"End WWDC"

Daniel Jalkut:

The whole point of the conference needs to be rethought, and the goals addressed from scratch using new approaches. As the greatest challenge for WWDC is in scaling to meet demand, I think it’s obvious that the rethought WWDC should be considered in terms of digital solutions. Call it WWDC if you like, but it needs to take place 365 days a year instead of 4. It needs to serve 300,000 developers, not 5,000. And it needs to take place online, not within the cramped confines of a small convention center in San Francisco.
Apple has effectively headed down this course with their laudable offering of free videos of conference sessions. The high-level goal of merely educating developers is largely met by these. But what of the other goals? The vast majority of benefits that Apple and developers see in WWDC could be achieved online using more effective digital materials that are available to, and more importantly, that scale to the vast number of developers eager to learn about and promote Apple’s platforms.

Apple's attitude of insularity with regard to communications and outreach is an extraordinarily effective marketing tool. For developers and contributors to Apple's ecosystem, however, it's troublesome.

Apple has built the most comprehensive, active, and enjoyable media ecosystem in the digital world. Developers are flocking to iOS to be on the cutting-edge of computing, whilst also gaining the phenomenal chance to make a living out of the iTunes storefront.

And yet, as the ecosystem has grown, Apple's attitude of outreach and support — as Daniel writes — has failed to evolve in tandem. Instead, we see the marketing insularity of Apple applied to a community of people desperate to speak to a person and to receive support and reassurance.

WWDC is an amazing event both for the community and the developers. But, for the swaths of developers left outside the Moscone, or those left in the dark concerning Apple's changing approval mechanisms, or even those reliant upon the ecosystem for their livelihood, it seems only reasonable — however feasible — that Apple might loosen its tie and open up ever-so-slightly.

I don't know what the answer is for WWDC, but I would say that a good tactic moving forward — if only for the sake of its developer base — would be to actively engage more often. Rather than confining interactions to an exclusive event each year — aside from some obvious back-room talks and the like — Apple ought to provide a loosely comparable level of affable outreach for its developers as it does its retail customers in Genius Bars around the world.

Perhaps that's not the answer. Perhaps it's not realistic. Apple already does a huge amount. But I certainly think they, for the sake of the longevity of the ecosystem, ought to do something to address and support their lifeblood in a more equitable and accessible manner moving forward.

Releasing Outside the App Store

Mac App Store

Matt Gemmell:

I recently released a new little Mac app, Sticky Notifications. It’s not currently in the App Store, and accordingly I went through a process that many Mac developers face: deciding whether to release software on the App Store, or outside of it (or indeed both).

In recent months, the illusory appeal of the Mac App Store has steadily begun to deplete. Beyond its initial allure, Matt Gemmell has demonstrated that there are perfectly reasonable, accessible, and uncomplicated means for attaining similar levels of ease when distributing paid Mac apps. For all of this, however, Gemmell cautions that he is not explicitly opposed to the Mac App Store, but that there are simply scenarios in which its use is obviated by Apple’s strict guidelines.

Such ambivalence concerning the Mac App Store has come to characterize much of the critical response to the service. Although the guiding concept is affable, most serious Mac users have grown encumbered by Apple’s ruleset — with powerful apps like TextExpander forced into self-removal from Apple’s restrictive environment.

I tend to share such feelings regarding the Mac App Store. The ability to delve into a centralized list of apps — particularly when dealing with multiple Macs — is an absolute pleasure. Conversely, as a well-entrenched Mac user, I’m not particularly keen to subvert my workflow for the sake of Apple’s draconian guidelines.

At the end of the day, hypotheticals aside, I’m irrevocably in the business of supporting independent creators. If the Mac App Store inhibits my ability to do so, then I will simply forego the service altogether. For now, though, it’s — perhaps problematically — become a matter of discerning the best course of action on an app-by-app basis.

Native Facebook for iOS Arrives

Facebook

Ellis Hamburger for The Verge:

Facebook today announced the culmination of more than six months of work, a native version of the Facebook app for iOS that’s twice as fast. “Up until now we’ve looked at scale,” iOS Product Manager Mick Johnson says, “but we’ve become aware that while we have a great mobile website, embedding HTML 5 inside an app isn’t what people expect.” Facebook for iOS 5.0 was built from the ground up using Apple’s iOS SDK, and looks nearly identical to the old app, but bundles in very substantial speed improvements as well as an overdue Timeline profile view for iPad. The app update is set to roll out over the next few hours.

Despite one or two minor trade-offs, a native Objective-C iteration of the Facebook app is a very welcome, albeit grossly overdue, change. The app has been cripplingly — even somewhat astonishingly — slow for years.

Seemingly with little self-consciousness due to its position as one of the most popular apps on the iOS platform, Facebook appeared satisfied to rest upon its mobile laurels as users continued to wrestle with its various failings. As was implied by the release of Facebook Camera, however, Facebook’s outlook has somewhat changed.

Built upon the same codebase as Facebook Camera — an app I was rather impressed by several months ago — the new version of Facebook for iOS is truly a pleasure to use. Although I imagine that’s certainly not enough to alter any anti-Facebook rhetoric from the technology sphere, it’ll unquestionably come as a very welcome surprise for the vast majority of average users.

Facebook 5.0 is available for download from the iOS App Store.