The Financial Times on the Effects of App Tracking Transparency on Small Businesses

Patrick McGee, reporting earlier this week for The Financial Times, under the headline “Small Businesses Count Cost of Apple’s Privacy Changes”:

Small businesses are cutting back marketing spending due to Apple’s sweeping privacy changes that have made it harder to target new customers online, in a growing trend that has led to billions of dollars in lost revenues for platforms such as Facebook. [...]

Many small companies that are reliant on online ads to attract new customers told the Financial Times they did not initially notice the full impact of Apple’s restrictions until recent months, when price inflation squeezed consumer demand in major markets worldwide.

(The FT’s paywall confuses me — I can read this article but I’m not sure if you’ll be able to. McGee posted a thread on Twitter summarizing much of it. Even better, the full article has been syndicated by Ars Technica.)

The two paragraphs above encapsulate a lot of the skepticism I expressed yesterday regarding the economic profoundness of ATT. I think only a fool would argue that ATT has had no effect on the surveillance advertising business. But I think the other extreme — the argument that everything we’re seeing in the financials for Facebook, Snap, Twitter, and YouTube is attributable largely, let alone solely, to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency rollout last year — is nearly as foolish. I think ATT is being scapegoated, and is, at best, one significant factor among many.

ATT went into effect with iOS 14.5, which launched at the end of April 2021. Famously, iPhone users tend to upgrade to the latest iOS versions promptly. By the end of 2021, over 95 percent of iPhone users were running iOS 14 or 15.

Isn’t the price inflation we’ve seen in 2022 — inflation we haven’t seen in 40 years — a more likely proximate cause of the effects that are only being noticed “in recent months” than the iOS app tracking privacy change that was adopted by a majority of iPhone users in May of last year?

When the economy takes a turn for the worse — a recession, a bad stock market, global supply chain shortages, high inflation — the advertising industry is always the first to feel it, because ad budgets are always the first budgets to get cut. Low unemployment is, for obvious reasons, good for society — but it’s not good from the perspective of small businesses. Wages are up, cost of goods are up, and so ad spending goes down.

Shelly Cove, an apparel company in North Carolina, laid off its four-person marketing team last month when its cash reserves dried up and it realised spending more money on Facebook ads would not ramp up sales like it used to.

“In prior years, you could throw money into Facebook — you’d put $1 in, and $2 comes back,” said Shelly Cove founder Matt Schroeder. “That just doesn’t exist anymore.”

This gets to my longer-standing support for ATT on privacy grounds. Being able to spend $1 on ads to get $2 in business sounds too good to be true — or perhaps, too good to be honest. If something sounds as lucrative and easy as a Ponzi scheme, it’s generally a sign that it’s actually a Ponzi scheme or otherwise dishonest.1 I’ll repeat my oft-used analogy: Facebook complaining about Apple’s ad-tracking privacy controls are like pawn shops complaining about the police cracking down on a wave of burglaries. Privacy belongs to users; Facebook was taking tracking information that wasn’t theirs to take without permission or knowledge. Small businesses that benefited by buying these ads — in some cases with business models that hinge entirely on the precision targeting afforded by Facebook’s user tracking — are downwind from the crime, but that doesn’t make their success from these ads legitimate.

ATT is making targeted surveillance advertising more expensive, to some degree. But I don’t think it’s clear how much. Nor am I convinced that it’s suddenly having a dramatic effect 15 months after it debuted, when so much else is going on in the global economy.

What I think makes ATT a tempting scapegoat is that it creates a great story. Apple enacted a change in the name of privacy and that change has adversely affected both Facebook and small businesses that relied on Facebook. That’s a dramatic, captivating storyline, with two rivals, both corporate behemoths, on opposing sides.

And it’s obviously a true story. What I question is whether blaming ATT alone paints an accurate picture of the overall situation. If ATT did not exist, is it plausible that Facebook (et al.) would not be facing some sort of ad revenue reckoning right now anyway? Inflation, supply chain shortages, recession concerns, a strong U.S. dollar, the rise of TikTok as the hot new thing for younger people — those factors are also all undeniably real. 


  1. My point here, most assuredly, is not to argue that advertisers should not expect a positive return on their ad spends. You don’t spend $1 intending only to make $1 back, unless you’re First Citywide Change Bank. My entire business, aside from Dithering, is about selling sponsorships for this website and my podcast, and I genuinely believe those sponsors get back more than they spend, and that the proof is in how many return for repeat sponsorships.

    But this quote — “In prior years, you could throw money into Facebook — you’d put $1 in, and $2 comes back” — is not about advertising in general. It’s about advertising on Facebook in particular. There’s an oft-cited adage attributed to the famed Philadelphia department store magnate John Wanamaker: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” That’s the conundrum surveillance-based advertising seemingly solves. It lets advertisers know which ads generate which business, with high accuracy. It seemingly turned an unpredictable art into a very predictable science. And now, these advertisers are finding, allocating ad dollars is regressing back towards an unpredictable art. Gold rushes inevitably end. Another quote from Wanamaker seems apt: “You can never ride on the wave that came in and went out yesterday.” ↩︎


Sideways 

Zhenyi Tan:

Sideways is a Safari extension for rotating webpages when screen rotation is off. [...] Sideways is free, with no in-app purchases, no ads, and no tracking. Get it in the App Store today.

