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Apple is terrified of iphone web-apps being as good as native apps
65 points by ryankshaw 2770 days ago | hide | past | web | 35 comments | favorite
Last week we all had a very interesting investigation ( http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=997508 ) of how apple seems to have come up with a css/js/html5 framework called pastryKit to make really good "native-looking" web-apps on the iphone before they ever started with the whole app store idea. Some of us, like myself went and looked at it ( http://help.apple.com/iphone/3/mobile/ ) and then pulled it down and put it up on github so we can take a look at what they are doing and learn how we too could do some of the same css transforms, transitions and "flick" scrolling like they do in their code.

Well, it looks like Apple is scared to death of that idea. They want to make sure that the web-app experience on the iphone (except for their own help system) remains crippled and seemingly second class when you compare it to one of their native apps (even though their own help system shows the it is possible for it to be just as good). It looks like they went straight to gitHub and forced them to take it down. Here's the email I got from them. Bummer!!

I'm writing to inform you that we have received a takedown notice from Apple regarding your repo, PastryKit. We have made the repo and all forks private so that they are no longer publicly accessible. If we do not receive a counter-notice from you within 10-14 days the repo will be deleted.

I would like to encourage you to read up on the DMCA takedown procedure and your rights here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_Copyright_Infringement_Liability_Limitation_Act

    Tekkub
    GitHub Tech Support
    http://support.github.com/
    Join us on IRC: #github on freenode.net
    Discussion group: github@googlegroups.com



Thanks for posting the detailed write-up, but I don't believe that the facts warrant this conclusion.

The fact remains that PastryKit is open source, but close-licensed - by which I mean the frontend source code is transmitted when you access the website by necessity, but owned entirely by Apple.

Honestly, Apple is behaving much like Plurk just a few days ago. Their frontend source code was lifted, unpacked, analyzed, and repackaged for another product. Frustrated by having their intellectual property repurposed without permission or license, a takedown order was appropriate.

While I'm all for analyzing techniques like those found in PastryKit and am sort of a "rah! rah! open source!" guy in general, Apple was well within their rights to request a takedown. It sucks that they did, because I'd love to read up on this sometime and learn from it, but that's how these things tend to go.

That said, whether you agree with me or not, I don't think that this takedown notice is any reason to suggest that "Apple is terrified of iPhone web apps being as good as native apps."


"open source, but close-licensed" is a contradiction. By no definition I know of is that considered "open source".


You're splitting hairs. I don't see any value to semantic argument here. The point is, the source code can be gotten, but it's not licensed so that others can use it.


"open source" has a specific meaning, not just "you can read the source:" http://www.opensource.org/


Yes, that's arguably true. That's also a completely boring semantic argument that completely misses what the guy was trying to express.


The usual nomenclature for this sort of thing is "shared source"


Yea, you're totally right, apple was well within their rights to tell me to take the code down, I know that. But I would definitely say that the comparison with plurk is inaccurate because in their case Microsoft grabbed their code and re-used it in their own website not only for their own gain, but even to compete against plurk.

I would say that what I, and others, did was more like someone going to a website, hitting view-source, and saying "hmm this is interesting, there is something to be learned here" and then putting the interesting code snippets up on their blog. especially when the first line of my readme said "this is just for learning's sake, dont use this on your real website."

At any rate, I for sure agree that apple is not being a bully, unjust, or outside of their rights to tell me to take it down. But it does kind of suggest that apple is going out of their way to impede the quality of web-apps on the iphone rather than try to help it along.

Apple if your listening, why not just open source PastryKit?


I would say that what I, and others, did was more like someone going to a website, hitting view-source, and saying "hmm this is interesting, there is something to be learned here" and then putting the interesting code snippets up on their blog. especially when the first line of my readme said "this is just for learning's sake, dont use this on your real website."

You reproduced the code wholesale -- that was infringement, not fair use.

Apple if your listening, why not just open source PastryKit?

They don't want to -- that's their prerogative. I find your sense of entitlement baffling.


But it does kind of suggest that apple is going out of their way to impede the quality of web-apps on the iphone rather than try to help it along.

It does not. You're projecting motive onto an action when you have only seen the action itself, not the deliberations that lead to the action.


> the interesting code snippets

Copyright allows snippets of works for discussion under concept of fair use. It doesn't allow wholesale republishing into a distribution channel of the complete original work -- even if your first line does say "just for learning".

See "Fair Use" test #3: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use


> Apple if your listening, why not just open source PastryKit?

