Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Battling the Crackers is not good for your soul

Very recently a piece of software was released that will make it very easy for average Iphone users to crack applications that they have purchased from the AppStore. To varying degrees developers are in an uproar about this and are beginning to have discussions on how best to battle this outrage.

This particular cracking software, ( I am purposely not going to mention the name ), will do for app cracking what napster did for music piracy. The average person will start to see it as a normal means of attaining these applications.

But all is not lost. Currently there are ways of detecting if your application has been cracked and there are many discussions starting around what to do in the case that your application detects that it has been cracked. Most of these discussions result in 'messing' with the user. Randomly crashing and reporting the user to apple are a few of these ideas.

I want to encourage all developers to avoid these types of punitive action. It will only end in heart ache and wasted cycles. Software piracy has been around for a long time and will continue to evolve from where it is today. It is not a war won by indie developers. We have too little time and too many features to implement.

So what can we do? Try to convert these users into paying customers. Treat these cracked apps as "Lite" versions and use the typical approaches to try and get them to pay using one of these methods:

  • Put ads at the top of a cracked app
  • Detect when a user has opened the app more that five times and prompt them to go to the AppStore and purchase the app
  • Remove some features from the application when it has been cracked and let the user know.
  • Set timer that will turn the application off
Many people have been asking Apple to implement try before you buy support into the app store. I think that this is exactly what the crackers are giving us.

Don't take it personally, don't feel threatened, this can be an opportunity.

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