U.S. Pay-TV Subscriptions Fall to Lowest Levels Since 1992 

Speaking of the demise of regional sports networks, here’s Todd Spangler reporting for Variety:

As streaming video continues its ascendancy, cable, satellite and internet TV providers in the U.S. turned in their worst subscriber losses to date in the first quarter of 2023 — collectively shedding 2.3 million customers in the period, according to analyst estimates. [...] With the Q1 decline, total pay-TV penetration of occupied U.S. households (including for internet services like YouTube TV and Hulu) dropped to 58.5% — its lowest point since 1992, two years before DirecTV launched as a new rival to cable TV, according to Moffett’s calculations. [...]

Google’s YouTube TV was the only provider tracked by MoffettNathanson that picked up subs in Q1, adding an estimated 300,000 subscribers in the period (to reach about 6.3 million) and netting 1.4 million subscribers over the past year. [...]

Pay TV is suffering from what Moffett calls “the impoverishment cycle,” in which higher sports-broadcast fees have driven retail prices higher — thereby fueling cord-cutting and forcing distributors to increase prices to compensate. Even ESPN, one-time stalwart of the traditional ecosystem, has conceded that there will be a day when a la carte streaming is a viable option, Moffett noted.

It’ll be interesting to see how much YouTube TV growth is juiced by NFL Sunday Ticket later this year.

Reddit API Pricing Would Cost Apollo Developer $20 Million Per Year 

Christian Selig, developer of the splendid Reddit client Apollo:

I’ll cut to the chase: 50 million requests costs $12,000, a figure far more than I ever could have imagined.

Apollo made 7 billion requests last month, which would put it at about 1.7 million dollars per month, or 20 million US dollars per year. Even if I only kept subscription users, the average Apollo user uses 344 requests per day, which would cost $2.50 per month, which is over double what the subscription currently costs, so I’d be in the red every month.

I’m deeply disappointed in this price. Reddit iterated that the price would be A) reasonable and based in reality, and B) they would not operate like Twitter. Twitter’s pricing was publicly ridiculed for its obscene price of $42,000 for 50 million tweets. Reddit’s is still $12,000. For reference, I pay Imgur, a site similar to Reddit in userbase and media, $166 for the same 50 million API calls.

Selig does some ballpark math and estimates that Reddit currently generates about $0.12 in revenue per month per active user. The average Apollo user would cost $2.50 per month in API fees — 20× higher.

Right now Apollo is free to use, but offers a Pro tier with a slew of additional features and fun stuff for a one-time payment of $5, and an Ultra tier with even more for a $13/year subscription. If Reddit goes through with this API pricing, Apollo’s free and Pro tiers would be unsustainable, and the Ultra subscription would have to cost at least $50 or $60 per year.

Matt Birchler on Apple and Gaming 

Matt Birchler:

I would not be surprised if No Man’s Sky releases for Apple’s VR headset on day one, and it gets lots of press as it will likely be one of the few games there at launch, but I don’t think it’s an indication of Apple really “getting” gaming in a meaningful way.

Personally, I just don’t think Apple has it in them to get high end gaming to click on their platforms. Yes, they make a ton of money on iOS games, but poke your head into the App Store top charts and you can pretty clearly see they’re making that money on shitty free-to-play games that rely on whales to spend absurd amounts of money on gems and tokens and whatever else.

Let’s put aside revenue as a measure of a platform’s success in gaming — the free-to-play phenomenon skews that. But even putting aside money as a measuring stick, it’s clear that the iPhone is the premiere mobile gaming platform. There are way more good iPhone-only games than Android-only ones. Are there any good Android exclusive games at all?

The question is: will Apple’s XR platform be like the Mac and Apple TV, where gaming is an afterthought, or will it be like iOS? I wouldn’t bet on the headset turning Apple into a top-tier platform for immersive VR games, but I wouldn’t bet against it either. It’s a chance to start fresh.

The opportunity is massive: PC and console gaming is considered more “serious” than mobile gaming not just because the games are bigger and the devices more powerful, but because you play them on bigger screens. Nintendo’s Switch proves that — the Switch is way less powerful than any recent iPhone, but way more “serious” because you can play it on your TV. (And yes, of course, because Nintendo’s first-party titles are unique and extraordinarily good.)

VR gaming has the potential to be far more immersive than anything you play on a TV or PC monitor. Someone will crack that nut eventually.

Bally Sports Fails to Pay the San Diego Padres, Loses Broadcast Rights 

Alden Gonzalez, reporting for ESPN:

Diamond Sports Group has decided not to pay the San Diego Padres their latest rights fee, a monumental development that will revert the team’s broadcasting rights to Major League Baseball and establish precedent for an uncertain, rapidly evolving landscape.

Diamond, the Sinclair subsidiary that operates under the name Bally Sports, skipped its payment to the Padres a couple of weeks ago and had until the end of its grace period on Tuesday to make the team whole and maintain their long-term agreement. Choosing not to meant Tuesday’s game against the Miami Marlins was the last Padres game under the Bally Sports umbrella. Moving forward — starting Wednesday, continuing through the end of the season and resuming in perpetuity — MLB will air Padres games through its streaming service and on different cable channels.

The regional sports network collapse draws nigh. Jason Snell:

It sure feels like a milestone moment in the future of sports broadcasting — and the unwinding of the exclusivity of cable TV for sports broadcasting.

