The implementation of sandboxing on the Mac App Store looks set to cause a big headache for the Mac developer community, but perhaps even more importantly, it may disadvantage users.
Sandboxing limits an application’s access to a computer’s resources. For example, instead of having full access to, say, your Mac’s memory or file structure, a sandboxed app is instead confined to its own dedicated space.
BeLight Software’s Ray East thinks Mac users will suffer frustrations: “We can definitely say that user experience is going to suffer. Apps are going to now be swamped with dialogs asking for permission to carry out what used to be simple actions. That will just add more steps and clicks. And we count our clicks to make our programs as intuitive as possible.”
Grant Cowie from Cognito Software also noted complications that users will now encounter. “Consider a common operation from the user’s perspective: viewing a financial report in Excel (or Numbers). At present this is simple: Simply set the report output in MoneyWorks to Excel, and the report appears in Excel. With strict sandboxing, that will no longer be possible. Instead the user will have to save the report as some sort of file, and then open Excel/Numbers and use the Import command. So what has been for years a simple one step operation will become a multi-step error-prone task”.
It’s not just the additional steps, but also the removal of features that will frustrate users. Public Space’s Frank Reiff noted: “Clearly a lot of users will be upset about having existing features removed and many of them will rely on these features for personal productivity. I’m thus investigating what I can do to allow users to ‘upgrade’, of course free of charge, to the ‘full’ versions of the tools that remain available my own website.”
“This process is made much more difficult by the fact that I, as a developer, do not know the identities of the people that buy my software on the Mac App Store,” Reiff added.
One anonymous developer told us: “We third-party developers don’t want to upset our customers, but Apple is forcing us to do so anyway. So we’re not happy and we are sure to become the target of angry customers who are rightly upset about losing features. If they demand a refund will Apple grant it? Will they foot the bill? And what about the damage to our reputations?”
Boinx Software’s Oliver Breindenbach pointed out that it’s the price users must pay for security, but that the price is productivity: “Increased long-term security comes at a price: Increased security always means less convenience. Users will no longer be able to freely move their information about. Many workflows involving multiple applications might have to be changed. For power users in particular this might cost some productivity.”
Apparent Software’s Kosta Rozen told us: “We believe it will create a lose-lose-lose situation for Apple, the developers and the users – and hopefully when that happens Apple will be wise enough to understand that they have made a mistake. I’m not sure they’ll admit it, but they may start releasing the leash, making Sandbox more flexible and more developer-friendly.”