iPhone Facebook App Developer Says Goodnight and Good Luck

Facebook Developer Joe Hewitt Leaves App

Joe Hewitt, the developer who saw the Facebook App for iPhone and iPod touch to version 3.0, and the cusp of 3.1 (which promised/threatened push notifications), has thrown us the Twitter-equivalent of a curve-ball:

Time for me to try something new. I've handed the Facebook iPhone app off to another engineer, and I'm onto a new project.

Just to be clear, he's staying with Facebook, just no longer working on their iPhone app. Does it have anything to do with his dissatisfaction with the iTunes App Store approval process?

According to the quote he gave TechCrunch, it did:

My decision to stop iPhone development has had everything to do with Apple’s policies. I respect their right to manage their platform however they want, however I am philosophically opposed to the existence of their review process. I am very concerned that they are setting a horrible precedent for other software platforms, and soon gatekeepers will start infesting the lives of every software developer.

(Hit the link above to read the rest of it). Some are no doubt happy to see such a high profile developer quit the App Store over the review process. Hey, we've complained about it quite a bit as well. Still, with that process Hewitt was able to give us a pretty darn good app up to this point. Was it frustrating? No doubt it was, but many of us face frustrations on the job. The web is free, but it's also often far from a premium user experience. Apple has thus far decided managing the App Store is, in their opinion, the best way to ensure their users' experience (not just their noisy tech-blogging-and-commenting users' experience, but the kids and moms and casual users as well). That the implementation remains capricious is another matter -- one they need to be fixed and now. That the App Store should by all divine right and reason be as open as web development, however, is just another opinion, another option, and certainly not any more right or reasonable "just because".

In any event, on behalf of TiPb, we thank you, Joe for all your hard work and the awesome app you've given us to date, and wish you well on your future endeavors.

And to the new developer, here's wishing you the best, and the best for future versions of the Facebook app as well!

[Thanks to everyone who sent this in!]

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPhone Facebook App Developer Says Goodnight and Good Luck


Dang. I was looking forward to push notifications. Hopefully the new developer will be able to get that in the next version.

We enjoy your comments, but repeated ALL CAPS and non-family appropriate language is bad for others in the discussion, so please try to stick to the topic and be respectful of those you're talking with. It would be much appreciated.

RON JEREMY WILL HONOR YOUR WISHES RENE. I'll keep on topic as much as I can but people sometimes like to provoke Ron Jeremy. If provoked Ron Jeremy will try to show restraint. Ron Jeremy out.

why don't you guys police the comments better? "Ron Jeremy" isn't funny and his comments are beyond stupid. And these mindless first comments are beyond our of control. It's not funny.

Doe this mean we most likeley will not see PNs involved in facebook for a while? Or will he finish that to an extent and then leave?

@SwiperNOswiping: We'd be even worse at the approval process than Apple :)
We try to let everyone have their say and only intervene when it gets destructive. Otherwise we find the community helps create constructive commenters all by itself -- people mellow out and learn to have a good time.

I don't think there was anything specific to the facebook app that Apple was rejecting so much as an objection to thevgatekeeper concept. I think there was one time where Joe decided to forego a fix point release because App Store process delays made it pointless to do such a release rather than a larger one a couple weeks later, but I may be confusing him with another dev.

Sounds like a philosophical difference. Hewitt likes the open website model of development, where you can make anything you want (though I doubt Facebook would let him throw up a hardcore porn app, so how free is free really?)
Anyone who's ever used a school email portal knows how horrible the open web can be, however, so again -- there are strengths and weaknesses to all choices.
Apple gets blasted for reviewing apps, but also gets blasted for not rejected the crappy apps everyone loves to hate on.

You are missing the point - Apple gets blasted in both cases because they insist on the gatekeepet role of reviewing apps, and then do a terrible job of it in (a few) well publicized cases. If Apple demands the responsibility, Apple must accept the culpability. They would not get blasted on either count if they did not review at all.

@Dev, I used to think that until Android Market, which I believe Google doesn't actively review and only investigates upon complaint, now gets blasted for having 10,000 apps, most of which "are crap".
Palm's approach, where you can take review and get in the catalog, or not take review and just get a link but no listing, is an interesting middle ground. TUAW just posted a similar recommendation for the App Store.

So you are saying Apple would get blasted for reviewing if they did not review? Interesting...
Seriously, though:
1) Developers do not leave the platform due to Android market policies, and neither Google (nor Motorola, nor Verizon, nor HTC) get blasted. People complain about a high crap percentage in the market. That's all.
2) Most of your readers (and a few of your editors) have made the exact same complaint about Apple's App Store.

