A glimpse at Apple's new Bug Reporter [Update: It's back!]

Over the weekend, Apple’s Bug Reporter website saw a short-lived facelift. Developers were treated to a visually overhauled website on Saturday, but seems to have been reverted to its old, archaic predecessor sometime Sunday. If you missed it, you weren't alone. Here's what seems to have happened...

The bug reporting system, commonly called Radar, has garnered a fare amount of ire from developers, particularly in recent years. Contrasting Apple’s reputation for modern, polished products, Radar’s interface has seen few updates in the last 10 years. Even beyond the surface, Radar often provides a frustrating experience for developers trying to report issues to Apple. The clunky system regularly presents non-specific errors, fails for unknown reasons, and gives developers little to no insight into when and if the bugs they find will be fixed. Last year developers became so frustrated that some started a “Fix Radar or GTFO” campaign, asking developers to file bugs asking Apple to fix Radar. To date nearly 600 developers have joined the effort.

Apple has a reputation within the development community of not investing in development resources and tools. An updated Radar may be part of a larger effort to change that reputation. It remains unclear what happened to the new Radar over the weekend, but seems plausible that Apple has a UI overhaul in the works that was mistakenly leaked early. The company’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference taking place next week makes a likely candidate for an unveiling of the overhauled bug reporting system.

While iMore didn’t have an opportunity to explore the updated system, a number of screenshots show something that eerily resembles an iPad interface. A handful of iOS and Mac developers took to Twitter to express their thoughts, with some delighted and others left underwhelmed. It’s exciting to see that Apple may start giving more attention to the developers that make Apple’s eco-systems so popular, but ultimately the problem they have to solve is not just a visual one.

The primary complaint about Radar is its lack of transparency. Frequently a developer will open a bug only to have it closed as a duplicate with no further information. Worse, sometimes bugs are simply never updated. iOS and Mac development shop Second Gear has Radars which have been open since 2008 that have never received an update or response from Apple. Some developers have open bug reports that have been untouched for even longer. When bugs are found in Apple’s software or underlying frameworks, developers are encouraged to file bug reports, but many are reluctant, feeling that Apple doesn’t care and won’t actually do anything with them.

If an overhauled Radar is unveiled at WWDC next week, hopefully it will be a sign of things to come. While many have come to expect exciting product announcements during WWDC, it is, at its core, a developer conference. Perhaps Apple is ready to acknowledge some shortcomings in their relationship with developers.

Update: The redesign has reappeared. If you're a developer and you've checked it out, let us know what you think!

Image: Carpeaqua

Nick Arnott