Earlier this month we brought you news of the HackStore, an app market designed to provide an alternative to the OS X App Store and its restrictions. Though the store was not live yet, creator Andrey Fedotov promised that it would be ready soon.
Well, "soon" appears to be "today." The HackStore went live this morning and is currently available for download from Hack-Store.com. Like the Mac App Store, the HackStore is a standalone app that provides access to a variety of Mac software. The difference, though, is that the HackStore is free of the kind of restrictions Apple places on the Mac App Store.
According to Fedotov, the HackStore was developed using Cydia (the jailbreak "app store"). Cydia provides a safe, centralized, but restriction-free marketplace for those who have jailbroken their iOS devices to find tweaks and apps for their devices. Fedotov's goal is the same. The HackStore is populated mainly with apps you won't see in the Mac App Store. Fedotov's goal is to provide Mac users with a piracy-free, malware-free, centralized marketplace for the kinds of apps that, for various reasons, Apple has decided aren't fit to go in the Mac App Store.
Of course, the lack of Apple oversight in the HackStore means that it does carry a bit of a caveat emptor factor: while Fedotov is determined to keep the HackStore free of harmful software like malware, that doesn't mean that all of the apps in the HackStore are of the best quality - or even work like they say they will. It also includes some apps that alter some of the basic functionality of OS X. For example, an app called Monolingual clears up space on your Mac's hard drive by removing all the OS X files for foreign languages - a move that can't be undone short of reinstalling the operating system.
All told, though, the HackStore represents a pretty important step in Mac software discovery. While the Mac App Store is great, there are many who are concerned that Apple is taking the Mac toward the same "walled garden" model that it employs for iOS: only apps that have been vetted and approved by Apple are allowed. The Gatekeeper feature on the forthcoming OS X Mountain Lion does little to allay such fears. The HackStore's purpose is to preserve user freedom by providing users an easy way to find and install software that, for whatever reason, Apple may decide not to let into the Mac App Store.
As mentioned above, the HackStore is available as a free download. Unfortunately the store's server is currently down, which means that although you can download the app itself, you can't actually access the store. Apparently, though, this is just a case of growing pains: Fedotov posted on the HackStore site that when the server went down there were 15,000 people using the store. Considering that this is the HackStore's first day, that's not too shabby.
Head on over to the HackStore's site and download the app. Once the server is back up and you can access the store, check it out and tell us what you think in the comments. In the meantime, here are some screenshots of the HackStore in action: