Archive for August 17, 2020

Monday, August 17, 2020

Apple to Cut Epic Off From iOS and Mac Developer Tools

Epic (also: MacRumors):

Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store and has informed Epic that on Friday, August 28 Apple will terminate all our developer accounts and cut Epic off from iOS and Mac development tools. We are asking the court to stop this retaliation. Details here.

Juli Clover:

Cook said that there’s competition to attract developers just like there’s competition to attract customers, likening the battle for developers to a “street fight for marketshare.”


Cook also said that Apple does not retaliate or bully app developers who do not agree to Apple’s App Store rules. “It’s strongly against company culture,” said Cook.

Josh Centers:

Honestly, good on Apple for giving Epic the boot. They’d do the same to any other developer who pulled that sort of stunt. For once, they really are treating large developers the same as small ones.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

“But this is just App Review’s normal response”

…should it be, though? None of this should be normal. We’re numb to it as developers in the ecosystem, but Apple completely cutting developers off from tooling & distribution, beyond malware reasons, is insane

Michael Love:

But I very much look forward to reading Apple’s spin on this, given that just a week ago they were suggesting they would welcome Epic back with open arms if Epic changed their mind about IAP.

Steve Streza:

Epic undoubtedly knew this would happen and I’m sure the developer program terms spell that out somewhere, but setting a precedent of “if you sue us for the App Store we will kick you out before you get a ruling” is a chilling effect.

Colin Cornaby:

Apple terminating Epic’s developer account would be purely retaliatory. Fortnite is down from the App Store, there is no ongoing violation of Apple’s policies. Terminating Epic’s developer account would also affect the Unreal game engine, and endanger other games using it.

Basically what Apple is doing is trying to force Epic to upload an iOS version of Fortnite with IAP (which again, is not currently in the App Store) or Epic’s account is taken away.

We’ve all talked about Apple keeping apps they don’t like on the App Store, but this would be the first time we’ve seen Apple basically put a gun to a developers head to force them to publish an app that’s not currently on the store with an Apple defined feature set.

Jeff Johnson:

Yes, Epic violated the rules, because they’re challenging the legality of the rules. In order to have standing to sue, you need to show harm. The only way to challenge the legality of the App Store rules was to get kicked out, which is the harm.

Bob Burrough:

Lots of folks taking the perspective that Epic got what they deserved because they violated Apple’s rules. However, a corporation cannot enforce a rule that is unlawful. It happens all the time...e.g. non-compete agreements are not enforceable in California.

Jeff Johnson:

Apple just proved today that the Mac is no longer an open platform. It’s every bit as closed as iOS now.


Apple claimed that Developer ID and notarization were only for malware.

This is proved definitively to be a lie.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Apple threatening to cut off, stop contributing to & optimizing its hardware for Unreal Engine is 1,000% unnecessary & vindictive, and hurts every dev using Unreal on the platform. If they were trying to make Cook look like a liar to Congress, it would be hard to do a better job

John Gruber:

It’s a fascinating armchair quarterback game to speculate on what Epic anticipated from Apple as a reaction and what they didn’t. Pulling Fortnite from the App Store they obviously anticipated — Epic had both the lawsuit and 1984 ad parody ready to go. Revoking Epic’s developer account, I’m not so sure.


Wait did Apple tell Fortnite that in a fortnight they will be deleted? Damn that’s subtle but savage.

See also: Hacker News.


Update (2020-08-18): John Gruber:

In a court of law, Apple seems well within its rights to terminate Epic’s membership. In the court of public opinion, Apple comes off looking heavy-handed here, especially as it pertains to Unreal Engine. To be clear, Apple is not banning or even mentioning games that use Unreal Engine; what Epic is saying is that all games that use Unreal Engine will be affected as a byproduct of Epic no longer being able to work on Unreal Engine for Apple’s platforms.

Malathi Nayak and Mark Gurman, quoting Apple (tweet):

We very much want to keep the company as part of the Apple Developer Program and their apps on the Store. The problem Epic has created for itself is one that can easily be remedied if they submit an update of their app that reverts it to comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which apply to all developers. We won’t make an exception for Epic.

