iPhone Facebook lead developer Joe Hewitt calls it quits over App Store policies. [Update]

by Mike
Posted November 11th, 2009 at 9:08 pm

**Update inside: webOS in Joe’s Crosshairs?…

Apple may be rolling out a new window — albeit small window — that allows iPhone devs to peer into the inner workings of the App Store approval process, but is it too little too late? The link in the previous sentence goes to an article I just wrote on how Apple can make this new found gesture of “openness” actually useful. Again, that’s already old news. It happened several hours ago. The fact of the matter is, Apple has taken so long to get to this point and stepped on so many toes, they are now pushing away the very core of the iPhone platform. Don’t believe me? Let’s just take a look at the story of Joe Hewitt, the lead ex-lead developer for the Facebook iPhone app.

Now before we go more in depth, we have to throw out the appropriate question: “It surely can’t be all Apple can it? I mean, is it just some anti-Apple bias bubbling to the surface of my inner being? Not quite. Joe admits himself that Apple is the reason he’s ditching the iPhone platform…

At first Joe announced that he was “moving on to a new project” via 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.

Seems harmless enough doesn’t it? But when questioned further by TechCrunch writer Jason Kincaid, Joe responded with a surprising admission:

“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.”

I as well as numerous other bloggers have been saying for months that Apple is destroying their App Store from within. This account by Joe, a prominent developer of an extremely popular app, has the ability to send shockwaves through the app store. Smaller dev companies and independent devs may not have felt like it would have mattered as their smaller size in the grand scheme of things is nothing but a drop in the bucket. Now that a major player has voiced displeasure and moved on, could we see more devs following suit?

In all honesty, now that the iPhone has become the only “cool” phone and in fact transformed itself into the staple image of what a smartphone is (much like Google became a verb), I don’t see even Joe’s departure as big enough to open peoples’ glazed over eyes to the real problems lurking inside the App Store model. I just hope that more devs that were on the fence now have the motivation. I also hope that Apple realizes the great disservice they’re doing to devs and customers alike and change accordingly. Multiple big, popular app stores are the best thing for all of us.

So what’s next for Joe? Who knows. He could be on the cusp of developing the next great mobile app. Or, he could be Well, he is taking his social networking prowess/Facebooking skills over to another platform. At this point any platform is fair game. Though his voicing disapproval for locked down policies could point to a new found friend in Android. Hey, the Android Facebook app is pretty weak. Oh how I can only hope….

**Update: Palm Info Center also reached out to Joe following his public comments about leaving the iPhone platform. This is what he had to say…(Palm Info Center)

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.

It makes sense, a web developer by heart wants to develop for an OS that’s based on web technologies. The only thing hanging him up is webOS’s poor performance. So does this mean other OS’s are on the table?

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6 ResponsesLeave a comment
  • dean collins
    November 12, 2009 at 10:50 am

    All the cool kids are moving to Android anyway.

    Ever since the release of the Motorola Droid/Android 2.0 it’s the only platform worth considering.

    People dont like being told what to do Apple.

    • Mike
      November 12, 2009 at 10:55 am

      Sorry dean,

      Didn’t quite understand the error the first time. After I tried myself I understood. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    • Mike
      November 12, 2009 at 10:55 am

      And you’re right….we don’t like being told what to do ;)

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