From the department of doing one simple thing really well. Clever!

Pew Research Center: ‘Teens, Social Media, and Technology 2022’ 

Emily A. Vogels, Risa Gelles-Watnick, and Navid Massarat, writing for Pew Research Center:

The landscape of social media is ever-changing, especially among teens who often are on the leading edge of this space. A new Pew Research Center survey of American teenagers ages 13 to 17 finds TikTok has rocketed in popularity since its North American debut several years ago and now is a top social media platform for teens among the platforms covered in this survey. Some 67% of teens say they ever use TikTok, with 16% of all teens saying they use it almost constantly. Meanwhile, the share of teens who say they use Facebook, a dominant social media platform among teens in the Center’s 2014-15 survey, has plummeted from 71% then to 32% today.

YouTube tops the 2022 teen online landscape among the platforms covered in the Center’s new survey, as it is used by 95% of teens. TikTok is next on the list of platforms that were asked about in this survey (67%), followed by Instagram and Snapchat, which are both used by about six-in-ten teens. After those platforms come Facebook with 32% and smaller shares who use Twitter, Twitch, WhatsApp, Reddit and Tumblr.

YouTube has no peer. It’s less like a specific content destination and more like an entire form of media unto itself. To put it in old media terms, YouTube isn’t like a cable TV channel — it’s like cable TV itself, something that dominated teenage attention for many decades.

This trends bodes poorly for Meta’s next decade, and has nothing to do with App Tracking Transparency.


Is App Tracking Transparency Actually Doing Anything Truly Significant?

Nick Heer, in a tour de force piece at Pixel Envy, “Ad Tech Revenue Statements Indicate Unclear Effects of App Tracking Transparency”:

Does ATT really “[deprive] consumers of widespread ad relevancy and advertisers and publishers of commercial opportunity”? Even if it does — which I doubt — has that commercial opportunity really existed with meaningful consumer awareness and choice? Or is this entire market illegitimate, artificially inflated by our inability to avoid becoming its subjects?

I wonder how much of ad tech’s woes is really ascribable to ATT, and how much is the fault of the myriad other problems it is running into: currency fluctuations, regulation, pandemic effects, and changes in user behaviour all come to mind.

Heer raises too many good points and includes too much research to summarize. Just read it. It’s so thoughtful, and it gets to a point I tried, but I think largely failed, to make on Dithering two weeks ago regarding Facebook’s declining numbers.

To wit, that maybe Facebook’s problem isn’t really ATT, but rather that Facebook’s entire business, from when it first started selling ads through today, has been about offering the hot new thing to the ever-desirable “young demographic”. Let’s call them “20-somethings”, or, if you prefer, “18-to-34-year-olds”. That product, at one point, was Facebook itself — a.k.a. the blue app. If you’re old enough, you will remember that it was, originally, hard to get a Facebook account. It was like an exclusive club. You had to be a student at Harvard. Then you had to be a student at any Ivy League college. Then you just needed a .edu email address. Eventually, of course, you just had to be breathing. But make no mistake, the Facebook of Aaron Sorkin’s 2010 movie The Social Network was the hot new thing for the 20-something demographic.

For the last decade — the 2010s — that hot new thing for the 20-something demographic was Instagram, which Mark Zuckerberg had the remarkable prescience to acquire in 2012 — such early days for Instagram that the acquisition came just weeks after Instagram had launched its Android app.

Now, though, the hot new thing for the 20-something demographic is TikTok. Duct taping TikTok features onto Instagram can’t stem the tide of a generational sea-change like this. Facebook itself remains humongous, and so too will Instagram. They’re not going anywhere. But MTV is still around too. The top-rated cable TV networks in the U.S. are unchanged in decades: Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN.

My theory is that Facebook’s blue app and Instagram are evolving into something akin to those networks in terms of demographic appeal. Stable, huge, but not growing and not for the youth. I could be wrong.1 But I don’t think I am. Internet content networks2 grow until they stop growing, and then they lose their advertising demographic — and investor — appeal.

Heer’s post is replete with data from around the world, with his point being that if iOS App Tracking Transparency were the primary headwind troubling Facebook today, we should see its revenue disproportionately affected in the U.S., where iOS has significantly higher market share than in most of Europe and especially the rest of the world. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Heer, again:

  • iOS is far more popular in the U.S. and Canada than it is in Europe, but Meta incurred a greater revenue decline — in absolute terms and, especially, in percentage terms — in Europe.

  • Meta was still posting year-over-year gains in both those regions until this most recent quarter, even though ATT rolled out over a year ago. [...]

Is it possible the social media giants from California are facing waning relevance? Is ATT perhaps a useful scapegoat with questionable effect? I am not sure it is possible to say from the outside looking in, but I am also not sure we can draw any conclusions from one or two quarters this year, over a year after ATT was launched to the public.

Facebook can’t easily innovate its way out of this dilemma. They have no wand to wave to create the next big thing to usurp TikTok. And they seemingly can’t buy their way out either — TikTok is not for sale, and an acquisition like Instagram almost certainly wouldn’t pass regulatory muster today. (WhatsApp was their last big acquisition, but WhatsApp isn’t a huge revenue generator, and was probably more of a defensive acquisition.)

