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Posts tagged with "developers"

Apple Publishes New Apple News Format Documentation, Details API

Earlier this week, Apple published new documentation regarding the Apple News Format (via Benedict Evans), which will allow all publishers to deliver native articles with richer experiences to their Apple News channels. Currently, only selected publishers have access to the Apple News Format.

In an updated reference page, Apple describes the Apple News Format, which is still listed as "Coming Soon" for publishers:

Apple News Format is the custom JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) document format for News content. With Apple News Format, you can create beautifully crafted layouts with iOS fonts, rich photo galleries, videos, and animations—all optimized for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

In addition, Apple has detailed an API for publishers on Apple News, which can be used to publish Apple News Format articles as well as "retrieve, update, and delete articles you’ve already published, and get basic information about your channel and sections". An API reference is available here, and Apple has included links to CMS plugins for WordPress and Drupal.

Last, Apple has also released a News Preview tool for OS X to preview Apple News Format documents in the Xcode simulator. It's available as a beta download here.

You can read our review of Apple News for iOS 9 here.


When a Dev Dies

Craig Grannell has written about a topic that is very dear to me – app preservation in the age of the App Store. Specifically, he wonders what happens to an app when its developer passes away:

Recently, I was asked by a games mag you’ve probably all heard of to write about Apple TV and gaming, largely from a development standpoint. As ever under such circumstances, I went through my list of email and Twitter contacts, seeing this as a good opportunity to offer some exposure to indie developers whose work I’ve enjoyed over the years. One response came back very quickly, albeit from a name I didn’t quite recognise. The message was in fact from a developer’s wife; the person I was trying to get in touch with had died the previous week.

The developer in question was Stewart Hogarth, who’d lost his battle with congenital heart disease; he was just 34. We’d only been in touch a few times, but I’d been captivated a couple of years ago by his truly excellent 8-bit tribute I Am Level for iOS and Android. This was a smart, charming, entertaining title that married eye-searing Spectrum-style graphics, old-school single-screen platforming challenges, and modern mobile tilt-based controls. It was still installed on all of my devices, and it was strange and very sad to think that the person who created it was no longer with us.

I know that this topic is uncomfortable to discuss, but it's an important one. If we want to treat apps as cultural artifacts more than ephemeral utilities – at least some of them – we need to talk about ways to preserve them.

I genuinely believe that, years from now, apps and games will be studied as interesting data points and references for our society, behaviors, and sociological traits. Today, quite paradoxically, in many cases it's actually easier to preserve physical media than digital app store (lowercase, as it applies to every company) content and developers' back catalogues. Servers that eventually disappear, expired contracts, apps that are no longer supported on the latest OS – it doesn't make much sense to me that the rules and limitations of software make it harder to preserve apps than something which physically decays.

I continue to believe that app preservation is a topic worth discussing, and Craig is touching on an important aspect of it.


Apple Rolls Out Searchable WWDC Session Transcripts with Timestamp Links

From Apple's developer blog:

Now it's easier to discover and share information presented in WWDC videos with our recent search update. You can search a keyword and find all the instances of it mentioned in the videos. Go straight to the time the keyword was mentioned in the video or easily share a link to it.

Not only does Apple now allow you to search the WWDC session transcripts – which ASCIIwwdc has been doing for a while – you can tap on a result (like this) and be taken to the relevant point in the video from your web browser. There are also filters to select returns from specific WWDCs and you can filter by platform, too.

Extremely useful, and I wish I had this when I was writing my iOS 9 review this summer.


Apple Redesigns iTunes Connect

Busy week for Apple's developer team: following issues with XcodeGhost, App Slicing, and delays in processing app builds for third-party developers, the company has rolled out a brand new iTunes Connect.

As an app reviewer, the most notable change seems to be scheduled app releases that are automatically released to the App Store after App Review but no earlier than a specific date and time. If this works well with propagation on Apple's servers (and that's a big if), it could be a solution to the common dilemma of developers setting embargo times for their app launches. If I'm understanding this correctly, developers wouldn't have to manually hold an app for release and push it live to the App Store and then wait for propagation – they'd just submit it for review (as usual) and pick the release time from iTunes Connect beforehand. I'm curious to see how this works in practice with iTunes' servers.

A tour of what's changed in iTunes Connect (and it sounds like a lot has changed) is available here.


Apple’s App Search API Validation Tool

I haven't seen this linked before – and I certainly didn't see it when I first wrote about iOS 9 search – but Apple has a new validation tool to test websites for App Search, coming with iOS 9 in Spotlight.

