Joe Hewitt, the Facebook developer behind the popular Facebook app for the iPhone, announced a few days ago that Apple’s frustrating review process for iPhone apps has caused him to cease all iPhone development. In a tweet on the topic, Hewitt noted:
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.
After being contacted by TechCrunch, Heweitt went into more detail about his decision to move onto greener and non-iPhone pastures.
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.”
We can certainly empathize with Hewitt’s concerns, and I don’t think anyone wants to see a mobile marketplace where one party effectively acts an an all powerful gatekeeper. It’s hard to comment further, though, simply because Hewitt doesn’t delve into the exact details behind his seemingly abrupt departure from the iPhone platform.
Interestingly, on August 24th 2009, Hewitt wrote the following on his blog:
I’d like to add my voice to the stream of complaints about the iPhone App Store, but before I say anything critical, I have to promise one thing. No matter how annoyed I get, 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. I never forget how deeply Apple cares about making their users happy, and that counts more than how they treat their developers… Having said that, I have only one major complaint with the App Store, and I can state it quite simply: the review process needs to be eliminated completely.
Something major must have gone down in the past few months, it seems.
But as John Gruber points out, there is more than a little bit of irony in Hewitt’s decision given his place of employ. Counternotions sums it up perfectly in this tweet:
Developer of Facebook app for iPhone quits, blames App Store for its review policy. He works for Facebook! Largest walled garden on earth?!