Wednesday, 25 May 2016
Jason Willick, writing for The American Interest in defense of Peter Thiel:
It’s also not clear what policy response Gawker’s outraged
defenders would recommend. Put caps on the amount of money people
can contribute to legal efforts they sympathize with? That would
put the ACLU and any number of advocacy groups out of business. It
would also represent a far greater threat to free expression than
a court-imposed legal liability for the non-consensual publication
of what is essentially revenge porn. If Marshall and others are
worried about the superrich harassing critics with genuinely
frivolous lawsuits — as, yes, authoritarian characters like
Donald Trump have attempted to do — they would have more success
backing tort reform measures to limit litigiousness overall than
attacking Thiel for contributing to a legitimate cause he has good
reason to support.
Willick’s argument is that Thiel’s bankrolling of Hogan’s case against Gawker is within the bounds of free speech. I don’t disagree. My counter to Willick, though, is that it’s possible to be outraged and/or alarmed by Thiel’s behavior without proposing any sort of new legislative barrier to prevent this sort of thing.
Fortunately, this debate does not needs to be resolved, because
our First Amendment protects the speech rights of everyone,
regardless of where they reside on the left-wing privilege totem
poll. And that means Peter Thiel’s right to back Hogan’s cause is
not and should not be in dispute, no matter how much
Gawker-sympathizers hand-wave about how the wealthy contrarian is
ushering in a totalitarian oligarchy.
It’s free speech on both sides. Thiel was free to secretly back (and apparently strategically steer) Hogan’s case against Gawker. But Gawker founder Nick Denton was free to air his suspicion that Hogan had a billionaire Silicon Valley backer, and Forbes was free to out Thiel as said backer. And now commentators who are appalled are free to express their outrage at Thiel, perhaps embarrassing him and making it less likely that he or others of similar super-wealth will do this in the future. Willick’s defense of Thiel strikes me as being of a piece with the view that the super rich are an aggrieved, rather than privileged, class.
I, for one, don’t dispute Peter Thiel’s right to back Hogan’s case. I simply think he’s an asshole for doing it, and a coward for having attempted to do it in secret. ★
Andrew Ross Sorkin Interviews Peter Thiel ★
Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times scored Thiel’s first interview regarding Thiel’s heretofore secret funding Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker (to the tune of around $10 million). The problems start with the headline: “Peter Thiel, Tech Billionaire, Reveals Secret War With Gawker”. Thiel did not reveal it — Forbes did. If it were up to Thiel this would still be secret. The fact that Thiel waged his “war” secretly is a key aspect of this story that should not be brushed over.
“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” he
said in his first interview since his identity was revealed. “I
saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting
attention by bullying people even when there was no connection
with the public interest.”
Mr. Thiel said he considered his financial backing of the cases
against Gawker to be “one of my greater philanthropic things that
I’ve done. I think of it in those terms.” He refused to divulge
exactly what other cases against he has funded but said, “It’s
safe to say this is not the only one.”
Philanthropy. Got it.
Update: It’s possible that Thiel himself was the source for Forbes’s story revealing his role. I didn’t see that angle, but if so, and Sorkin’s aware of it, “reveals” works in the headline. But none of Thiel’s public remarks supports that.
Elizabeth Spiers on Gawker and Peter Thiel ★
On the one hand, you have to admire Thiel’s sheer and apparently
unending determination to make Denton and Gawker pay for coverage
he didn’t like — it’s Olympic level grudge-holding. But the
retribution is incredibly disproportionate in a way that seems
almost unhinged. It would be hard to argue that Thiel was
materially damaged by Gawker’s coverage in the way that he’s now
trying to damage Gawker. His personal finances haven’t been
destroyed and even the most egregious things Gawker has written
haven’t put literally everyone who works for Thiel out of a job.
(What did Lifehacker ever do to Peter Thiel?) And given his hard
libertarian tendencies, it should at least make him uncomfortable
in a very prickly way to utilize government bureaucracy to put a
capitalistic enterprise out of business.
Even if Thiel wants to argue that Owen Thomas’s 2007 notorious
“Peter Thiel is Totally Gay, People” post had a cataclysmically
negative emotional toll for him, trying to destroy the entire
business via abuse of the U.S. legal system still seems so epic in
its vindictiveness that I couldn’t help but wonder whether this
kind of asymmetrical reaction is just part and parcel of what you
can expect in Thiel’s orbit generally, if you choose to do
business with him.
