We’ve long rallied against Apple’s confusing, frustrating and at times draconian and moralistic app approval policies, so we were more than interested to note that the developer of one of their most downloaded applications has quit the platform in protest.
Facebook developer Joe Hewitt, the coding hotshot who almost single-handedly created the hugely popular Facebook application for the iPhone, huffily announced his retirement from the project in a tweet:
Time for me to try something new. I’ve handed the Facebook iPhone app off to another engineer, and I’m onto a new project.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Hewitt explained that his decision to quit the project was all down to Apple’s power-mad App Store approval policies:
My decision to stop iPhone development has had everything to do with Apple’s policies. I respect their right to manage their platform however they want, however I am philosophically opposed to the existence of their review process. I am very concerned that they are setting a horrible precedent for other software platforms, and soon gatekeepers will start infesting the lives of every software developer.
The web is still unrestricted and free, and so I am returning to my roots as a web developer. In the long term, I would like to be able to say that I helped to make the web the best mobile platform available, rather than being part of the transition to a world where every developer must go through a middleman to get their software in the hands of users.
With over 100,00 apps currently populating the App Store, you might think that this isn’t news, but Hewitt isn’t just any old developer: he’s the one-man show behind the iPhone’s most popular application of all time.
It looks like his departure was a reluctant one too, seeing as only a few months ago he was posting on his website:
I’d like to add my voice to the stream of complaints about the iPhone App Store, but before I say anything critical, I have to promise one thing. No matter how annoyed I get, I will not stop developing for Apple’s platforms or using Apple’s products as long as they continue to produce the best stuff on the market. I never forget how deeply Apple cares about making their users happy, and that counts more than how they treat their developers. Besides, when I have a problem with a friend, I don’t threaten to boycott our friendship until they change, so I’m not going to do that to Apple either.
We doubt if Hewitt’s high profile flounce will make much difference in the short term – with so much money to be made from Apple’s store we’ve no doubt that there’ll be other developers smartly stepping in to fill the void – but it may perhaps send a message to other platforms that following Apple’s control-freak approach may not be the best way to attract developers. And that can only be a good thing for all of us, whatever phone we use.
Moving on to webOS?
In a subsequent interview with PalmInfoCenter, Hewitt declared Palm’s webOS to be his favourite mobile OS and that he had an interest in developing for the burgeoning platform, but there were some fairly massive caveats in the way:
I was at the event a month back where Palm announced their new app distribution policies, and I found it to be a big step up from Apple, but still not good enough. We shouldn’t have to register with Palm to distribute our app. Users should be able to download and install apps directly from any URL. Having talked to some folks there, I am optimistic they will adopt that model at some point.
I would love to develop for WebOS. It’s probably my favorite of all the current mobile OS’s, although the performance of the Pre is absolutely horrid and I can’t imagine developing for it until they optimize their software and put out better hardware.
With no native Facebook app currently available for the platform, perhaps Palm should be extending their chequebook out in Hewitts’ direction?