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Why Apple Needs Jailbreaking, but Must Attack It Anyway



The cat and mouse game continues. The iOS hacking community has discovered another vulnerability in Apple’s beloved operating system, and Apple promises an update to plug the hole. Though this modern-day Tom & Jerry episode can make for great entertainment, is it necessary? While jailbreaking may actually be good for Apple, we won’t likely see a truce anytime soon.

Yesterday developer Comex released Jailbreakme 3.0, a browser-based jailbreak for all devices – including the never-before unlocked iPad 2. Today, according to Christopher Lawton at the Wall Street Journal, Apple has responded that they are “aware of this reported issue and developing a fix that will be available to customers in an upcoming software update.”

Jailbreaking Helps Apple

What Apple may or may not realize, though, is that the jailbreak community is the perfect fit for them. It’s the yin to their yang:

Look at how many “new” iOS features were first introduced by jailbreak devs. Notifications, multitasking, folders, copy/paste, tethering, multiple homescreens, etc. – they were all in Cydia before they were in the AppStore. Oh, and speaking of the AppStore, jailbreakers had one of those first too. Think of Cydia as a testing ground for the future of iOS.

On the left, Apple's notifications pop-ups in iOS 5. On the right, jailbreak app MobileNotifier.

How many potential Android defectors has Apple kept in tow because of jailbreaking? If you decide that you’re tired of Apple’s walled garden and want more freedom and customization, you can either use Android – who (mostly) embraces this line of thinking – or you can jailbreak your iDevice. Many obviously have left for Android, but many have also found Cydia to provide all of the openness that they need (while keeping Apple’s core OS and sexy hardware).

Taking that even further, perhaps there is something psychological that makes “forbidden” freedom more appealing than “allowed” freedom? We don’t watch movies where the protagonist is given everything he wants at the beginning and spends the rest of the film celebrating.

No, we like stories where the main character faces a series of problems and obstacles. We watch him face adversity, until finally (depending on the film) he gains his freedom and power, and we share his feelings of joy. This catharsis is much greater than if he had spent the whole movie relaxing. Is this different from the catharsis of a new jailbreak being released? iOS provides drama, Android doesn’t (unless you’re waiting for Samsung to release an update – that’s a tragedy in the making).

Without jailbreaking, Apple would have to think of new features and test implementations of them all on their own. They would likely be facing even stiffer competition from Android.

Apple’s Biggest Problem With Jailbreaking

They’re smart cookies in Cupertino. Why then do they bother trying to close the jailbreakers’ holes? Is it just a charade that they’re forced to play, like Commissioner Gordon chasing Batman at the end of The Dark Knight? No, Apple’s pursuit to squash jailbreaking is quite sincere, and the main reason is very simple: piracy.

Piracy is impossible on a non-jailbroken iDevice. On a jailbroken iDevice, it is possible.

The jailbreak community is very divided in this respect. The developers who supply the jailbreak (and many other members of the community) are strictly anti-piracy. They will even go to great lengths to publicly shame anyone who condones it. After all, many of them are app developers themselves – they understand why devs want to get paid for their work. Many other people, though, look forward to the new jailbreak mostly so they can download Installous and start downloading cracked apps.

Any platform that relies on digital distribution for much of its income is going to have a bone to pick with piracy. Just look at the lengths Sony went to try to crack down on PS3 jailbreaker (former iOS jailbreaker, current Facebook employee) George Hotz. He didn’t even promote piracy, but his jailbreak opened the door to the possibility.

Members of the iOS dev (jailbreak) community have talked recently of an “anti-piracy” jailbreak. This would somehow allow all of the standard Cydia mods, but block any cracked apps from being downloaded. Could this be the solution that creates harmony between Apple and jailbreakers? It sounds promising, but how long do you think it would be before someone found a way around it?

So, unfortunately, until piracy is completely out of the question, Apple will always be arch enemies with a community that is always helping them out (free of charge, mind you). Maybe they are warming up to them a bit, though. After all, they did hire the developer of one of the Cydia notifications apps that they stole.



  1. Josh Einstein

    07/08/2011 at 4:26 am

    Actually Apple has some very good reasons to be proactive about this fix and jail breaking is the least of them. The fact is, the PDF exploit that makes JailbreakMe possible is extremely dangerous because it allows ANY motivated developer to run native code on your iPhone/iPad just by getting you to click a link. If Apple doesn’t move fast, it can and will be exploited by malware authors and that’s not a news story Apple needs right now.

    • Glassstain_goldensilver

      07/15/2011 at 10:56 pm

      There have only been two PDF exploits in all of jailbreak history idiot….There are multiple other exploits and I guess you can take a side on why those are unsafe to but apple doesn’t really care.

      By the way good article I loved it!!!

  2. Anonymous

    07/10/2011 at 2:13 am

    Apple was never really proactive about blocking jailbreaking. The jailbreaking community has been using basically the same method for tethered jailbreaking forever.

    It is Jailbreaks that exploits security holes in the system that Apple blocks.

  3. Anonymous

    07/10/2011 at 2:13 am

    Apple was never really proactive about blocking jailbreaking. The jailbreaking community has been using basically the same method for tethered jailbreaking forever.

    It is Jailbreaks that exploits security holes in the system that Apple blocks.

  4. 360Petty

    07/20/2011 at 8:06 am

    There are a million ways to stop people using cracked apps…. I for one only jailbreak for customisation! Although I am fully aware of the repos that supply me with all things free!

    The point is I want my iDevice to be free and the iPad 2 is a demonstration that it’s becoming more and more difficult to gain root access! Frankly the PDF exploit was genius and anyone who thinks otherwise is a moron!

    The userland JB will be closed with each new iteration of hardware so the tethered options will become less and less!

    I see the end is comin for the simple freedom of route access…… agree or not it will at the very least become very very difficult!!!

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