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Former staffer: Apple currently averse to social apps, blogs


A recently departed Apple senior software developer describes a corporate culture that largely overlooks social software and discourages even official blogging.

Best known as the primary architect of Apple's iChat instant messaging software, Jens Alfke explains that he has left the company after 19 years chiefly because it became increasingly difficult to develop social software in the Cupertino, Calif.-based firm's existing climate.

Beyond iChat, the developer notes that he could only persuade the company to implement RSS reading into Safari and the larger frameworks for Atom and RSS feeds in Mac OS X — achievements which were less likely to repeat themselves after the October release of Mac OS X Leopard.

"There were some very promising prototypes of sexier things [than these], but I really can’t talk about those, other than to say that they were canceled," Alfke says. "I looked around after Leopard was finished, and didn’t see any place in the company where I could pursue my ideas. It would have meant evangelizing reluctant executives into sharing my vision."

Apple has generally been regarded as late to developing such software as a whole. The company launched its first blogging tool, iWeb, along with iLife 06 and added hooks for YouTube into the iPhone, iPod touch, and its iMovie video editing suite in 2007.

However, a separate issue is also said to be Apple's stance towards its engineers' own social content. Where Apple's initial culture frequently highlighted the talents of individual workers, the environment in recent years has frequently curbed the ability to share experiences — particularly online.

The Mac maker rarely allows non-executives to present themselves as Apple employees in public and extends that policy to blogging. Even publicly available information is likely to face a challenge from a superior, Alfke says. While many blog anonymously, other firms often allow their employees to mention where they work and to discuss public projects. Some firms also go so far as to maintain official company blogs, such as Microsoft's Gamerscore Blog or smartphone maker Palm's official blog.

By contrast, Apple employees are often reluctant to write even after they leave, the software blogger explains.

"I think Apple’s policy on blogging is one of the least enlightened of major tech companies; Microsoft in particular is surprisingly open," Alfke writes. "[I'm] ather afraid of pressing the Publish button. I have been long-conditioned to avoid saying anything like the above in public."