Bravo, Apple

Finally, Apple is doing away with those arrogant upstarts who think then can write a few lines in a high level language and call it a program. Their new developer agreement requires:

3.3.1 – Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).

This has a couple of good points – firstly banning stupid languages (used by those people who are not smart enough to learn c++), and secondly getting rid of translation layers. Apple has clearly put a lot of thought into their APIs, so why would anyone want to put a layer on top of them – it’s just going to make things harder to use.


There has been a lot of talk recently about compiling “foreign” languages, such as haxe, as3, javascript, java, .net based languages, into binaries that will run extremely well on the iPhone. But like all foreigners (who are responsible for all the terrorism in the world) these languages should be cleansed from all iPhones to maintain the iPhones mono-lingual purity. Putting such insidious diversity into a beautifully designed device can be shown to confuse consumers, most of whom don’t even know their device and been compromised by these so call “high level” languages.

By raising the barrier of entry, and only permitting “real” programming languages (ie, “C” based ones), Apple ensures that the quality of apps will remain at its current lofty levels. “Natural Selection” will then weed out those people who are too lazy or too stupid to learn a proper language. In fact, I think Apple has not gone far enough here and should dabble in a bit of “Intelligent Design” by requiring that all developers who wish to submit apps hold at least a 4 year degree in computer science. Just imagine a world where any kid can work out of his garage and build an application with an original language, or bit of hardware, that snubs its nose at the establishment – anarchy would ensue. Therefore, it is important that the responsible companies out there vet such potentially disruptive ideas before they can cause too much damage.

It can’t be said that Apple don’t like new langauges, after all, they championed the greatest NeXT Step in programming ever, Objective-C, it’s just that all the other languages are utter crap. Some of then do away with the beautiful square bracket, some use commas to separate function arguments and nearly all the modern ones perform “Garbage Collection”. What a joke! Apple solved this problem years ago be simply not creating garbage in the first place. Again, it is only those too lazy to learn about how to use allocation pools and correct reference counting that need anything as dirty as Garbage Collection.

The new langages, such as haxe, are so terse that you do not even know when you are using a delegate. How can anyone possibly understand that code like:
addEventListener(KeyboardEvent.KEY_DOWN, function(event) { trace(event); });
Is supposed to do? I mean where is the delegate? Where is the class that implements the UITextFieldDelegate protocol? (And why must these languages continue to call things “Interfaces” when they are clearly “Protocols” ?)

I think Apple are right to ban code generators, such as the haxe c++ backend. While these produce code that could in theory be produced by hand, the code it robotic and lacks the “soul” of hand written code. To err is human, and without the quirks introduced bu a human coding c++ we may as well hand the future over to SkyNet and let the machines run everything.

Layers and Tools

Thankfully, Apple has also done its research into programming techniques as well as programming languages. The problem with programming these days is that where are too many layers and tools to learn, and they are taking us back to a simpler times where you are “close to the metal”. Apple rightfully shuns these extra layers, and focuses only on code. Once you understand Objective-C, Interface Builder, NIB, XIB, Frameworks, .app layouts, provisioning, xml, plist, controllers, delegates, owners and outlets, then you can create pure lovely code, without any of that layering crap getting in your way.

Programmers must beware of code that essentially “lies” by pretending that the beautiful, native API actually looks like one of the ill-conceived APIs from another language. For example, why would anyone want to view a native UIView image as the practically unsable as3 “equivalent” (I use the term loosly) of BitmapData? I don’t think there is a single successful application ever written that uses this BitmapData class.

Isolating your code from the native API will cause your code to lose its identity. If you can compile it for another (obviously inferior) device then your code will become tainted by the lower class device, even it it performs identically on the Apple device. How quickly people forget that the upper class should not mingle with the lower class.

I hope Apple’s ban extends to the gzip “translation layer”. Programmers should not be using this library because it has security implications, and they should simply use the streaming classes and do the decompression in their own code. If more programmers thought like Apple, then there would be a lot fewer security holes in software.

Don’t get me started on Game Making programs. Thank god these are banned – imagine letting a non-programmer create an App. What next, Artist creating games? Don’t make me laugh.


Apple has made a huge stride forwards by tightening the definition of what a real developer is, and I’m looking forward to what’s next. I think they have a little way to go – for example, what about all those people using foreign editors, rather than XCode? Surely if XCode is not good enough for a developer, then that developer is not good enough for Apple. The best way I can see for them enforcing this is for them to install a “watchdog” application the the developer’s machine, and send screenshots back to Apple periodically. That way, if the developer does not conform to the coding purity required by Apple, they could be identified and sent to a camp to help them concentrate on being better programmers. Win-win, what a great idea.