File Hosting and You: An Inside Look at Android File Host
There are many things we take for granted in this world. When it comes to the Internet, we expect services to be made available to us cheap (or even free), fast, and convenient. Depending on how long you’ve been flashing custom ROMs, you’ve probably downloaded tens of gigabytes of data just to get that latest version of bleeding edge software on your smartphone.
For the minority among us who love to live life dangerously by flashing the daily nightly builds, you may have racked up data usage in the hundreds of gigabytes (unless you’ve been updating using delta files). No matter what, though, we expect to be able to hop onto our favorite file hosting site to grab the latest update whenever we please. But these services require bandwidth, and lots of it, and that costs money. So how do services like Android File Host do it? And why do they do it? I interviewed the members of the Android File Host team to find out.
On the History of Android File Host
- Explain why your team decided to create AndroidFileHost.
AFH got its start as a one man show. Our fearless leader, Alex, was downloading a ROM for his HTC Evo 4G LTE. He doesn’t remember where it was he was downloading from but he was dismayed at the incredibly slow download speeds. He decided to see if he could do something about it and a few days later AFH was born.
- Describe how AndroidFileHost financed the bandwidth required for hosting prior to the introduction of the premium service.
In the beginning AFH was funded completely out of Alex’s pocket. Soon after the original AFH was started Alex introduced ads to the site in order to help cover bandwidth and other expenses.
- How has the premium service changed your need for funding?
The Premium services we offer don’t really impact the funding of the site as a whole but rather go towards the development of new features that we can offer to our regular users. The bulk of our funding still comes from ad revenue and we plan on continuing with this model for the foreseeable future.
- What are the biggest challenges facing your website? About filehosting in general?
The biggest challenge we face is that of ad-blocking. And trust us, we get it. We hate ads too! We see all the sites out there that go into overkill on ads and the negative experience that they create. In order to keep the user experience a positive one, we keep our ads to a minimum and only use trusted ad providers. We get paid by the ad views and the occasional click when users click on an ad that interests them. We offer services for free to the end user but unfortunately nothing is truly free, ad revenue is the necessary evil that helps us finance AFH. When users block those ads we don’t have the necessary revenue stream to support the site.
On Android File Host’s Competitors, Past and Present
- For quite a few years, your website has competed with goo.im and dev-host among others. What does your site offer that the other two did not?
When we started the site we built the backbone so that it would support additional servers as our site grew. We have been constantly adding servers and storage as we’ve grown. We’ve grown from one small server in Texas to more than a dozen download servers and six upload servers all over the world. We’re not stopping there either! We are currently in the process of adding more servers in several locations and are always analyzing our traffic to determine where the next one goes. Due to the ever growing number of servers, our users rarely see slowdowns when they are downloading and we’ve never had to throttle our traffic. In addition to all of that, we do everything we can to keep our users safe. You will never see us reusing a download link and we never use ad providers that force you to download malware. We have firewalls in place to protect the files we host and we regularly scan our site for viruses.
- Why should developers use AndroidFileHost over Basketbuild?
Honestly, Basketbuild has a good thing going. They have some great developers hosting their work there. If we had to pick a reason that developers should use us over them it would have to be the sheer number of servers we have all over the world and how fast they are.
- What advantages does AndroidFileHost offer over general purpose file-hosting services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or MEGA?
The biggest advantage we offer is the unlimited bandwidth and downloads. We also don’t have a limit on storage space used by the developers. We have never capped our users and have no plans to ever do so. Our site is focused 100% on Android so users can search by device, ROM, etc. We also offer developer profile pages where developers can include links to their Paypal pages for donations, list devices they support, etc.
On the Relationship between XDA and AFH
- As you might know, XDA-Developers no longer recommends developers host their work on dev-host. Why do you believe these file-hosts resort to such practices, and what will you be doing differently?
As we said earlier, the biggest issue for us and for other hosting services is the revenue needed to support the services. In order to support users and cover their costs, file hosts are forced to come up with ways to bring in revenue but sometimes those methods end up hurting the end user. We personally have found that our existing model is meeting our needs and we are continuing to grow at a rapid pace. We have no plans to change our model and pledge to never use practices like those of our competitors. We ourselves are all flashaholics and download from AFH regularly and we don’t want to see ads like those some of our competitors use. It may sound selfish but we keep it clean for our users but also for us!
- What kinds of integrations with XDA, wikis, or other services do you offer, or plan to offer in the future?
