Ex-Apple Engineer Says Apple’s Internet Services Are a ‘Mess’

An ex-Apple employee has a lot to say about the company, particularly when it comes to their Internet-enabled endeavours (including services like iCloud, MobileMe, and .Mac). According to engineer Patrick B. Gibson, “almost everything Apple does which involves the internet is a mess.” (via ZDNET) Gibson helped build the original iPad before leaving Apple for work at Tilde Inc., making his opinion of the company something that rides on the border between ‘insightful’ and ‘jaded’.

Describing himself as a “long-time Mac user and a diehard Apple fan,” Gibson feels that Google is making design strides far faster than Apple is improving with their web offerings. This accusation would make it seem like Google is gaining on Apple overall and set to overtake the largest tech company in the world. Possible? Certainly. Likely? I’m not so sure.

To better decide whether Gibson is correct, we should take a closer look at Gibson’s rationale:

Gibson: “Apple can’t update its online store without taking it offline first.”
Sure they can. This maneuvre is hardly rocket-science in the web-development world. Apple chooses not to: taking the store offline is the online equivalent to a drum-roll. It builds excitement and enthusiasm (while also keeping people watching the keynote instead of sitting on their browser hitting refresh 400 times per minute).

Gibson: “A popular Game Center game was able to bring down the entire network.”
While this may not be overly impressive, it’s also interesting that in a sea with tens-of-thousands-of games, his statement is in the singular tense: ‘a game’. Once. Big deal.

Gibson: “Apple requires you to re-friend everyone on Game Center, Find my Friends, and Shared Photostreams.”
While this may seem like a downfall for some, it is a positive for many others. For people trying to manage a balance between business and personal lives online, certain services should be shared with certain people –instead of the suggested ‘friend once, give them a back-stage pass to my entire life’ approach.

Gibson: “Notes requires an email account to sync.”
So? How else would you like it to sync? Email account, social media account, whatever you use as the common thread… it’s all still about consistency. Most people are tied to their email intimately, so this really shouldn’t be a big deal. Besides, it can be nice to have your notes inside your inbox (if you choose to configure it this way).

Gibson: “The iTunes and App Stores are still powered by WebObjects, a mostly dead framework written almost 20 years ago.”
Gibson should first define ‘mostly dead’. Using something from the past sometimes makes better sense than adopting the bleeding-edge technology that isn’t well supported by all browsers and operating systems. Anybody who has tried to script for the web in a way that keeps Internet Explorer AND Firefox happy at the same time will understand this all too well. Relevance is sometimes a little subjective… just ask the engineers out there still using Fortran or the multitude of mainframe programmers still embracing Cobol.

Gibson: “iMessage for Mac lives in an alternate dimension in which time has no ordered sequence.”
Gibson fails to mention that it’s pretty remarkable that iMessage works at all on the Mac. It is a first-generation version of the software that will evolve, but no other integrated service out there will let me send and receive G-Talk (and other Jabber-based) messages, iMessages (even to a phone number, not just email addresses) and sync nicely with my iPhone and iPad.

Gibson: “Ping.”
While Ping wasn’t successful, it certainly isn’t the only social media experiment to fail. Google+ hasn’t really become a resounding success either.

While Gibson does end with a compliment, saying Apple has “excellent” web browser teams, the rest of his statements barely make sense. Google’s improvements aside, he admits that they still lack the “shine and sparkle” of Apple (which has arguably made them so successful because people -like- owning and using devices and services with ‘curb appeal’).

Gibson also weighs on on whether Apple should purchase Twitter and states that they also suffer from an “inability to recruit and keep talented web engineers, as the firm prioritizes consumer gadgets and products.” He concludes that while they probably should purchase the social media company to help with their recruitment problems and to add to their knowledge base that they probably won’t.

Of course, chances are good Cook and his executive team already have a plan in mind and don’t much care about Gibson’s opinion (plus, they seem to be at least a little bit successful these days so something must be working for them).

Do you think Gibson is right? Is Google really that much of a threat?

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter, and @iPhoneinCanada, and on Google+.

  • I won’t go as far as to say Apple’s internet services are a mess but I agree Google is definitely ahead in this regard.

