Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Open Letter to Apple

I am outraged!! I came upon something that absolutely frightens me: Censorship, based on one group's beliefs of what is best for the rest of us. This comes in the form of a statement allegedly made by Apple's founder Steve Jobs. According to several sites, he stated "Folks who want porn can buy an android phone". (read here)

Before I comment on this, there are a few things I want to say. First, I have used Mac computers as my main machines for the last few years and find them generally good machines. I also own an iPhone but recently switched to the Android powered Nexus One. This was not to view porn but because I truly believe the Android devices are going to be the best. I am not one to nitpick and bitch that a new SDK agreement apparently bans Flash development tools for the iPhone. I won't dwell on the fact someone at Apple is also apparently using the company's strength to bully developers into following Apple's business plan blindly. I am focused on the future of our industry, society in general and what I personally believe is best.

So what is happening here????

In my opinion, a line has been crossed. On top of the porn statement above, a ban of a cartoon application based on what a small group of people believe is the moral direction YOU should follow. As reported by top10.com:

"Apple believes that allowing an app which contains images that mock celebrities and politicians to go on sale on the App Store would be in violation of the terms and conditions of the platform.

Fiore had proposed launching his NewToons app, but was rejected in December for the perceived vulgarity of his work."

UPDATE: An anonymous user below (in comments) suggest that Fiore's application has now been added back to the App Store. I have been unable to actually find it in the App Store however I did find a credible source which states that Apple is going to "Fix the Mistake". http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=134&aid=181700

I guess we have to wait and see.END_UPDATE

PEOPLE!!! This is textbook tyranny! A free and open society tolerates dissent. Canada even allowed Ann Coulter to speak, even though most Canadians I know think she is a moron. Is Apple going to tell you what you are and are not allowed to look at on your iPhone? Would you allow them to censor what music you are allowed to listen to? Would you allow the library to start burning books based on what might be too dangerous for you to read? Maybe not now but when tyrants have eliminated all that stands in their way, what is to stop them? It is time to take a stand. I think it is a civilian's duty to fight this. (It is my blog so personal opinions are allowed and you are free to post a comment to disagree with me as long as it is not spam to sell your products).

My own company, Adobe, does not tell me what to think and what to write or not write on this blog. They understand that my thoughts are my own and on blog posts like this I am clearly speaking for myself, not the company. This is why I am proud to work for Adobe.

I am drawing my line in the sand today. Why? Because, if you allow tyranny to breathe and prosper, there will be no one left to hear you when you scream for help. I don't know what their agenda is but these latest moves are completely unacceptable to me. Here is my public letter to Apple:

Dear Apple:

It has been fun, but you are no longer "cool". You have made some great gadgets and computers in the past, but others are open and you are not. While you have brought society some great things like the iPod and iPhone, this was in the past and your current antic of censorship is unacceptable to me. You see, in Canada, we have rights. We have the right to a free and open society. I will not subject myself to censorship. The result of your actions is that I will not develop for your mobile platform, nor support it. I will also be returning to a combination of Ubuntu Linux and Windows 7 for my main work machine. You see, I have the faith that people can decide for themselves what is appropriate for them and what is not. I do not believe that any one group has the right to make decisions on morality for the rest of us. I do not wish to live in such a society.

As far as applications go, you should allow developers to develop with any tools they want and judge all application submissions fairly based on the quality and performance of the applications. These should be done using clearly published rules and be consistently enforced. Would this not achieve the end result of a rich, robust app store filled with quality applications? At any rate, I do not see how it could be worse than having a plethora of fart noise generator applications, of which only 3 really work. Do you really think the quality of applications is based only on what development tools are used? I disagree.

Respect developers! I think it is not too late to change your mantra. I write this letter in an honest appeal that you hear how your actions are being taken. Developers are usually at the top of the technology adoption curve and several developers are beginning to have issues with you. What you really need to hear is that these same developers are the reason for your success. We are the ones who are asked "what computer should we buy" by our family and friends. When you piss off developers, there is a cascade effect that will eventually affect sales.

Respect individual rights! I have never looked at porn on my iPhone, but I don't want someone else deciding what is and what is not appropriate for me. I do not want Apple employees deciding whether or not a public figure can be questioned. Accordingly, my iPhone now rests harmlessly in it's box while my Google Nexus One is being used. I get tons of people asking me about this phone (read here) and I will keep promoting it while making sure my circle of friends understands the censorship and control issues.

It has been nice, but now it is time for me to move on. Ubuntu 10.4 is out and looks pretty damn nice. Microsoft seems to have learned from Vista and Windows 7 appeals. The Google Android phone is already better than the iPhone and I am excited to started developing Android apps. I can use Java, Flash, AJAX and any toolset I want.

I am committed to standards such as Flash, HTML5 and XML. Not gonna look back. PDF, Java, Silverlight, Android, Linux, Flash are all here to stay.

