What I think Apple stopping development of Aperture means

A few hours ago Apple announced that it would stop development of Aperture (and iPhoto) in favour of the new Photos app they introduced at WWDC earlier this month.

This is what Apple said:

With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture,” said Apple in a statement provided to The Loop. “When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS X.

Apple also said there will be at least one final update to Aperture to make it fully compatible with Mac OS X Yosemite, so at the very least we have a little over a year before we have to find an alternative.

As you might expect, I’m a bit torn about this news. Not too long ago, I was hopeful when I wrote my thoughts and wish list for the next version of Aperture. Then, after the WWDC Keynote, I wasn’t so sure and I wrote:

After seeing what they showed developers outside of the keynote, I don't think Aperture is dead. OK, maybe the Aperture we know and love is, but what comes after could be even better. I have no idea what it is, maybe a pro version of the Photos app, maybe it is Aperture 4, maybe something else. As long as it maintains backwards compatibility and doesn't loose any of the asset management power Aperture has, I think it could be good.

Clearly the upcoming Photos app is not Aperture 4.

But I do believe it will be pretty slick. If it does maintain backwards compatibility, then it just might be the evolution of a photography application. Scratch that, it might be the evolution of a photography ecosystem where a single applcation is no longer the right approach.

According to The Verge, Photos will be backwards compatible:

The company also confirmed that when users transition to the new Photos for OS X app, all their albums, folders, keywords and captions will be preserved. Apple also noted that any edits applied to photos will be retained non-destructively, so hopefully the transition won't be too difficult.

The truth is that I have no idea what’s coming. I can only speculate. But think of the history of Aperture and why it exists in the first place. When Apple introduced it, there was nothing like it. We used to manage our photographs in folders on hard drives and maybe used Adobe Bridge to bring some sense to them other than the one dimensional hierarchy the Finder allowed. There were no albums and metadata was limited. And any adjustment we wanted to make needed a destructive trip to Photoshop or similar.

Apple realised this was a problem that needed a solution and they built one. Then Adobe quickly jumped on the train with Lightroom. Today, if you have a sizeable library, you’d be insane to manage you photographs the “old way”.

Fast forward almost 10 years. Today we have multiple devices and we’re used to them being in sync, the cloud is a thing, we take a lot of photos with our iPhones.

Frankly, it’s a mess again.

It makes sense that Apple knows this and is coming up with a solution. In doing so, some things necessarily have to be left behind.

After all, this is the company that decided floppy disks and DVD drives were obsolete before any of us wanted them to be. The one that decided Ethernet and Firewire ports were no longer needed. The one that introduced a brand new product (iPhone) knowing it would canibalise a very profitable product (iPod). The one that decided video editing needed a complete reinvention. Every time, they didn’t look back.

My guess (hope) is that this is what’s happening with digital photography.

To be honest, managing the photos I take with my iPhone has been a headache. Getting them into Aperture is a pain. Photo stream works, but it messes with keywords and I have to manually reorganise them. If I don’t do it often enough I miss some photos and who knows which ones I missed. My Aperture library is so big that it doesn’t fit in my MacBook Pro, so I’ve had to split it in two and merge then regularly. My main library is still in a separate hard drive. It’s not fun and every time I'm dealing with this I think there has to be a better way.

Maybe the new Photos approach is the solution.

So what am I planning to do?

For now, I’ll stick with Aperture until I see what the new Photos is all about. I may eventually end up moving to Lightroom if I’m wrong, but I’m not going to rush into it or make any rash decisions.

UPDATE: Joseph Linaschke at ApertureExpert.com wrote a great article with similar thoughts. He did a much better job at it than I did. Go check it out.