Darel Rex Finley in 888

Sideloading and the Supersized-Mastodon-In-the-Room That Snell Doesn’t See

2010.06.06   prev     next

JASON Snell, Editorial Director of Macworld, has written a piece suggesting that in order to quell bad publicity about being too controlling, Apple should allow the sideloading of apps directly to iPhones — apps that haven’t gone through Apple’s App Store approval process. He apparently believes that this would greatly dampen criticism and bad press, but the feature itself wouldn’t be used much; just a minority of geeks sideloading a few apps that couldn’t get approved by Apple. That’s all. And the only significant concern is that some of those sideloaded apps might be malware.

It’s worth quoting Snell at length from his interview on The Tech Night Owl LIVE With Gene Steinberg (June 3):

I’m proposing that the App Store remain intact and approved by Apple and actually in this scenario would probably be more tightly controlled by Apple. I think the root of the problem with App Store rejections is that there’s this feeling, which is really accurate, that if Apple doesn’t approve it, you basically don’t have any way — other than, like, jailbreaking which is not gonna happen, I mean it’s an incredibly small community — to get your app out there. There’s no legitimate form of distribution other than the App Store.

So what I’m saying is, you create an alternative path which is basically: people can download a file, and drag it into iTunes, and sync it with their iPhone. If there’s a checkbox that’s unchecked or checked, and a warning comes up, and you say OK I really wanna do this, that you can get that app on there. I’m not saying there needs to be some sort of illicit, parallel app store, although one might be created. And I’m not saying Apple needs to open up the App Store to everything. I don’t think that’s true either. I think the App Store, in a scenario like this, would still be where 99.9% of all apps are sold. Honestly, I don’t think most people would ever use this alternative. But a few, particularly geeky users would use it? It would give Apple the opportunity to say, look, we’re not gonna put this in our store, but you’re free to distribute it in another means.

Now, would that be a real argument? Probably it would not be, because sales outside the App Store would probably be tiny. It would give Apple some cover. And it would end this kind-of, beating on Apple, saying that Apple controls everything, and even though in reality, they would still really control almost anything that anybody cared about. And that goes back to the regular consumer thing. I think regular consumers wouldn’t use this feature. But what it would do, potentially, is just change perception of Apple as being this kind-of controlling company that is not gonna let certain stuff on, and therefore it’s bad, and Android is better. Again, not talking about reality, I’m talking about marketing. I mean, we geeky people can debate the multitasking in iPhone OS 4.0, and there are a lotta people who say, “Well it’s not really multitasking, it’s sort-of a different thing,” but from a consumer point of view what Apple is putting in iPhone OS 4.0 is enough multitasking so that Android phone makers can no longer say, legitimately, we multitask and they don’t. It just takes it away.

And that’s what I’m saying about putting in a switch like this that lets you bypass the App Store if you really, really, really, really want to, is its mainstream effect is almost zero, but it takes away part of what the competition is bashing Apple about right now. And I have to ask the question: Maybe it’s better? Maybe Apple does something like this and it just eliminates all of this criticism that they get, or at least mutes it to the point where the only people criticizing them are angry people on the forums at Engadget and Gizmodo who are— They’ve already bought their Android phone or whatever, and they’re not gonna be an Apple customer anyway. ...

I’m asking the question: Is this enough of a concern, is this permeating enough that Apple should take steps to blunt it, to just knock it off, and say, “You know what? This isn’t even an issue. You can do it if you want, but nobody wants to.” ...

I feel like Apple’s established enough now that they could do this, and it would just shut everybody up, it would shut all the App Store critics up, it would shut the Android people up about it, and Apple could move on to something else and really compete on features and usability and things like that, instead of on this, kind-of accusation of being this completely closed-off, dictatorial regime. So why not do it?

Since Snell is a big guy at Macworld, and Steinberg frequently features pro-Apple writer Daniel Eran Dilger, I think it’s safe to assume that neither Snell nor Steinberg is purposely ignoring the woolly mammoth in the room — they really just aren’t seeing it. Which I find greatly alarming. But I suspect Apple does see it, so I’m not too alarmed.