Adobe on QuickTime on Windows ★
There is some irony to the fact that Adobe is wrestling with the problems caused by security vulnerabilities in an Apple plugin.
‘Oldie Complains About the Old Old Ways’ ★
So, again, I’m documenting the problems currently solved by
Objective-C’s dynamism, and suggesting that Swift, as it evolves,
needs to take these problems into account. The foundation should
be built with some idea of what the upper floors will look like.
The answer doesn’t have to be that Swift is dynamic in the way
Objective-C is, or even dynamic at all. But the eventual Swift app
frameworks need to solve these problems as well as — hopefully
better than — UIKit and AppKit do right now. And those solutions
start with the language.
I love Brent’s open-minded approach to this debate. One thing I’ve seen some “I’ve switched to Swift and don’t miss the dynamic aspects of Objective-C” proponents seemingly overlook is that today’s Swift apps for iOS and Mac rely (deeply) upon the dynamic Objective-C runtime and frameworks. There’s no such thing as a pure-Swift app on iOS or Mac today — they’re apps written in Swift on top of dynamic frameworks.
Everything Is a Remix: The Force Awakens ★
Kirby Ferguson on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Great stuff, as usual.
Josh Marshall on Peter Thiel’s Bankrolling of Hulk Hogan’s Lawsuit Against Gawker ★
Josh Marshall, writing at TPM:
It all comes down to a simple point. You may not like Gawker.
They’ve published stories I would have been ashamed to
publish. But if the extremely wealthy, under a veil secrecy, can
destroy publications they want to silence, that’s a far bigger
threat to freedom of the press than most of the things we commonly
worry about on that front. If this is the new weapon in the
arsenal of the super rich, few publications will have the
resources or the death wish to scrutinize them closely.
Brian Roemmele on VocalIQ and the Self Learning Technology in the Next-Gen Siri ★
It is not a secret that Siri has not kept up the pace that just
about all of us expected, including some of the Siri team. The
passion that Steve had seemed to have been waning deep inside of
Apple and the results were Dag and Adam Cheyer moved on and formed
Five Six Labs (V IV in Roman numerals) and Viv.
(VI and V are 6 and 5 in Roman numerals. IV is 4. So “Viv” could come from V-IV (5-4) or VI-V (6-5). This image from their website suggests “Viv” comes from 6-5. Anyway, Roman numerals suck. Update: The article now reads “formed Six Five Labs”, but still has the Roman numerals wrong.)
Tom Gruber, one of the original team members and the chief
scientist that created Siri technology, stayed on and continued
his work. During most of 2016 and 2017 we will begin to see the
results of this work. I call it Siri2 and am very certain Apple
will call it something else.
(No relation, for what it’s worth.)
Apple has always been a vital mix of internally created technology
and acquired technology. From iTunes to TouchID Apple has been
spectacular in identifying young and smart companies and
integrating them into the very core of Apple.
Late in 2015 Apple approached a small Cambridge, England Voice
AI company called VocalIQ and made a pitch to Blaise Thomson
that he could not refuse. As a University of Cambridge spin out,
VocalIQ had already been around for about 2 years and I had
become very familiar with their amazing technology. VocalIQ
built astounding technology that no doubt you and I will use
every day, some day soon.
Via Nick Heer (whose excellent Pixel Envy should be on your daily reads list), who writes:
So, who’s excited for WWDC?
Forbes: Peter Thiel Has Been Secretly Funding Hulk Hogan’s Lawsuit Against Gawker ★
Ryan Mac and Matt Drange, reporting for Forbes (sorry for linking to Forbes — I think this is the first time I’ve done so since they started attempting to block visitors using content blockers — but this is their scoop):
Peter Thiel, a PayPal cofounder and one of the earliest backers of
Facebook, has been secretly covering the expenses for
Hulk Hogan’s lawsuits against online news organization Gawker
Media. According to people familiar with the situation who agreed
to speak on condition of anonymity, Thiel, a cofounder and partner
at Founders Fund, has played a lead role in bankrolling the cases
Terry Bollea, a.k.a. Hogan, brought against New York-based Gawker.
Hogan is being represented by Charles Harder, a prominent Los
Angeles-based lawyer. […]
Money may not have been the main motivation in the first place.
Thiel, who is gay, has made no secret of his distaste for Gawker,
which attempted to out him in late 2007 before he was open about
his sexuality. In 2009, Thiel told PEHub that now-defunct Silicon
Valley-focused publication Valleywag, which was owned by Gawker,
had the “psychology of a terrorist.”
