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Getting Lost in a Blizzard of Open

Earlier in the year Blizzard (makers of World of Warcraft) released public API's to interact with some of their data. While grinding through the Firelands (for the millionth time) an app idea struck me. Generally, I try to make apps that I would want to use, not ones I think would make me the most cash. That's probably why I don't make much cash from them, but I digress.

My app makes use of various API's from Blizzard and a few weeks after I started working Blizzard handed down some rather...strange restriction and guidelines. Several weird items in there, but the most surprising was:

"Premium" versions of applications offering additional for-pay features are not permitted, nor can players be charged money to download an application, charged for services related to the application, or otherwise be required to offer some form of monetary compensation to download or access an application when those features use the API. Applications may not include interstitials soliciting donations before features or functionality becomes available to the player.


The programming code of an application must in no way be hidden or obfuscated, and must be freely accessible to and viewable by the general public.

The theory being that if they force everyone that uses their API's to make their apps free and open it'll foster all this wonderful cooperation and the world will be sunshine and puppy dogs.

I feel strongly that the opposite is true. If you force someone to give away what they work on, you'll only get hobbyists and tinkers to make anything for you. Serious artists can't afford to spend hundreds of hours on something they are going to give away. Fortunately after a day of constant communication with Blizzard I (and others such as the excellent Ask Mr. Robot) were able to work something out so everyone is relatively happy.

People have this notion that free and open always produces the best software. While that may sound like it's true, in practice that's rarely the case. You want the best, you get a professional, and professionals get paid.