It would have been nice for the App Store's public relations team if the biggest news in the past few days was the introduction of a more transparent progress report for applications under review, giving developers some of the feedback they need to see where their apps are in the pathway towards approval and release. Unfortunately, that minor but tangible step toward a more open approval process is overshadowed by a story of frustration and disaffection from one of the platform's rising stars: Joe Hewitt, the man behind Facebook's popular iPhone app, is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore.
Hewitt's frustration with the app review process isn't new, but in the same August blog post where he called for the elimination of review, he promised "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." A few months later, he's announced that he's handing off the Facebook app to another developer, and he's reached the point where his frustration has overcome his willingness to continue working on the iPhone. [Commenter 'Gak' points out that Hewitt's open-sourced Three20 library for iPhone devs has been flagged for use of private frameworks, which may have been one of the final straws.]
Hewitt spoke to TechCrunch earlier today, and his attitude is clear:
"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."
Losing the talent behind the top social networking app in the store is bad for users and bad for the platform, but I don't imagine that Apple is going to give up the lockdown of review anytime soon. Is there a way around this logjam that will let developers innovate at Internet speed while still giving Apple some semblance of control? Here's one idea...