Justin Williams, 25, a developer for Second Gear, created FuckingNDA.com in late July to display his comrades’ frustration with Apple.
The site feeds in Twitter and del.icio.us links that include the phrase “fucking NDA.” Here are just a few of the site’s acerbic “tweets”:
“mdhughes: Sigh. Fucking NDA, no code samples showing use of [REDACTED], and minimal documentation. Thanks, Apple.”
“lieven: Anyone know how to resize an image on [REDACTED] without losing EXIF data? FUCKING NDA!”
“HelgeG: apple, lift the fucking NDA already”
“It hinders me from actually wanting to jump into the iPhone thing full throttle,” Mr. Williams said. “People keep saying, ‘I’m hitting this wall, has anyone ever done this?’ There’s no legit ways for us to fix the problem and ask around for help. I can spend a day working out a problem, and you don’t want to be reinventing the wheel every day, trying to solve it.”
Mr. Williams said he has seen developers discuss coding secrets through Apple’s online developer forums. “I don’t think they’re necessarily spending a lot of time policing this,” he said. “But you don’t want to be the guy they make an example of.”
THIS SUMMER, Julio Barros, a 44-year-old freelance developer who lives in the East Village, organized the New York iPhone Software Developers Meetup through social networking site Meetup.com. He said all the developers have been careful about what they say at the meetings and mostly use it for networking.
He said the developer community is used to being able to ask each other for help in public online forums, and having restrictions makes them feel stifled. “It’s just working alone in the dark a lot. It can truly hamper development.”
“I wish [Apple] would come out and just explain why this is like this,” said FuckingNDA’s Mr. Williams. “A lot more developers would at least understand if maybe it was for trademarking or to patent things. But the fact that they are just staying silent about it doesn’t help.”
Some developers haven’t had much trouble with the NDA and think the community is just overreacting. Joshua Keay, a software developer for Magnetism Studios, said the NDA “hasn’t been a problem for us whatsoever.” They created a few applications for the iPhone, including CityTransit, a downloadable guide to the city’s subway system, and the TileSudoku game.
“Frankly, people like to get all worked up,” Mr. Keay said. “I think Apple is by and large pretty good about the craft and just want greater quality control. People just like to sound off about anything and the Internet, on Twitter, is an easy place to do it.”
Buzz Andersen, a former engineer for Apple who now works as a freelance developer in the Lower East Side, said Apple probably isn’t being malicious against developers—they’re just ignorant. “People in the developer community, they kind of take it for granted that something like this is obvious to Apple,” he explained. “They just don’t really think to communicate with developers or outside people when it would actually be a good thing to defuse a lot of tension. I can honestly believe they would’ve never expected this kind of furor. I could imagine them saying, ‘Well, they’re all competitors competing with each other, so whatever.’
“The good thing about Apple, though,” Mr. Andersen added, “is once something like this really starts to become a problem, they are generally really quick to rectify it. It’s just that sometimes it has to reach a sort of fever pitch in media coverage. Since it’s so secret, the public is not always even aware of what developers can and can’t do with the SDK. So developers can get into this weird situation where reviews on the App Store, people will say, ‘This app would great if only it had this; why doesn’t it do this?’ But it’s weird,” Mr. Andersen said. “They can’t explain the finer reasons and boundaries of something.” Perhaps they just need to respond: “Fucking NDA.”