John Gruber:

Epic has been clear that they aren’t seeking a permanent exception to the App Store Guidelines[…] So the “exception” Apple speaks of, I think, would be allowing Fortnite to remain in the App Store with its own payment processing while the lawsuit is litigated — and perhaps allowing Epic to keep its developer program membership?


If I were a game developer who depends on Unreal Engine, I’d be irate at Epic. They’re creating drama and eroding trust over a fight that Unreal Engine licensees aren’t a part of and didn’t sign up for.

Michael Herf:

Apple called f.lux in 2015 and said they would revoke our ability to make f.lux for >5M Macs if we didn’t take down our iOS sideload. At the time these were governed by separate license agreements.

Michael Love:

Re-reading the briefs in Apple v. Pepper and this line from an Apple brief was pretty much begging for Epic to do what they just did.

Graham Lee:

People put up with this for the justifiable reason that the Apple technology platform is pleasant and easy to use, well-integrated across multiple contexts including desktop, mobile, wearable and home.


My view is that the one fact—the high-quality technology—doesn’t excuse the other—the rent-extracting business model and capricious heavy-handed application of “the rules” with anyone who tries to work with them. People try to work with them because of the good technology, and get frustrated, enervated, or shut down because of the power imbalance in business.


Through a continuum of changes, but no deliberate “OK, time to rip off the mask” conversion, Apple is now the IBM that fans booed in 1984, or the Microsoft that fans booed in 1997.

It’s OK to not like that, to not defend it, but to still want something good to come out of their great technology. We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, everyone else has to lose.

Benedict Evans:

The trouble is, if you have a curated, managed sandbox, where a company decides what’s safe, you have to do a good job of managing and curating, and Apple has not, always, done a good job at all.


For a lot of big companies, iPhone users are the market. When your product has a few points of market share you can make whatever choices you like, but when you dominate the market, other rules start applying. Apple isn’t the pirates anymore - it’s the navy, the port and the customs house.

John Gruber:

The pro-consumer argument is perfectly valid, but it applies every bit as much to game consoles as to app stores.


Even though Microsoft itself just got itself into an Xbox-related high-profile controversy with Apple regarding its iOS App Store policies, I suggest not holding your breath waiting for Microsoft (let alone Sony or Nintendo) to file a friend of the court brief for Epic, or even to offer Epic a word (or tweet) of encouragement. If Epic registers a significant win against Apple and Google in this fight, the game consoles are likely next.

Nick Heer:

Those rules are what is at stake here. So far, my argument that Apple was playing by the book is based on the notion that the book is accurate and can be trusted. Epic is arguing that these rules are deeply flawed and, to prove it, it is possible that it was forced to break the rules. That doesn’t absolve the company of rule-breaking; it’s just that none of the effects of the last several days should be a surprise. Epic is probably right that Apple should have changed the App Store rules. What surprises me is that a company as notoriously controlling as Apple might be required to let lawyers and judges make those changes instead of doing so of its own volition.

Benjamin Mayo:

I think the likely resolution of the standoff is that Epic relents in a couple of weeks time. They will retract the direct payments feature and Fortnite will then return to the App Store. The stunt has served its purpose as a mildly-embarrassing smear campaign against Apple, and its effect won’t be lessened by Epic backtracking. In fact, that might only serve as legal ammo: Epic could argue that Apple’s retaliatory action was so harsh that it left them no choice but to back down.

Assuming Apple sticks to its convictions, we must wait for some government body to enact change through an arduously long court and appeals process.


The money is one thing. Personally, I care more about reining in the power Apple has to deny entire categories of apps from existing.

Update (2020-08-19): Jesper:

Combined with the power in Apple’s grasp, their immense size using nearly every possible metric, and the policies used in the store today, theirs is the language of the person on the wrong side of history.

Kyle Howells:

If you got banned from Apples ecosystem, you’d rely on Google’s to exist in the modern world (and vis versa).

If you somehow got banned from both ecosystems (only 2 companies), I’m honestly not sure how you’d participate in modern life.

That’s terrifying!