‘Boycott Target’ Song Tops iTunes Charts 

Shannon Thaler, reporting for The New York Post:

Staunch alt-right rapper Forgiato Blow is topping iTunes charts with his new song, “Boycott Target,” but claims Apple’s censorship is “keeping it off the radar.” The song — featuring fellow rappers Jimmy Levy, Nick Nittoli and Stoney Dudebro — was released on May 25 in response to Target’s Pride-themed clothing for children. [...]

The track has hit No. 1 on iTunes’ most popular chart across all genres, and sits above songs by Taylor Swift and Luke Combs that are in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively.

Speaking of signs of rising fascism in the U.S. This is so goofy I thought it was a parody (“Stoney Dudebro”?), but it’s not.

Forbes: TikTok Creators’ Private Financial Information Stored in China 

Alexandra S. Levine, reporting for Forbes:

Over the past several years, thousands of TikTok creators and businesses around the world have given the company sensitive financial information — including their social security numbers and tax IDs — so that they can be paid by the platform. But unbeknownst to many of them, TikTok has stored that personal financial information on servers in China that are accessible by employees there, Forbes has learned.

TikTok uses various internal tools and databases from its Beijing-based parent ByteDance to manage payments to creators who earn money through the app, including many of its biggest stars in the United States and Europe. The same tools are used to pay outside vendors and small businesses working with TikTok. But a trove of records obtained by Forbes from multiple sources across different parts of the company reveals that highly sensitive financial and personal information about those prized users and third parties has been stored in China. The discovery also raises questions about whether employees who are not authorized to access that data have been able to. It draws on internal communications, audio recordings, videos, screenshots, documents marked “Privileged and Confidential,” and several people familiar with the matter.

In testimony before Congress earlier this year, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew claimed U.S. user data has been stored on physical servers outside China. “American data has always been stored in Virginia and Singapore in the past, and access of this is on an as-required basis by our engineers globally,” he said under oath at a House hearing in March.

TikTok should be banned in the United States, and Chew should be charged with perjury. This is not complicated.

WSJ: ‘Why You’re Losing More to Casinos on the Las Vegas Strip’ 

Katherine Sayre, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

Blackjack, a fast-paced card game, historically paid out a ratio of 3:2 when a player hit 21 on the first two cards. That means a gambler wins $15 for every $10 bet. Now, many blackjack tables on the Strip pay out at 6:5, which means that same $10 yields only $12.

John and Kristina Mehaffey, owners of gambling-news and data company Vegas Advantage, have been cataloging these changes since 2011, walking miles-long routes through casinos to record the number of blackjack and roulette tables set outside of VIP areas.

According to the Mehaffeys’ data, more than two-thirds of blackjack tables on the Strip currently offer 6:5 payouts, as opposed to 3:2.

6:5 blackjack should be illegal. I mean that. I don’t understand what the gambling regulators in Nevada are doing that this is permissible. What I’ve seen in recent years is that all of the lower-limit tables have 6:5 payouts, and to get real blackjack, with 3:2 payouts, you need to play at tables with $50 minimums, sometimes $100 on weekends.

Spotting and Fighting Fascism in America 

Heather Cox Richardson:

Beginning in 1943, the War Department published a series of pamphlets for U.S. Army personnel in the European theater of World War II. Titled Army Talks , the series was designed “to help [the personnel] become better-informed men and women and therefore better soldiers.” On March 24, 1945, the topic for the week was “FASCISM!” [...]

The War Department thought it was important for Americans to understand the tactics fascists would use to take power in the United States. They would try to gain power “under the guise of ‘super-patriotism’ and ‘super-Americanism.’” And they would use three techniques:

First, they would pit religious, racial, and economic groups against one another to break down national unity. Part of that effort to divide and conquer would be a “well-planned ‘hate campaign’ against minority races, religions, and other groups.”

Second, they would deny any need for international cooperation, because that would fly in the face of their insistence that their supporters were better than everyone else. “In place of international cooperation, the fascists seek to substitute a perverted sort of ultra-nationalism which tells their people that they are the only people in the world who count. With this goes hatred and suspicion toward the people of all other nations.”

Third, fascists would insist that “the world has but two choices — either fascism or communism, and they label as ‘communists’ everyone who refuses to support them.”

It’s downright spooky how this pamphlet from 80 years ago describes Trumpism and the MAGA movement to a T. Here’s the original pamphlet. (Via Kottke.)

iCloud’s ‘My Photo Stream’ Feature Is Shutting Down This Summer 

Stephen Hackett, writing at 512 Pixels:

Photo Stream is one of the original components of iCloud, and was kept around even after iCloud Photo Library launched in 2014. Here’s how Apple pitched the feature when iCloud was new.

Michael Tsai:

You can see why they are consolidating on iCloud Photos, but Photo Stream had some appealing features that will be lost. First, you could backup/sync an unlimited amount of data (for a limited time). There was no need to worry about upgrading your account temporarily or having photo storage crowd out storage for other apps. Second, you could access recent photos and videos on all devices without having to store everything in the cloud.

Web Roulette — A Swipeable Randomized Web Browser 

Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch:

If mindlessly browsing the internet is your preferred way to combat boredom and waste time, the indie app makers behind to-do list app Clear and game Heads Up have a new product you’ll want to try: Web Roulette, a mobile web browser app for iOS built for the short attention spans of the TikTok era. With the debut version out now, you can add your favorite websites or choose from its suggestions, then swipe through the sites to see what’s new or shake the app for a surprise webpage when boredom strikes.

The team says the idea initially struck them as something of a joke. But they soon realized the idea of a ‘swipeable,’ shakable web browser that delivered our daily hits of dopamine may actually have merit.

