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Agile Turns Labor of Necessity Into Best Seller

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jun 22, 2009 4:00 AM PT

When some PC users move to a Mac, they occasionally can't find an Apple analog for a bread-and-butter application they had in the Windows world. In those cases, most users learn to live without their cherished app. The folks at Agile Web Solutions, though, learned how to build a business on theirs.

Agile Turns Labor of Necessity Into Best Seller

Founded by Roustem Karimov and Dave Teare in 2005, Toronto-based Agile makes 1Password, a cross-browser password manager that's garnered more than a million users since its introduction in 2006.

"We were all Windows users," Agile Chief Evangelist Carl Slawinski told MacNewsWorld. "We had had this kind of functionality on the PC, but when we moved to Macs, there wasn't anything like that."

PC Misinformation

That surprised Slawinski, because it contradicted his experience when he moved from PC to Mac hardware.

"When I was on the PC side, I heard there were no applications for the Mac," he recalled.

"That's far from true," he continued. "When I switched, 1Password was one of the only applications that I didn't find a Mac equivalent for."

Since both Karimov and Teare were programmers -- they'd worked for Fortune 500 companies for years -- they decided to create a password manager for their own use on the Mac. That personal labor of love eventually became 1Password.

"It was born out of that," Slawinski said. "It started as a flake of snow and became a snowball and just got bigger and bigger and bigger."

Gaps in Mac Browsers

1Password has several features that are meant to address gaps in the functionality of password managers built into browsers.

In Safari, for instance, the form-fill feature left a lot to be desired, according to Slawinski. After saving information from his Windows password manager into Safari, only about 30 percent of form-fill data worked with the browser.

Of course, the biggest drawback of all was the very nature of browser-based password management.

"While some browser password managers are very good, they only work in that browser," Slawinski observed. "We wanted something that was cross-browser."

iPhone Challenges

In addition to the desktop program, there's a version of Agile that runs on the iPhone. One of the challenges of writing for that device is that apps by third-party developers aren't allowed to communicate with each other.

"On the iPhone, we couldn't integrate our 1Password Touch app directly into mobile Safari," Slawinski explained. "We used the Web browser functionality in the developer's kit to create a browser within the application.

"That's worked out pretty good," he continued. "The only problem is that it's not as robust as Apple's own mobile Safari. The tools they provide to us were not quite as good as their own tools."

Chinks in Sync

Synchronizing information between the mobile app and desktop software also challenged the Agile development team. That's because the cable used by the iPhone to sync with a computer can't be used by developers.

So, the Agile crew tapped into the iPhone's WiFi capabilities for its sync function. They did that by treating the iPhone as a client and its target computer as a host.

That arrangement birthed a bevy of problems, though, because it brought into play all kinds of firewall and security issues on the desktop.

"So, in version 2.0 we completely redesigned it so the iPhone is the host and the desktop is the client, and that eliminated all those problems," Slawinski said.

Raving Fans

Since its introduction, 1Password has gained a loyal following.

"I really like the program because it lets me manage all my passwords on my browsers without using the internal browser manager," Christina Warren, a writer for TUAW, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, told MacNewsWorld.

"One major benefit I have found using 1Password," added Steve Schreiber, an IT and multimedia specialist, "is that for every new form or password entry I put in, I update the password to be of complexity 'Excellent' or 'Fantastic,' resulting in a stronger overall security profile for my online activity."

More praise came from Mark Ayre, a senior regional support specialist for Re:Sources UK, who observed, "Although I support PC and Mac users, I myself have been migrating more to the Mac platform, and 1Password has helped me to do this due to its no-fuss browser integration."

Which type of cybersecurity threat concerns you the most?
Theft of my personal assets
A serious privacy invasion affecting me or a close family member
Reputation damage affecting my business
Child pornography, drug and weapon sales, and other Dark Web crimes
Activities that might compromise free and fair elections
A life-threatening attack on the nation's infrastructure