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WWDC 2014: A love letter from Apple to developers

Marco Tabini | June 6, 2014
As this year's event draws to a close, one thing is clear: Apple is changing the way it related to developers, and for the better.

But it gets even better: Cupertino's lawyers have reportedly relaxed the rules when it comes to developers discussing upcoming software features revealed at WWDC--a symbolic gesture, perhaps, given that the previous non-disclosure agreement was widely ignored both by attendees and even by the company, but one that still goes a long way towards showing developers that Apple cares about their ability to communicate and learn from each other.

The wild App Store west

The announcements weren't only technical in nature, either. A number of changes coming to the App Store, such as improved search and discovery tools and better analytical reports, are likely to have a positive impact on the lives of developers everywhere, but none more so than the new TestFlight beta feature that Federighi announced during the keynote.

Until now, distributing beta versions of iOS apps has been--to put it mildly--a complicated and error-prone affair that required both developers and testers to jump through a number of hoops in order to ensure that their software was functional and free of bugs. To make matters worse, in an attempt to ensure that beta app distribution couldn't be used as a way to skirt App Store rules, Apple only allowed each developer to release betas capable of working on a maximum of 100 devices, each of which had to be painstakingly registered, by hand, on a list that could only be reset once a year.

Given that a modern app needs to run on half a dozen types of devices, it wasn't that hard for a developer to run out of "beta slots" with just a handful of testers, which often resulted in much frustration and--ironically--less stable software.

With iOS 8, all this will change: Following its acquisition earlier this year of the popular beta service TestFlight, Apple is baking beta-testing right into its developer tools, and will allow developers to distribute their unfinished software to up to 1,000 users--users, not devices--using a simple mechanism that requires very little user intervention or technical savvy.

In addition to addressing a problem that has afflicted developers since the App Store's launch, there is little doubt in my mind that this move will result in much better apps, both because developers will have an opportunity to gather more technical feedback about their products, and because they will be able to establish a better rapport with their audience by letting them try new software before it's released.

A great time to be a developer

This year's WWDC suggests that Apple is turning over a new leaf when it comes to its developer relations, and we can only hope that it represents the beginning of a trend that will continue in the years to come.

 

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