“Valleywag is the Silicon Valley equivalent of Al Qaeda,” Thiel
said at the time.
A storyline right out of pro wrestling.
(Interesting perhaps only to me: I already had tags in my CMS for “Gawker” and “Hulk Hogan”, but not for “Peter Thiel”. Apparently this September 2014 post was the only time I’ve even mentioned Peter Thiel on Daring Fireball.)
‘Scotch Trooper’ ★
Very fun Instagram account.
The Information: Apple Developing Siri API and Echo-Like Device ★
Amir Efrati, writing for The Information (paywall, alas):
Apple is upping its game in the field of intelligent assistants.
After years of internal debate and discussion about how to do so,
the company is preparing to open up Siri to apps made by others.
And it is working on an Amazon Echo-like device with a speaker and
microphone that people can use to turn on music, get news
headlines or set a timer.
Opening up its Siri voice assistant to outside app developers is
the more immediate step. Apple is preparing to release a software
developer kit, or SDK, for app developers who want their apps to
be accessible through Siri, according to a person with direct
knowledge of the effort. […]
Apple hopes to make the Siri SDK available in time for its annual
conference for developers in June.
Will be interesting to see how this API works. Will the Siri extensions be packaged within existing iOS (and Mac?) apps? As for the Echo competitor — I hope they call it the Hi-Fi.
Hazel 4.0 ★
Speaking of Paul Kim, he just released version 4.0 of his excellent Mac utility, Hazel. If you’ve wanted an app to automatically clean up the files on your desktop and Downloads folder, that’s Hazel. Hazel does a lot more than that, but that’s the basic gist. You set up the rules you want and it just works. (If you want to know just how much more Hazel offers, David Sparks just released a two-and-a-half hour Hazel Video Field Guide that will teach you just about everything.)
Michael Tsai’s Dynamic Swift Roundup ★
One more item regarding Swift and dynamism — Michael Tsai’s excellent roundup of links on the subject, including this Hacker News thread.
On Dynamism ★
One thing many people seem to overlook about the dynamism of
Objective-C is that it enabled NeXT (and Apple) to provide better
GUI tools. Using dynamism, they were able to make GUI building
declarative in nature. Connect this to that. Call this method. All
stored in a file that was (and still is) data, not code.
Competitors at the time (and today) resorted to code generation
which is fragile and, ironically, unsafe. Yes, you could have a
more declarative file format, but implementing that in using a
static language required a lot of hard-coding and switch
statements. Not the elegance that many people claim to be moving
I’m not saying that a language has to be purely dynamic but it
shouldn’t be purely static either. It think it’s spurious not to
credit a level of dynamism for the quality of apps on Apple
platforms over the years, and to be pedantic, the NeXT ones as
well — many of which were considered the best on any platform at
the time. To deny that, I feel, shows a lack of understanding of
what has made the platform great all these years.
Objective-C is a very dynamic language. Swift (for now at least) is not. There are arguments on both sides, and I find the whole thing fascinating. But what I’ve noticed is that those arguing most strenuously against dynamism (or if you prefer, in favor of Swift’s relatively strict type safety) are doing so in the name of idealism. That rigorous type safety is correct almost in a moral sense (or, if you prefer, that the sort of bugs you can write with Objective-C’s dynamic features are immoral, that a modern language should prevent you from writing them in the first place).
Those arguing in favor of dynamism — and keep in mind Kim’s utterly even-handed stance quoted above — are doing so from an utterly practical perspective. We have 25 years of evidence that Objective-C and the NeXTStep/Cocoa/Cocoa Touch frameworks allow for the creation of the best apps in the world — and that they allow smaller teams to accomplish more, faster. (Exhibit A: Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web singlehandedly on a NeXT system in 1991.)
I can’t prove that dynamic nature of Objective-C and the frameworks has been essential to the success of the Mac and iOS for app development. But a lot of people who’ve spent years — or decades — creating those apps sure think so. I tend to side with pragmatism over idealism.
Why Big Apps Aren’t Moving to Swift (Yet) ★
I strongly believe Swift is the future of iOS development. It’s
only a matter of when, and the blocker is the breakneck speed it
evolves. For smaller apps, Swift is good enough. For big apps,
it’s at least a year away. […]
If you’re working in a smaller app, stop reading. The benefits of
Swift 3.0 probably outweigh the risks. If you’re curious about the
challenges of large companies, large codebases, and complex
dependencies, this post should explain why big projects are
In the run-up to WWDC (and in the wake of this announcement from Chris Lattner a week ago, that certain features slated for the upcoming Swift 3.0 have been postponed) I’ve seen a slew of great pieces on Swift and dynamic programming. Sandofsky provides a good layman’s overview of why it’s not yet practical — arguments over dynamism aside — for big apps to move to Swift.