  • John Solo

    Stop with the fanboy responses, this isn’t the Apple Can do no wrong blog! Everything he is saying sounds rational. Apple will win over the fanboys, but Android has already passed the number of iOS users and it’s only growing day by day. I love Apple and will stick with ’em, until they’re not delivering with innovation … Sony had their day and one day Apple’s days will be over too. Also the article should be better referenced as your source material.

  • ThatGuy

    Yea, I tend to agree with Gibson.

    Apple is very messy with its Internet services. Great with iCloud and I’m sure improvements are coming but apple has always been behind the curve. I think it’s a strategy. Use reliable technologies instead of the newest buggy/glitchy versions to keep the UI smoother. I’m curious to see how it is managed in the back end. That is more likely what he was referring to.

  • I agree with him as well. Mail is a joke. The entire icloud portal needs an overhaul. With google I can see my gmail, tasks, chat, and calendar all in the same tab. Efficient and productive use of space.

  • Peter Pottinger

    You contradict yourself many times in a single post.

    1. “instead of the suggested ‘friend once, give them a back-stage pass to my entire life’ approach.”

    vs

    “it’s all still about consistency”

    2. just ask the engineers out there still using Fortran or the multitude of mainframe programmers still embracing Cobol

    you know nothing about web development because “ie issues” are exclusively about the front end presentation of the site and how browsers render them vs the backend framework which is completely transparent to the user.

    3. ping

    google+ is kicking ass, don’t be a blind fanboy, one service was shuttered and the other is making huge strides every day

  • Anish Chopra

    Bear with me for my super long response.

    I gotta agree with Gibson. I am definitely an Apple diehard fan, but some of Apple’s services are so bad! Messages in iMessage for Mac are out of order half the time, iTunes Match doesn’t sync properly sometimes, and a bunch of other problems. And top of all these issues with these current products, I feel like Apple hasn’t created anything amazing lately in the iOS world. Their laptops and desktops are still the best, hands-down, but I feel like the iPhone hasn’t changed much, and other phones such as, dare I say, the Samsung Galaxy S3, include more innovative features than the iPhone 5 does. Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone 5 is great (I got mine on the first day it came out!), but nothing in it has really “wowed” me. And as for iOS, the layout has hardly changed since the first iPhone came out! Yes, it has some great new features, such as wifi sync, but nothing much that other phones don’t already have. Overall, I’m disappointed with Apple lately. I expected much more from them.

  • bradg17

    Google Internet services are definitely superior, that I can agree with.

  • Skip

    I never trust anyone who gives absolutely zero credit to another’s ideas…especially when the other party has a basis to be informed. Keep those blinders on, Jillian…

  • We’ve clarified the sources in the story.

  • Jerome

    Perhaps this should have been written as an “editorial” piece?

  • Dominic Amann

    Sure you can debunk his claims with fud of your own – but really, apple is trying to catch up to Google in the web and cloud sphere. The only place apple had a lead was in the hardware department and that has all but evaporated while they waste money and energy on sueing their suppliers and competitors.

  • KjHi

    I was just laughing at people who contradict everything good about apple and say fanboy this fanboy that.. but still are using an iPhone…what’s dumber

  • lmlm

    This article was written by an apple fanboy for sure. All of those responses rationalize nothing except OMG APPLE 2 GUD. The truth is that apple isn’t advancing the industry while others are.

  • I’m am Apple guy, and enjoy all they offer, but one is firmly on the fanboy wagon, or enveloped firmly in the reality distortion field if you don’t recognize that there are problems. iMessage is great but has so many quirks I’ve lost track, for one small example.

  • Nima

    Wow. Did you seriously had to write this thing? A well informed engineer says they can’t update their website without taking it down and you just say “sure they can” without citing your sources? (just as an example, the rest of the article was just as annoying).

  • Dgour

    Dude you are an Apple apologist.

  • Farids

    Out of all, you picked Samsung GS3. Samsung demoed SG3, a quad core smart phone with all bells and whistles, then sold a totally different, dual core phone under the same name. Note 2 and Nexus 4 are more appropriate examples.

  • Peter Pottinger

    Its not a crime to want apple to innovate.