OS X Leopard mauls Little Snitch

Leopard Firewall Prefpane

Check it out. Looks like Apple’s at it again, this time ripping off independent Mac developer Obdev and their excellent Little Snitch firewall app in Leopard, Apple’s next version of its OS X operating system.

I mean, does it get any more blatant than this? Even over-simplification can’t save you from the fact that you’re clearly pushing out derivative work without crediting sources

With Coverflow, hey, you guys did the right thing. You bought all the IP and, if I’m not mistaken, gave the guy a job. I don’t know the full story here, but if Obdev contributed to your thinking here, a little hat tip seems apropos.

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: Molly.com (YC W18), Uber, Google.

22 thoughts on “OS X Leopard mauls Little Snitch”

  1. Personally, I don’t think this rips off little snitch (I’m going off the screenshot only). It looks like a pretty standard firewall gui to me. From memory, Little snitch monitors outgoing connections which this doesn’t by the looks of it. If you look at the existing firewall panel in 10.4 you’ll see that this is really just a small extension of what’s already there.

  2. I’m sorry, but this looks like half the firewall GUI’s I’ve ever come across, on any operating system.

    Little Snitch does it with a typical OSX look-and-feel, so it stands to reason that anything Apple would come up with would look like, well, like it looks now. What’s Apple supposed to do, make it round and purple?

    It’s like complaining about somebody ripping off the shape of a wheel…

  3. Hmm. Ok, that’s a fair point — I think my complaint here is a common one — that Apple could do more to help out independent developers when they make directly competitive products that oftentimes appear derivative (perhaps that’s because those indies came up with the best implementation on their own).

    I mean, competition is competition — and Apple has every right to build what they like… it’s just disheartening at times when clearly their success depends on the toil of the little guys and sometimes they make it seem like it’s not worth bothering to try to run a for-profit business doing anything useful that might eventually get sucked up into OSX proper.

    But, I could be wrong.

  4. 1. Leopard’s firewall UI really does look just like any other firewall UI in the world: a table listing types of connections and how to handle them. It’s not necessary to rip off independent developers to get this idea. So I don’t think that you can say “clearly their success depends on the toil of the little guys”. Maybe you’re thinking of some other examples that aren’t coming to mind for me.

    2. Little Snitch has been out for years; Objective Development and Mac users have benefited from it a lot. And Obdev has other popular products (namely LaunchBar) to sell even if Apple incorporated enough features into the OS to make Little Snitch unnecessary anymore (which it isn’t). So it certainly doesn’t seem to me that it’s “not worth bothering to try” making Mac utilities.

  5. Don’t forget the “competition” (Windows XP and Vista) both have built in firewall, so it’s only logical that Apple will implement it in OSX. Not so much a nod to “me-to-isms”, but more a nod to commonsense when it really is a needed piece of software these days from a security viewpoint.

  6. Well, I personally feel a lot of these apps such as AppZapper (don’t see this happening), virtual desktops, and *secure* password and data managers should come standard on Macs. Also, I see a lot of open source software that Apple could expand upon such as OpenOffice or NeoOffice, why not have iOffice (bad name) instead of having to buy a Microsoft Office. I hate the fact that that I’ve tried and tried to stray from MS, but I keep opening up Word even though I have AbiWord installed already.

  7. Like Andrew said, isn’t this just showing incoming connections? It doesn’t show anything about outgoing, which is what Little Snitch monitors.

  8. Hmm. In the screenshot, yes… but I do believe that there was another shot that showed something more like Little Snitch’s UI:

  9. Still though, it doesn’t look like it’s monitoring ‘out-going’ connections for phoning home programs/trojans, etc. which is what Little Snitch is all about.

  10. Yup, this is a firewall (keeps out unwanted incoming connections), whereas Little Snitch monitors outgoing connections.

    In the screenshot above, a node (server, user, etc.) wants to connect to iTunes – in Little Snitch, however, you get the opposite: for instance, you get a warning if iTunes wants to connect to the Music Store if you haven’t allowed that.

    IMHO people who don’t know what little snitch does shouldn’t be using it 😛 it’s not a firewall.

  11. Hmm. Good point. Well, I do usually know what Little Snitch does — I was only arguing the principle. Heh.

    But yes, you’re right, they face traffic in opposite directions. My bad!

  12. Just two quick things…

    First, someone up there mentions that it’s only right for OS X to implement a firewall because, after all, Windows XP and Vista do.

    Forgive my “remactionary” tendencies on such comments, but OS X has had a firewall for a lonnnnnnng time. And, arguably, a much better one than Windows ever did. There too, Redmond has played catch-up, if anything.

    As for Leopard and Little Snitch… well, it’s pretty clear Little Snitch is well loved… but the function it serves isn’t exactly one that’s entirely non-intuitive. That is — even if Leopard’s firewall does block outgoing connections as well — is that really a stolen concept?

    It’s a little like saying it’s not fair to put wings on planes if you’re not a blood relative of the Wright Brothers, don’t you think? There have been more blatant rip-offs in history. This isn’t one of them.

  13. @John F.: I suppose that you’re more or less right that this isn’t exactly a huge rip off… not like Dashboard Widgets were to Confabulator. Still, Apple did the right thing when it came to Coverflow and bought it from the developer — I guess the same thing isn’t exactly necessary, but it does feel like Apple cannibalizes its own a bit too readily.

  14. I Think you’re still going to need Little Snitch. For starters, there’s NO place to configure what programs to permit/deny OUTBOUND connections for. In Preference Pane: SecurityFirewall there’s CLEARLY NO WAY TO CONFIGURE OR LIMIT OUTBOUND CONNECTIONS

  15. Snitch will have to be adapted quite a bit, I think. the betas of 10.5 route all outgoing traffic through the kernel task, making things a bit inscrutable.

  16. Uhm… nah. It’s not a rip-off of Little Snitch. Also, with the Leopard FireWall, you’re blocking incoming calls to your applications where as Little Snitch will BLOCK any App that wants to make an OUTBOUND call to Home base… ie Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, etc.

    Conspiracy Theory paranoia, only gets worse with age… so, best to just nip in the bud. (=

  17. Little Snitch looks similar to Firewalk, which looks similar to in/out firewall UIs.

  18. Well done for completely not understanding the difference between incoming and outgoing connections!

  19. Little Snitch is a *reverse* firewall, blocking outbound traffic. Apple’s firewall in Leopard blocks *inbound* traffic. The two do not fill the same role.

  20. Apple isn’t ripping off Little Snitch. OSX 10.0 shipped with a working Firewall. It pretty much looked and worked like the current one. Further, a Firewall blocks incoming traffic. Little Snitch blocks out going traffic. Finally, Apple didn’t rip off Konfabulator. Mac OS System 7 had the same functionality.

    Apple didn’t rip off Watson either. Sherlock came out first. Watson build on the idea, which is always risky when you know a developer eventually is going to update its software. Apple did by incorporating many of the features Watson did.

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