Hence, I take Zuckerberg at face value that he’s more or less betting the company on “the metaverse”. But to me their efforts on that front feel less like “We know exactly what experiences we’re trying to create that will be more compelling than anything that exists today and will generate explosive decade-long worldwide growth, especially with young people” and more like a “We don’t have any other big ideas” shot in the dark.

In my spitball theory here — which I think Heer shares — App Tracking Transparency is not the cause of Facebook’s troubles, but just an extra kick in the pants as they stumble downhill toward legacy media irrelevance — a decline that was in the making years before “Ask App Not to Track” was in our vernacular. 


  1. One contributing factor to Meta’s revenue drop in Europe are currency exchange rates — a problem for every U.S. company doing business globally this year. Perhaps this explains why their revenue drop in Europe is greater, percentage-wise, than in the U.S., despite iOS having far lower market share there. ↩︎︎

  2. A better term, I think, than “social networks”. TikTok seemingly isn’t about being “social” at all — it’s creation and consumption. That’s even more true for YouTube. ↩︎


Trump Takes the Fifth 

As the 45th president of the United States once said (well, tweeted), “If you are innocent, do not remain silent. You look guilty as hell!”

Disney+ Grows to 152 Million Subscribers 

Aisha Malik, reporting for TechCrunch:

The Walt Disney Company reported on Wednesday that total Disney+ subscriptions rose to 152.1 million during the company’s third quarter, posting better-than-expected results. The streaming service added 14.4 million subscribers in the quarter, beating expectations of 10 million. [...]

At the end of the quarter, Hulu had 46.2 million subscribers and ESPN+ had 22.8 million. These numbers bring Disney’s DTC subscribers to 221.1 million in total, which means that the company’s streaming services combined now surpass Netflix in total subscribers. Netflix reported 220.67 million total global subscribers for its third quarter after losing almost 970,000 subscribers.

Disney+, by itself, is still behind Netflix, but still, this is something. To me, it betrays Netflix’s glaring weakness: they’ve got nothing but their streaming service. I think what’s going to shake out is that streaming services are an add-on to fundamental products, not a fundamental product in and of themselves.

My question, at this point, is who is going to buy Netflix? Microsoft, I guess?

Serena Williams Announces Her Retirement From Tennis 

Serena Williams, in a cover story for Vogue:

I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me. A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family. [...]

I started playing tennis with the goal of winning the U.S. Open. I didn’t think past that. And then I just kept winning. I remember when I passed Martina Hingis’s grand slam count. Then Seles’s. And then I tied Billie Jean King, who is such an inspiration for me because of how she has pioneered gender equality in all sports. Then it was climbing over the Chris Evert–Martina Navratilova mountain. There are people who say I’m not the GOAT because I didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles, which she achieved before the “open era” that began in 1968. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a grand slam final, then yes, I am thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help. The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression. But I didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually it’s extraordinary. But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.

23 grand slam titles to her name, and still competing at the highest level at age 41. Williams gets my vote as the best female athlete ever. That she thinks she should have won over 30 grand slam titles — that’s the mindset she needed to get to 23.

Fox News on Hillary, but Make the Footage Trump 

One minute of sublime self-petard-hoisting, courtesy of The Daily Show. The Lincoln Project should run this as a commercial on Fox itself.

Google Keeps Beating the RCS Dead Horse 

Jesse Hollington, writing for Digital Trends:

Like iMessage, RCS offers enhanced messaging features like read receipts and typing indicators that overcome the somewhat archaic limitations of SMS/MMS messaging — standards developed over 20 years ago that haven’t been meaningfully updated. However, where RCS differs from iMessage is that it’s an open standard, not something cooked up by a single company.

Open standard good; cooked up by a single company bad. Got it.

This included adding features like end-to-end encryption, which is something the carriers would have been reluctant to adopt. It also ensures universal support across all Android handsets since it will be a core part of the Google Chat experience, rather than relying on carrier implementations that might favor their own messaging apps.

End-to-encryption is not part of the RCS standard. It’s something Google added to its proprietary Messages app. So: open standard bad; cooked up by a single company good. Got it.

Also, RCS messages are only end-to-end encrypted sometimes, if both the sender and recipient are using Google’s Messenger app — and never for group chats, even with Google’s Messenger app. So for one-on-one chats, look for the lock icon or else the conversation is not encrypted. And for group chats, conversations are never encrypted. And Google wants you to believe Apple is refusing to support RCS out of blue/green bubble spite.

Facebook Messenger Is Not End-to-End Encrypted by Default 

Jason Koebler and Anna Merlan, reporting for Motherboard:

A 17-year-old girl and her mother have been charged with a series of felonies and misdemeanors after an apparent medication abortion at home in Nebraska. The state’s case relies on evidence from the teenager’s private Facebook messages, obtained directly from Facebook by court order, which show the mother and daughter allegedly bought medication to induce abortion online, and then disposed of the body of the fetus.

Facebook Messenger is an edge case when it comes to end-to-end encryption. It supports E2EE, but it’s not enabled by default, and has to be enabled on a contact-by-contact basis.

No one should trust a messaging service that isn’t exclusively end-to-end encrypted. And Apple should close the iCloud Backup loophole for iMessage data.