Spawn Wave:

The new strategy when selling an iPhone on eBay is to mention it has Fortnite installed apparently

The Case of the Top Secret iPod

David Shayer:

They didn’t actually work for the Department of Energy; they worked for a division of Bechtel, a large US defense contractor to the Department of Energy. They wanted to add some custom hardware to an iPod and record data from this custom hardware to the iPod’s disk in a way that couldn’t be easily detected. But it still had to look and work like a normal iPod.


Finally, the iPod team developed on Windows computers. Apple didn’t have working ARM developer tools yet, because this was before the iPhone shipped. The iPod team used ARM developer tools from ARM Ltd, which ran only on Windows and Linux.


We discussed the best way to hide the data they recorded. As a disk engineer, I suggested they make another partition on the disk to store their data. That way, even if someone plugged the modified iPod into a Mac or PC, iTunes would treat it as a normal iPod, and it would look like a normal iPod in the Mac Finder or Windows Explorer. They liked that, and a hidden partition it was.


Starting with the iPod nano, the operating system was signed with a digital signature to block the Linux hackers (and others). The boot ROM checked the digital signature before loading the operating system; if it didn’t match, it wouldn’t boot.

Update (2020-08-19): See also: Hacker News.

Frances Allen, RIP

IBM (via Hacker News):

Frances “Fran” Allen, a pioneer in the world of computing, the first female IBM Fellow and the first woman to win the Turing Award, died on August 4, 2020, the day of her 88th birthday.


In debt with student loans, Fran joined IBM Research in Poughkeepsie, NY as a programmer on July 15, 1957, where she taught incoming employees the basics of FORTRAN. She planned to stay only until her debts were paid, however, she ended up spending her entire career at IBM.


This work led to Fran’s seminal paper on Program Optimization, first published in 1966, describing a robust new framework for implementing program analysis and optimization as well as a powerful set of new algorithms. Fran’s 1970 paper on Control Flow analysis introduced the notion of “intervals” and node dominance relations, important improvements over the control flow abstractions given in her earlier paper. Her 1972 paper, “A Catalog of Optimizing Transformations,” identified and discussed many of the transformations commonly used today.

Kim Lyons:

In a 2002 New York Times profile, Allen said there was much initial skepticism of Fortran and how effective it could be in making computer programming easier and more efficient, which was a main focus of her career. “There was tremendous resistance,” she said. “They were convinced that no higher level language could possibly do as good a job as they could in assembly.” But the work sparked her interest in compiling, she said later, “because it was organized in a way that has a direct heritage to modern compilers.”


Her work represents the road not taken that many, me included, regret.

The chapter about her in Coders at Work is recommended reading.

Cade Metz:

The N.S.A. machine, called Stretch-Harvest, was intended to analyze communications intercepted by listening posts operated by American spies around the globe. Ms. Allen helped build the machine’s programming language and compiler.

Epic Sues Over Google Play Store, Too

Russell Brandom (Hacker News, MacRumors):

Epic Games has filed suit against Google over alleged antitrust violations, just hours after seeing Fortnite dropped from the both the Google Play Store and iOS App store and filing a similar lawsuit against Apple. Epic’s complaint alleges that Google’s payment restrictions on the Play Store constitute a monopoly, and thus a violation of both the Sherman Act and California’s Cartwright Act.

Epic’s hit game Fortnite was removed from the Google Play Store earlier today.


Notwithstanding its promises to make Android devices open to competition, Google has erected contractual and technological barriers that foreclose competing ways of distributing apps to Android users, ensuring that the Google Play Store accounts for nearly all the downloads of apps from app stores on Android devices. Google thus maintains a monopoly over the market for distributing mobile apps to Android users, referred to herein as the “Android App Distribution Market” (infra Part II).


Epic’s experience with one OEM, OnePlus, is illustrative. Epic struck a deal with OnePlus to make Epic games available on its phones through an Epic Games app. The Epic Games app would have allowed users to seamlessly install and update Epic games, including Fortnite, without obstacles imposed by Google’s Android OS. But Google forced OnePlus to renege on the deal, citing Google’s “particular[] concern” about Epic having the ability to install and update mobile games while “bypassing the Google Play Store”.

Jay Peters:

Epic also alleges that the original deal between Epic and OnePlus would have made the launcher available worldwide, but Google “demanded that OnePlus not implement its agreement with Epic with the limited exception of mobile devices sold in India.”

