Have you ever seen a person using a MacBook at night and the screen looks kind of yellow or orange? If so, they’re probably using a piece of software called f.lux that automatically adjusts the colour of the screen to stop your eyes straining.
Right now, f.lux is only available for desktop Macs and has been downloaded over 15 million times. For a brief period of time this week, though, it was also available to install on your iPhone and iPad — then Apple shut it down.
f.lux didn’t arrive on the iPhone through the App Store. It never even applied to the store, as the way it changes the screen colour would never be accepted. Apple doesn’t allow developers to fiddle with the big processes on the iPhone.
f.lux got around the App Store restrictions by letting people do something called “sideloading” to get the app on their iPhone. Back in June, Apple quietly tweaked its Xcode developer software to allow anyone to download an app and put it on their iPhone, completely bypassing the App Store.
Downloading an app and installing it directly on your iPhone is called “sideloading” since you bypass the standard distribution model for apps. It was a powerful idea, and people were optimistic that Apple’s tiny change could have big a effect. One Reddit user said it could bring about the “app Renaissance,” while another said “free Open Source on iOS … here we go! This iOS 9 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing…”
Sideloading was something that Apple fans have been begging Apple to introduce for years. Android lets people download whatever apps they like and sideload them, but Apple has held firm. Articles in Macworld and MacStories explained the benefit of sideloading, but it was only this year that Apple relented.
f.lux decided to use sideloading to finally get its technology on the iPhone. It released a version of the app that could be run through Xcode to get onto an iPhone, and interest in the app was huge. f.lux says that the page for the sideload file was visited 176,000 times in the first 24 hours.
However, 9to5Mac reports that Apple quickly realised what was happening and moved to shut down f.lux for the iPhone. Apple contacted f.lux and informed the developer that its actions were in violation of the Developer Program agreement, which people need to sign to use Apple’s Xcode development software.
Basically, Apple told the developer that even though it wasn’t going through the App Store, Apple could still shut down the app because it was built using its own software. That’s a huge blow to app sideloading and the idea of an “app Renaissance.”
The idea behind app sideloading is that people can do what they wish with apps and release open-source apps for free that can be distributed outside of Apple’s protected channels. That’s what f.lux wanted to do as there was no way it would ever be able to release the app officially.
Apple apparently told f.lux that it was not allowed to distribute the app freely online, as it violated the developer agreement. That has halted plans by developers to take advantage of sideloading on iOS as it shows that Apple is still able to control the process.
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