Please consider the reason I am writing this letter. I do believe you are capable of making some great stuff and doing some great things. I want to encourage you to reconsider your recent actions and hear what we, the developers and computer users of the world, are saying.


Duane Nickull


  1. Duane,

    Been thinking the same things, but I have to tell you that when I talked to some Adobe folks at Max last year about an app the helped people locate the closest microbreweries when they travel, the response was that it would not be approved for the store because it involved alcohol. :-). Seemed pretty tenuous to me.

  2. Thanks Jeff!

    Anyways, I guess the real story here is that I am now moving on and focusing on developing awesome apps that work cross browser.







  4. Technically speaking, Ann Coulter didn't speak in Canada:

    Maybe they were all Mac Cultists? :)

  5. @GameDevigner

    Good catch but she did. Shamefully, the University of Ottawa did succeed in silencing her. In the west (Calgary), we let her speak.


    It's such a slippery slope. So easy to say "well her views are harmful and promote radical right wing views" or something like that and rationalize censoring her (even though I personally don't think she is even smart enough to understand the republican manifesto). It really takes vigilance to agree to let someone like her speak.

    Cheers and thanks for the comment.


  6. Nice! I'm glad that Ottawa is just an isolated incident.

    I agree with the slippery slope problem and a lot of people are catching it - like the whole debacle of removing hundreds of "suggestive" apps because "Apple does not like porn" but keeping Sports Illustrated, Playboy and Hooters in the App store because of "financial interest" or "artistic merit."

    However, there are going to be those Mac Cultists who will defend Apple's decision... Armed with sticks, nonetheless. :p

  7. D

    Don't you know if is not right to say "the emperor has no clothes on"?


    Fuck Apple! They are not my guardians nor will I let them. I already talked a few people out of buying Apple products. You should join us here:



  8. People may need to be led, but not forced. Not censored, and not forced. It is up to every individual to choose right or wrong. In the free world, we have the right to free speech the last time I checked. Apple can choose to censor apps, and we can choose to not buy Apple. We can speak with our wallets. I will tell Apple that I don't agree with their policies by not buying their product and by making my opinion heard. I do not need a government or a company telling me what's best for me.


  9. apple also censored the dalai lama


    let's make a list:

    1. porn
    2. public figures
    3. the dalai lama

    Feh. I use Windows and despite the antics of Microsoft, they are angels compared to Apple.

    You could have shortened your letter:

    Dear Apple: FUCK OFF!!!

  10. Apple is just doing what they do best. Limiting what they allow on their machines and ultimately limiting their potential growth. Doesn't make sense, but hey if you like being the runner up go for it.

  11. Coulter cancelled the talk at Ottawa, not the university or police.

    It was a well-orchestrated media play.

  12. Yikes. Since Canadians are sheep in general and Apple offends and riles you I need to pay attention.

    thanks for the post d


  13. @jono

    Haha - you are quite correct. She was the one who canceled.

    I hate it when they call her a "right wing pundit" too. She isn't smart enough to understand what that even means. It is an insult to conservatives to be represented by a loud mouthed moron.

  14. Fiore's NewToons app has been approved in the appstore. Why didn't you mention this in your rant? Keep the facts straight!

    Here's the full quote: (according to macrumors.com)

    “Fiore’s app will be in the store shortly,” Jobs writes. “That was a mistake. However, we do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone. Folks who want porn can buy an Android phone.”

  15. Same applies for Adobe which always tries to kill alternatives platforms/technologies.

    The open source is the way to go. The humanity will gain the access for the knowledge and control it, not corporations.

    As a developer I am considering to switch HTML5 when it is available on other browsers etc. There is no need to cry for Flash while we have an open alternative.

    Duane, I was expecting a better content from you instead of crying and blaming. Yes, Apple is devil like Microsoft. But do not cry for your benefits at Adobe. I do not see too much difference between Adobe and Apple based on software ethics and ownerships. They just use their position to earn more and more and as you Adobe can expect this is what they call as capitalism/corporate world. Nothing new, except some fire on Flash guys. :)

    Viva Open Source!

  16. @Anonymous:

    Thank you for the update on Fiore. I was not aware (was in Whistler past few days skiing). I am glad this has been rectified and feel very relieved. I will add an update into my blog post (the truth must come out).


  17. Adobe should think about the censorship that they have on ColdFusion/Flex conferences. Bannig sponsorsip or organizing the conference content. An some more ...

    Ask to Railo and FDT guys for their experiences.

    Adobe is not the angel too. Just try to be honest.

  18. Apple eventually approved Fiore, but it has illuminated a massive double-standard:


  19. @Linus

    I am not trying to come across as "crying". In fact, I really have moved on.

    As for open source, I agree and we (Adobe) have done a lot of migration in that direction. There any many of us here in Adobe that actively worked to get PDF into ISO, donate the Tamarin project to SourceForge, provide open source products like Flex (the Flex SDK is open source) and BlazeDS. I'll echo this -> "Viva Open Source".

