The recent row over iA Writer’s developers and their patent application reminded me what a small community the Mac developers are. The real problem was never about iA attempting to patent their work, the issue was that they forgot their place in the ecosystem. There are a few in the community that give freely and abundantly, like Brett Terpstra, and when iA threatened to use their patents offensively against Terpstra’s Marked, the community rightfully condemned them.
I haven’t used Writer Pro, the application with the syntax highlighting at the center of the debate, but I do own a copy of Writer. I think Writer is a fine application; it’s no Vim, but it does what it says and does it well. I imagine that Writer Pro is just as nice, and that the thought the developers have put into implementing syntax highlighting is well done. That they used a built-in Cocoa class to do it doesn’t concern me, but attempting to patent the work of Apple does. It bothered quite a few developers too, but not nearly as much as if they would have kept their mouths shut and saved the patent for a rainy day, only pulling it out when the trolls came knocking. But they didn’t.
Instead, they came out shooting:
@MarkedApp @JedMadsen …mostly, I wouldn't suggest at this point to rip off Writer Pro's core innovation. We're well prepared there. :-)
— Oliver Reichenstein (@reichenstein) Thu Dec 19 2013 5:59 PM CST
@JedMadsen Thanks, Jed. It looks obvious now, but it was a tough fight; so tough, that I'm ready to go into another fight to protect it. :)
— Oliver Reichenstein (@reichenstein) Thu Dec 19 2013 10:50 PM CST
The details around the issue have been well covered by The Verge, Marco Arment, and Ben Brooks, but I’m willing to ignore the patent. You can have your patents, even though I don’t agree with them, and you can claim that an Apple innovation is your own, but when you threaten other independent developers, that crosses the line. I will no longer be supporting iA, best of luck. They should have remembered, we should all be excellent to each other.