After Apple banned Dash, the API documentation browser and code snippet manager, from the App Store last October there was much speculation about whether it could survive. This story has a happy outcome as Dash appears to be thriving with the recent release of Dash 4 for macOS.
If you follow I Programmer's occasional series, Fear And Loathing in the App Store, you'll already know (see Episode 16) that Kapeli Dash was summarily removed by Apple with no prior warning. Despite the efforts made by Kapeli's one and only developer, Bogdan Popescu, to salvage the situation, Apple has never reinstated his account.
This is by no means an isolated incident - Apple's decisions are generally final, even when they seem harsh or even unfounded.
What is perhaps unusual is that in this instance being expelled from the App Store hasn't had a negative impact on the apps developer, Kapeli.
A post on the Kapeli blog last month by Popescu, reveals that he is now better off in terms of revenue due to the increased value of direct sales will outstripping what he previously brought in from the App Store:
He also explains:
Dash for iOS was never a significant part of my revenue and like most iOS apps it was never sustainable. I should have open-sourced it a long time ago, as it now brings in more revenue by promoting Dash for macOS.
Since being open-sourced on GitHub in November three other developers have contributed to the project, and with the help of one of them Dash for iOS 1.6.0 was released at the end of November.
As for the Mac product, it has seen a major upgrade, released this week, which responds to the most popular feature request - a new streamlined interface.
The major improvements in Dash 4 are:
New Interface – Clean, modern, with a focus on what matters most: the docs
New Dark Mode – Night owls, rejoice! The entire Dash interface can now be turned dark
Web Searches – You can now add/edit fallback web searches (e.g. Google or Stack Overflow) in Preferences
Docset Playgrounds – Most docsets now show “Play” buttons which let you quickly test snippets of code
Search Using Selected Text – This feature has been completely remade and is now more reliable, even in apps that don’t support system services. Set a hotkey for it in Preferences > General
Tab Improvements – You can now reopen the last closed tab, duplicate tabs and close all tabs except for the selected one
The upgrade cost $14.99 to existing users of Dash 3 and 2. Thanks to in-app notification 84% of App Store users of Dash 3 have already migrated their licences to the direct version but Popescu notes in his 100 Days Without the App Store post that he has no data about App Store users of Dash 2. It is to be hoped they discover the new version and want to upgrade.
While this is a story with a happy outcome, it is unlikely to be typical. Dash is primarily a desktop product and users are generally willing to pay for such products - Dash costs $24.99 - and also subsequent upgrades. While in the App Store Dash had developed the product through several releases,expanded its user base and gained a reputation, making it capable of having a standalone future.
Of course if this was a purely iOS app the choice of distributing it outside of the app store wouldn't have been a possibility. It is one thing to have a choice of using or not using an app store - having no choice is something else.