GPL and the Mac App Store

Eric Richie eric at
Tue Jan 11 23:49:41 UTC 2011

On Jan 11, 2011, at 6:16 PM, Zachary West wrote:

> On Tue, Jan 11, 2011 at 18:08, Christopher Forsythe <chris at> wrote:
> On Tue, Jan 11, 2011 at 5:03 PM, Stephen Holt <sholt at> wrote:
> >
> > On Jan 11, 2011, at 2:59 PM, Christopher Forsythe wrote:
> >
> >> Can any of the libraries be taken out of adium in order to reduce this
> >> number?
> >
> >
> > libglib is the big one, and no - libpurple depends on libglib.
> >
> >
> That's fine, I'd just need to start preparing to find all of these
> people and making a list.
> Do we know what kind of permission we'd need to ask for? Is something
> like this adequate? "hey, we want make adium easier to download for
> users, and we have to do x, y, and z to do that. We need your
> permission in order to do that. Is it ok?"
> Is the intention to put Adium in the store for free or for sale?
> This isn't going to happen, there's a huge amount of people who have contributed to the projects. If even only one of them isn't contactable or reachable it's gone. We basically need to relicense a core set of GPL libraries and that isn't going to happen.
> It would be free.
> I'm going to write a blogpost and hopefully have our users spam Apple with complaints. Not much more we can do.
> Zac

Call me crazy (not 'get permission from nameless thousands' crazy... but still), but I really don't see this as a *bad* thing... [Apologies, I'm trying to form the ideas in my head into words so it may not come across on the first attempt.]

The App Store is NOT the be-all, end-all. It's merely an option. Yes, it could be argued that it may someday become the only option, but as of right now, we have absolutely no indications that things will go in that direction any time soon.  As such, I really don't think the App Store is a big loss for us.  If we were selling Adium, that might be different.  But we aren't.

Sure, the App Store provides added visibility and simplifies updates, but beyond that, what does it really give us?  I would argue that it really doesn't do much for us.  We've served up millions of downloads, those aren't going to magically disappear because we aren't listed.  We don't cease to exist merely because we aren't there.  Our users will continue to find and use Adium because it's a damn good application and because their friends tell them too.

If anything, I think we'd actually take a hit in terms of support.  With the App Store, our support requests become a million whiny 1-star votes because we don't have v/v or don't support some custom MSN-only feature that no one uses.  Currently we have a lot more contact from users and I think that's a good thing.

As far as updates, Sparkle may not be as good as an integrated App Store, but why doesn't that mean that we can improve it?  Let's use this as a way to push things forward.  We can continue to modify those aspects to make them better.  Maybe it means coming up with something that is actually EASIER than the App Store. (update mechanism, I'm not suggesting that we remake the App Store...)

Right now I see the App Store as being a good fit for some apps, but not all of them.  And that's fine, it either fits or it doesn't.  I really don't see Apple changing their rules in favor of the GPL because the GPL isn't really compatible with reality in most cases* and there's no way that we can contact all contributors to change our license.  That leaves either rewriting Adium from the ground up, or just moving on and continuing as if nothing happened.

In the end, I really think that as more and more developers move towards being App Store only, we need to make sure that there are lots of amazing apps out there that you can find in other places.  Let's embrace our not being in the app store. It doesn't take anything away from our awesomeness.  We can be a reminder that the App Store isn't the only way.


* - My opinions of the GPL are purely my own and do not reflect the official opinion of the project. :-P

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