“I mean, this is actually how I spend much of my time browsing the web — I bounce back and forth mindlessly and semi-randomly between my favorite sites, hoping for something fresh. Maybe there’s something here?,” explains Impending founder and designer Phill Ryu.

I’ve been beta testing Web Roulette for a week or two and it’s just plain dumb fun. In the early days of the App Store (and before that, the early days of the web), it was common for people to come up with a dumb fun idea that could be made in a week or two. Web Roulette exemplifies that ethos. It’s not useful, per se, but it’s not useless either. But it’s mainly just fun. I’m so glad to see that coming back.

See also: This fun launch video on TikTok — interrupted by a special guest. And this tweet with a sketch of the team’s original concept. I love comparing “here’s the napkin sketch of the original idea” to the shipping product.

‘Lisa’s Final Act 

Trailer for a new documentary from The Verge:

Sabotage, hired goons, and a landfill in Utah: this is a story about the life, death, and afterlife of Apple’s most pioneering computer, the Lisa. A major inspiration for the Macintosh, Steve Jobs championed the Lisa, then turned against it. In Lisa’s Final Act, The Verge unearths a new spin on this tale. We discover the outsider who gave the maligned computer another chance… before Apple closed the door on the Lisa forever.

Full documentary debuts tomorrow.

Update: Right on schedule, the full 30-minute documentary is out.

‘Succession’ Finale 

Alan Sepinwall, writing for Rolling Stone:

A lot happens over the course of the 90-minute Succession series finale, “With Open Eyes.” Alliances are made, broken, and made again. Votes happen, fortunes rise and fall, losers become winners, and vice versa.

For all intents and purposes, though, the only part that matters is a five-minute sequence toward the end.

I’m always wary of recency bias, but at the moment I’d put Succession in the hall of fame for the best TV shows ever. Four great seasons, a rich ensemble of vivid memorable characters, never a bad episode, and a truly great finale.

See also: Sepinwall’s ranking of the top 25 characters on Succession, from least to most despicable.

The Talk Show: ‘One True HIG’ 

Neil Jhaveri, founder and lead developer of Mimestream, the terrific new native Mac email client for Gmail, joins the show to talk about email, Mac apps, and indie software development.

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Adam Engst: ‘Why I Use Mimestream for Gmail’ 

Adam Engst, writing at TidBITS:

Where Mimestream shines is in its attention to visual form and functional detail — the small interface elements and features that make working with email feel familiar, fluid, and fast. I spend hours per day in email, and while I’m willing to tweak my working habits slightly to match what an app can do, I prefer it to accommodate my idiosyncrasies.

For instance, I seldom delete messages. My Google account has plenty of space, and Gmail’s performance doesn’t degrade with massive email stores, so I prefer to keep everything for posterity and focus my attention on unread and starred messages. So it’s vital that my email client supports that approach rather than pushing its own concept of Inbox Zero or whatever philosophy it might have.

I can’t predict what refinements and affordances will make working with your email a joy, so I want to share some of what I find compelling about Mimestream. Many of these aren’t unique, they’re just very well done, and the result is that using Mimestream feels like driving a well-engineered automobile instead of a low-end car that feels like it was assembled from cheap, off-the-shelf components.


My thanks to Kolide for their continuing sponsorship support here at DF — they sponsored Daring Fireball last week, and they are the presenting sponsor at the upcoming The Talk Show Live From WWDC. They’re a great company with a great product.

Here’s an uncomfortable fact: at most companies, employees can download sensitive company data onto any device, keep it there forever, and never even know that they’re doing something wrong. Kolide’s new report, The State of Sensitive Data, addresses this issue head-on.

Kolide offers a more nuanced approach than MDM solutions to setting and enforcing sensitive data policies. Their premise is simple: if an employee’s device is out of compliance, it can’t access your apps. Kolide lets admins run queries to detect sensitive data, flag devices that have violated policies, and enforce OS and browser updates so vulnerable devices aren’t accessing data.

To learn more and see Kolide in action, visit kolide.com.

WordPress Turns 20 

It’s funny what gains traction for the long haul, and what turns out, in hindsight, to be a flash in the pan. I, for one, never would have predicted that WordPress would grow to become, by far, the most popular CMS in the world, and the foundation of a thriving company whose primary goal is making the web a better platform.

Mimestream 1.0 

After a few years in public beta, Mimestream 1.0 is out, and it’s fantastic. Mimestream is a Mac email client specifically for Gmail. They’ve got plans to expand to iOS, and plans to perhaps expand to IMAP (and JMAP) email accounts in the future, but as it stands today, Mimestream does one thing and does it incredibly well: it’s a true Mac app for Gmail. It’s both a great Mac app and a great Gmail client. $5/month or $50/year, with a two-week free trial.

Jason Snell:

Apple Mail is free. Gmail in a browser window is free. But after two years with Mimestream, I couldn’t put down my credit card fast enough.

Mona: Mastodon Client for Mac and iOS 

I quipped yesterday that I thought Ivory for Mac wasn’t just the best Mac Mastodon client, but the only good one. A bunch of readers chimed in to endorse Mona, by Junyu Kuang, as a good Mac client. I had tried Mona a while back, and found it lacking in numerous ways on the Mac, but I took another look yesterday and my readers are correct: it’s a very solid Mac client now. Free to try, $10 to go “pro” on any one platform (Mac, iPhone, iPad), and just $16 to go pro on all three. Those are introductory prices that are going up on June 1.

