Mar 29, 2011

Always a Bridesmaid

Last Thursday, after working with Apple’s review team for nearly a year, they rejected Briefs again.

I feel like we’ve all been here before. Another App Store rejection and another post on my (barely can be called a) blog. Since this is likely my final tome on the subject, I’m opting for a simpler approach. Instead of a rambling post about my continued woes of app review and more logical pleas for guidance from Apple, I’m posting a FAQ. A place to direct people as more of them discover Briefs and wonder what could have been.

But please don’t read my cool, logical demeanor as sanguine. I’m madder than hell over the situation, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that I rewrote the app, removing all networking code, replacing it with the worthless iTunes file sharing. Nor does it matter that I was doing this based on direct guidance from Apple’s review team. It doesn’t change the fact that I have a concept I can’t sell and an app half its audience can’t install.

When will Briefs be available on the App Store?
It won’t.

Bummer, how can I install and run Briefs on my device?
The same way that has always been available: download the source code, then build, sign and install the app for your device.

What was the reason Apple cited for rejecting it?
According to Apple, Briefs “downloads executable code that dynamically alters the behavior of the app.”

Downloads? I thought you said you were using iTunes file sharing.
Any means of opening a .brieflist in Briefs, including: (1) a direct network download, (2) sending it to Briefs from another app or (3) using the user initiated process of copying the .brieflist through iTunes file sharing. All are considered “downloading” according to Apple.

I thought iTunes file sharing would be the silver bullet. If someone gets a virus from using iTunes file sharing, they really have to try. Think about it, you already use iTunes to copy movies, music and applications to your device. I’m not sure how a plist file adds an unnecessary security risk beyond the current functions of iTunes.

I’ve been happily using Briefs for months. Why does it matter if it’s not on the App store?
First, thanks for using Briefs. Second, I wanted Briefs to be an easy way to test out your ideas and the audience for such a tool is larger than developers. Without a version on the App store, I can’t reach the rest of the audience.

Installing an app from source is not an easy task. Especially for those who are unfamiliar with the joys of device provisioning. Three quarters of the support email I receive is regarding installation issues.

Why not sell the app through Cydia or other similar app stores for jailbroken phones?
I fail to see how jailbreaking your device makes for a better installation process. Nor do I see how I gain more of the desired audience through Cydia.

I’ve never met a single person who jailbroke their device that wasn’t a developer. Developers can already use my tool, as is.

What about a Briefs Mac app?
I’ve started writing code and I have a lot of ideas surrounding a Mac app for Briefs, but I’m reticent to spend more time on the project at the moment. This latest rejection has spooked me and I’m looking for better uses of my time.

Is this the end of Briefs?
The beauty of open-source software is that it never goes away. I get emails every week from people happily using it and I imagine many will continue to find value from it. I’m always open to pull requests and patches are welcome.

I’m not saying I’ll never work on Briefs again, but it’s difficult to open the Xcode project right now. One day that feeling will pass and I’m sure I’ll start poking at it again. When I do, I’ll talk about it on Twitter.

Will we ever hear the whole story?
I’m not in this game to whine about my troubles and get a bunch of folks riled up about walled-gardens or curated something-or-others.

But if you ever run into me, feel free to buy me a beer, ask me for an interview or invite me to speak at your conference. I like to talk and you’ll get to hear about the hidden elevator in Moscone.

In the meantime, I have a business to run and new ideas to build. If reading this makes you angry and you feel compelled to do something about it, go build something great that will make people happy. That’s what I did with Briefs and I don’t regret it; app reviews be damned.


About
Rob Rhyne is a designer and developer. His company, MartianCraft, builds mobile software for hire. He's creator of Pris, a unique mobile camera and Briefs, a toolkit for creating live wireframes on iPhone OS devices. You can follow him on twitter here.