Hackulous is dead, and that's a good thing

By Nathaniel Mott , written on December 31, 2012

From The News Desk

People must really hate paying for software. Following this morning's announcement that Hackulous has shut down its popular iOS piracy app, Installous, users have unleashed their fury and spewed bile typically reserved for YouTube comments. Why? Because they won't be able to pirate iOS apps as easily as before.

Some have expressed excitement over the changes, saying that it will push former pirates to pay for developers' work or that it may remove some of the stigma associated with jailbreaking (modifying iOS and removing Apple-imposed restrictions from the operating system). Others aren't pleased with the change, saying that it removes the "try before you buy" option from their phones, meaning they might have to – gasp! – buy an application instead of using it for free.

The desire to try something before purchase is natural. Ice cream shops offer free samples, as do food vendors or department stores. Hell, many desktop and even enterprise applications offer trial periods that allow users to gauge an application's worth before paying out. Free trials keep users happy, allow developers to prove that their software is as good as they say it is, and ensure that a purchase is made via an informed decision instead of a few screenshots and a short description.

With some desktop applications costing hundreds of dollars (lookin' at you, Adobe Creative Suite) free trials make sense. But on iOS, where many apps cost 99 cents and few pass the $20 mark, a "wasted" download is like losing a dollar to a vending machine. Is it frustrating? Sure. But is it the end of the world? Depending on how much you wanted that Snickers, probably not.

But the thing about free trials is that they're under the control of whoever is selling the product. Some iOS developers decide to release "lite" versions of their software to offer a taste of what the "full" version brings. Some don't. That's ultimately their decision, and "trying" something against their wishes isn't a harmless act. It's theft.

Take a look at ice cream shops, for example. Most visitors are able to test a new flavor and decide if it's worth purchasing. But it's hard to imagine these same people bringing their own spoon to the store, reaching over the counter, and dipping into the ice cream on their own. It's even harder to imagine the owner being okay with this.

And let's be honest: It's unlikely that most Installous users were simply "trying" apps in the first place. They didn't simply dip their spoon into the jug. They went back, grabbed a bowl, added a few toppings, and then walked out of the shop. Then, once confronted about what they did, they complained that they can't afford ice cream but they really, really wanted a snack.

Since when is it okay to steal something simply because you can't afford it, especially when the thing being stolen isn't absolutely necessary? Nobody has ever died because they couldn't afford the new "Angry Birds" game – its theft is greed, pure and simple.

So yes, some users will be upset that Installous is no longer working. But if it means that even a few more people start paying for applications and rewarding developers for the time and effort it took to create an app, Installous' death is good for the iOS ecosystem.