Apple will start insisting that applications distributed via the Mac App Store are sandboxed on Friday 1 June. Some developers have already prepared their apps for the changes, while others are unclear about what changes will be required. Many developers are not happy that the changes are being implemented at all.
When we asked Mac developers for their thoughts on the matter many agreed to share their concerns with us, although of those, only a few were happy to have their names associated with their comments. In fact, we had so much feedback from developers that this article will be the first in a series outlining the issues with readying software for the new sandboxing regulations on Apple's Mac App Store.
There is much confusion and even more frustration exacerbated by the fact that Apple is not responding to developer’s questions or requests for help.
Some developers are concerned because they believe that Apple has made it clear that applications that are not sandboxed will not be removed from the App Store on 1 June. Others told us that they believed only new apps, or updates to existing apps, would be affected by the change. There is even an element of disbelief that Apple would really implement sandboxing. One developer pointed to Apple Scrips and Automator, and expressed their surprise that once a “champion of end-user automation,” Apple would implement such strict measures.
According to one developer: "There is a huge amount of uncertainty about the whole process as Apple has provided very little information and guidance in terms of what developer can expect. There is no reference persons to contact to clarify and discuss alternative sandboxing strategies, so we are all going into this blind.”
Even worse: “Pre-sandbox screening of submissions has been shockingly arbitrary and Apple staff are frequently either unwilling or unable to understand detailed technical arguments,” said one anonymous developer.
Developers looking to Apple for guidance about sandboxing their apps have been disappointed, not least because of Apple’s own failure to sandbox its apps. So far only TextEdit and Preview have been sandboxed.
“A great source of irritation for developers is Apple's own failure to sandbox its own programs,” noted one developer. “Apple has sandboxed some of its applications, but the vast majority remain outside of the sandbox and will still be available via the Mac App Store.”
“The reason that they can't sandbox their own applications is because they experience the very same problems as third party developers: appropriate entitlements do not exist, the APIs are buggy and the sandbox model makes no sense for many applications,” the anonymous developer added. “In order to sandbox their own applications they would need to remove features that users have come to rely upon. For no reason. They don't want to do so. They don't want to irritate their users.”
He claims that Apple is resort to "cheats" that third party developers would “never get away with.” He suggested: “Apple should first have sandboxed its own applications and made sure that the sandboxing works properly. Then they could legitimately have asked us to join them.”
“The sandbox doesn't really make sense and Apple knows it,” another developer, told us, anonymously.
“Something has clearly gone very wrong when Apple imposes changes that require a large proportion of non-game apps on the Mac App Store to be feature crippled. Nobody knows what the real motivation behind it is,” he noted.
“I suspect that Apple's new found love for the sandbox has more to do with exercising greater control over third party developers and streamlining their review process than with any end-user benefits,” suggested one developer, noting that Apple’s reviewers can now “just look at the entitlements to see what the application can do,” rather than “checking what an application does do.”
Page 1: Confusion and concerns And why isn’t Apple listening?
Page 2: What is sandboxing? And will it work?
Page 3: Is there really a Mac security threat? And will Sandboxing remove it?
Page 4: The case of the evolving sandbox guidelines And how Apple needs to get its act together