Kirk McElhearn on iTunes 12.4 ★
Kirk McElhearn, writing at Macworld:
Apple has thankfully merged the two different types of contextual
menus, in most locations. Instead of one menu displaying when you
click the “…” button, and another when you right-click an item,
the menus are the same, and work in the same way. I never
understood why Apple wanted these two menus to be different, but
it’s good that they’ve realized how confusing they were.
Unfortunately, there are some locations where the “new”
contextual menu exists; click the “…” button next to an artist or
album name, and the new menu is still there. There’s also a new
Song menu in the menu bar, which reproduces the menu items from
the contextual menu.
When you’re watching a movie, the Song menu changes to Movie; watch a TV show and it changes to “TV Show”. I don’t think it’s a bad idea, but I’ll be damned if I can recall another app that did something like this with the name of a menu.
See also: McElhearn’s follow-up with additional observations.
Marco Arment on Apple and AI ★
A thoughtful piece by Marco Arment over the weekend, which spawned much discussion:
Today, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are placing large bets on
advanced AI, ubiquitous assistants, and voice interfaces, hoping
that these will become the next thing that our devices are for.
If they’re right — and that’s a big “if” — I’m worried for
Today, Apple’s being led properly day-to-day and doing very well
overall. But if the landscape shifts to prioritize those big-data
AI services, Apple will find itself in a similar position as
BlackBerry did almost a decade ago: what they’re able to do,
despite being very good at it, won’t be enough anymore, and they
won’t be able to catch up.
Here’s how Craig Mod put it:
When the interface becomes invisible and data based, Apple dies.
That sounds right to me. But I’m not sure I accept the premise that the rise of AI assistants will decrease in any way our desire for devices with screens. iPhone and Android doomed BlackBerry because people stopped buying BlackBerries. Even if we accept the premise that Google Assistant is going to be a big deal that Apple won’t be able to compete with, I’m not sure how that decreases demand for the devices Apple already makes.
I keep thinking back to the original iPhone introduction in 2007, when Steve Jobs touted their partnership with Google. Watch from around the 50 minute mark. Eric Schmidt even jokes that their partnership was sort of like a merger without actually merging — with Apple doing what Apple does best, and Google doing what Google does best. I don’t know if that was ever tenable in the long run, but it’s interesting to wonder where they’d be today if they had made it work.
Google’s Encryption Choices With Allo ★
Hamza Shaban, writing for BuzzFeed:
Google’s “smart” replies and virtual assistant improve with use,
“learning” by analyzing conversations and context. But this kind
of fine-tuned processing requires a record or “memory” of chats
that take place in the normal settings. Similar to Google’s web
browser, Chrome, which includes its own incognito mode, the normal
settings offer a more intuitive experience to consumers, Google
said. The option to turn on incognito mode in Allo and enable
end-to-end encryption offers additional security, but with the
choice to revert back to the fuller version, Google added.
But others are concerned with the broader ramifications of Allo’s
design. “Google has given the FBI exactly what the agency has been
calling for,” Christopher Soghoian, the ACLU’s principal
technologist, told BuzzFeed News.
A live Google bot inside a chat stream is an interesting feature, and it can’t be done with end-to-end encryption. But this means law enforcement can require Google to hand over transcripts, and effectively wiretap your “normal” Allo chats. That’s a tradeoff many people will be willing to make. My beef is with using the words “normal” and “incognito”. Perhaps I’m spoiled by iMessage, but to me a “normal” chat is one with end-to-end encryption and no AI bot. Allo’s “normal” chats are the ones that are abnormal.
And “incognito” is absolutely the wrong word for Allo’s private chats. The word incognito means “having one’s true identity concealed”. That’s not what happens with Allo’s private chats. You’re still identified by your phone number. They should call this “private”, not “incognito”.
Project Ara, Now Less Ambitious, Still a Dumb Idea ★
Remember Project Ara, Google’s modular phone project? Headline of David Pierce’s piece for Wired: “Project Ara Lives: Google’s Modular Phone Is Ready for You Now”.
After years of failed demos, public sputters, and worrisome
silence, Ara works. About 30 people within ATAP are using Ara as
their primary phone. Camargo actually has the luxury of worrying
about things like aesthetics, rather than whether it’ll turn on.
