Journal: News & Comment

Monday, November 08, 2004
# 9:49:00 AM:

Why can't everyone get it?

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The other day, Kevin and I were talking about why Mac computers and software just "feel" better to use than most of their Windows (and Linux) counterparts. He was asking why no one has taken something like NetNewsWire and simply ported the whole experience over to Windows, where it could sell a lot more copies because no similar program on that platform works quite as well.

I think John Siracusa and John Gruber, two of the finest writers on the Mac side of the Web (whether named John or not), explain the situation handily as this: in the small market of Mac software and hardware, there is intense peer pressure to be great, not just good enough. Mac users have come to learn to care about the entire experience of using Macs and Mac software, and since there aren't as many of us, products that don't meet those expectations can't survive.

Here's how Siracusa puts it:

I'm pointing these things [meticulous detail even in the installation of a particular program] out not because Delicious Monster is unique among Mac developers in the quality of their artwork and their attention to detail, but because they aren't unique. Nearly every popular Mac OS X application is a single-icon drag-installed affair, sporting an attractive icon, distributed in either an internet-enabled or meticulously decorated and arranged disk image. Even open source applications like Fire and multi-platform ports like Mozilla meet this standard on OS X. Heck, even Real gets it right. Real software...think about that!

[This] is an example of the best kind of peer pressure. There is simply a "climate of excellence" on the Mac platform. Any developer that does not live up to community standards is looked down upon, or even shunned. Commercial, open source, freeware, shareware, it doesn't matter: pay attention to detail, or else.

Gruber's version talks about security vulnerabilities instead of software design:

We all benefit from the fact that the Mac community has zero tolerance for vulnerabilities. Not just zero tolerance for security exploits, but zero tolerance for vulnerabilities. In fact, there is zero tolerance in the Mac community for crapware of any kind.

If some "freeware" software for the Mac surreptitiously installed some sort of adware/spyware/crapware, there'd be reports all over the Mac web within days. Uninstallation instructions would be posted (and thus made available to all via Google), and the developer who shipped the app would be excoriated.

Zero tolerance, on the part of the user community, is the only policy that can work.

It's similar to the "broken windows" theory of urban decay, which holds that if a single window is left unrepaired in a building, in fairly short order, the remaining windows in the building will be broken.

So: expect greatness, and don't tolerate crap. Most users of Windows and Linux don't expect a great user experience (not the kind we're talking about here, anyway), and do tolerate crap of various kinds. We still have un-great products on the Mac, and there is still crap, but the difference is that Mac users want, expect, and will work to make both go away.

This doesn't make people who use Windows or Linux dumb or ignorant, of course—it just means that their minds are on other things, whether just doing their work at the office or working with the technical guts of their operating system.


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