Metadata support will allow offline distribution of Google Play compatible apps, but some say it may be used as a new form of DRM
Google's announcement of metadata support to Android APK files has fueled fears that it is an attempt to add DRM to Android apps en masse.
Google's will soon allow developers to add metadata to their apps that will allow the Android system to verify whether an installed app is the legitimately sourced version.
While this has hints of DRM, the reality is that the Android apps can already deploy Google's authentication system as a form of digital rights management, to ensure users have paid for the app in question. So Google's announcement of metadata support goes beyond DRM, and may actually signify a more profound change to how apps are distributed.
With the appropriate metadata in place, Google will now allow apps that haven't been downloaded from the Google Play store to link to purchases or downloads made in the Play store. This means that apps not downloaded from the Google Play store can now get updates from the Play store, as long as the metadata matches.
In essence, Google has just made it easier for developers to use other app stores other than Google Play to distribute their apps, or even allow developers to distribute apps themselves and still have those apps be Google Play compatible.
This, Google says, may allow developers to share apps offline and directly with users in countries where data access is limited, and still have those app be Google Play store compatible.