“Please pay no attention to how it looks,” he tells me, flipping
the blocky smartphone over in his hands, “because it’s a
prototype.” It’s not a concept, not an idea, not a YouTube video.
It’s a prototype. Developer kits for Ara will be shipping later
this year, and a consumer version is coming in 2017.
In what universe does this qualify as “ready for us now”? It’s not ready at all, and nothing in this story makes it sound like a good idea. It’s nonsense.
Update: I’ve been asked why I think Ara is a dumb idea. Here’s what I wrote two years ago:
How does this have any more mass market appeal than building one’s
own PC? And with mobile devices, size and weight matter more than
ever, and reductions in size and weight can only come through
The Verge’s Overview of the Google I/O 2016 Keynote ★
I watched most of the keynote and came away very impressed. My short take:
Under the new Alphabet organization and Sundar Pichai’s leadership, Google has focused itself on the things Google is actually good at, and which people will actually want to use. No more pie-in-the-sky stuff like Google Glass. Google is clearly the best at this voice-driven assistant stuff. Pichai claimed that in their own competitive analysis, Google Assistant is “an order of magnitude” ahead of competing assistants (read: Siri and Alexa). That sounds about right. This might be like Steve Jobs’s 2007 claim that the iPhone was “5 years” ahead of anyone else.
Pichai’s example of a query Google Assistant can handle but which “other assistants” cannot was asking “What is Draymond Green’s jersey number?” I tried that query in the Google app on my iPhone. Got the right answer: 23. I tried with Alexa on my Echo, and got the response “Hmm. I can’t find the answer to the question I heard.” I tried with Siri, and I got this.
Update: Wow. Dozens of DF readers have replied that Siri correctly answers that same question when they ask: exhibits 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 on Twitter, and more via email. And lo, when I ask “What is Steph Curry’s jersey number?”, Siri nails it. But I’ve tried at least 20 times, on multiple iOS devices, with “Draymond Green” and Siri gets it wrong each time, usually sending me to that same dry cleaner in New Jersey, sometimes suggesting a Bing web search. I can’t get it to work even when I say “What’s the jersey number for Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors?” Maybe it’s my Philly accent. I tried with Derek Jeter (retired), Larry Bird (long retired), and Tony Romo (2017 Super Bowl champ-to-be) and Siri correctly answered all three — quickly.
Judge on Donald Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee List Has Mocked Trump on Twitter ★
I really liked this one.
iTunes 12.4 Brings Back the Sidebar ★
Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge:
The key improvement here is the removal of the drop-down menu on
the righthand side of the screen, which previously held all of the
options that are now exposed in the lefthand menu. That’s a real
help, but the lefthand menu doesn’t take over everything. You’ll
still have to search through those top tabs to find major
features, like Apple Music and the App Store. (There is, by the
way, no one tab that says “Apple Music” — it’s actually a
combination of the For You, New, Radio, and Connect tabs.)
Bringing back the sidebar is an improvement, but the fundamental problem remains: there’s no visual hierarchy to iTunes’s multitude of sections and features. Mail, for example, has a clear hierarchy: accounts → mailboxes → messages → message details. I’m not saying iTunes could or should copy Mail’s design, but it ought to be just as clear as Mail in terms of knowing where you are, or where to find something.
MacRumors on Siri for Mac ★
Juli Clover, MacRumors:
In the menu bar, there’s a simple Siri black and white icon that
features the word “Siri” surrounded by a box, while the full dock
icon is more colorful and features a colorful Siri waveform in the
style of other built-in app icons. Clicking on either of the icons
brings up a Siri waveform to give users a visual cue that the
virtual assistant is listening for commands, much like on iOS
devices when the Home button is held down.
Why would Siri need both a menu bar item and an icon in the Dock?
Monday, 16 May 2016
From a statement released by Brian Mooney, CEO of MCX, the consortium behind the long-overdue mobile payments app CurrentC:
Utilizing unique feedback from the marketplace and our Columbus
pilot, MCX has made a decision to concentrate more heavily in the
immediate term on other aspects of our business including working
with financial institutions, like our partnership with Chase, to
enable and scale mobile payment solutions.
CurrentC is a complete and utter failure.
As part of this transition, MCX will postpone a nationwide rollout
of its CurrentC application.
CurrentC’s nationwide rollout is never going to happen.
As MCX has said many times, the mobile payments space is just
beginning to take shape — it is early in a long game. MCX’s
owner-members remain committed to our future.