The Huge, Ugly Mammoth

If Apple turned on Snell’s proposed sideloading feature, what would typically be sideloaded? A few obscure, unapproved, geeky apps? Maybe some App-Store-rejected porn, or quasi-defamatory, political apps? No. Typically sideloaded would be: Super Monkey Ball. And Assassin’s Creed. And Talking Carl. And Todo. And Pocket God. And Tetris. And FatBooth. And Bento. And Bejeweled 2. And Edge. And Monster Pinball. And Dragon’s Lair. And Zombieville USA. And a hundred thousand more or so. Some resourceful crackers out there somewhere will strip the DRM off of all these apps — then sideloading provides a way for everyone to install them.

Typical iPhone owners don’t consider themselves pirates. But if they see their friends, relatives, and neighbors downloading tons of free apps from the internet, and nothing bad happening to their phones, then they really start to feel like chumps if they pay. The same thing that happened to music with MP3 would happen to iPhone apps.

Now of course the iPod and iPhone (and now the iPad), have always played your MP3 files, no-questions-asked. But the MP3 phenomenon was in full swing well before the iPod existed, and it’s arguable that no music player could have big success if it refused to play MP3 files of unknown origin. And, most of the music in those MP3 files was created years or even decades before MP3 itself existed.

iPhone apps, on the other hand, didn’t exist at all before the iPhone, and have been created entirely by programmers who intend that their app be sold on iPhones and iPod Touches. The iPhone has a seen a burst of creative app development unlike anything for any other platform (including desktop Windows — remember that Windows has been around for a long time, and includes many apps that wouldn’t work well on any phone). 200,000 apps in two years is pretty incredible. And no, it’s not a dozen good apps plus 199,988 crap apps. I think the number of useful and/or enjoyable apps is a similar percentage to the total number of apps as it is on any other platform. (Or maybe it’s even better if you remember that Apple’s approval process directly or indirectly filters out a lot of seriously junky, buggy apps that you and I never see in the App Store at all.)

Raising the Iceberg

Think of the pool of potential iPhone app developers as an iceberg. The geekiest, nerdiest of those developers — i.e. the ones who would spend significant time writing a fairly cool app even if they knew that most users would sideload their app and never pay a dime to use it — are the tip of the iceberg that shows above the water. Below the water is a massive, mostly untapped (until now) set of not-so-nerdy developers who would love to spend serious time writing good, mass-market apps — if they thought they would make some decent money doing it. If not, then they won’t; they’ll spend that time doing something else.

By requiring all apps to go through its App Store — and by making “jailbreaking” (disabling Apple’s app control) enough of a pain-in-the-ass to effectively discourage the overwhelming majority of iPhone users from attempting it — Apple has found a way to lift the whole developer iceberg up out of the water. They’ve done this by creating the first app development environment where the end-user has to pay the developer’s asking price, or else not use the app. That means a lot to the non-nerd developer. And that’s what’s fueling this huge (and growing) explosion of app development for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

If Rob “Die Apple Die” Enderle was advocating an iPhone sideloading option while being uncritically interviewed by Paul “Why Didn’t the Amiga Win” Thurrott, then I would unhesitatingly assume that they know full well what would really happen if Apple allowed sideloading, and that they want it to happen. They want Apple to lose hold of the developer iceberg, sending it plunging back into the sea. But Snell? Interviewed by Steinberg? And even the Macalope chiming in that Apple should allow sideloading?? That’s a little scary.

Please, Steve Jobs, tell me you see this hulking mammoth looming just next to us. Please, Steve, don’t let go of the iceberg you’ve raised. Don’t turn on sideloading.


Update 2010.07.04 — The European Union apparently is considering an interoperability law that, my guess is, would require Apple to allow app sideloading. This, as I explained above, would utterly ruin the market for iPhone and iPad apps. Or, if Apple complied with this new law by allowing sideloading only in the EU (presumably with an iOS version that can’t be easily installed outside the EU), then the app store would be merely damaged, not ruined, because only EU iPhone/iPad users would be able to sideload all the App Store apps for free. Maybe the EU lawmakers would be fine with that, knowing that their electorate is pleased to get all those thousands of apps for nothing.