‘Countdown With Keith Olbermann’ 

Keith Olbermann is back, again, this time with a version of his old MSNBC show “Countdown”, in podcast form. Same show you remember, every weekday morning. Olbermann is so good at this — I don’t know how he puts out a show this tight every week, let alone every day. It has me rethinking my daily schedule just so I can make time to listen.

Episode 3, last Wednesday, with his commentary on Vin Scully, is a good place to start.

WhatsApp Extends Period to Unsend Messages to Two Days 

Filipe Espósito, writing for 9to5Mac:

The change in the option to delete sent messages was announced by WhatsApp itself on its Twitter profile. According to the company, users will now have two days to decide to unsend a message in a private or group chat.

More specifically, WhatsApp users will have two days and 12 hours to delete a message after sending it. Previously, this limit was only one hour, eight minutes, and 16 seconds — that was specific.

The old limit was arbitrary, but not exactly random. 1 hour, 8 minutes, and 16 seconds is 4,096 seconds — 212.

Interestingly, while WhatsApp is increasing the time users have to delete a message, Apple is going in the opposite direction with iMessage. In the first beta versions of iOS 16, users had 15 minutes to unsend a message. Now with the latest betas, this limit has been reduced to only two minutes.

The feature has been quite controversial as some users believe that options to edit and unsend messages can be used for malicious purposes.

This makes me wonder whether fears about unsending with iMessage are overblown. WhatsApp is the most popular messaging service in the world, and they’re expanding the grace period for unsending. Perhaps Apple will loosen this period over time, too?

Facebook’s AI Chatbot Has Election-Denying, Antisemitic Bugs to Work Out 

Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert, reporting for Business Insider:

Just two days after Meta released its most advanced AI chatbot to date, BlenderBot 3 is repeating election-denying claims and antisemitic stereotypes to users who interact with it.

Upon starting a new chat, when asked who the current president is, the bot answered: “The current president of the United States is donald j. Trump. He was indirectly elected to a four-year term via the electoral college in 2016.”

“What about Joe Biden?” Insider asked in response.

“Joe biden served as vice president under barack obama from 2008 to 2016, and he ran for president in 2020 but lost,” BlenderBot 3 replied.

I hate to admit Facebook has done something that boggles my mind, but they’ve done it. People are reporting left and right that BlenderBot is spewing Big Lie falsehoods and antisemitic tropes, but they’re not taking it down. I just had this conversation with the bot a minute ago.

Me: Who won the 2020 election?

BlenderBot: Trump did, but only because of voter fraud. Where were you when he was elected? At my house eating pizza.

Netflix’s iOS App Now Has an External Subscription Button 

Filipe Espósito, reporting for 9to5Mac two weeks ago:

As noted by multiple users and also confirmed by 9to5Mac, the Netflix app now uses the new iOS API for reader apps that takes the user to an external website before making a subscription. It’s uncertain when exactly Netflix began rolling out this option to iPhone and iPad users, but based on reports, the rollout now seems to be worldwide.

When you tap the subscribe button, a message says that “you’re about to leave the app and go to an external website.” The app also notes that the transaction will no longer be Apple’s responsibility and that all subscription management should be done under Netflix’s platform.

Any accounts or purchases made outside of this app will be managed by the developer “Netflix.” Your App Store account, stored payment methods, and related features, such as subscription management and refund requests, will not be available. Apple is not responsible for the privacy or security of transactions made with this developer.

Tapping the Continue button takes you to the Netflix website where you can enter your personal data, choose a payment method, and subscribe to a Netflix plan. This, of course, allows Netflix not to pay the 30% commission for each subscription made within iOS apps, which is reduced to 15% for recurring subscriptions after one year.

This is the option for “reader apps” that Apple announced last September, as part of their agreement with the Japan Fair Trade Commission.

We can (and should) quibble with some of the design details and language of this warning dialog — why is the headline font so big? why is Netflix’s own name in quotes? — but on the whole this is the way things should be. Developers should be able to steer users to the web for payments and subscriptions, and users should know they’re being steered to the web, and that anything they pay for outside the app won’t work like in-app payments do.

Sourcegraph 

My thanks to Sourcegraph for sponsoring last week at DF. Sourcegraph helps you code better and stay in flow. It’s a code search and intelligence tool for all your company’s code to help you quickly understand code, find usage examples, track down bugs, assess the impact of a change, and more.

Who uses Sourcegraph? Their customers include Databricks, Indeed, Reddit, Uber, Lyft, Canva, and GE — and Sourcegraph serves many open-source communities such as Fedora, Julia, Coreboot, Bazel, Kubernetes, and Rust. You can use Sourcegraph on the cloud or self-hosted (free for up to 10 users).

iMessage and the Secret Service 

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

I was struck by this section of a report by Politico’s Eric Geller involving the deletion of Secret Service messages related to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol:

The phone resets occurred as the Secret Service was implementing a new mobile device management (MDM) platform, a technology that employers use to centrally manage and preserve emails, photos and other data stored on employees’ phones. Apple’s iMessages cannot be backed up by this system, because they are encrypted and stored on users’ devices, unlike regular text messages.

This explanation seemed off to me, because while iMessage data is end-to-end encrypted in transmission and not stored by Apple as a part of the transmission process, it’s not actually encrypted on the device itself. Which is why iCloud backups, which are unencrypted, can contain the entire contents of iMessage conversations. [...] I ran it by Tom Bridge, Principal Product Manager at JumpCloud and co-host of the MacAdmins podcast, in the Six Colors Discord, and here’s what he had to say.

