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March 2012 to Bring Sandboxing to Apps of the Mac App Store

Posted by zduncan | Posted in Computer, Computer Accessories | Posted on 06-11-2011

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Mac App StoreAn interesting bit of news came out of Apple recently as the company sent out an email to registered developers that is definitely going to raise some eyebrows. As of March 2012, Apple will require all apps submitted to the company’s app store to implement sandboxing. However, this isn’t an entirely new development as Apple was originally going to require sandboxing starting in November of this year. It appears as if Apple delayed the initiation of the rule for another few months, though the fact that the requirement will exist at all may pose problems for some Mac developers.

Many people are wondering what is prompting this action from Apple and the answer is security. According to the company in a recent statement, “Sandboxing your app is a great way to protect systems and users by limiting the resources apps can access and making it more difficult for malicious software to compromise users’ systems. As of March 1, 2012 all apps submitted to the Mac App Store must implement sandboxing.” While the company’s intentions are noble, the all-or-nothing approach is potentially problematic for sure.

Over recent months, a plethora of some of the biggest developers in the app world have been pointing out the flaws and shortcomings of Apple’s sandboxing approach. These include a buggy Carbon implementation as well as questionable support for most AppleScript-centric automation tools. Other big names in the app community, like Jason Snell and Andy Ihnatko, have also chipped in their two cents with both parties concerned that sandboxing may eventually lead to a dumbing down of the Mac App Store options or the death of AppleScript entirely.

On a lighter note, Apple does allow for a few exceptions to its upcoming sandboxing policy. According to the company, “If your app requires access to sandboxed system resources, you will need to include justification for using those entitlements as part of the submission to the Mac App Store.” However, Apple did follow this up with some bad news saying, “Apps that are being re-engineered to be sandbox compatible may request additional temporary entitlements. These entitlements are granted on a short-term basis and will be phased out over time.”

However, it may do everybody some good to look at the fact that unlike the iOS platform, the Mac App Store is not the only legitimate platform to get apps onto your Mac computer. On the other hand, that probably doesn’t do much for developers who have found the Mac App Store an easier and more lucrative channel for app distribution as opposed to the conventional methods. But then again, who knows how long it will be before Apple restricts all apps on Mac devices to go through the Mac App Store and not another platform?

With all that said, this policy is a bit extreme, much like the rule of “no third-party IDEs” for the iOS platform Apple made last year. This policy also seems to be more like something a committee created that seemed like a good idea at the time. However, it will more likely than not be modified or deprecated once the real-world implications for the Mac platform become evident. The simple fact that Apple has already delayed the launch of the rule by five months indicates that Apple may be working on further reprieves or workarounds for developers with affected products.

Source: TUAW – Apple to require sandboxing in Mac App Store apps as of March 2012

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