Epic also alleges that Google “prevented LG from pre-installing the Epic Games app on LG devices” because — in LG’s words, apparently — LG had a contract “to block side downloading off Google Play Store this year.”

Nick Statt, in April:

“After 18 months of operating Fortnite on Android outside of the Google Play Store, we’ve come to a basic realization,” reads Epic’s statement. “Google puts software downloadable outside of Google Play at a disadvantage, through technical and business measures such as scary, repetitive security pop-ups for downloaded and updated software, restrictive manufacturer and carrier agreements and dealings, Google public relations characterizing third party software sources as malware, and new efforts such as Google Play Protect to outright block software obtained outside the Google Play store.”

Daniel Bader:

All due respect, there’s more than a little hyperbole in “scary, repetitive security pop-ups.” This is the “scary” process of installing the Epic Games app on Android through Epic’s own, fully guided website.

Inconvenient? Maybe. But not scary.

His screenshots look pretty scary to me. It says, “For your security, your phone is not allowed to install unknown apps from this source.” Google and Apple (on macOS) both use exaggerated language in their alerts.

Michael Love:

I am glad they’re calling Google out on all the hoops they make you jump through for sideloading; it’s better than not having it at all, but it’s hard to argue it’s all necessary for user security.


Update (2020-08-28): Russell Ivanovic:

[Sideloading] doesn’t work because Google makes it very hard to do and also doesn’t let you do stuff like auto update.

Mozilla Signs Fresh Google Search Deal

Katyanna Quach:

Within hours of the browser maker laying off a quarter of its staff this week, a well-placed source told The Register Moz had signed a three-year agreement with Google. […]

However, our source told us Moz will likely pocket $400m to $450m a year between now and 2023 from the arrangement, citing internal discussions held earlier this year.


The more skeptical among you may be thinking Mozilla used the pandemic as cover while it rejigs its workforce to reduce its reliance on Firefox – which is thoroughly dominated by Google Chrome on desktop and especially mobile – and tries to come up with new products so that it can stay afloat if or when Google turns off the money tap.

On the other hand, with other browsers adopting Chrome’s Chromium engine, Google may want to keep Firefox alive as a competitor to avoid yet more abuse-of-market-dominance complaints.

Frank Hecker (via Hacker News):

So, if you’re an avid user of the Firefox browser and want to chip in a few dollars to help support its development, there’s actually no way for you to do so, at least not at present. Your donations will go to the Mozilla Foundation, which will use them to help fund its outreach and advocacy initiatives, of which it has several.


Instead you can think of the Mozilla Corporation as being analogous to the Bell Labs or Xerox PARC of yore, R&D organizations funded by a seemingly-unending stream of profits earned by other businesses that enjoyed dominant positions in their respective markets. In this sense Google is to Mozilla as AT&T was to Bell Labs, or Xerox to Xerox PARC.


The basic situation is that Mozilla has tried to be at least three things simultaneously: an advocacy organization, a developer and distributor of mass market consumer software and related services, and (as noted above) a research lab.


In the end Mozilla Corporation senior management apparently decided to go for being a consumer software and services company, and to ditch any activities not related to that, including research projects. Having done so, the Mozilla Corporation faces a number of problems[…]

Alan Gibson:

Looking at Mozilla’s finances, it’s reasonable to conclude that Google is keeping them on life support to keep the anti-trust hounds at bay.


With the troubles at Mozilla, Google is one step closer to replicating the WeChat and Facebook walled-garden model on the Web. A quick survey a the field of play shows just how far Google has come in capturing the once open Web.


But Google doesn’t even need Chrome to dictate standards since it controls the Web’s front door. AMP, a technology no one asked for, is now on over 70% of all marketing websites for no other reason than Google said so.


Mozilla was, and is still for an indeterminate amount of time, the check and balance on Apple and on Google, the two remaining browser engine competitors. Both have perverse incentives to turn the web into their own platform, to make the web not compete with their own platform or make the web look like and behave like their own platform.


I have no interest in most of Mozilla’s offshoots like the Pocket app or iOS Firefox, but I will likely switch to Firefox and find a way to support them as a manner of principle. I should have done it much sooner.