But will Apple allow it? Apple’s been down this road before, and seems unafraid to just sever relations with anyone who tries to squeeze them.

And will the USA sit still for it? Maybe the American government could create a new law, say, the “Maximum Interopability With EU Intellectual Property Act:”

All persons and businesses shall be free within the USA to reproduce EU-created intellectual works with no repercussions that normally would be applicable under copyright law.

Of course, I’m sure the USA will never pass such a law. Just like I’m sure the EU won’t force Apple to effectively give away all its third-party app developers’ works for free.


Update 2010.07.26 — U.S. government rules that hacking your iPhone to install unapproved apps is legal, fair use. Hopefully, this just means people can’t be prosecuted for hacking their phones, or helping others do so. Presumably, Apple can keep using technical means against it. (Update: Apple just responded — hacking your phone still voids the warranty. Just like it may be legal to take your TV apart with a screwdriver, but it still voids the warranty.)


Update 2012.06.05 — Hard to believe: John Gruber in The Talk Show (June 1, 2012):

You know, if Apple switched to make the iPhone like Mac OS as we know it now, where by default it only takes apps from the App Store, but you can go into settings, and flip a couple switches, and say all right, now you can install apps from any signed developer in the Apple Developer Program. You can just download it from their website, in Mobile Safari, maybe right on your phone. Download it from their website, put in an administrator password or something like that, to authorize it, and then, boom, you’ve got that app on your phone. And then maybe a third option that would say, install applications from any source, whether they’re signed or not. And then give you a little warning about, you know, why you don’t wanna do that. If they did that, a lot of people would rejoice. I don’t know that it would be a bad thing.

I do.


prev     next



Hear, hear

prev     next

Best Recent Articles

Method of Implementing A Secure Backdoor In Mobile Devices

When Starting A Game of Chicken With Apple, Expect To Lose

How I Clip My Cat’s Nails

Seasons By Temperature, Not Solstice

It’s Not A Criticism, It’s A Fact

Features (Regularly Updated)

A Memory of Gateway — news chronology of Apple’s ascendancy to the top of the technology mountain.

iPhone Party-Poopers Redux and Silly iPad Spoilsports — amusing litanies of industry pundits desperately hoping iPhone and iPad will go away and die.

Embittered Anti-Apple Belligerents — general anger at Apple’s gi-normous success.


My books

Now available on the iBookstore!



Daring Fireball

The Loop



Red Meat

Despair, Inc.

Real Solution #9 (Mambo Mania Mix) over stock nuke tests. (OK, somebody made them rip out the music — try this instead.)

Ernie & Bert In Casino

Great Explanation of Star Wars

Best commercials (IMO) from Superbowl 41, 43, 45, 46, and 47

Kirk & Spock get Closer

American football explained.

TV: Better Call Saul; Homeland; Survivor; The Jinx; Breaking Bad; Inside Amy Schumer

God’s kitchen

Celebrity Death Beeper — news you can use.

Making things for the web.

My vote for best commercial ever. (But this one’s a close second, and I love this one too.)

Recent commercials I admire: KFC, Audi

Best reggae song I’ve discovered in quite a while: Virgin Islands Nice

Pinball Arcade: Unbelievably accurate simulation of classic pinball machines from the late ’70s through the ’90s, with new ones added periodically. Like MAME for pinball — maybe better.

d120 dice: You too (like me) can be the ultimate dice nerd.

WiFi problems? I didn’t know just how bad my WiFi was until I got eero.

Favorite local pad thai: Pho Asian Noodle on Lane Ave. Yes, that place; blame Taco Bell for the amenities. Use the lime, chopsticks, and sriracha. Yummm.

Um, could there something wrong with me if I like this? Or this?

