The Open Alternative to Apple’s Mac App Store: Bodega

| Product News

We all know about Apple’s Mac App Store, built into Snow Leopard and Lion. But for apps to be in the MAS, they have to meet very strict requirements that can severely limit an app’s functionality. Long before the MAS, there was Bodega, open to any OS X app, and it continues to thrive. TMO interviewed Bodega’s Director, Rob Piche, to find out more.

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BodegaBodega is an app store, itself an app, that has been easy to overlook amidst all the recent fuss about sandboxing and the Mac App Store (MAS). For example, apps that provide services that expire, install code or resources in shared locations, require license keys, or request an escalation to root privileges will all be rejected by Apple.

If you haven’t heard of sandboxing before, here is a great introductory article.

Because of those restrictions, many excellent apps or software tools that we have become accustomed to over the years are not eligible for the MAS. Developers have either had to rewrite the app in a major way or continue to sell it on their own website, forcing customers to find them in the vast Internet. In contrast, Apple’s MAS provides a handy watering hole, built into the OS, where many inexperienced users look first, and so it’s a desirable place for a developer to appear.

Bodega’s Launch

The Bodega app and store launched well before Apple’s Mac App Store, on March 23, 2010. There was a beta period before that. (Apple’s MAS launched in January 2011.) Bodega is not only a unified storefront for OS X apps, but has far fewer restrictions. Over a thousand developers have submitted their apps to Bodega.

Background

Bodega was founded by Rick Fillion, Phil Letourneau and Chris Dandeneau. They saw a need for a unified OS X store, and no one else had tackled that task in a big way. Developers said they supported the idea and promised to sign up if Bodega were built.

The basic premise is that Bodega is a portal to the developer’s website. Developers are able to create and maintain a direct relationship with the customer. For example, the developer decides if there is a trial version and how the upgrade works — a free or paid update. To date, there have been over 500,000 unique installations of the Bodega app and multiple times that amount in actual software downloads and installs.

With the growing popularity of the Mac, it was an idea whose time had come.

App Screening

Unlike the Apple MAS, there are far fewer restrictions on the offerings in Bodega. However, Bodega does check every app that’s submitted. The staff checks the app to make sure it installs properly and does what it says it does. Apps can be free or have a price. “So long as the app doesn’t violate any copyrights or contain vulgarity, it’s welcome in Bodega,” Mr. Piche said.

Bodega

However, there is one important consideration looming. In Apple’s future OS X 10.8, Mountain Lion, a new security measure, called Gatekeeper, will, by default, check to make sure that an app has an Apple digital certificate. This certificate is supplied by Apple, but applied to the app by the developer, and it ensures that the app has been built by a registered Apple developer.

While the Mountain Lion user could change the Gatekeeper setting to allow unsigned apps, it’s expected that most users probably won’t adjust that default setting. As a result, all developers who submit apps to Bodega will be highly motivated to modify their apps so that they are digitally signed. That hasn’t applied in the past, and it will have the effect of weeding out certain apps. That’s because, if an app has been found to be malicious, Apple can remotely revoke the certificate, and the app will no longer run in Mountain Lion.

Another check and balance is that Bodega customers have a place where they can share information with others about the applications they’ve downloaded.

The Business Model

As mentioned above, Bodega serves as a portal to introduce the customer to the app. Once an app is installed, the Bodega app (itself signed and ready for Mountain Lion) keeps track of required updates for apps in the Bodega catalog. It will even alert you if the app isn’t in Bodega but does have Sparkle integrated. (Sparkle is a framework that developers can use to assist in the updating of their software.)

While developers are not charged upfront to place their apps in Bodega, they are charged a percentage of the payment when the developer uses an affiliate for payment processing. Otherwise, Bodega takes a fee that’s “about a third of what Apple charges,” Mr. Piche said.

A nice feature of Bodega is that it saves a receipt for each application purchased. That creates a handy, one-stop location for registration numbers — you won’t have to search your emails for registration information.

Bodega

The Future

So far, Bodega’s founders are happy with the growth of their app catalog and the many new users. In fact, after Apple launched its own Mac App Store, Bodega’s own customers increased as a result.

Developers appreciate Bodega because it’s a unified place for customer discovery. Customers can try before they buy, and apps don’t have to be sandboxed.

There will always be a need for certain OS X apps that provide specialized features and just don’t meet the restrictive requirements for Apple’s Mac App Store. The team at Bodega is helping to fill that important gap.

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Comments

ilikeimac

I installed Bodega a year or so ago simply because I heard it would update lots of software I already had installed. Although I’ve yet to buy anything from it, it has faithfully popped up once a week to let me know about updates to software I have installed. I prefer this to the “every app updates itself right when you launch it” paradigm since I get to deal with several updates at once.

LeftCoastBlue

I’ve had good experience with Bodega. I only wish that it were able to distinguish between free updates and paid updates so that it could split the listing.  I’d also like it to let me designate some applications for which I don’t want updates or notifications. In some cases, new versions are worse than old ones (e.g. Adobe Reader X vs Adobe Reader 9.x), and I have no desire to install the new one.

iJack

Wait a minute!  Didn’t we see the same article a couple of weeks ago?  I know we did, because I left a comment.

What gives?

John Martellaro

This article is new.

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