“Element” (formerly “Riot”) is a software application some of you may be familiar with. It’s a client for the “Matrix” chat protocol, which allows users to access chat servers and communicate with other users… both with encryption or without, at their option. Due to the free and open source nature of “Matrix”, anybody anywhere can create a server or account. And because “Element” is merely a client used to access these servers, it has no control over what kind of content users can post or share.

In spite of this, on January 30th 2021, Google’s PlayStore suspended the “Element” Android application without warning or notice. Google later claimed that the suspension was due to “abusive content somewhere on Matrix”…something Element had zero responsibility for or control over.

The situation was resolved a day later, with Element being restored on the 31st. But the incident highlighted, once again, the centralized power companies like Google wield. With a single bad decision, access to useful software was removed from hundreds of people around the world.

Fortunately for many, “Element” is distributed through an alternative Android app store…F-Droid, a catalog of free and open source Android applications. The F-Droid app, which allows users to download apps from the respository and keep them updated, is thankfully translated into many languages… including Japanese.

UNfortunately, the website through which the app needs to be initially downloaded and installed was not… until now. On February 20th 2021, thanks to our efforts together with the efforts of many volunteers around the world, the F-Droid website finally became available in Japanese.

The main page and various tutorials are fully translated, but many of the FAQs and app descriptions are still not completed. Bilingual volunteers who wish to contribute can join the F-Droid translation site to help make the Japanese version more complete, or improve existing translation.

Japanese Android users are encouraged to visit the F-Droid website and install their app. Installing third-party apps is normally discouraged by the Android OS (with good reason), and Android may give warning messages about this when you try to install F-Droid, or use it to install an app for the first time. But F-Droid has a good reputation and track record for security when screening apps in its store…as such, these warnings can be safely ignored in this case.

With F-Droid, not only can you install various apps found in Google PlayStore, but also many apps which cannot be found there. And if Google ever removes an app unjustly, as they did with Element, you may still have the option to download it from F-Droid, giving you more freedom as an end user. There are even apps, like AuroraStore, that allows you to install from PlayStore without even needing a Google account at all, allowing you to further free yourself from Google’s control.

Better yet, app developers can create their own repositories using F-Droid’s open source tools. Users can add those repositories into the app, allowing them to download directly from trusted developers without any third-party middleman at all.

With censorship becoming more and more common, the power of centralized corporations like Google becomes more and more of a threat. Users who don’t secure their freedom now may live to regret it. Install F-Droid today, and take back control of your software.

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