iOS 7 jailbreaking: Do it for love, not money

An effort to crowdsource incentives for jailbreak developers may destroy the virtues behind the 'open iPhone' philosophy

It's been nearly three months since iOS 7's debut, yet there's no jailbreak available to let it run apps from outside Apple's App Store. It's also not clear when iOS 7 will get a formal jailbreak, as previous versions have. Perhaps frustrated by that delay, a group of folks have tried to crowdsource an incentives payment for the first open source (not simply the first) iOS 7 jailbreak that meets a set of prescribed conditions.

That effort hasn't done so well; in its first day, total contributions remain under $2,000. In addition, the notion of a financial incentive troubles Jay Freeman, the man (known as Saurik) behind the Cydia app store that is the best-known source of jailbreak apps for iOS.

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"I've seen bounty programs in the world of Android devices, and they create a much more mercenary-like 'maybe if you pay me enough I'll get around to it' on the side of the jailbreak developers, and 'I put up good money for this, you took my bounty, now maintain your tool' on the side of users. This leads to really bitter and demotivating arguments," Freeman tells me.

Freeman contrasts that with the force behind iOS jailbreaking: "Jailbreaking has been about people scratching itches and open devices." In other words, it's about the intrinsic virtues of technical exploration and open systems. He notes that those who provide jailbreak tools get compensated by users, usually via after-the-fact donations that are more thank yous than incentives. Furthermore, those who get such accolades may not have even created a jailbreak but instead made it easy to use or otherwise more valuable -- which encourages the use of jailbreaking.

By the way, jailbreaking is perfectly legal in the United States, per the feds' decision a couple years back. Apple strongly dislikes the practice and makes it techically hard to do. However, the feds don't require Apple or any other vendor to enable jailbreaking; rather, they say it can't be legally prevented.

Apple's antijailbreaking efforts are why we haven't yet spotted an iOS 7 jailbreak, despite what you may have seen on the Web, where search engines happily serve up phishing sites pretending to offer jailbreaks.

Freeman notes that the exploits needed to jailbreak an iPhone 4 running iOS 7 are already known, but no one has made a tool to deploy them with the right kernel patches. As for more recent iPhone models, the secrets to getting around Apple's antijailbreaking methods have yet to be cracked. Only then could an established, trusted jailbreak provider like redsn0w or evad3rs jailbreak iOS 7 as they have earlier iOS versions. I recommend you wait for one of them to provide a trustworthy iOS 7 jailbreak tool.

In the meantime, you have to ask a few questions: Do you really need a jailbroken iPhone, given all the apps and cloud services available for it? For the vast majority of people, the answer is clearly no. For those who want to make a technopolitical statement via jailbreaking, the question becomes whether you want to support mercenary approaches to jailbreaking or virtuous ones.

I have no doubt that those pushing the open source jailbreak incentives effort believe their path is virtuous, but I tend to agree with Freeman. Though this particular road to jailbreaking is paved with good intentions, the journey will likely descend into a less enlightened place.

This article, "iOS 7 jailbreaking: Do it for love, not money," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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