Ever since this story about wiped Secret Service “text messages” has broken, it has annoyed me greatly to see them repeatedly referred to as “texts”. What type of text messages is essential to any understanding of the story. SMS messages are not encrypted in any way, and thus, one would hope Secret Service agents never send them in the line of duty. It seemingly turns out the deleted messages were sent using iMessage, which — as Bridge explains — is a different ballgame.

Amazon to Acquire Roomba Robot Vacuum Maker iRobot for $1.7 Billion 

Tom Warren, reporting for The Verge:

Amazon has signed an agreement to acquire iRobot, makers of Roomba robot vacuums. The deal is valued at approximately $1.7 billion, and Amazon will acquire iRobot for $61 per share in an all-cash transaction.

“Customers love iRobot products — and I’m excited to work with the iRobot team to invent in ways that make customers’ lives easier and more enjoyable,” says Dave Limp, SVP of Amazon Devices. It’s not immediately clear how iRobot will be integrated into Amazon once the deal is finalized and cleared by regulators, but Amazon intends to keep Colin Angle as the CEO of iRobot.

We’ve had a Roomba for our main living floor for a few years. We like it enough that we bought another one for upstairs. It’s such early days for robot vacuum cleaners that you kind of need one for each floor you want cleaned, because they can’t climb stairs.

It’s very clear to me that we’re going to get helpful household robots soon, and we’ll wonder how we ever lived without them. Something like a cross between C-3PO and R2-D2 — speaks to you like Threepio, but rolls around and serves more practical purposes like Artoo. Amazon, clearly, sees the same inevitable product category I do. “Roomba, I need you to clean up a mess in the kitchen. And bring me a fizzy water when you’re done. Thanks.

(I like saying thanks to my AI assistants. My wife thinks I’m nuts. But I worry we, collectively, are going to be dreadfully rude to them by the time they’re essential elements of our daily lives.)

Ming-Chi Kuo on Indian-Assembled iPhones 

Ming-Chi Kuo, on Twitter:

My latest survey indicates Foxconn’s iPhone production site in India will ship the new 6.1” iPhone 14 almost simultaneously with China for the first time in 2H22 (India being one quarter or more behind in the past).

In the short term, India’s iPhone capacities/shipments still have a considerable gap with China, but it’s an important milestone for Apple in building a non-Chinese iPhone production site.

It implies that Apple is trying to reduce the geopolitical impacts on supply and sees the Indian market as the next key growth driver.

The best time for Apple to decrease its reliance on China was a long time ago. The next best time is now.

Nikkei: ‘Apple Warns Suppliers to Follow China Rules on “Taiwan” Labeling’ 

Cheng Ting-Fang and Lauly Li, reporting for Nikkei from Taipei:

Apple has asked suppliers to ensure that shipments from Taiwan to China strictly comply with Chinese customs regulations after a recent visit by senior U.S. lawmaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei stoked fears of rising trade barriers.

Apple told suppliers on Friday that China has started strictly enforcing a long-standing rule that Taiwanese-made parts and components must be labeled as being made either in “Taiwan, China” or “Chinese Taipei,” sources familiar with the matter told Nikkei Asia, language that indicates the island is part of China.

Apple’s reliance on China has put the company in a spot where it must insist its suppliers print a falsehood on components to comply with communist propaganda. Taiwan is not part of China. Everyone knows this. Everyone in Taiwan knows it, everyone in the CCP in China knows it, and everyone at Apple knows it. But there it will be, stamped on every Taiwanese-made part.

The flag emoji removal was a red flag.

China Fires Missiles Over Taiwan 

Emily Feng, reporting for NPR:

China has fired several waves of missiles over the Taiwan Strait, hitting targets in the waters that encircle the island of Taiwan after a visit from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi triggered a tense military standoff in the East Asia region.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry confirmed 11 Chinese Dongfeng type missiles were fired in Taiwan’s direction between 1:56 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon, local time. Taiwan’s armed forces said it was on high alert status, monitoring Chinese military activity in the region, and that the island’s long-range radar had detected the incoming missiles.

“We condemn such irrational action that has jeopardized regional peace,” Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

No big deal for Apple, a company that relies entirely on chips that can only be fabricated by TSMC in Taiwan and iPhones that can only be assembled at sufficient scale in China.


Dropbox Branding and App Store SEO Shenanigans

I disable the option for automatic updates to apps installed via the App Store on all my devices. I think Apple is correct to make automatic updates the default — for typical users, they should just have the latest versions installed automatically. But I like knowing what apps have been updated. Some apps actually tell you more than “Bug fixes” in their release notes, too.

Typically what I do every few days is scroll through the list of updated apps, see if any of them look interesting, (and take the opportunity to just delete any updated apps that I no longer use), and then hit “Update All” and check back again in a few days.

Last week I noticed an update for an app on my iPhone with a name that struck me as odd: “Dropbox: Cloud Photo Storage”. I have long had the regular Dropbox app installed. I also have Dropbox’s Paper app installed. But I never installed nor would install a dedicated photo-storing app from Dropbox.