Platformer: ‘Inside Twitter’s Failed Space Launch’ 

Zoë Schiffer and Casey Newton, reporting for Platformer:

Spaces are hosted on Twitter’s own servers and servers rented from Amazon Web Services. AWS servers for Spaces are “insanely underprovisioned” relative to the need for them, according to a former employee who worked on the project.

On Wednesday, the lack of servers led to a predictable series of cascading failures. In the run-up to the event, engineers expected that Spaces would be able to accommodate hundreds of thousands of users. But too many people joined the first stream simultaneously, and the app kept crashing as a result.

Musk’s own Twitter app crashed repeatedly during the event, we’re told. Musk, who uses the employee-only build of the app known as Earlybird, was said to be furious afterward.

I’m sure he was.

Inside the largest Slack and Discord channels of former tweeps, the mood after DeSantis’ botched announcement was nothing short of jubilant.

I’m sure it was.

Texas Monthly Profiles Tapbots Founders Paul Haddad and Mark Jardine 

Speaking of Tapbots, here’s Andrew Logan writing for Texas Monthly:

Amir Shevat, Twitter’s former head of product for the developer platform, who lives in Round Rock, was responsible for ensuring that the tools Twitter provided independent software developers using the platform met their needs. He said about 17 percent of engagement on Twitter, historically, was through third-party apps, which played a vital role in defining Twitter’s identity.

To my knowledge no one at (or formerly at) Twitter has ever revealed that before. Obviously the overwhelming number of Twitter users only ever used Twitter’s own first-party clients. The reason third-party clients were so important to Twitter, though, is that Twitter power users were drawn to them.

Jardine said he has received positive feedback on the initial launch of Ivory, which he admits was released without all the features he wanted to include. Users being excited about his work is uplifting, he said. But that’s not what entirely motivates him. “Without [Ivory], we have no business,” Jardine said. “There’s a lot of pressure riding on it.”

Despite the pressure, Haddad seems to be thriving in this brave new world. “I’m not at the whims of a dictator anymore,” he said.

Amen to that.

Ivory for Mac 

Now shipping in the Mac App Store: Tapbots’s Ivory for Mac. I’ve been using it in beta for a few months, and don’t know what I’d do without it. It’s not just the best Mac Mastodon client, it’s the only good one that exists. $15/year just for the Mac client, but the real deal is Ivory’s $25/year “universal” subscription for Ivory across both MacOS and iOS.

Ivory for Mac is written using Catalyst, but it by no means is just Ivory for iPad with a few tweaks. (If that’s what it were, Tapbots could have shipped it months ago, when Ivory for iPhone and iPad shipped.) Ivory for Mac is a Mac app. But, numerous Catalyst-isms show through. System-wide Services menu items don’t work. Smart punctuation (automatic curly quotes and proper em-dashes when you type two hyphens) only work when you type slowly. Some views scroll via standard keyboard shortcuts (space/shift-space, Page Up/Page Down), but some don’t. A lot of these are things that I consider shortcomings in Apple’s Catalyst framework — the whole point of Cocoa from 20+ years ago is that standard controls get standard behavior out of the box, relieving developers from the drudgery of making simple expected platform-standard features work. Catalyst isn’t like that — or at least isn’t like that yet.

But this is Ivory for Mac 1.0. Progress during beta testing was steady, and knowing Tapbots’s high standards, I’m quite sure will continue to be. And on the whole, Ivory for Mac as it stands today is not just a glass of ice water in hell, it’s a whole pitcher. If you use Mastodon on a Mac, you’re nuts if you don’t try Ivory.

See also: John Voorhees’s review at MacStories.

Tetris on a Chicken McNugget 

There hasn’t been a decent Tetris game for the Mac in decades, but now you can play it on a Chicken McNugget. What a world. (Via Kottke.)

Discord Adds Support for Markdown 

I hate to complain as Markdown continues its march to world domination,* but it’s really dumb that Discord added syntax for underlining (and ugly syntax at that). The only reason underlining should be used today, in any context, is to indicate hyperlinks. Any other use of underlining should be considered a typographical faux pas.

* Where by hate I of course mean love.

‘DeSantis Blows Up on the Launch Pad’ 

Taegan Goddard, writing at Political Wire on Ron DeSantis’s much-ballyhooed campaign launch on Twitter Spaces yesterday:

In the end, the event had all of the appeal of a glitchy conference call.

Politics aside, the event was humiliating for Elon Musk and Twitter. The space crashed on the server side several times, and it crashed the Twitter app on my iPhone at least 6 or 7 times. And even when it finally got going, the audio quality was terrible.

Bungie Teases the Return of Marathon 

There were hints about this last fall, but now it’s official: Bungie is reviving Marathon:

Marathon is currently in development for playstation 5, xbox series x/s, and pc with full cross play and cross save.

This news either evokes some strong feelings and memories, or you were not a Mac gamer in the ’90s. I get it, but it seems downright criminal that the Mac isn’t on their platform list.

2023 Apple Design Award Finalists 

Always an interesting perusal. Apps on my iPhone that made the list: Flighty, Camo, and Knotwords. Oh, and Universe — a very ambitious website/store builder for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Steve Jobs Demos the Macintosh for Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf at Sean Lennon’s 9th Birthday Party in 1984 

If I’ve seen these snapshots before, I’d forgotten them. Extraordinary how casual they are, sitting on the floor in a cramped bedroom like teenagers. Nice find from the gang at Poolsuite. (Andy Hertzfeld tells a bit of the backstory to this in “A Mac for Mick” at his Folklore site.)

Tickets for The Talk Show Live From WWDC 2023 

First batch of tickets is on sale now.

