According to Jay Freeman, who runs the largest jailbreak app store Cydia, around 10% of all iPhones are jailbroken. In total, he says there are approximately 10 million jailbroken devices in the wild, including iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices.Jailbreaking, the act of hacking an Apple mobile device to allow for the installation of unapproved, third-party apps, is often seen as a niche activity undertaken by only a small subset of users. But the truth is, when you're dealing with Apple devices, even a small subset equates to a large number.
And now, this rapidly growing user base will have their very own conference: MyGreatFest, the world's first convention for the jailbreaking community.
Jaibreaking Goes Mainstream
Jailbreaking, once the domain of hackers and the tech elite, has rapidly become a force to be reckoned with. It attracts a much wider crowd these days, thanks to easy-to-use tools put out by both individual hackers and teams of hackers. Some, like the recently launched JailbreakMe.com, don't even involve software downloads. All a user has to do on with JailbreakMe.com is open its URL on their mobile device to begin the jailbreaking process.
The benefits to jailbreaking are plentiful. Although the activity has been associated with application piracy in the past, many jailbreakers simply want access to the apps that Apple rejected or wouldn't permit in the App Store. In the past, these have included things like mobile hotspot tools, themes, widgets, replacements or upgrades to core apps, changes to the device's default functionality and other such tweaks. But more importantly, jailbreakers have a sense of control over their devices, and a sense of ownership.
If there's something a device doesn't do that you wish it would, there's probably a jailbreak "app for that."
Even Apple itself seems to be warming up to the jailbreaking community of late. The company recently hired well-known jailbreak app developer Peter Hajas, whose "Mobile Notifier" app appears to have served as the inspiration for iOS 5's new notifications center. Does that mean the jailbreaking scene will now be the testing ground for new iOS features? Considering the wide range of innovations that emerge there, we hope so.
MyGreatFest: The First Ever Jailbreakers' Convention
For those who have watched the community from the sidelines, following well-known personalities like @saurik or @P0sixninja on Twitter, the new jailbreaking conference MyGreatFest will put them up close and personal with their favorite hacking idols. And for fellow hackers, who often jockey for position among their peers, as hackers tend to do, it will offer a venue where they can show off their skills, maybe even get into a coding grudge match in front of a live audience. Meanwhile, fans who really want to meet the hackers one-on-one will have the opportunity to buy tickets to a VIP area where they can "have lunch" with the developers, or just hang out and chat.
There will also be a series of presentations from big names in the jailbreaking community, where they will tackle subjects like the piracy problem, and whether or not DRM (digital rights management) should be included in the jailbreaking tools provided to mainstream users. In addition, the event will offer Q&A sessions, giveaways, vendor booths and everything else you would expect from a traditional conference.
First Official iOS 5 Jailbreak May be Revealed at MyGreatFest
And there may be one more big event at the upcoming show: the first official iOS 5 jailbreak, says MyGreatFest organizer Craig Fox. Although the beta of the OS has already been jailbroken, until the commercial release, there's no way to know if the exploits used will still be available when the new iPhone launches.
However, there's a good chance the next iPhone will arrive before the conference's start date of September 17th, 2011 in London. Fox says that if that's the case, it's very likely we'll see the new iPhone jailbroken right there at the event.
Interestingly enough, Fox (pictured, right) isn't a developer, hacker or event planner by trade - he's a carpenter. Cearly, a jailbreaking enthusiast, too. It's a testament to him that he's been able to pull this event off at all, much less attract the big-name developers as both speakers and attendees.
The London event is only the beginning, Fox tells us. By October, he will be ready to announce the dates of future events here in the U.S., as he plans to bring MyGreatFest to both coasts by 2013, starting sometime in spring 2012 with an event in the San Francisco Bay area.
In the meantime, despite the distance, the first jailbreakers' convention has attracted a wide audience of attendees. Tickets have have been sold all over Europe, North America and even India and Singapore. For those who can't make it, sessions will be both livestreamed and posted to YouTube.
The conference has a very grassroots feel, which is makes sense, given that jailbreaking itself is very much a grassroots movement. But now that jailbreaking has its own convention, Apple is stealing jailbreak app developers and the jailbreaking user base is numbering in the millions, this activity is rapidly losing its niche status in favor of mainstream success.
Still, that's not necessarily a bad thing, if you ask us.
For more info on the event, check out MyGreatFest.net.