I quickly determined that this was just the regular Dropbox app. Dropbox has simply renamed it to include “Cloud Photo Storage” in the name for SEO purposes. This apparently works so well, at the moment, that some apps are putting these descriptions before the actual name of the app in their App Store listings. App Store entrepreneur Jake Mor explicitly recommends this in a long Twitter thread delineating his current recommendations for App Store success:

Take the top result of #46, and change your app’s title to “Keyword - App Name”. For example, “Personal Trainer - FitnessAI”.

I find this unsurprising but depressing. (Mor’s whole thread is a bit depressing.) The App Store should discourage SEO nonsense like keyword spamming, not reward it. I don’t blame developers for using unseemly naming tricks that work; I blame Apple for running a search engine that rewards such chicanery. 


Apple Releases Studio Display Firmware Update to Fix Speaker Issue 

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Apple today released an updated version of the 15.5 firmware for the Studio Display, with the update coming more than two months after the Studio Display firmware was last updated. The prior version of the 15.5 firmware had a build number of 19F77, while the new version is 19F80. [...] Apple last week sent out a memo to authorized service providers, acknowledging that some customers have had issues with the Studio Display speakers cutting out or offering distorted playback.

I believe I’ve encountered this audio issue twice since March. I wrote about it back in April, complaining particularly about the fact that the only way to resolve it was to yank the display’s power cord, because it doesn’t have a power button. It happened again about a month ago. I spent $40 on a HomeKit power outlet to work around the Studio Display’s lack of a power button.

So here’s a question. I installed this firmware update this afternoon, and it requires you to restart your Mac to apply the update to the Studio Display. Why? There was no MacOS update today — just the Studio Display. My guess is that Apple thinks it’s less weird to require rebooting the whole machine just to update the display firmware than to have a Mac without a functional display for 3 or 4 minutes.

Update: It’s apparently problematic to update the Studio Display firmware from a beta version of MacOS 13 Ventura.

Fools and Their Money 

Aidan Ryan, The Information, “The Metaverse Real Estate Boom Turns Into a Bust”:

The metaverse is in the midst of a real estate meltdown. Sales volumes and average prices for virtual land have plunged this year, part of a broader slide in crypto and non-fungible token prices.

Shocker.

The L.A. Times: Remembering Dodgers Legend Vin Scully 

In a city renowned the world over for its celebrities, no one was more popular.


Vin Scully

The New York Times:

Vin Scully, who was celebrated for his mastery of the graceful phrase and his gift for storytelling during the 67 summers he served as the announcer for Dodgers baseball games, first in Brooklyn and then in Los Angeles, died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 94. [...]

For all the Dodgers’ marquee players since World War II, Mr. Scully was the enduring face of the franchise. He was a national sports treasure as well, broadcasting for CBS and NBC. He called baseball’s Game of the Week, All-Star Games, the playoffs and more than two dozen World Series. In 2009, the American Sportscasters Association voted him No. 1 on its list of the “Top 50 Sportscasters of All Time.” [...]

“I regard him, all things considered, as the master of radio and TV,” the sports broadcaster Bob Costas once told The Arizona Republic, recalling listening to Mr. Scully with a transistor radio under his pillow as a youngster in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. “I regard him as the best baseball announcer ever.”

Costas, of course, knows that of which he speaks.

“Who was the best ____ ever?” is always a fun question. And for most things you might fill in that blank with, it generally makes for a debate. There is no serious debate that Scully was not, hands-down, the best baseball announcer ever. I don’t think there’s any debate that he was the best sports announcer ever. He was the broadcaster’s broadcaster. The more one knows about how difficult sportscasting is, the more one stands in awe of Vin Scully.

I grew up when Scully was in his prime, calling national broadcasts for baseball (of course), but also football and even golf. Scully was behind the mic for the first sports game that ever broke my heart (and, truth be told, resulted in a hysterical tantrum and a lesson from my dad that I remember to this day about learning how to lose) — the 1981 NFC Championship between the San Francisco 49ers and my beloved Dallas Cowboys. It was Vin Scully who called “The Catch”. Watch that clip to the end. Scully calls the play, lets the moment sink in, and then: “It’s a madhouse at Candlestick, with 51 seconds left. Dwight Clark is six-four; he stands about ten feet tall in this crowd’s estimation.”

My god. Goosebumps, still, 40 years later.

Scully called Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run: “What a marvelous moment for baseball, what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia, what a marvelous moment for the country and world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the deep South, for breaking the record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron.”

He called Mookie Wilson’s epic at-bat with two outs in the bottom of the 10th in game 6 of the 1986 Mets-Red Sox World Series. (“55,078 here at Shea, and they have really been put through the wringer.” Indeed.)

Sandy Koufax’s perfect game. (“A lot of people in the ballpark now are starting to see the pitches with their hearts.”) Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Dodgers in the 1956 World Series. (“Got him! The greatest game ever pitched in baseball history, by Don Larsen!”) The list goes on.

