term(s). This is still the case for “general” queries, but when Play determines that you are looking for a specific app, you get four lists instead (hence Raccoon shows four buttons). The first one consists of just one entry: the app you were (likely) looking for. The second list contains apps, Google would like you to try as well, the third contains apps similar to the one you were looking for and the fourth is just “everything else that seems to match”.

As far as usability goes, this is a major improvement. Play is overflowing with apps from developers trying to get discovered by riding the backwash of popular apps. And it certainly looks like Google is now finally making an effort to bring down the hammer on the knock-offs. The downside, of course, is that third party APK downloaders and older versions of the official Play app will stop working properly. As far as Raccoon goes, this is only a temporary issue. I look into these things, I fix them. And just so there’s no confusion: this is why you actually want to pay for premium features, even if you don’t need them. Your money allows me to keep the software, you are using, functional.

Oh yes, workaround for the issue (till v4.1 arrives): you have to generalize your search queries. If, for example, you are looking for “Firefox”, Play will (rightfully) assume that you want to download Mozilla’s web browser. Try searching for “web browser” instead and you’ll get a list of all available browsers, including “Firefox”.

Posted in Android, Coding