Why the Jailbreak (Cydia) Appstore is one giant mistake

Posted by Minnaar Pieters 10 Mar 2009
Cydia Packager

The interwebz are much a twitter about the fact that there is going to come a unofficial cydia appstore for the Apple iPhone. While I have never personally had a problem with jailbreaking the iPhone, I cant help but think this is one big step in the wrong direction.

While the official Appstore is one of the greatest things about the Iphone (and something all the other brands are playing catch up with), I do realize it has its problems, first and foremost its verification side in which Apple has to okay a app for it to be sold. Sometimes the reasons are obvious, like adult themes, course language and the general ensuring of higher quality apps. But then again, they let crap apps like "Thats what she said" into the store, but a app like iPhone Modem is not allowed due to their policies with At&T, even if the rest of the world has nothing to do with AT&T.

If taken purely for this reason, jailbreaking (and cydia) have always had its rightful place on the iPhone. Apple has not deliberately bricked iPhones that were jailbroken, and the general attitude towards these developers have been rather peaceful. (While your warranty might be technically broken, you can still simply restore your phone should you have trouble.)

But now the Cydia developers are really going to cross a line - they are going to start making money out of the jailbroken iPhones. While these apps do cost money to develop, the app developers could actually sell their unofficial apps on their own, like in the case of iPhone Modem. But now that the unofficial appstore is making a backend off of sales, this is going to unleash the dogs at Apple.

The traditional model for jailbroken iPhones have always been to fill specific roles where the iPhone official channels could not cope, and it did this with aplomb. There was no money changing hands, and the jailbreaking developers like Cydia were actually doing it as a hobby.

But now that they are hoping to make a business out of it, Apple will actively try to prevent it. The traditional jailbreaking catalog did not take business away from Apple, it actually enhanced the product by filling roles that Apple could not legally allow through official channels like tethering.

Jailbroken Springboard
But now someone else is going to start making money through the iPhone platform, and this is going to make Apple one big jealous kid.

Do not even get me started on the developer that is cracking official apps (and making it available through a catalog) - you are creating a world of hurt for the entire jailbreaking community for the tiny benefit of a few greedy people.

While there has never been to much ethical grey area with jailbreaking (especially to someone outside the US), the line is now being crossed. It is for this very reason Apple is hoping to make the whole idea of jailbreaking illegal.

Is jailbreaking really illegal? (courtesy newsoxy.com)

The courts recognize that modifying the iPhone is part of reverse engineering and is fair use. However, a technology company, especially Apple, could easily put together a defense and allow the court to decide. If iPhone jailbreaking is hurting sales, a court could find evidence where jailbreaking is copyright infringement while taking property assets away from Apple.

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I am a R&D Analyst in Stellenbosch South Africa who has a immense passion for all things tech related. I embrace technology, open source and web standards, and I participate and contribute to the social web.