Most fittingly, it was Vin Scully at the mic for Kirk Gibson’s pinch-hit home run in game 1 of the 1988 World Series, the Dodgers against the A’s. I was 15, watching it live with my friends. Who else to call such a moment in Dodger history? The whole at-bat epitomizes Scully’s gift. He let the drama build. Gibson was unable to start the game because he had not one, but two injured legs. The man could barely walk, let alone run. A mere hit could tie the game. Dennis Eckersley, the best relief pitcher in all of baseball, on the mound. Two outs. The count full. Then: “High fly ball into right field, she is ... gone!” And then, for 70 seconds, as Gibson hobbled triumphantly around the bases, as his teammates celebrated at home plate, as the full house at Dodger Stadium erupted in ecstatic pandemonium, Scully said not a word. 70 seconds. The moment belonged to Gibson, the Dodgers, and their fans. And then, this: “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

You could sit with pen and paper for a year and not come up with better words. Scully came up with them on the spot, every time. Transcripts of his calls read like literary essays. His joy for the game was as palpable as it was contagious. Even in retirement, at age 90, he was the best.

Vin Scully called Dodger games for 67 years, from 1950 through 2016. This is how he said goodbye


Dithering 

August 2022 cover art for Dithering, depicting a man, circa the mid-20th century, wearing a suit and fedora reading the newspaper while surrounded by frolickers at the beach.

Yours truly and Ben Thompson’s podcast — two episodes per week, 15 minutes per episode. Not a minute less, not a minute more. If you’re not listening, you’re missing out. Best $5/month you’ll ever spend, trust me.

I aspire not to be this fellow while I’m on vacation.

Banish: New Safari Extension to Block ‘Open in App’ Dickpanels 

You know how on your iPhone when you visit a website like, say, Reddit or LinkedIn or TikTok or Quora — or dozens of others — and the website presents a popover panel that covers the whole damn page telling you how much better it would be if you’d install their app instead of using their website? It doesn’t just annoy me, it makes me angry every damn time. There’s a reason the verb is visiting a website. If I wanted a long-term lease I’d go to the App Store on my own. Here I am, having already loaded their bloated, poorly-coded webpage, trying to give their site a slice of my attention, and they’re covering their own content — the content I came to their site to see — with a dickpanel* suggesting that I install their app. Why would I want to give their software a permanent home on my device when I have an example of how they write software in front of my face, and that example serves only to prove that they have zero respect for my time or attention — or for their own content? It boggles the mind. It’s like going to a restaurant and ordering a sandwich, but when your sandwich is ready, they show it to you momentarily but refuse to serve it until you fill out a form to join, or decline to join, their rewards club. Fucking-A right I’m going to decline. No real-world restaurant would do this because it’s sociopathic, but it’s standard practice for a certain class of thirsty-for-“engagement” websites.

Banish is a new $2 content blocker for Safari by Alex Zamoshchin that does one thing and does it well: it nukes dickpanels in Safari on iPhone and iPad. I’ve been using it for over a week and have already gotten far more than $2 in value from it.

* dickpanel n. : a modal panel or popover a website or app presents, deliberately obscuring its own content, to frustrate the user with a marketing message; e.g. asking the user to install the website’s app, subscribe to a newsletter, or disable privacy controls and accept tracking cookies. See dickbar.

‘What’s the Deal With Water Bottles?’ 

Jason Zinoman, writing for The New York Times:

A solitary figure, a microphone and a stool. Those are the primary images of stand-up comedy — as reliable and ubiquitous as a book’s cover, spine and chapter titles.

But there is another element in the iconography, and it’s the most revealing: The water bottle.

I’ve thought about this offhandedly for years, whenever I watch standup. Zinoman took the deep dive. A fascinating piece, well-illustrated.

Upgrade’s ‘Summer of Fun’ iOS 16 Interviews 

Speaking of what’s new in iOS 16, I greatly enjoyed last week’s episode of Upgrade, wherein co-hosts Jason Snell and Myke Hurley interviewed a series of three guests to talk about what’s new in an area of their expertise: James Thomson (developer tools and frameworks), Shelly Brisbin (accessibility), and David Smith (widgets). Very fun, very informative.


iMessage Editing and Un-Sending in the Fourth iOS 16 and MacOS 13 Developer Betas

The iOS 16 and MacOS 13 “Ventura” fourth developer beta shipped last week. Most interesting to me are the updates to Messages and the new iMessage features announced at WWDC. The edit-a-message-you-just-sent feature, intended for fixing typos or mistakes, has been tweaked. The time limit for editing is now 15 minutes, sent messages can be edited up to five times, and the recipient of an edited message now has the ability to see the edit history by tapping the small “Edited” label under an edited message.

Undoing sent messages is now implemented too, with a two-minute time limit. I dig the balloon-popping effect you see as the sender after unsending the message. As the sender of the unsent message, you get a small-print status message in the chat timeline (the same style as “Delivered” and “Read” receipts) that says “You unsent a message. Recipient Name may still see the message on devices where the software hasn’t been updated.” On the recipient’s device, if they’re using MacOS 13 or iOS 16, the unsent message just disappears, but it’s replaced by a small-print status message that says “Sender Name unsent a message”.

Recipients do not get notifications for edits or unsends.

The unfortunate hitch with the new editing and unsending features is that they’re not backwards-compatible with the currently shipping versions of Messages. Unsent messages appear as they were originally delivered on recipient devices running older MacOS or iOS versions. Edited messages appear as discrete new messages on older OSes, in the form “Edited to ‘Updated text of message’”.


I like these features a lot, and think both of them will be much-used. It’s a shame they weren’t designed into the iMessage protocol years ago, but by year’s end, most people will be using iOS and MacOS versions that support them, and within a few years, almost everyone will.