Location: The California Theatre, San Jose
Showtime: Wednesday, 7 June 2023, 5 pm PT (Doors open 4 pm)
Special Guest(s): Yes
Discount Student Ticket Pricing: Available

Video of the show will, of course, be published at the end of the week, but will not be livestreamed. If you want to watch live, be there or be square. I am, I will admit, nervous — I am anything but a natural stage performer — but so very excited to be back in the big theater for the first time in four years. (!) It’s a beautiful space, and I do so enjoy meeting the readers and listeners who attend. The enthusiasm from the audience is always palpable, and so energizing. All year long, as I write and record podcasts, I know I have a big audience out there. But man, when I walk out on stage at the WWDC live show, I can feel it. It’s quite a thing.

I can’t wait to see you there. Should be a good one this year, too.

Adobe Adds AI Generative Fill to Photoshop 

Pam Clark, writing for the Adobe Blog:

We are thrilled to announce that the Photoshop (beta) app has released Generative Fill, the world’s first co-pilot in creative and design workflows, giving users a magical new way to work. Generative Fill is powered by Adobe Firefly, Adobe’s family of creative generative AI models. Starting today, Photoshop subscribers can create extraordinary imagery from a simple text prompt.

This brings two imaging powerhouses together — Photoshop and generative AI, enabling you to generate content from inside Photoshop with a text prompt and edit it with Photoshop’s comprehensive range of tools to create extraordinary results.

“Extraordinary” is no exaggeration. Just amazing stuff.

See also: This 5-minute video on Adobe’s YouTube channel, and this thread on Twitter from Adobe’s Scott Belsky.

More see also: Rands gets some mind-blowing results in 30 seconds; a mind-blowing 18-minute tour of the feature on YouTube by Aaron Nace at Phlearn.

The Verge: The 5 Biggest Announcements at Microsoft Build 2023 

All five items on The Verge’s list are AI-related, topped by an AI-powered personal assistant (named Copilot, natch) built into the Windows 11 task bar.

How many AI announcements will Apple have at WWDC?

CNN Fucked Around With Trump’s Town Hall, Now Finding Out 

CNN — now owned by Warner “Bros” Discovery, who, as I’ve mentioned, are morons — is learning the same thing as Twitter: there’s no mainstream audience for right-wing media, and no mainstream tolerance for insurrectionists or their sympathizers. Two weeks ago they embarrassed themselves by handing over a prime time hour of TV to Donald Trump. WBD CEO (and Biff-Tannen-in-glasses lookalike) David Zaslav bragged, “Republicans are back on the air.”

Now, reports Justin Baragona at The Daily Beast:

More than a week after CNN’s disastrous town hall with former President Donald Trump, the negative impact the fiasco had on the network’s ratings is coming into clearer focus. Last week, the cable news pioneer suffered its lowest-rated week since June 2015, averaging just 429,000 total daily viewers from Monday-Friday. CNN was also down double digits compared to the same week last year in both total viewership and in the key advertising demographic of viewers ages 25-54. MSNBC more than doubled CNN’s daily audience, drawing 976,000 total viewers, while Fox News averaged 1.4 million. [...]

Since the town hall, CNN has seen several of its weeknight hours — including Anderson Cooper — fall behind Newsmax, the fringe-right channel that has surged since Carlson’s ouster. And on Friday night, the channel’s much-hyped interview show hosted by Chris Wallace averaged only 224,000 total viewers at 10 p.m., drawing 60,000 fewer viewers than Newsmax’s offering.

Losing to Newsmax. Jiminy.

Charlie Warzel: ‘Twitter Is a Far-Right Social Network’ 

Charlie Warzel, writing for The Atlantic:

Twitter has so fully assumed the role of a far-right platform that it might be killing its competitors. When Parler shut down in April, its parent company noted that “no reasonable person believes that a Twitter clone just for conservatives is a viable business any more.” Left unspoken is the reason: Twitter has become a right-wing echo chamber.

If Musk weren’t too preoccupied lapping up approval from trolls, reactionaries, and Dogecoin enthusiasts — a few of the constituencies left on his site that still seem to adore him — the Parler statement should worry him. Right-wing alt-tech platforms may attract investors and a flood of indignant new users with persecution complexes, but they are, ultimately, bad businesses.

A fairer headline would be “Twitter Is a Far-Right-Friendly Social Network”, but that’s enough to be a problem.

I still check in on Twitter, but with each passing week, less and less. It’s not fun, it’s hard to use without Tweetbot, and the new algorithm that puts paying Twitter Blue users’ replies at the top of every thread has ruined political Twitter. It’s like letting people suffering from incontinence try on all the pants in a store before anyone else.

And the right-wing veer is most obvious in the ads that I see. (And I now see a lot of them — one every 3–4 posts.) Almost all of them are for no-name gimmicks and gadgets, the sort of crap that used to be sold at the mall at Spencer Gifts or in the middle of the night on cable TV commercials.

One of the few exceptions I see is Apple, which continues to place ads on Twitter.

The Talk Show: ‘No False Humidity’ 

Special guest: Jason Snell. Topics: Headset, headseat, headset. And no baseball talk other than how games might look in VR. Also: Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for iPad, and GM’s dumb decision to drop CarPlay.

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Today Is the Launch of Max, and It Sucks Even More Than I Thought It Would 

Sigmund Judge, on Twitter:

Max launches today, and with it brings yet another chapter in the battle between Warner/Discovery executives and Apple TV customers.

@StreamOnMax switches away from Apple’s native video player in the continued pursuit of creating an inferior product...