Apple writes:

Test your webpage for iOS 9 Search APIs. Enter a URL and Applebot will crawl your webpage and show how you can optimize for best results.

As I wrote, iOS 9 won't be limited to searching for local app content:

To enhance web crawling with structured data and, again, give developers control of indexed content, Apple has announced support for various types of web markup. Developers who own websites with content related to an app will be able to use Smart App Banners to describe deep links to an app (more on this in a bit) as well as open standards such as and Open Graph.

Apple calls these “rich results”: by reading metadata based on existing standards, Apple's web crawler can have a better understanding of key information called out on a webpage and do more than simply parsing a title and a link. With support for, for instance, Applebot will be able to recognize tagged prices, ratings, and currencies for individual listings on Airbnb, while the Open Graph image tag could be used as the image thumbnail in iOS search results. An app like Songkick could implement structured data to tag concert dates and prices in their related website, and popular concerts could show up for users with rich descriptions in the iOS 9 search page.

The validation tool does indeed analyze information that will be used to power iOS 9 search results – such as thumbnails, descriptions, and deep links to apps. You can try it out here.


Twitter Rolls Out Full-Archive Search API

Twitter has added support for full-archive search to their API, allowing – in theory – third-party clients to retrieve every tweet ever posted on the service. From their blog:

The Full-Archive Search API combines the best aspects of two of Gnip’s most popular offerings to solve enterprise business needs with user experiences not previously possible. By pairing instant accessibility with the full archive of historical Tweets, we’ve created a new premium solution for our ecosystem of partners to deliver historical social data to their own clients.

Since Twitter added full-archive search to their app last year, I've been using the feature every day to find old stuff I or others tweeted in the past. There's no word on pricing for Gnip customers, but hopefully apps like Tweetbot and Twitterrific will be able to take advantage of it. Developer documentation is available here.


Apple Updates TestFlight with Support for iOS 9 and watchOS 2 Betas, App Thinning

Apple has updated its official TestFlight app for iOS today, bringing support for iOS 9 and watchOS 2 betas, plus a new App Thinning feature that will allow developers to deliver slimmer apps in iOS 9.

Version 1.2 of TestFlight supports, according to Apple, "upcoming iOS 9 features". The first beta of iOS 9 was first released in June, and, following the launch of the fourth developer beta, several members of the developer community were wondering when Apple would start allowing developers to distribute iOS 9 app betas to external testers. The release notes of the update don't mention external testers, so it's still fair to wonder when Apple will actually let developers expand their beta pools beyond internal testers.

Update: As confirmed in an email by Apple, TestFlight's iOS 9 features are currently limited to watchOS 2 apps and App Thinning for internal testers only.

In addition to iOS 9 and watchOS 2 support, the TestFlight app has been updated with new notification settings. You can now turn off email and notification updates on a per-app basis – a welcome addition for those testing dozens of different apps.

TestFlight 1.2 is available on the App Store.

Apple Music and DJ Apps

Allen Pike, one of the developers behind WeddingDJ and the excellent Party Monster, has written on the new issues introduced with Apple Music for third-party media apps:

According to our latest stats, 17% of Party Monster users have been unable to play a song in their iTunes library, and 22% of WeddingDJ users have tried to cue a playlist that has so many unplayable tracks that we need to display a warning. While it’s a miracle that we’ve been able to maintain a 4 star rating through all of this, it’s not going to last if we stay the course.

Given all of this, we have a couple options. We could double down and go pro, catering to serious DJs who can load DRM-free music into our sandbox. Pro DJs who use our apps often have a large licensed library of songs, and won’t rely on iTunes Match or Apple Music.

Alternatively, we could steer towards the mass market, drop crossfading support, and regain full iTunes compatibility. We could also put in the work to add support for Spotify or other competing streaming services, and focus our apps less on playback features and more on having a great UI for queueing.

The standard iOS media player has never given a lot of freedom to third-party developers. I wonder if Apple Music with its “love” system could be even more of an excuse for Apple not to make the media player APIs more flexible. Not to mention, of course, DRM.


Spatial Interfaces

I believe the best software is an extension of the human brain. It lets us think naturally, and conforms to us, not the other way around. Translation of information should be the computer’s job, not ours. It’s what we built these digital slaves for. A great Spatial Interface meets our expectations of a physical model. Designed for human beings, it supports a mind, living in the dimensions of space and time. They are Interfaces that are sensible about where things lay. Like a well designed building, they’re easy to traverse through. One space flows into the other, without surprise.

Great article by Pasquale D'Silva on the role of space in software interfaces, with a special focus on some popular iPhone apps. Make sure to check out the GIFs and videos.