This entire site as a zip file — last updated 2018.02.01

Previous articles

Nothing More Angry Than A Cornered Anti-Apple

Let ’Em Glow

The Ultimate, Simple, Fair Tax

Compassion and Vision

When Starting A Game of Chicken With Apple, Expect To Lose

The Caveat

Superb Owl


Basic Reproduction Number

iBook Price-Fixing Lawsuit Redux — Apple Won

Delusion Made By Google

Religion Is A Wall

It’s Not A Criticism, It’s A Fact

Michigan Wolverines 2014 Football Season In Review

Sprinkler Shopping

Why There’s No MagSafe On the New Mac­Book

Sundar Pichai Says Devices Will Fade Away

The Question Every Ap­ple Naysayer Must An­swer

Apple’s Move To TSMC Is Fine For Apple, Bad For Samsung

Method of Implementing A Secure Backdoor In Mobile Devices

How I Clip My Cat’s Nails

Die Trying

Merger Hindsight

Human Life Decades

Fire and the Wheel — Not Good Examples of A Broken Patent System

Nobody Wants Public Transportation

Seasons By Temperature, Not Solstice

Ode To Coffee

Starting Over

FaceBook Messenger — Why I Don’t Use It

Happy Birthday, Anton Leeuwenhoek

Standard Deviation De­fined

Not Hypocrisy

Simple Guide To Pro­gress Bar Correctness

A Secure Backdoor Is Feasible

Don’t Blink

Predictive Value

Answering the Toughest Question About Disruption Theory

SSD TRIM Command In A Nutshell

The Enderle Grope

Aha! A New Way To Screw Apple

Champagne, By Any Other Maker

iOS Jailbreaking — A Perhaps-Biased Assessment

Embittered Anti-Apple Belligerents

Before 2001, After 2001

What A Difference Six Years Doesn’t Make

Stupefying New Year’s Stupidity

The Innovator’s Victory

The Cult of Free

Fitness — The Ultimate Transparency

Millions of Strange Dev­o­tees and Fanatics

Remember the iPod Killers?

Theory As Simulation

Four Analysts

What Was Christensen Thinking?

The Grass Is Always Greener — Viewing An­gle

Is Using Your Own Pat­ent Still Allowed?

The Upside-Down Tech Future

Motive of the Anti-Ap­ple Pundit

Cheating Like A Human

Disremembering Mi­cro­soft

Security-Through-Obscurity Redux — The Best of Both Worlds

iPhone 2013 Score Card

Dominant and Recessive Traits, Demystified

Yes, You Do Have To Be the Best

The United States of Texas

Vertical Disintegration

He’s No Jobs — Fire Him

A Players

McEnroe, Not Borg, Had Class

Conflict Fades Away

Four-Color Theorem A­nal­y­sis — Rules To Limit the Problem

The Unusual Mo­nop­o­list

Reasonable Projection

Five Times What They Paid For It

Bypassable Security Certificates Are Useless

I’d Give My Right Arm To Go To Mars

Free Advice About Apple’s iOS App Store Guidelines

Inciting Violence

One Platform

Understanding IDC’s Tablet Market Share Graph

I Vote Socialist Be­cause...

That Person

Product Naming — Google Is the Other Microsoft

Antecessor Hypotheticum

Apple Paves the Way For Apple

Why — A Poem

App Anger — the Supersized-Mastodon-In-the-Room That Marco Arment Doesn’t See

Apple’s Graphic Failure

Why Microsoft Copies Apple (and Google)

Coders Code, Bosses Boss

Droidfood For Thought

Investment Is Not A Sure Thing

Exercise is Two Thirds of Everything

Dan “Real Enderle” Ly­ons


Ignoring the iPod touch

Manual Intervention Should Never Make A Computer Faster

Predictions ’13


Zeroth — Why the Century Number Is One More Than the Year Number

Longer Than It Seems

Partners: Believe In Ap­ple

Gun Control: Best Ar­gu­ments

John C. Dvorak — Translation To English

Destructive Youth

Wiens’s Whine

Free Will — The Grand Equivocation

What Windows-vs.-Mac Actually Proved

A Tale of Two Logos

Microsoft’s Three Paths

Amazon Won’t Be A Big Winner In the DOJ’s Price-Fixing Suit

Infinite Sets, Infinite Authority

Strategy Analytics and Long Term Ac­count­a­bil­i­ty

The Third Stage of Computing

Why 1 Isn’t Prime, 2 Is Prime, and 2 Is the Only Even Prime

Readability BS

Lie Detection and Psy­chos



Microsoft’s Dim Pros­pects

Humanity — Just Barely

Hanke-Henry Calendar Won’t Be Adopted

Collatz Conjecture A­nal­y­sis (But No Proof; Sorry)

Rock-Solid iOS App Stability

Microsoft’s Uncreative Character

Microsoft’s Alternate Reality Bubble

Microsoft’s Three Ruts

Society’s Fascination With Mass Murder

PlaysForSure and Wikipedia — Revisionism At Its Finest


Patent Reform?

