Why Apple’s Mac App Store ‘sandboxing’ is ruffling developer feathers

the mac app sandbox apple

The iOS App Store has been a huge hit, inspiring app store imitators on nearly every platform. Meanwhile, Apple’s personal-computer equivalent, the Mac App Store, has also been a ferocious market-share grabber,  not least because it’s the only way to obtain the newest OS X update.  But while consumers love the one-stop convenience, the Mac App Store is becoming a lot less popular with the other half of the sales equation: developers.  Macro Arment, creator of Instapaper, has issued a blistering critique of the Mac App Store, and many other developers are speaking openly to long-time Apple source Macworld about their frustrations with the outlet.

Central to Arment’s critique is Apple’s newly-required “sandboxing,” which severely restricts developers in the name of security.  Every computer user, and especially the kind of non-technical users that Apple pursues, wants to feel confident that their applications aren’t going to erase their files, spam their friends, or contribute to the self-awareness of Skynet.  Apple users used to consider themselves happily virus-immune, but malware is starting to show up on the platform as its popularity makes it a more appealing target.  So Apple first implemented Gatekeeper, a system application that restricts your ability to install non-App-Store software, and then declared that by the end of summer, all apps on the Mac App Store had to keep away from any operations that Apple deems risky to security, unless they specifically petition Apple for “entitlements” to access those system calls.

But it’s tough for an application to do anything interesting without some access to things in the operating system.  Granting entitlements seems like a reasonable compromise, but as developer Wil Shipley noted, Apple hasn’t even created creating entitlement categories for all the things that developers commonly do, and actually reviewing every entitlement submitted would require a QA department the size of an iPad owner’s smug self-regard.  That means developers are going to have to either pull their software from the Mac App Store, or eliminate some of the features that make their software appealing.  

So Apple has demanded sandboxing to give consumers the security they want, but developers are saying it’s going to force them to abandon features consumers use.  Security versus power: It’s like a Dark Knight movie in your Home directory!  Of course, developers could simply stop distributing their software through the Mac App Store, but that only works until Apple decrees that every application installed on your Mac has to be sandboxed, a nightmare already haunting many users.  

Apple, of course, would rather have everyone stay in the Mac App Store and comply with sandboxing.  Those lovable rogues at One Infinite Loop have weathered storms of outrage before and come out on top, and they have reason to believe this is the kind of kerfuffle that vanishes once developers acknowledge that Apple has made customers happy in a way that those insensitive programmers never could. 

So far, plenty of developers are angry and are fleeing the app store in not-insignificant numbers,  but others have found sandboxing to be less restrictive than they expected.  Some well-informed writers say it’s all proven to be nothing but Internet hullabaloo  while users seem not to have noticed.  Still, as long-time Apple observer Andy Ihnatko says, “It’s going to take some time — maybe even a couple of years — before developers learn how to do everything they need to do under App Store restrictions, and Apple learns which of these restrictions could stand some loosening up. And until that happens, there will be some very real limitations on how good a Mac app can be.”  It remains to be seen whether users are willing to put up with a few years of sub-par software, or whether developers will put up with years of arbitrary treatment, while Apple figures it all out.

Home Theater

There isn’t a single good reason to buy Apple’s new AirPods

After nearly a three-year wait, Apple has finally announced a new version of its popular true wireless headphones, the AirPods. We had high hopes for vast improvements, but that's not what we got.
News

Browse safely and securely with Opera’s unlimited VPN on Android

Opera has added a new VPN to its Android browser, offering an easy way to keep your privacy and data locked up solid, and with no limits on usage or cost, you can keep it on all the time.
Movies & TV

Netflix confirms it won’t be a part of Apple’s new video-streaming service

Netflix has confirmed that subscribers to Apple's new video streaming service won't have the option to view Netflix content on it. Apple is set to unveil its new TV service next week.
Gaming

Here's how you can control your PS4 right from your phone

Sony built the PlayStation 4 with smartphone and mobile integration in mind. Take a look at our guide for connecting your smartphone or tablet to a PS4, so you can get the most out of the system while on the go.
Mobile

How to choose an iPad in 2019: A practical guide to Apple’s tablets

Selecting an iPad from Apple's lineup can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Our comprehensive guide should put the numbers and specs in practical, easy-to-understand terms. Find your ideal iPad with the help of our guide.
Deals

Looking to upgrade? These are the best iPhone deals for March 2019

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for March 2019.
Product Review

The new iPad Mini certainly isn’t a beauty, but it performs like a beast

Apple’s new iPad Mini has beastly performance, fluid iOS 12 software, and good battery life. It also looks like it came straight out of 2015, because the design hasn’t been changed. Here are our impressions of Apple’s new 7.9-inch…
Mobile

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks for the best portable chargers.
Mobile

Type away on the best iPad keyboard cases, from the Mini to the Pro

Whether you're looking to replace your laptop with a tablet or merely want to increase your typing speed, a physical iPad keyboard is the perfect companion to the iPad. Check out our top picks for every available iPad model.
Mobile

Apple patent suggests Apple Watch bands could have built-in fitness indicators

Apple may be exploring ways to make Apple Watch bands a little more useful. A new patent has been filed by Apple that suggests Apple Watch bands could eventually have indicators for things like fitness goals.
Mobile

Apple patents hint at improved Apple Store and unboxing experiences

It looks like Apple is working on ways to improve the Apple Store and product unboxing experiences. The company has been awarded a few patents, largely for tech that can be used in product packaging to ensure products stay charged.
Home Theater

Here’s how to watch Apple’s March 25 product reveal event live

It's almost here: Apple's much anticipated March 25 event, where it is widely expected to announce several streaming services, including on-demand and live TV with original programming. Here's how to watch it live.
Movies & TV

Apple’s next big event is set for March 25: Here’s what you can expect

Apple's next big event takes place on March 25 in Cupertino, California. The company is expected to make several announcements related to its services, including Apple TV, so follow our guide to get ready for the big event.
Mobile

Got gadgets galore? Keep them charged up with the 10 best USB-C cables

We're glad to see that USB-C is quickly becoming the norm. That's why we've rounded up some of the better USB-C cables on the market, whether you're looking to charge or sync your smartphone. We've got USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A.