Today (well, yesterday now) was Thanksgiving here in the U.S. In addition to doing my traditional family things (making and eating a large, Turkey-centered dinner), I found some time to pop on to the computer. To my dismay I saw that the #WP7 hashtag on Twitter was filled with news of a program/project called “ChevronWP7” (which presumably has no connection to the U.S. petroleum products company, Chevron Corp. – which has a market cap of $166 billion dollars and whose trademark lawyers may well decide to bury the people behind “ChevronWP7” in lawsuits, something I’d personally be delighted to hear).
“ChevronWP7” is a “jail-breaking” thing (it apparently involves running some code and possibly visiting a website, mucking in your registry and I don’t even know what else… hence calling it a “thing”). The developers of it protest that their motives are noble and have put up a webpage condemning anyone pirating apps and claiming that it can’t be used to pirate anything anyway. They note that they, too, are app developers and just want to help people load things onto their phones that would never pass marketplace certification and are just exploring the hardware blah blah… .
I really don’t care what your motives are. The fact remains that you have created a tool, the sole purpose of which is to circumvent the security restrictions of the phone. Anyone who thinks that doesn’t hasten the arrival of pirated apps is deluding themselves. You’ve moved the ball forward on that. You. Not someone else. The fact that someone else might have done it eventually anyway doesn’t make it any less harmful and doesn’t make it “OK” that you did it. (And as I understand it, this all began with someone gaining unauthorized access to a DLL that one of the service providers was using in one of their apps which linked in to native code; if that is the case then you’ve advanced that day significantly since without that, your tool never would’ve happened).
You claim to be app developers. If you are, you should’ve gotten the email from Microsoft on November 15th entitled “Windows Phone 7 App Protection”. You were already knee deep in your development and had put out several blog posts tooting your own horn (as though you thought that other developers would all be thrilled to watch you try to tear down the security barriers that Microsoft erected specifically to protect us from people pirating our applications and games). When I read that email, I instantly took it as a warning directed at you. Since you seemed to stop mentioning it, I assumed maybe you’d gotten the hint (or that someone from Microsoft had contacted you and made it clear). Obviously you didn’t take it that way.
Like I said earlier, I really don’t care at all what someone’s motives are in developing burglar’s tools. “Jailbreaking” is just a euphemism for “helping criminals steal from developers who depend on the software they write to help pay their rent, feed their kids, buy clothes, and meet the other ordinary expenses one incurs in life”. But calling it “jailbreaking” makes you sound like less of a monster who is making people’s lives worse and more of a freedom fighter (who is aiding criminal organizations, but let’s leave that part off, right?).
Are there people in countries who can’t sign up for an AppHub account yet? Yes and I feel bad for them and hope that Microsoft works to open the AppHub up to developers from as many countries as possible as quickly as is possible. But they aren’t helped by this tool of yours. Because they still can’t sell their apps without an AppHub account. Being able to circumvent the security restrictions so that they can deploy software to actual phone hardware doesn’t change that fact. No, all your tool does is provide one of the planks for the bridge to piracy. But if it helps you feel like less of a monster, go ahead and post the pages and comments condemning the very thing you have helped to enable. Call it “jailbreaking” and ignore the fact that developers WILL lose money as a result of this, with all the consequences that a reduction of income entails (“sorry kids, but we aren’t having lunch today because Daddy lost his job and too many people are stealing the programs that Mommy writes for us to be able to afford luxuries like lunch anymore.”). Do whatever it takes to help yourself get to sleep at night. Because being a celebrity is totally worth being a sociopath without any concern for your fellow human beings. Isn’t it?
(P.S. I can’t wait to hear news of your whining and complaining when Microsoft decides to ban you from the AppHub. Not that they guaranteedly will, mind you. But I’m really hoping they do. Promoting and aiding in the circumvention of security restrictions is exactly the sort of thing someone should be banned for. I know that I will gladly defend Microsoft’s actions if they do. You’ll probably try to spin it as “mega corp attacks fun-loving, innocent developers”. But the fun-loving innocent developers are those of us abiding by the terms of our agreements and trying to create great apps and games for customers around the world. You are attacking us by making tools that circumvent security restrictions and help criminals. Microsoft banning you would simply be them sticking up for us. It’s their call how to deal with this abominable act of yours, of course. But don’t harbor any illusions that developers would universally support you. This developer, at least, most certainly would not.)
Update (Dec. 1, 2010, 8:41am EST):
I was glad when a friend forwarded me this post – http://www.chevronwp7.com/post/2057541126/pursuing-the-future-of-homebrew-on-windows-phone-7 – outlining a good discussion between Microsoft and the creators of ChevronWP7, including an agreement by the ChevronWP7 folks to immediately discontinue the unlocking tool.