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Tapworthy by Josh Clark

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Chapter 11. Howdy, Neighbor

PLAYING NICE WITH OTHER APPS

“GOOD FENCES MAKE GOOD NEIGHBORS,” poet Robert Frost tells us. According to Apple, good fences make good apps, too. The sentiment is baked deep into the iPhone OS, which purposely makes it all but impossible for apps to peek into each other’s affairs. Every app is safely walled off in its own plot, where other apps can’t touch its data, can’t meddle with account information, can’t talk back and forth in an intimate way. Every app is more or less isolated.

There are benefits to the iPhone’s mind-your-own-business culture: the overall system is more stable, a bad-seed app can’t rifle through private info, and the arrangement promotes the useful habit for both developer and consumer to focus on just one task at a time. But fences also make us travel a long way to go what would otherwise be a short distance. Exchanging documents between apps is often a round-about hassle of syncing to a PC or network, and reusing the data you create in one app means a slow slog of copying and pasting into another. Walls block useful collaboration among apps, and that’s hardly neighborly. Even Robert Frost agrees. In the very same “good fences make good neighbors” poem, he writes:

Photo: Peter Morgan
Figure 11-1. Photo: Peter Morgan

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offence. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, ...

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