@dev Yep, I've made the same complaints. There may be a market for a highly curated App ecosystem, however, despite what the technorati thinks. (The market for open ecosystem has been proven long ago via Palm, WinMo, etc., though they lacked centralization and ease of mass access).
Apple's certainly not going entirely in that direction either though, so it leaves them in an indefensible middle. Whether even now that hurts them enough to force faster/broader change is uncertain.

I just read a article, it was a review of the Droid and he liked it. His complaint about the Droid was crap apps, he was saying how so many of them crash his phone. But he did say there are also some very good ones. The point was the android apps don't get tested very good.
I agree with Rene, Apple loses either way. I'm sure some of the turn downs are stupid but that would happen under any company that reviewed that many apps every day.

What a freakin troll. Where did u get the idea that Mac desktop applications are regulated hence the comparison to PC?
Fail troll is fail.

Thank TiPB for a good article, and thoughtful comments on the approval process.
I agree, Joe Hewitt has done a great job with the facebook app.

LOL what an idiot. I mean really, if your going to go on some raving moral crusade, fine - but pick something important. Ya know, starving children in Africa, homelessness in the US, etc...
But the iPhone AppStore approval process? hahaha
Good to see him go, now we'll have a developer committed to the platform!

Do all developers take double majors in philosophy and programming? The Apple process isn't perfect but some of these guys should see the crap that folks pass off as product on other platforms before they exit so they can understand things from Apple's and their customer's point of view. Honestly, some of these guys come off like babies.

I bet more developers will tell Apple where to go. Yes--there are a few out there that try to push garbage out to users--but come-on--Facebook, Skype and several other major developers have been around and aren't just your over night development shops. Apple is its own worst enemy. They run a lot of their products like socialist organization. I'm glad all I own is an Iphone and no other products.

I'm not a tech geek, and love the fact that I can go to the app store and know I'm getting a fairly solid product. As a regular consumer I really appreciate apple's review process. I really don't care if it bothers developers. I would think the vast majority of users are like me, and would be much less likely to buy apps if we had negative experiances with them in the past.
When I had my blackberry I might have bought 3 or 4 apps for it. Each app had it's issues. It turned me off from buying them. With my iPhone I buy apps every week and have probably bought near 100 of them because I trust that they will work after I've paid for them and downloaded them to my phone.

I think many of you would hate it if there was no approval process. So many "First-time" or "bad" developers would push out apps that crash our phone. I think the approval process is needed but takes WAY too long... Apple just needs to hire a crap load of more reviewers so the process won't take as long. Maybe even up their cut in the app to help pay for more help.

I always thought it was rather pathic that facebook only had one guy working on the app in the first place. Also if this guy is so into 'free' and open why are ther no other 'Facebook' apps? After all this time Joe just figured out Apple's review process?

Too many morons still don't get it. Joe never said there should not be a review process, he said The review process should stick to reviewing the code (read the tech crunch article). When Apple refuses to allow google voice or flash or skype not because they are buggy, but because of what you might do with them, that is wrong. I have no way of knowing this so it's just a guess, but I'd bet that this issue has something to do with facebook video.
Posted from my iPhone

Let him work on WebOS, BlackBerry or Android. He's a cog in the Facebook machine. He does something different and they'll find another. Quite frankly, the Facebook app is nice but I don't see anything cutting edge or special about it. The only reason this makes news is because of his corporate parent. If he was independent there's no story. And I would also expect to see that Facebook corporate come out with a statement that they wholeheartedly will continue to support the Apple/iPhone platform approval process and all.


Honestly, some of these guys come off like babies.

Have you ever seen Joe's resume? It seems he's frequently unhappy with whatever he's doing.

One of the many reasons I love TiPb - seeing the people who run the site actively engage in solid conversation is always very interesting to read.
@Reptile: I wouldn't necessarily say the Facebook app is the greatest and most amazing thing of our time - but it is quite fantastic, no? I mean - I'm not preaching here but, in all honesty, I actually enjoy using the Facebook app - which can hardly be said for alot of other apps that I have. From a design and functionality standpoint - it does what it's supposed to do and does it very well.