How Many Licks

Microsoft’s Incredible Run

Voting Socialist

Darwin Saves

The Size of Things In the Universe

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy That Wasn’t


Nobody Was In Love With Windows

Apples To Apples — How Anti-Apple Pundits Shoot Themselves In the Foot

No Holds Barred

Betting Against Hu­man­i­ty

Apple’s Premium Features Are Free

Why So Many Computer Guys Hate Apple

3D TV With No Glasses and No Parallax/Focus Issues

Waves With Particle-Like Properties

Gridlock Is Just Fine

Sex Is A Fantasy

Major Player

Why the iPad Wannabes Will Definitely Flop

Predators and Parasites

Prison Is For Lotto Losers

The False Dichotomy

Wait and See — Windows-vs-Mac Will Repeat Itself

Dishonesty For the Greater Good

Barr Part 2

Enough Information

Zune Is For Apple Haters

Good Open, Bad Open

Beach Bodies — Who’s Really Shallow?

Upgrade? Maybe Not

Eliminating the Im­pos­si­ble

Selfish Desires

Farewell, Pirate Cachet

The Two Risk-Takers

Number of Companies — the Idiocy That Never Dies

Holding On To the Solution

Apple Religion

Long-Term Planning

What You Have To Give Up

The End of Elitism

Good and Evil


How Religion Distorts Science

Laziness and Creativity

Sideloading and the Supersized-Mastodon-In-the-Room That Snell Doesn’t See

Long-Term Self-De­lu­sion

App Store Success Won’t Translate To Books, Movies, and Shows

Silly iPad Spoilsports

I Disagree

Five Rational Coun­ter­ar­gu­ments

Majority Report

Simply Unjust

Zooman Science

Reaganomics — Like A Diet — Works

Free R&D?

Apple’s On the Right Track

Mountains of Evidence

What We Do

Hope Conquers All

Humans Are Special — Just Not That Special

Life = Survival of the Fittest

Excuse Me, We’re Going To Build On Your Property

No Trademark iWorries


Twisted Excuses

The Fall of Google

Real Painters

The Meaning of Kicking Ass

How To Really Stop Casual Movie Disc Ripping

The Solitary Path of the High-Talent Pro­gram­mer

Fixing, Not Preaching

Why Blackmail Is Still Illegal

Designers Cannot Do Anything Imaginable

Wise Dr. Drew

Rats In A Too-Small Cage

Coming To Reason

Everything Isn’t Moving To the Web

Pragmatics, Not Rights

Grey Zone

Methodologically Dogmatic

The Purpose of Lan­guage

The Punishment Defines the Crime

Two Many Cooks


One Last Splurge

Making Money

What Heaven and Hell Are Really About

America — The Last Suburb


What the Cloud Isn’t For

Diminishing Returns

What You’re Seeing

What My Life Needs To Be

Taking An Early Re­tire­ment

Office Buildings

A, B, C, D, Pointless Relativity

Stephen Meyer and Michael Medved — Where Is ID Going?

If You Didn’t Vote — Complain Away

iPhone Party-Poopers Redux

What Free Will Is Really About

Spectacularly Well

Pointless Wrappers

PTED — The P Is Silent

Out of Sync

Stupid Stickers

Security Through Nor­mal­cy

The Case For Corporate Bonuses

Movie Copyrights Are Forever

Permitted By Whom?