I told you these Warner “Bros” Discovery executives are morons. On all the good platforms, you have to install an altogether new app. Why not just update the existing HBO Max app with (yet another) a new name and icon? Because they’re morons. (Even better: when I launch the old HBO Max app on my Apple TV, it doesn’t tell me anything about the new app — it just shows an error screen saying “Something went wrong.”)

This much moronity I expected. But it gets worse. As Judge documents, with the new app they’ve once again dropped tvOS’s excellent native video player for a custom video player that utterly sucks: “up next” support in the TV app is now broken or missing, HDR and frame-rate match are gone, the new video player doesn’t support the Siri remote’s jog support, no picture-in-picture, and no support for the wonderful “What did they just say?” feature (speak that to your Siri remote and the video jumps back 10 seconds or so and temporarily enables subtitles).

HBO Max was a really good tvOS app. Max is a poor one.

YouTube Pitching Advertisers on Unskippable 30-Second Ads for TV Content 

Todd Spangler, reporting for Variety:

YouTube’s biggest ad innovation for 2023? It might be borrowing a well-worn page from old-fashioned linear TV.

At the YouTube Brandcast upfront event Wednesday in New York, execs announced the introduction of 30-second unskippable ads in top-performing YouTube content on TVs — you know, just like the commercials that have run on broadcast and cable networks for decades. YouTube also will start testing new “Pause Experiences” for YouTube on TV screens, showing an ad when viewers pause a video akin to the pause ads Hulu first bowed four years ago.

I bring this up on my podcast often, but it never ceases to depress me that 20 years ago, when TV-watching first became computerized through DVRs like TiVo and ReplayTV, one of the primary selling points was the ability to fast-forward through commercials. Computers made watching TV not just a little better, but a lot better. That’s what computers can do. That’s why we love them.

Now though, in the streaming era, more and more we’re seeing streaming apps making commercials unskippable. They’re making TV watching not just worse but a lot worse. That’s also what computers can do. That’s why we hate them.

No surprise which side of this Google is on.

Save the Date: The Talk Show Live From WWDC 2023 

Location: The California Theatre, San Jose
Showtime: Wednesday, 7 June 2023, 5:00 pm PT
Tickets: First batch goes on sale Tuesday 23 May
Special Guest(s): For me to know and you to find out
Previous Shows: On YouTube

(Next batch will go on sale later in the week.)

Leaked EU Document Shows Spain Wants to Ban End-to-End Encryption; Other EU Countries Hanging Their Hopes on Impossible Solutions 


Spain has advocated banning encryption for hundreds of millions of people within the European Union, according to a leaked document obtained by Wired that reveals strong support among EU member states for proposals to scan private messages for illegal content.

The document, a European Council survey of member countries’ views on encryption regulation, offered officials’ behind-the-scenes opinions on how to craft a highly controversial law to stop the spread of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in Europe. The proposed law would require tech companies to scan their platforms, including users’ private messages, to find illegal material. However, the proposal from Ylva Johansson, the EU commissioner in charge of home affairs, has drawn ire from cryptographers, technologists, and privacy advocates for its potential impact on end-to-end encryption. [...]

Of the 20 EU countries represented in the document leaked to WIRED, the majority said they are in favor of some form of scanning of encrypted messages, with Spain’s position emerging as the most extreme. “Ideally, in our view, it would be desirable to legislatively prevent EU-based service providers from implementing end-to-end encryption,” Spanish representatives said in the document.

If the EU goes ahead with this, I think it means the end of services like WhatsApp, Signal, and iMessage in the EU. There’s no way to architect a messaging system that uses E2EE in some regions and doesn’t in others. The only way to comply would be to rearchitect these systems to not use E2EE anywhere. Signal certainly wouldn’t do that. Apple wouldn’t either.

Denmark and Ireland expressed support for scanning encrypted messengers for child sexual abuse material while also endorsing the inclusion of wording in the law that protects end-to-end encryption from being weakened. The ability to do this would rely on the invention of technology that can scan encrypted messages for illegal content without altering or breaking the security features offered by encryption — a feat cryptographers and cybersecurity experts have said is technically impossible.

It is technically impossible. There is no he-said/she-said debate here. The cryptographers are correct and the lawmakers are so ignorant that they’re proposing a fantasy. It’s a downwind effect of Arthur C. Clarke’s famous maxim that sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic: the technology of E2EE is so far above the heads of lawmakers and law enforcement officials that they feel free to demand magic solutions. “Just nerd harder.”

The Netherlands, however, stated that this would be possible through “on-device” scanning before the illegal material is encrypted and sent to its recipient. “There are … technologies which may allow for automatic detection of CSAM while at the same time leaving end-to-end encryption intact,” the country’s representatives stated in the document.

Somewhere in Cupertino, a head bangs against a desk.

Facebook Fined $1.3 Billion for Violating EU Data Privacy Rules 

Adam Satariano, reporting for The New York Times:

Meta on Monday was fined a record 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) and ordered to stop transferring data collected from Facebook users in Europe to the United States, in a major ruling against the social media company for violating European Union data protection rules.

The penalty, announced by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, is potentially one of the most consequential in the five years since the European Union enacted the landmark data privacy law known as the General Data Protection Regulation. Regulators said the company failed to comply with a 2020 decision by the European Union’s highest court that Facebook data shipped across the Atlantic was not sufficiently protected from American spy agencies.

But it remains unclear if or when Meta will ever need to cordon off the data of Facebook users in Europe. Meta said it would appeal the decision, setting up a potentially lengthy legal process.

