Vincent Ritter

The future of Gluon

It's been a few weeks since I have shipped an update to Gluon for iOS, with the Android version still waiting. If you have been following along development, you may have noticed that development has been a little slower than usual. However, that is not a bad thing. I was busy and making life choices last year. Not to mention taking on work with Manton and Micro.blog.

If you have been watching carefully, and perhaps listened to my last podcast episode, I have been very torn which direction to take with my projects.

There also seems some general confusion if Gluon is still in active development.

I don't like to keep secrets concerning my projects, so I'm just going to say it. Yes, I did want to stop developing Gluon and concentrate all my effort on Micro.blog itself. This kind of thinking was mainly because I wanted my time to count towards the greater good (Micro.blog) and also, in big part, that I want NO part in being bullied by a big corporation like Apple and their continued stupidity with App Store Review and draconian & communist terms. If you know the history of Gluon you know that I had problems with the review team for some time.

This decision was further challenged by working on the official Android app for Micro.blog. It's no secret, given time to rewrite Gluon, it would have been that rewrite that is now coming to the official Micro.blog app.

But the fact is that Gluon is, thankfully, popular. There is a real nice fanbase (thank you all!) and loosing it would be the wrong thing to do both for the awesome community and personally.

No, I did not loose interest at all, it was just a way to think how to best give back to the community.

I have kept open dialogue with Manton about this also and, given his post about Micro.blog using one shared codebase across our apps, this has brought me to my decision here.

What will happen

I will, for the next few weeks, continue working on the Micro.blog app. The thought process here is that I take the underlying code that I am writing, and spin it off to make Gluon as you know it.

This means I will have creative freedom to keep working on extras that we'll not see in the Micro.blog app, because the official app doesn't have to do everything. However, this also means I will be contributing back into our official app as I go. So it's a two way process really.

If you remember, I did promise a complete rewrite for the Apple folks using the latest and greatest Apple frameworks. I was on the fence about this... heck, I even started writing code... but the truth is, I have zero interest anymore. This is mainly Apple's fault that should all be familiar. And their documentation doesn't exist. It still all feels like an "exclusive" full of snobs (no offence of course!) club.

Personally, at this stage, I think it's going to be a waste of time if I went into dedicating time to yet another framework. I think two are enough and they do the job very nicely (Ruby/Rails, React/React Native).

I recognise the fact that React Native is not perfect, but nothing is. There is no such thing and it will never exist.

When I look at other companies like Shopify and Discourse, their apps are built for large scale... using... Ruby on Rails and React Native. So I am not the only person to think such thoughts. Heck, even Microsoft ships React Native apps for Windows and Mac (Teams and Skype is a good example).

The main problem is public perception to other frameworks. I think that is a PR problem caused by big tech on purpose. That also trickles down to developers. The reality distortion field. Everyone is entitled to their own views of course, and if they are swayed by popular public opinion (and not their own)... then so be it - I can't help that.

There is also the problem where a lot folks think that one app will look "Android" on iOS... or vice versa. If you look at Gluon today, this is not the case. Yes, you can create your own custom styles and components, but you should know me by now. Each OS has its own design language, so I'm sticking to it... with my own twist of course. That's a good balance.

Going forward

There will be a small window of no development to Gluon as I wrap up version 1 of the official Micro.blog app for Android. I am also going to be spending time on tweaking a few bits on the iOS version of this.

Once this is done, I will take this code and create a new version of Gluon.

Just so we are clear, the React Native iOS version will not be published any time soon for Micro.blog - it needs work and we need to catch up with what we have with the already published app.

At the moment I actually have two separate versions of Gluon for iOS and Android. I will again use just the one and merge them. This better aligns with my goals with Micro.blog and maintaining the official app.

There are many things I want to add, which I have put on hold last year to see where I wanted to take this.

What to expect

You should expect a period of nothing. Then you should expect a long period of betas. It will basically be a complete rewrite of Gluon and some things will not come back... or maybe they will.

Gluon is a free app, so taking away features is not really something I am worried about. As long as I add them at a later stage. This is actually a reason why I held off a little with any new features in the past few months. I needed to know where it's all headed.

As this will happen on both platforms, I am hoping they will both ship with updates at nearly identical times.

So basically business as it was... with the occasional blog post of course.

However, this all could hang in the air and go south...

What will not/may happen

The above is my plan for now, to keep going, whilst making sure I dedicate time for Micro.blog and also showcasing what you can do as a third-party developer (by building Gluon).

Now please keep in mind that Gluon is a personal project. It does not affect Micro.blog. This is purely personal. Knowing this, now comes the hard truth.

If I am faced by continued abuse from Apple's, or Google's, app store review teams and terms, I will immediately stop spending time on the app.

I will not put up with abuse, stupidity and "safetysim". There is a line and I will not cross it. I will not kneel down to the gatekeepers.

I may keep the app available via the test channels for some period until Apple remove them or until I stop updating them.

However, I am watching this space. I don't want to expect problems, but I am watching how they treat developers in the course of this year.

Gluon will not offer in-app purchases until there is such a time where developers are no longer held hostage to what can be done and how. I will not put up with it otherwise.

If there is regulation to allow apps to be installed outside of the Apple App Store, just like you do on your laptop, I will immediately pull Gluon from the app store and make it available directly. Of course I expect a billion warnings as you go and install an app from outside the app store... just like Android does... but I don't care - that is not my decision to be stupid about it - only Apple's. If they want to push "safetyism"... it's their stupidity and not mine.

If Apple continue to be like they are today, and with the worst outcome above, I will of course just fully dedicate my attention to Micro.blog - I'd rather spend time on the platform that matters to me. So not all is lost (only Gluon).

To wrap it up

So let's wrap this up. I have made a decision, and this is my plan for Gluon.

More info as I work on it...

For now though, I'm dedicating time on Micro.blog. This is time well spent and very rewarding.

✌️❤️

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