I too agree that apple should stay off the brakes a little more than they do, but there are positive results from their approach. This opinion might differ considerably between users, but I love the fact that all iPhone apps are similar, they have the same look, feel, behavior, ect. Once familiar with the iPhone GUI, you can use just about any app you want with minimal effort. Unlike say windows XP, or windows mobile, any app you download seems to belong perfectly on your iPhone. It's generic, but very efficient and a solid platform for the future of the iPhone, iPod touch.
I belive they have the right idea, but it may need quite a bit of tweaking...
I do not agree with them limiting developers to only what they thing the iPhone should be able to do though... I just like their quality control and desire to make apps live up to the " quality fit and finish" we all have come to expect from this device...

I'm sure everyone has a few apps they absolutely love and would rather not do without. Those are the examples of apple getting it right. And I think IMO they outweigh the few growing pains along the way. I may not like an app after I try it out, but damm there are so many to play with! And I know they will install with just a touch of my finger and run as they are supposed to. Think about how easy and how smoothly everything happens compared with just a few years ago with windows mobile. We now have one place to get what we want. Of course it can be improved upon but what a leap to have been made. At least we know with such tight restrictions, it can only get better...IMO


Too many morons still don’t get it... [blah, blah, blah]... I have no way of knowing this so it’s just a guess...

:roll: Uhh... yeah.

I have read Joe's resume, and I use multiple products of his every day. I am sure most of you do as well, though you probably do not know it. He does not move because he is unhappy, but because people and companies want him. For example, he did not change venues to join Facebook -- Facebook bought out an entire company (Parakey) just to bring him (and Blake Ross) on board. Can anybody here say their employer spent millions just to bring them on board? The guy has serious, serious chops, and Zucerkberg himself would not call Joe a mere cog.
Heweitt is exactly the type of successful, polygot developer that Rene (and others, myself included) hold up as an example of what a good programmer should be. He has shipped successful, popular products in at least 3-4 languages; his skills show through regardless of language or development environment.
The reason this is news is not because of his corporate parent -- though it is certainly a part. It is news because Hewitt has proven abilities, and his work and writings command a certain amount of respect in the developer community. No, there will not be some mass exodus from the iPhone platform because Joe Hewitt is leaving, but developers will at the very least take a moment to consider his words.
This is also news simply because the guy has skills in javascript, c, obj-c, erlang, and probably a half-dozen other languages, and has built multiple products from the ground up. He has demonstrated skills in many platforms, and the drive to finish and ship products, by himself if necessary. In other words, he is exactly the type of developer any platform would want to have on board to push that platform forward. For a solid technology platform like the iPhone to push him away via policy decision is indeed news.

@dev: I concur.
Joe has spun the facebook.app into the model that the facebook app on the other mobiles strive to be. It is the standard that the others are held against (missing iPhone fb features such as syncing contacts and push notifications not withstanding.)
The quality of the app is a singular testament to Joe Hewitt, I fear that the app quality and richness will slip in the hands of someone else, especially if they are far removed from Joe (of which I have no idea.)
This is no small hit for the iPhone as the facebook app is one of the most pervasive app in the store, and one that functions very well. To lose that won't be catastrophic but the armor gets a chink and loses some of the sheen. Hope the app finds good hands.

"We now have one place to get what we want. "
And if that one place doesn't have Google voice, or some other rejected app, you are SOL.
The best policy would be to have the iSore for folks like you, AND allow access to other sources.
But seemingly, Apple doesn't think it can compete effectively unless its developers and customers have no choice.

i don't want push notification for facebook. I don't want a red ball or a text like message everytime a person I barely knew in High School marries a sheep in Farmville.
And the facebook iPhone app? It currently blows. I'm not getting all my notifications on the notify page on facebook. Hopefully the next engineer KNOWS HIS WAY AROUND COCOA.
There. I said it.

Who cares when one developer quits? While I applaud the stated reason, I also know from experience the stated reason is rarely the real reason. This makes such an announcement a "So what?" event. I haven't see the code for the app so can't say if the developer is a good or bad coder, but from the appearance and functionality I can't say I'm impressed.
Then again, I agree with Ethan...FB content is primarily dreck so I don't need much notification that I have new dreck.
Lets hope the next developer will think less about Apple policy and more about the use-cases.

It might slow the development process a little but the end result will be the same, whether it is the replacing developer or another, the updates will come.

I don’t think there was anything specific to the facebook app that Apple was rejecting so much as an objection to the concept.

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Hey MateCaught your live recording at the norfolk on the friday night, it was unreal, cant wait for the album to come out, i was so stoked you were playing while i was over in WA for work and got to see play where it all began.keep the beautiful music coming mate.Pricey