A billion here, a billion there, and soon enough you’re talking about real money.

Neeva, Upstart Search Engine, Shuts Down 

Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan, writing on the Neeva blog:

In early 2022, the upcoming impact of generative AI and LLMs became clear to us. We embarked on an ambitious effort to seamlessly blend LLMs into our search stack. We rallied the Neeva team around the vision to create an answer engine. We are proud of being the first search engine to provide cited, real-time AI answers to a majority of queries early this year.

But throughout this journey, we’ve discovered that it is one thing to build a search engine, and an entirely different thing to convince regular users of the need to switch to a better choice. From the unnecessary friction required to change default search settings, to the challenges in helping people understand the difference between a search engine and a browser, acquiring users has been really hard. Contrary to popular belief, convincing users to pay for a better experience was actually a less difficult problem compared to getting them to try a new search engine in the first place.

I tried Neeva, briefly, but it never stuck for me. Part of the problem, even if you’re open to trying new search engines — clearly a big if — is that there’s a bit of a renaissance at the moment in new search engines. I’d been using DuckDuckGo as my default for years, but about six months ago I switched to Kagi, and so far I haven’t looked back. I pay $10/month for Kagi. A paid search engine! Good search results and absolutely zero clutter from ads or paid placement. They’ve also got a GPT-backed search that includes up-to-date results and works very fast.

A Twitter Bug Is Restoring ‘Deleted’ Tweets and Retweets 

James Vincent, writing at The Verge:

Earlier this year on the 8th of May I deleted all my tweets, just under 5,000 of them. I know the exact day because I tweeted about it.

This morning, though, I discovered that Twitter has restored a handful of my old re-tweets; interactions I know I scrubbed from my profile. Those re-tweets were gone. I remember surveying my bare timeline with satisfaction before thinking, “great, time to draw attention to myself.” But now they’re back. You can see them by scrolling down my timeline past May 8th, with even more appearing if you select “tweets with replies.”

Twitter is far from alone being a service where “deletion” needs dick quotes around it. This bug is bad and likely will soon be fixed, but the persistence of ostensibly deleted tweets is a profound design flaw.

(The nightmare scenario: a bug that exposes DMs — which infamously are not encrypted — publicly.)

On Apple Fitting a Headset Announcement Into the Always-Packed WWDC Keynote

Ben Bajarin on Twitter:

If Apple is releasing a VR/AR headset this year, it makes more sense for a dedicated event or bundle it with a Mac event in the fall.

There is too much ground to cover at WWDC, and 30 min is not enough to tell the full product story.

I’ve been thinking about this too. The WWDC keynote is always packed. And in recent years, Federighi has gotten Apple’s software factory into such disciplined shape that there are always major updates to every single platform. There are going to be major new features to announce and demo for iOS/iPadOS 17, MacOS 14, and WatchOS 10. I suspect we’re going to see new Mac hardware announced. If it’s just the 15-inch MacBook Air, that’s an easy announcement: it’s a MacBook Air with a bigger display. But if it’s the M-series Mac Pro (finally), that’s going to demand some presentation time. Last year’s keynote ran 1h:48m; here’s a rundown from The Verge of the major announcements.

But I do think the headset is going to be announced at WWDC. There’s just too much smoke for there not to be a fire. And, seemingly, Apple isn’t quietly trying to dampen expectations for the headset behind the scenes. The same thing happened with the iPhone before Macworld Expo 2007 — there were rampant rumors that the Apple phone was finally coming, and no one hearing from sources that it wouldn’t. They might have ideally wanted to announce it before this year’s WWDC at a special event, but if they want developers to start creating software for the platform, this is the time. (And why wouldn’t they want developers to start working on ideas?)

Apple does not like for keynotes to run longer than two hours. The glaring exception that springs to mind was the WWDC 2015 keynote, which ran a grueling 2h:25m. That was the one with a long section on Apple Music with Jimmy Iovine on stage. Probably the worst WWDC keynote ever, and the only one that ever felt under-rehearsed.

Here’s the thing though: post-COVID keynotes aren’t just pre-recorded, they’re very tightly edited. I suspect we’ll get a keynote that still comes in under 2 hours even with an entire 40-minute-ish segment announcing both the headset and xrOS. It’ll just go fast. Fitting the headset and xrOS developer frameworks into the old-style on-stage WWDC keynote would have posed a problem. I don’t think it’s a problem with the new “keynote movie” format.1 We won’t come out of the keynote thinking it was too long; we’ll come out of it with our heads spinning because it’s going to cover so much, so fast. 

  1. And if I’m right, I bet this is one of those years where after the keynote is over, and people start poring over everything Apple puts on the web, we discover a surprising number of very cool iOS and MacOS features that didn’t make it into the keynote. Anything and everything from the OSes might get cut to make time for the headset, xrOS, and Mac hardware announcements. There’s a whole second State of the Union technical keynote in the afternoon where features cut from the main morning keynote can go. ↩︎

Do Wall Street Journal Reporters Read The Wall Street Journal?

Aaron Tilley and Yang Jie, reporting last week for The Wall Street Journal, “Apple Is Breaking Its Own Rules With a New Headset” (News+ link):

Apple’s launch plans break many of its traditions and rules about new products that have become the industry gold standard. Unlike other Apple products, the device is debuting in a still-experimental mode. Apple predicts slower adoption for the headset compared with the Apple Watch or the iPhone, both of which quickly became consumer must-haves. Taking seven years in development before hitting the market, it will be one of the most complex consumer products any company has ever sold.