We currently have integrations with Dropbox and are working on growing that integration with them and other private cloud storage services. We also have integration with Twitter and multiple mail servers so that developers can notify their followers of new uploads and releases. We are always expanding our integration and looking for new ways to improve our service offerings. We don’t have any Wikis but we do partner with several prominent Android YouTubers who have produced videos showing users how to do everything from registering on the site to showing them how to upload and share files. We also have our own help documents on the site and a support ticketing system.
- Are there any plans on supporting delta updates, changelogs, or introducing space for custom instructionals?
Recently one of our competitors started modifying the files that were being downloaded from their site as part of an opportunity to increase their revenue. The developer’s core file remained the same but they were adding adware to the download that could be seen as malware. This of course caused a lot of concern for their end users. One of our commitments to our users and developers is that we will never modify their files and in order for us to offer delta updates we would have to do that. Developers can create their own delta style updates and host them on the site but we will not be able to create them for the developers. As far as change logs and instructionals, currently we have two different fields, a description section and an additional information section. Users can (and several do) use these fields to add changelogs and flashing instructions. We do have plans to enhance these sections in the future and will keep everyone updated as these new enhancements roll out.
- If a developer were to fail to comply with the GPL or another license, would you take down their file?
Yes. We have a form that is available through a link on our homepage that allows users to report GPL, DMCA and other license issues. We are 100% DMCA compliant and handle all valid GPL, DMCA and other license complaints that are submitted through our form using the appropriate action.
- What benefits does AndroidFileHost offer to the average XDA user?
We offer unlimited downloads, unthrottled download speeds, and servers all over the world. Working together all of these features give our users the fastest downloads possible in order to support their flashing addictions.
- Are there any plans on introducing comments, review sections, or bug tracking for file uploads?
We are always looking for ways to improve the site and these are all features on the roadmap for future updates.
- What are the restrictions you place on file uploads?
The only restrictions are that it has to be Android related, legal, and DMCA/GPL/etc. compliant. We do have filters that prevent uploading of files that aren’t Android related but these filters are adjustable and we are always adding new file types to the supported file types in order to support the ever expanding Android scene.
On Android File Host’s Services
- How long are files kept on your servers?
Forever (unless the developer chooses to remove the file themselves).
- Are there any plans to develop a mobile app?
Not at this time. Currently our site does support mobile browsers but we are working on a more mobile friendly layout and hope to have it out to our users soon.
- How can users be notified of any new files uploaded by certain developers?
Developers using our premium services have the ability to setup email, Twitter and RSS feed notifications. Regular users are not required to sign up for premium services, they just need to follow the developer on the appropriate channels.
- What are the ways that non-developers can best utilize your hosting services?
All they need to do is hit the download button. J
- What are the most underutilized services you offer?
Our premium services. We offer a LOT of additional services for a very small fee. We are always adding new features to the list of services at no additional cost to the subscribers. Purchasing these premium services not only helps AFH but helps the developers and the end users as everyone takes advantage of all the services we offer.
Meet the Team
Alex (Founder and CEO and AndroidFileHost on XDA):
- Alex found his love of Android a long time ago when he bought his first Android phone, the HTC Evo 4G. He manages the infrastructure of the site on a daily basis and runs the support department for all issues, requests, and etc. from users and developers. Alex has worked for many companies over the years in the IT support world from private companies to big names like AT&T. He currently isn’t working in the IT world but that doesn’t stop him from playing with the AFH servers and sites all day and night.
- Mike found his love of Android a long time ago when he bought his first Android phone, the HTC Thunderbolt. Since then he has flashed ROMs and themes, and even dabbled in a bit of Android development himself. He has a degree in computer science and works as a software engineer during the day. In his spare time he serves as the COO of AFH, where he works behind the scenes to manage the day-to-day operations, finances, and infrastructure for the site.
Roy (Public Relations Guru and rwilco12 on XDA):
- By day Roy works in the payroll and accounting arena, but by night he gets to do what he enjoys most, he spends time with his family and Android! He dabbles in all things Android and contributes everywhere he can. He owns the sites rwilco12.com and EpicDroid.com, he develops his own apps and ROM’s, is a Moderator and Recognized Developer here on XDA-Developers.com and is the Director of Public Relations for AndroidFileHost.com.
Make it this far? I hope you learned a bit about Android File Host and the challenges involved with file hosting. AFH would like to reward its users with some neat giveaways that we’ll be announcing in a separate post, so keep your eyes out!