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Dub Dub Disclosure Conference

Interesting development coming out of WWDC this year. When we all logged into the dev center to get the new iOS 8 / Mac OS X 10.10 / Xcode 6 bits, there was a new developer agreement to acknowledge. One of the few people to actually read it, Ole Begemann, noticed that it has a surprising new provision:

Further, Apple agrees that You will not be bound by the foregoing confidentiality terms with regard to technical information about pre-release Apple Software and services disclosed by Apple at WWDC (Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference), except that You may not post screen shots, write public reviews or redistribute any pre-release Apple Software or services

In the past, all of us developers have had to tip-toe around the new SDKs, APIs, and tools until they’re officially released, which leads to embarrassing situations like WWDC recap sessions at CocoaHeads where we say “well, if they were going to put an Obj-C wrapper around Core Audio, they might…”. This new change in policy would seem to indicate that we’re no longer compelled to engage in such silly antics.

Fry: Not sure if NDA is still on, or if I just broke it

And ultimately, it is silly, because trying to enforce an NDA on hundreds of thousands of developers is completely impractical. Who are they afraid we’re going to disclose materials to? Surely Apple’s various enemies — Google, Microsoft, Samsung, et. al — are all in the Apple Developer Program through one means or another and all downloaded the new SDKs the same time the rest of us did, so the old NDA doesn’t help with that.

IMO, the practical effect has been that the good actors are prevented from sharing information with colleagues — talking about stuff at CocoaHeads, answering Stack Overflow questions, etc. — while the bad actors who ignore the NDA go ahead and post screenshots and “inside info” to rumor sites and rack up their Google ad revenue.

If Apple has seen the folly of this, then it’s definitely a win for us all.

But…

How far does it go?

Look at that phrasing: anything discussed at WWDC is fair game, provided you don’t post screenshots, reviews, or redistribute Apple software. Those first two provisos seem aimed at bloggers and rumor sites (and from the looks of the internet, are being as blithely ignored as ever). For those of us still trying to follow the rules, how far has the door been opened? Can we:

  • Run Xcode 6 at CocoaHeads or NSCoderNIght to show off new APIs to colleagues?
  • Do talks on new APIs at conferences? Clearly Swift is fair game, since that’s been disclosed in its entirety in the form of an iBook, but if I’m doing a Swift talk, do I have to just use clang on the command-line and not touch Xcode 6 or any of the new APIs?
  • What about topics that just happened to not be covered in a WWDC session, like changes in older APIs that weren’t important enough to get a session? Are they therefore off-limits?
  • eBooks? Can I put out an early-access programming guide for iOS 8, at least the stuff that was shown at WWDC? Do I have to do it without screenshots?

I posted these questions as a followup on a devforums thread… no answer yet, but hopefully we’ll get some kind of statement eventually.

I’m keenly aware of this issue because back in 2008, Apple was determined to keep the NDA on the iPhone SDK in place even after it was out of beta and released to the public, which caused the Pragmatic Programmers to suspend work on the iPhone SDK Development book I was co-authoring with Bill Dudney, after we had about 200 pages in the can. Eventually cooler heads prevailed and they realized the folly of an NDA on something that was public, or at least the value of having third parties providing resources like introductory books and conference talks to bring new developers to the platform.

The interim scenario we’ve been living in since then — no talking about the unreleased version, even though we all have it on our laptops — is still frustrating and fairly absurd. I wonder if either Apple’s going to give us an official clarification, or people are going to just go ahead and start talking. It would be nice for the conversation to be led by the top developers, speakers, and instructors instead of the rumor-mongers, for a change.

Comment (1)

  1. […] been even remotely subtle about it, but with today’s release of iOS 8 and the end of the NDA on its SDK, I can now officially announce iOS 8 SDK Development, now available as a beta book from […]

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