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Let's say I own the Google Play account under which an open source app is published, and I no longer have any interest in owning personally the Google Play account for that app. Development is as active as ever, with developers joining and leaving at a fast pace.

Is there an established foundation to which I can donate my app's Google Play account? The foundation's role would be:

  • Everytime the app's F-Droid APK or metadata is changed (by the app's current maintainer or another member of the current app dev team), mirror the change to the app's Google Play.
  • If there ever happen to be a big security vulnerability and F-Droid disable, then disable it from Google Play too.
  • If in the future a fork takes over and becomes clearly more maintained than the original, then switch to syncing from that fork's F-Droid item. Such a decision must only be taken after following a well-defined and open procedure (for instance: public announce of intention, feedback, decision of the foundation's board).
  • Publish Google Play's statistics, for instance by running this script once in a while.
  • Not absolutely necessary, but allowing the current project manager to access Google Play's with the permissions "Reply to reviews" and "Manage Alpha & Beta APKs" would be wonderful.

Bonus if the foundation has FOSS as its core mission (unlike Sourceforge), is long-established (like Debian), is financially secure (like Ubuntu), and is generally trusted by the FOSS community (like FSF).


"Donating" my app would mean transferring the app from my developer account to the foundation's developer account, so it would be transparent for users, for instance existing users would continue to receive APK updates.

That would solve four big risks that threaten open source apps on Google Play:

  • The owner of the app's developer account becomes evil and adds spyware/advertisement (that happened to TuxPaint).
  • The owner of the app's developer account transfers the app to a well-meaning person who just has a different idea of what is best for the users and publishes updates that include non-open source code, or even rewrites the app from scratch and publishes it without making it open source.
  • The owner of the app's developer account suddenly dies or otherwise becomes unable to update the app.
  • The owner of the app's developer account can not find a trustable new maintainer.
  • There probably isn't anywhere for small apps. They would be taking on a lot of work for little benefit. – curiousdannii Oct 7 '16 at 13:34
  • @curiousdannii: Any app worth of being on F-Droid should be worth it. By the way, my app has a million users. – Nicolas Raoul Oct 7 '16 at 17:12
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    I didn't know you were the creator of Anki Droid! I hope this doesn't mean you're wanting to stop working on it, but even if you do, this question shows the excellent kind of stewardship that we can only wish all apps had. – curiousdannii Oct 10 '16 at 14:01
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Say --entirely hypothetically-- that you have created a successful Android app such as https://github.com/ankidroid ... ;)

You have built not only a decent user base but also there are several contributors that help further the code on a regular basis. Until now you may have been continuing to handle the actual releases on app stores.

You want to pass the baton. What are your options?

Unfortunately there is no such thing as a "foundation" that would effectively do any work on your behalf. Doing work is something that you will need to handle yourself or delegate to one or more person your trust. Since you have built a community of trusted contributors you should find one person in that roster.

To ensure that the project has some more formal structure there are however two "foundations"-like structures that can help you and provide a framework around your project:

In both cases these are non-profits (SFC is also a not-for-profit). In all cases these will not substitute for you and the team organizing the project governance and doing all of the work: instead think of it as a neutral corporate place to ensure a long term community viability of the project. They may for instance "hold the keys" to the app store accounts, but they would not actually do anything for you with these keys: someone will have to use these and do the work, not them. So they may not be what you are looking for exactly but this may be close enough that it might work out OK for you and your project.

You should contact both and discuss your options. Best of luck!

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    As you correctly noted, "In all cases these will not substitute for you and the team organizing the project governance", indeed we always have people developing and governing the app, so my question is only about the Google Play account. Thanks, SPI looks very close in spirit to what I am looking for. SPI offers to hold intangible assets for its projects but no automatic publication, I will try to contact them and see if that's something they might be interested in doing. I will also try to write a program that syncs from F-Droid to Google Play. – Nicolas Raoul Oct 10 '16 at 12:33
  • @NicolasRaoul I would not hesitate also to reach out to leaders of projects working with SPI and the SFC to get their take on the process and benefits. – Philippe Ombredanne Oct 10 '16 at 13:20
  • @NicolasRaoul accepting the answer would be nice, if you think this is the right one. – Philippe Ombredanne Oct 21 '16 at 8:57
  • That would mark the question as "case closed", whereas I believe it is just beginning, even if a perfect match might not exist before a few years :-) But obviously you deserve each one of the 60 reputation points awarded so far! Cheers! – Nicolas Raoul Oct 24 '16 at 2:14
  • @NicolasRaoul BTW, if SPI or SFC are not it for you, you could start your own structure focused on Apps :P – Philippe Ombredanne Oct 24 '16 at 7:33

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