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As Developers Struggle, Apple Pushes Back Sandbox Deadline Again

apple-logo-150-1.jpgApple has pushed back its deadline for developers to “sandbox” their applications. Last November, the original deadline was pushed back to March 1, 2012. Now Apple is giving developers through June 1st “to take advantage of new sandboxing entitlements available in OS X 10.7.3 and new APIs in Xcode 4.3.”

According to Manton Reece, Apple is also exempting bug fix updates for the sandbox requirements. This means that apps that fall outside the sandbox can continue to be updated, though users will probably have to look outside the App Store for major version upgrades.

Too Much Trouble?

Given that Apple was supposed to roll this out last November, it seems that Apple’s plan for sandboxing apps was not quite ready for prime time and is proving to be quite a headache for developers. While sandboxing may work well on iOS, it’s a good way to make native Mac app developers sad.

Too many apps require access to the filesystem. And that’s just when apps are used exactly as designed by the developers. If users decide they’d like to use a symlink to move folders to a separate hard drive it could break the app because Apple’s sandbox implementation thinks the sandboxed app is trying to reach outside its sandbox.

Craig Hockenberry says that Apple “is actively listening to developers who are encountering these types of issues” but some developers plan to move their apps outside the Mac App Store anyway.

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Reece, who’s behind the Clipstart app, writes “I still plan to transition Clipstart away from the MAS. The difference now is that I can do it at my own pace, providing a new version or two to MAS customers that will make the move easier.”

It’s good that Apple is getting developer feedback, and giving developers more time as it realizes that the sandbox feature needs more work. But maybe Apple should be going back to the drawing board altogether.

Reece wrote the day before, “Maybe I could file bugs with Apple for exemptions, and reduce the functionality of my app to fit within the limits of the sandbox, but I’ve made the decision that it is just not worth it. I would much rather spend 100% of the time I have for Clipstart on new features only, not playing catch-up with Apple.”

Apple is putting a lot of burden on developers, without making a compelling case that the sandbox is necessary or desirable. Says Reece, “sandboxing isn’t actually a feature; it’s a bottleneck to getting work done. I can’t justify spending any time on it.”


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