We’re falling further behind every day. MCX’s owner-members are giving up on this misguided endeavor.
As a result, MCX will need fewer resources. This change has
resulted in staff reduction of approximately 30 employees.
We were forced to lay off 30 employees. Everyone remaining should start polishing their résumés.
These are very tough decisions, but necessary steps.
We had no choice.
For those employees leaving us, we want to thank our
colleagues for their hard work and dedication to MCX over the
last several years.
We want to thank our departing colleagues for their hard work and dedication to MCX over the last several years, and wish them well in their future endeavors. Christ, I can’t even manage a straightforward “thank you”, can I? ★
Thursday, 12 May 2016
Rajan Patel, lead engineer for Google’s new iOS keyboard:
Say you’re texting with a friend about tomorrow’s lunch plans.
They ask you for the address. Until now it’s worked like this: You
leave your texting app. Open Search. Find the restaurant. Copy the
address. Switch back to your texts. Paste the address into a
message. And finally, hit send.
Searching and sending stuff on your phone shouldn’t be that
difficult. With Gboard, you can search and send all kinds of
things — restaurant info, flight times, news articles — right
from your keyboard. Anything you’d search on Google, you can
search with Gboard. Results appear as cards with the key
information front and center, such as the phone number, ratings
and hours. With one tap, you can send it to your friend and you
keep the conversation going.
My first thought, of course, was “Sounds like a privacy disaster — Google will see and log everything people type with this keyboard.”
But that doesn’t seem to be the case. During setup, Gboard displays this simple privacy statement, regarding its need for you to grant it “full access”, including networking:
This lets you use Google Search in your keyboard. Your searches
are sent to Google, but nothing else you type is.
Here’s what Google says in the app’s description in the App Store:
We know the things you type on your phone are personal, so we’ve
designed Gboard to keep your private information private.
What Gboard sends to Google:
- When you do a search, Gboard sends your query to Google’s web
servers so Google can process your query and send you search
- Gboard also sends anonymous statistics to Google to help us
diagnose problems when the app crashes and to let us know which
features are used most often.
What Gboard doesn’t send to Google:
- Everything else. Gboard will remember words you type to help you
with spelling or to predict searches you might be interested in,
but this data is stored only on your device. This data is not
accessible by Google or by any apps other than Gboard.
Whether this is Google’s own magnanimous decision, a technical limitation in iOS, or a policy decision enforced by App Store review, I don’t know.
Gboard is iOS-only for now, but Android users seem to want it.
Design-wise Gboard is a little weird. All of Google’s recent iOS apps use Google’s Material Design visual language, including the Roboto font. Their iOS apps look and work a lot more like Android apps than iOS apps. Gboard, however, was visually designed to mimic the standard iOS keyboard very closely. Gboard sports slightly different colors and changes a few key placements,1 but is clearly designed to look like the familiar system keyboard — I’ll bet many users will think Gboard is only adding a search bar above the system keyboard. (Third-party keyboards in iOS can’t merely modify the system keyboard — they must reimplement just about everything from scratch.2)
But Gboard uses Roboto instead of SF. The differences between Roboto and San Francisco are sometimes subtle, but to my eyes it just makes it look out of place on iOS 9. Also, they chose too thin a weight of Roboto — I can barely see the period on their “.” key. I think the whole Material Design thing feels terribly out of place on iOS. I’m glad they didn’t do it with Gboard, but they should have gone the whole way and used San Francisco for the typeface, too.
Gboard has some interesting emoji features. First, rather than make you switch to a different keyboard, it has its own dedicated emoji layout built in, including search. Mac OS’s “Emoji and Symbols” picker has long allowed for search; it’s long struck me as a little curious that iOS’s standard emoji keyboard does not. Second, Gboard’s predictive text feature will suggest emoji in addition to actual words. Type “dinner” and the first predictive suggestion is “🍴”; type “basketball” and you get “🏀”. That’s clever.
Update: Federico Viticci: “There must be people at Google who really don’t get the iPad. Gboard is very good on the iPhone; the layout is atrocious on the iPad Pro.” I didn’t even think to try it on an iPad — for some reason I’ve got it in my head that third-party keyboards are an iPhone-only thing on iOS.
Update 2: Rajan Patel, on Twitter, regarding this article:
@daringfireball It was our magnanimous decision, we should go all
the way w/ design, and we will polish iPad.
Update 3: Another cool feature. You know how you can move the insertion point by 3D pressing on the iPhone 6S keyboard? Gboard lets you move the insertion point by sliding across the space bar. ★