I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

It’s not just the geeks like us

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on my Mac App Store post this morning, and I’d like to clarify some points and respond.

I did not say or intend to suggest any of these:

  1. I will not buy anything from the Mac App Store again.
  2. Most Mac users will stop shopping in the Mac App Store.
  3. Most developers will stop putting apps in the Mac App Store.

My argument was more nuanced: many previously-acceptable apps have been effectively kicked out of the App Store because they’re incompatible with the current implementation of sandboxing, and this hurts the customers of those apps enough that they will lose confidence in buying nontrivial software from the Store in the future. For this reason, I, as a customer, have lost confidence. Furthermore, the increasing number of good, useful apps not permitted in the App Store will prevent it from becoming ubiquitous, therefore harming Apple’s presumed long-term goals.

The most common response I received, by far, was that this would only impact geeks like us. Nearly every response was along the lines of “I agree with you, but my [computer-newbie relative] won’t care,” or “The App Store is for average people, not geeks like us.”

First of all, geeks are a very large and influential market. As one big example, if not for geeks, Firefox would never have started to catch on in 2004 and broken Internet Explorer’s reign. We installed Firefox on every non-geek’s computer we could find. And while we were there, we set everyone’s search engine to Google instead of Yahoo or MSN, and we made fun of their AOL email addresses until they switched to Gmail. Our preferences matter.

But it’s incorrect and arrogant to assume that Mac App Store exclusions only affect geeks. While it’s true that many of the excluded apps might be used by a lot of geeks, it’s also likely that a very large portion of “average” Mac users are using at least one. Already, most Mac users can’t go App Store-only because they rely on Microsoft Office, Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, or nearly anything from Adobe. These aren’t just geeks. Not even close.

Even the “geeky” apps that get excluded, such as TextExpander and SuperDuper, aren’t used exclusively by geeks. I know because I run a web service that uses a Javascript bookmarklet that people manage to install in Mobile Safari (this is not a simple procedure) that solves a problem that’s mostly only encountered by people who browse the internet all day, don’t want to read what they find while browsing, and want to instead read it on an expensive portable gadget in the future. And they’re not all geeks. One look at my support email makes that extremely clear, and I bet Smile and Shirt Pocket would confirm that the same is true for the “geeky” TextExpander and SuperDuper.

Geeks aren’t the only people who have the problems that these apps solve, and we’re not the only people who can figure out how to find, buy, and use these tools. Give the rest of the computer-owning world some credit.

This isn’t about a few geeks being inconvenienced. It’s about a very large number of Mac users, far beyond geeks, being discouraged from buying (or being unable to buy) the software they need from the Mac App Store, and why that’s not in Apple’s best long-term interests.