Why? If you care to learn the lessons of PastryKit, you can view the original source. Its not in Apple's best interest to support yet another web framework thats kind of Cocoa-like. Both SproutCore.com and Cappuccino.org provide web application frameworks that are more complete, better documented, and actually maintained.


//But it does kind of suggest that apple is going out of their way to impede the quality of web-apps on the iphone rather than try to help it along

I guess Apple has an incentive in doing so. Improving web apps improves it for all phones. They lose their comparative advantage in doing so.


<Sarcasm> Its not like they contribute to the development of open web standards or browser libraries. </Sarcasm>

When Apple is scared of web applications, they'll stop improving WebKit.


> When Apple is scared of web applications, they'll stop improving WebKit.

And WebObjects.

Oh, wait... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebObjects#2009:_No_longer_supp...


Don't let the iPhone fans hear you say that. Apple's competitive advantage is the UI handed down from Olympus! The sleek hardware! The brand! The integration with iTunes! How could you possibly imply that their advantage is actually just the fact that they're a closed platform that Apple exercises total control over? Blasphemy!


> Apple if your [sic] listening, why not just open source PastryKit?

Perhaps they already intend to, but they don't want half the world using some half-baked prerelease version and then asking them for support?

I have no idea if that's the case, but it's at least as plausible as your theory that they're terrified of web apps competing with native apps. And it's supported by exactly the same amount of evidence, which is to say none.


There was a license file in the uncompressed files, and it was, if I remember correctly, the Apple Open Source License. This may have not been intentional, but if you archived that license file along with the rest of the repo (or if its still up) you have a clear claim.



Whoa, "Dashcode"? I have a feeling I have an idea of what the next Dashcode release has in store for us.


Can anyone verify the license?


I think you're jumping to conclusions. It's much more likely in my opinion that Apple simply isn't ready to unleash PastryKit yet. They want to ride their native application advantage while it lasts but they are realistic about where things are heading. The mobile application market is already big and it's going to become gigantic over the next few years. When the inevitable move towards cross platform, standards based, web apps happens Apple will be ready. They are not quite ready today. The big piece that's missing is integration of web apps into the App Store. When that happens I think you'll see PastryKit's future iterations being well supported by Apple. Right now it's just not a public project.


Apple telling people not to build a project around unreleased code doesn't mean that they are "scared to death" of better quality iPhone native apps. It means they don't mean for that particular piece of code to be treated as open source.


I disagree for two reasons: one, Apple is not raking in huge profits on the app store. After credit card fees, bandwidth, developer/support time, etc., they're probably barely breaking even on their 30% take (although they do sit on your money for a while before disbursing). I still think they're primarily a hardware company that realizes that their sales are driven by software.

Secondly, a web app highly optimized to the point where it acts just like a native iPhone app is not that much more cross-platform than a native app.


I don't have any solid numbers on Apple's margins, but I'm not sure I agree with your break-even assessment.

taptaptap recently announced that they clear $1M/month via AppStore sales (and they don't currently have any apps on the 100 Top Grossing list). From a per-customer perspective, I don't think Apple spends their $450,000 take supporting taptaptap. This will pan out differently with less profitable customers, but I imagine that the lower-end customers are effectively subsidized by the giants like EA (13/TG100), Gameloft (5/TG100), et al.

I'd absolutely love to see Apple's fixed and variable costs for developers at different sales levels, but I'm not holding my breath.


You are reading too much into this. This is the way Apple handles everything. They keep everything secret, so of course they are going to kill a leak like this. Now, you may be right separately from this (I still would say your are not), but the logic that lead you to this conclusion is certainly incorrect.


I think it's a bit of a leap from "Apple sent a DMCA takedown notice to github asking them to remove code for which Apple holds the copyright" to "Apple is terrified of iphone web-apps being as good as native apps."

It is suspicious that Apple has created a library to make web apps "feel" native but haven't shared this library with the developer community, but I can think of many possible reasons why this might be the case.


iUI might be an interesting alternative (if I understand PastryKit correctly), a CSS/JS/HTML/images framework for native-looking iPhone web pages:

http://code.google.com/p/iui/

http://iui-js.appspot.com/


Also, see jQTouch

http://www.jqtouch.com/


Is there any place where pastryKit can still be downloaded?


With the right User-Agent, http://help.apple.com/iphone/3/mobile/


I already grabbed a copy:

http://nxfx.com/demo/pastryKit.zip

Now looking for some documentation...



Too bad I was only able to find the minified version.


Hey thanks for the zip download. You can easily un-minify this source using http://jsbeautifier.org/.


Sure, np. Thanks for the jsbeautifier tip.




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