    We also believe in freedom and not censorship. Even though your views are not in alignment with mine, your comments stay on this blog as I have a respect for your rights.

    Cheers and thanks for writing.


  20. @saim

    choosing sessions for a conference does not equal censorship.


  21. For the record, I can and do get porn on my iPhone 3G without any problem. I'll freely admit the iPhone changed my life and it's the best blah blah shiny device ever, but the honeymoon is over. I still dig it, but the Google phones are looking more and more promising everyday, and not just because they have Flash.

    Don't even get me started on the iPad.

  22. Re: adobe

    in all fairness, duane nichols only speaks for himself not adobe on this post. it is not fair to attack adobe on this.

  23. @anonymous

    Re: re: Adobe

    Thank you but this is the point I want to make. Censorship is bad. If someone wants to use this forum to gripe about adobe, that is fine. it is not for me to decide.

    I don't agree with the assertions about Adobe but freedom is more important.


  24. At least Adobe lets Duane blog his own ideas... Unlike some other company.

  25. Yeah, I'm done with Apple products, both hardware & software.

  26. With all due respect, equating a private company's business decisions (however controversial) to government-imposed censorship is ridiculous.

  27. First of all, we all have to agree that no one is perfect and every policy has at least 2 ways to be looked at.

    In my humble opinion, Apple is doing the best it can to protect the interest of the general public. I agree that the new policy has a lot of room for improvements, but it's also undeniable that the intention of the policy is at the right place -- Apple doesn't want porn or political controversy to deviate the purpose of the platform.

    Let's not overly complicate the issue, and focus on helping Apple find some better alternatives to achieve its righteous intention.

  28. to jeff - the point is that "Censorship, based on one group's beliefs of what is best for the rest of us" is wrong. Some companies do have almost as much power as governments.


  29. Fuck apple and fuck you if you don't like that.


    Sent from my iPad

  30. It's not censorship when a company restricts what their products run. It's censorship when a governmental authority takes away your choice and throws you in jail if you violate it.

    I fault Apple for a lot of things, but faulting them for wanting to keep porn off their products is like faulting Disney for wanting to keep porn off their cable channels. That's their corporate decision made in the interests of positioning their products. Nothing wrong with that, because if you don't agree with them, you just choose not to spend your money with them, no harm, no foul.

    Ultimately, Apple provides a good product, but it doesn't meet all my needs in all areas. So I'll continue to use their iPhone because I like it, but I'll sync it with my Ubuntu desktop because I prefer the openness and flexibility of Ubuntu over a Mac.


  31. @Linus

    "The humanity will gain the access for the knowledge and control it, not corporations."

    No, humanity won't. Because the masses don't care. They want to be entertained and kept trouble free. Unfortunately too many people are willing to give away piece after piece of their own rights for a little more comfort or for pretended increase of security. :-(


  32. Re:

    "It's not censorship when a company restricts what their products run."

    If not "censorship", then what? How do you explain the Dalai Lama app getting removed or the kid friendly "Scratch" application (http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/04/apple-scratch-app/).

    Apple are losing me as a customer for good. I won't use the same harsh language as others on this list but I love how duane put it:

    "Apple, you are not cool anymore"


  33. I'm all for a ban of porn on Apple devices. Remember the past. VHS won over BETA because of porn. BluRay won over HDDVD because of porn. It looks like the fight has gone mobile now which is fine by me. I just hope us deviants and depraved individuals can put Apple right back to where they need to be -- 1997

  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

  35. Good post, though as a matter of semantics I don't think I'd go so far as to call Apple's rejection of pr0n or the NewToons prog cases of censorship.

    I do however agree with you that Apple's behavior in the case of Fiore is execrable and deserves criticism and censure.

    I also agree with an earlier poster about the long-term benefit to us all of Apple's stance on pr0n. As everyone knows, the internet was made for pr0n, and Apple's rejection of it will limit their relevance as a market leader or maker over the long haul.

  36. BTW, I like your TOS point stipulating agreement to pay a $25k advertising fee.

  37. Well said Mr. Nickull. It's amazing to see all these authoritarians come out and admit that they are too stupid to decide for themselves when something sucks.

  38. Porn is the least of the worries for Canucks. Canada has a terrible record of tolerating free speech. I.E. - Actively enforced "Hate Speech" laws and the regular banning of numerous political speakers like David Icke, etc.

  39. @ the last comment

    I agree. Vigilance is required. Canada can do much better. Pandering to individuals who threaten you unless you censor something is a scary trend. Look at the recent South Park/Mohammad debacle.

    So much work to do, so little time.

  40. "A Canadian software engineer who designed a seal-clubbing video game can't understand why Apple deemed its content objectionable and rejected it."


    Anyone who still thinks Apple is harmless is a fucktard!! This is censorship. Apple has NO RIGHT to block our application.

    thnks for the post dwayne

  41. I talked to some Adobe folks at Max last year about an app the helped people locate.


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