Home / A shameless rip-off, or what did you expect?

The story so far: AppRocket is a new application for Windows which is a translation (or, as others put it, “a shameless rip-off”) of a popular Mac app LaunchBar. It looks like this taking an idea implemented on a Mac and implementing it on Windows seems quite outragous to some people. I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s hard to argue with Chris Clark because he only gives scathing comments but no actual arguments explaining why exactly is it so bad. Badness is implicit. Instead I’ll try to analyze the situation from a few different angles.

But first the facts: is AppRocket a “blatant rip-off” of LaunchBar? Undoubtely so and its developers freely admit that.

Is the world at large better off with AppRocket? Yes. I’ve installed AppRocket but personally find it useless (i.e. I tried to use it but didn’t find the advantage worth the trouble of learning new habits). It is, however, safe to say that an app that proved useful and popular on a Mac will be useful for some people running Windows.

Is Objective Development the authors of LaunchBar, harmed in any way by AppRocket? Unlikely. They would be financially harmed if they had Windows version of LaunchBar but they don’t and they don’t seem to be planning to write one (given that so far they’re Mac-exclusive shop and LaunchBar is 7 years old - plenty of time to do a port if you plan to).

Is it illegal (i.e. does it infringe upon some vague intellectual property of Objective Development) to write an app that is so similar to existing app? For the sake of our industry and all the people using software, I surely hope it isn’t. So far our industry is build on one company “blatantly ripping-off” some other company. There was only one “original spread-sheet”, VisiCalc, all others, including once-king Lotus 1-2-3 and current king Excell are its blatant rip-off. Windows was a blatant rip-off of Apple which was in turn a blatant rip-off of ideas developed at Xerox. And now KDE and Gnome are blatantly ripping-off many UI concepts pioniereed in Windows. In this context “blatant rip-off” is just another word for “vigorous competition”. Do we really want a system where one company has eternal monopoly on easily-cloned concept? Do we want to be stuck with just one spread-sheet, one file manager, one operating system, one text editor, one instant-messaging system, one application launcher? I much prefer it if one company can take other company’s idea and improve upon it or implement it on a operating system on which it isn’t yet available.

Isn’t Chris a little bit hypocritical by applying different standards to different companies? He’s outraged at AppRocket’s developers but at the same time recommends Proteus, a Mac multi-network IM client. Which sounds like a “blatant rip-off” of Trillian.