Quantum Cognition and Other Hogwash

The Problem With Message Theory

Bell’s Boring Inequality and the Insanity of the Gaps

Paying the Rent At the 6 Park Avenue A­part­ments

Primary + Reviewer — An Alternative IT Plan For Corporations

Yes Yes Yes


Hey Hey Whine Whine

Microsoft About Microsoft Visual Microsoft Studio Microsoft

Hidden Purple Tiger

Forest Fair Mall and the Second Lamborghini

Intelligent Design — The Straight Dope

Maxwell’s Demon — Three Real-World Ex­am­ples


Entitlement BS



Einstein’s Error — The Confusion of Laws With Their Effects

The Museum Is the Art

Polly Sooth the Air Rage

The Truth

The Darkness

Morality = STDs?

Fulfilling the Moral Du­ty To Disdain



Real Design

The Two Rules of Great Programming


The End of the Nerds

Poverty — Humanity’s Damage Control

Berners-Lee’s Rating System = Google

The Secret Anti-MP3 Trick In “Independent Women” and “You Sang To Me”

ID and the Large Had­ron Collider Scare

Not A Bluff

The Fall of Microsoft

Life Sucks When You’re Not Winning


The Old-Fashioned Way

The Old People Who Pop Into Existence

Theodicy — A Big Stack of Papers

The Designed, Cause-and-Effect Brain


IC Counterarguments

The Capitalist’s Imaginary Line

Education Isn’t Eve­ry­thing

I Don’t Know

Funny iPhone Party-Poopers

Avoiding Conflict At All Costs

Behavior and Free Will, Unconfused

“Reduced To” Ab­sur­dum

Suzie and Bubba Redneck — the Carriers of Intelligence

Everything You Need To Know About Haldane’s Dilemma

Darwin + Hitler = Ba­lo­ney


Designed For Combat

Speed Racer R Us

Bold — Uh-huh

Conscious of Con­scious­ness

Future Perfect

Where Real and Yahoo Went Wrong

The Purpose of Surface

Eradicating Religion Won’t Eradicate War

Documentation Overkill

A Tale of Two Movies

The Changing Face of Sam Adams

Dinesh D’Souza On ID

Why Quintic (and Higher) Polynomials Have No Algebraic Solution

Translation of Paul Graham’s Footnote To Plain English

What Happened To Moore’s Law?

Goldston On ID

The End of Martial Law

The Two Faces of Ev­o­lu­tion

A Fine Rec­om­men­da­tion

Free Will and Population Statistics

Dennett/D’Souza Debate — D’Souza

Dennett/D’Souza Debate — Dennett

The Non-Euclidean Ge­om­e­try That Wasn’t There

Defective Attitude Towards Suburbia

The Twin Deficit Phan­toms

Sleep Sync and Vertical Hold

More FUD In Your Eye

The Myth of Rub­ber­neck­ing

Keeping Intelligent Design Honest

Failure of the Amiga — Not Just Mis­man­age­ment

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer = Be My Honey Do?

End Unsecured Debt

The Digits of Pi Cannot Be Sequentially Generated By A Computer Program

Faster Is Better

Goals Can’t Be Avoided

Propped-Up Products

Ignoring ID Won’t Work

The Crabs and the Bucket

Communism As A Side Effect of the Transition To Capitalism

Google and Wikipedia, Revisited

National Geographic’s Obesity BS


Theodicy Is For Losers

Seattle Redux


Living Well

A Memory of Gateway

Is Apple’s Font Rendering Really Non-Pixel-Aware?

Humans Are Complexity, Not Choice

A Subtle Shift

Moralism — The Emperor’s New Success

Code Is Our Friend

The Edge of Religion

The Dark Side of Pixel-Aware Font Rendering

The Futility of DVD En­cryp­tion

ID Isn’t About Size or Speed

Blood-Curdling Screams

ID Venn Diagram

Rich and Good-Looking? Why Libertarianism Goes Nowhere

FUV — Fear, Uncertainty, and Vista

Malware Isn’t About Total Control

Howard = Second Com­ing?

Doomsday? Or Just Another Sunday

The Real Function of Wikipedia In A Google World

Objective-C Philosophy

Clarity From Cisco

2007 Macworld Keynote Prediction

FUZ — Fear, Uncertainty, and Zune

No Fear — The Most Important Thing About Intelligent Design

How About A Rational Theodicy

Napster and the Subscription Model

Intelligent Design — Introduction

The One Feature I Want To See In Apple’s Safari.