That’s a lot to unpack in one paragraph. Here goes:

I’d argue Apple has never introduced two new products the same way. Every new product introduction has been different. I honestly don’t know any more about the headset than the rumor mill consensus but I guarantee it isn’t in an “experimental mode”. Neither Apple Watch nor iPhone “quickly became consumer must-haves”. Here’s a report from Daisuke Wakabayashi in ... checks notes ... The Wall Street Fucking Journal itself in April 2016, a year after Apple Watch shipped, that says, in the opening paragraph, “Yet the smartwatch is dogged by a perception that seems premature given the history of Apple’s most popular devices: disappointment.” (The next paragraph claimed that “sales of iPhones are slowing”.)1

The pattern for Apple’s entries into new product categories generally goes like this:

  • Apple releases the first version. It’s expensive. It’s missing a few obvious features. It has a few obvious limitations. But it’s a breakthrough.
  • Early adopters wait in line outside Apple Stores overnight to buy it. Online sales are backordered by weeks or even months soon after they launch.
  • That early fervor aside, it’s an early adopter product, and sales are less than those of Apple’s established products.
  • After a few months or maybe a year, the immediate-gratification-obsessed business press runs articles declaring the product a dud.
  • Apple releases a second-gen version that’s better. Sales go up. Word continues to spread.
  • With each successive year, Apple releases improved models. Those obvious missing features are added. The obvious limitations are removed. Older models stay on sale at lower price points. It becomes a hit product.
  • Years later, when Apple is poised to release another altogether new product, the last one — the one written off as a dud after its first year — is held up as a product that was universally hailed as a sensation and smash hit from day one.

A few paragraphs later in Aaron Tilley and Yang Jie’s report:

For Apple’s first new major product in a decade — the Apple Watch was announced in 2014 — Chief Executive Tim Cook has a lot on the line as the device attempts to dominate the virtual world where people spend time for work or leisure, called the metaverse, which hasn’t yet reached mass adoption or understanding.

There is growing skepticism among some investors and potential future partners that consumers will spend money and time on the metaverse. They note some early adopters are disillusioned with the technology.

It’s a sidenote perhaps, but I’d argue that AirPods are a major new product — and that AirPods Pro are the first true mass-market augmented reality devices. The fact that they’re audio-only, and not visual, blinds people (sorry) to the fact that they’re remarkable AR products. Apple doesn’t break out unit sales, but estimates suggest that if AirPods — just AirPods — were a standalone company, it would have more revenue than Nvidia, Adobe, or Uber, and might soon catch up to Netflix. But that’s a sidenote.

The bigger issue is that back in October, in an on-stage interview, Greg Joswiak was asked to complete the sentence “The metaverse is...”, and his answer was, “...a word I’ll never use.” The fact that people don’t use or even know what the hell the metaverse means is irrelevant to Apple’s headset. I don’t know how much more clear Joz could have been without revealing Apple’s headset then and there — Apple’s not making something that’s just like what other companies already have on the market. That on-stage interview was with ... checks notes ... Joanna Stern at The Wall Street Journal Tech Live conference. It’s enough to make you think Wall Street Journal reporters don’t read The Wall Street Journal.

That no XR headset introduced so far has made much of a dent in the universe isn’t a sign that Apple’s effort is ill-fated. It’s a sign that Apple has an opportunity. In a sense, Apple does have one tradition when entering a new product category: they endeavor to make the first one good enough to be criticized

  1. Here’s a paragraph for the Annals of Prognostication from that same 2016 Wakabayashi report for the Journal:

    And yet, there are detractors such as Fred Wilson, co-founder of venture-capital firm Union Square Ventures, in December declared the Watch a “flop.” Mr. Wilson, who owns shares of Fitbit through a fund, had earlier predicted the Watch wouldn’t be a “home run” like the iPad, iPhone and iPod, saying many people wouldn’t want to wear a computer on their wrist.

    Fred Wilson, the next best thing to Jim Cramer↩︎

Let’s Check in on Supermicro, the Target of Bloomberg’s ‘The Big Hack’

Kim Ahlberg, posting on Mastodon:

Putting some money into SMCI after reading @gruber’s posts calling out Bloomberg¹ on their bullshit story has been a good move so far…

¹ Bloomberg, of course, is the publication that published “The Big Hack” in October 2018 — a sensational story alleging that data centers of Apple, Amazon, and dozens of other companies were compromised by China’s intelligence services. The story presented no confirmable evidence at all.

Supermicro (SMCI) was the company whose server motherboards Bloomberg alleged were compromised by rogue chips designed to surreptitiously phone home to Chinese intelligence servers. Bloomberg presented zero actual evidence then, and five years later, zero evidence of such rogue chips has been found. Every company Bloomberg alleged was compromised flatly denied the report. Bloomberg has never retracted the report, thus forever tarnishing their journalistic integrity. Here’s my first report on the story, and this search should get you to my follow-ups.

When Bloomberg published their spectacular but seemingly completely false report, Supermicro’s stock price plummeted by almost half, from $21.50 to $11.65 per share.

I can’t believe I never thought to follow-up on their share price, given my years-long zealotry reminding people, via footnotes in other reports from Bloomberg, that “The Big Hack” was by all available evidence complete bullshit, yet never retracted.

Turns out Supermicro has done OK in the intervening years. Their stock closed today at $164.56 — over 14 times higher than it was after “The Big Hack” dropped. That’s a tidy return for Ahlberg and anyone else who invested similarly. What a nice postscript to a disgraceful story.