Panic update exposes flaw in Mac App Store

A painful flaw has been found in the Mac App Store approval process by one of best known third-party OSX developers out there.

Panic has been working on trusted applications for the Mac OS as long as we can remember, and both its FTP client Transmit and Usenet browser Unison have become firm favourites with many Mac fans.

Panic has had a fantastic relationship with Apple up until now, with many of its offerings featured on the Cupertino company's own web site, promoted under the 'Made for OSX' banner.

So it was no surprise when Transmit, Unison and the company's web development application, Coda, all appeared on the newly-launched Mac App Store on January 6th.

So far, so good. The trouble started when Panic decided to post an update to the Usenet browser Unison, not least because of problems with the App Store itself.

The company's intention was to seed the update to its direct customers at the same time as those who had purchased software through the Mac App Store. "Our plan was simple," writes a spokesman on the company's blog. "Submit [version] 4.1.5 to the Mac App Store, but don’t post it to our direct customers until it’s approved by Apple, so all customers are treated equally and get the update at the same time."

Unfortunately, Apple's approval process - which is designed to keep the malware and the muck to a minimum, but has often been criticised for being draconian and undecipherable - has caused the update process to grind to an ignominious halt.

"Unfortunately, as of today, the Mac App Store’s 4.1.5 remains in review," continues the blog entry. "And while it’s a far more critical update for Mac App Store customers than direct customers, we no longer thought it was reasonable to make our direct customers keep waiting due to circumstances beyond their control. (Put another way, our support guys were preparing for a full-scale riot)."

So Transit is 4.1.5 is now 'half-available' according to Panic, which says it sincerely apologises to its Mac App Store customers, and thanks them for their patience.

Apple is keeping quiet on the whole affair. But if it wants to build relationships with third-party developers - especially tried and tested ones like Panic - it will have to give them a little more leeway when it comes to seeding updates to existing Apps.

this particular update might not have been particularly critical, but it remains to be seen how Apple will respond in the face of a different kind of panic.