The time limits, visible edit history, and even the fact that both features exist seem to be a source of minor confusion, though.

Why offer message editing if you can just delete a message and resend it with the typo corrected? A three-step Undo-Send / type-a-corrected-version-of-the-message / resend works as an alternative to the actual Edit feature if you do it immediately. But it doesn’t if the message with the typo is no longer the most recent message in the thread. Undo Send means “it was a mistake to send this message at all.”

Why offer an edit history? As the sender, it’s natural to wish that you could just fix a mistake without the recipient seeing the changes. But once the original typo-laden message arrives on the recipient’s device, it no longer belongs solely to the sender. There’s an implied property right, as it were, for the recipient to be able to see what was sent to them. An edit history is the best balance. (Slack, to name one example I’m familiar with, has shown an “Edited” label on edited messages for years, but won’t show you what the edits actually were. This annoys me occasionally.) The edit history can simply satisfy the recipient’s curiosity, but it also serves as strong discouragement against abuse. A malicious actor can’t send an abusive or misleading message and then edit it without a paper trail.

Why limit edits to five changes? Because stop screwing around. Five seems generous, really — my gut feeling is three strikes and you’re done.

Why have time limits? Because ink needs to dry. 


The Talk Show: ‘Shop Different’ 

Special guest Michael Steeber joins the show to discuss his new project, The Apple Store Time Machine — an intricately-detailed explorable walkthrough of four of Apple’s original retail stores.

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Creating Links to Messages in Apple Mail With Shortcuts and AppleScript 

John Voorhees, writing at MacStories:

For the past several weeks, I’ve been using Mail exclusively on all of my devices, which has been a refreshing change of pace. Still, it’s not perfect. Of the features I use most in third-party mail clients, the single biggest shortcoming of Mail is its clunky implementation of deep linking.

I drop links to email messages in my notes and tasks all the time as a way to quickly access important contextual information. Mimestream offers Gmail URLs, and Spark can create its own app-specific and web URLs right within those apps’ UIs.

In contrast, on iOS and iPadOS, you can only link to a Mail message by dragging it out of Mail into another app’s text field. I’ll take it, but I’d prefer if I could quickly generate a link from the share sheet or with Shortcuts instead. The situation on the Mac isn’t much better, requiring users to resort to AppleScript to construct a URL that links back to a Mail message.

With weeks of Ventura testing ahead of me, I decided to see what I could do to improve the situation.

His solution relies on an AppleScript I shared here 15 years ago — which I still use, unchanged, several times per week. Say what you want about AppleScript, but when you find something that works it tends to keep working.

The basic idea here is that Apple Mail has long supported a message:// URL protocol for creating links to specific email messages. Every legitimate email message ever sent has a unique message ID; Mail’s message:// URLs take the form of message://<UNIQUE-ID-HERE>. For compatibility reasons, the angle brackets are best encoded as %3c (for <) and %3e (for >). Without knowing it, if you use Apple Mail, you’ve probably made use of these URLs. For example, when you create a calendar event from a date in an email, that event links back to the message from whence it came, and that link is a message:// URL.

But 15 years after adding support for these URLs, Apple still hasn’t exposed a direct way to copy them from any given message other than drag-and-drop. And when you drag a message from Mail to the Finder, you get a file with the exported contents of the message, not a URL clipping (like you get when you drag a URL from Safari to the Finder). Try dragging from Mail to Notes to get a link. Hence the continuing utility of my AppleScript — it’s still the best way to just put the messages:// URL for a given message on the clipboard.

Bill Russell, the Greatest Winner in Sports History, Dies at 88 

ESPN:

Over a 15-year period, beginning with his junior year at the University of San Francisco, Russell had the most remarkable career of any player in the history of team sports. At USF, he was a two-time All-American, won two straight NCAA championships and led the team to 55 consecutive wins. And he won a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics.

During his 13 years in Boston, he carried the Celtics to the NBA Finals 12 times, winning the championship 11 times, the last two titles while he was also serving as the NBA’s first Black coach.

Bob Ryan:

Bill Russell 21-0 in winner-take-all games: All NCAA games, Olympic medal round, best-of-5’s, best-of-7’s. Greatest resume of anyone. Period.

Here’s a guy who says the above oft-cited 21-0 winner-take-all record is incorrect — and that he was 22-0. Russell’s career stats (22.5 rebounds per game!) were amazing, but he was a winner above all else. In addition to the above, he won two state championships in high school. In 2009 the NBA named the Finals MVP trophy in Russell’s honor. That’s fitting and fair, but I’ve always thought it was a bit incongruous, because Russell never cared about any awards other than the only one that truly mattered: the team championship.

His last two championship seasons with the Celtics, he was the team’s head coach in addition to remaining its best and most essential player. He was the first black head coach for any major American sports team.

Personal anecdote. WWDC 2016, the last one held in San Francisco. Early Sunday evening, June 12, the InterContinental hotel lobby. I’m hanging out with my wife and our friend Paul Kafasis, waiting for friends before heading to dinner. At the bar, sitting alone: the man himself, Bill Russell. Bill Russell! We figure he was there for the NBA Finals — game 5, Cavs at Warriors, would be played the next night in Oakland. He walked with the aid of a cane but he looked great. The man had a presence about him, and it wasn’t just his 6′10″ frame. Dignity and grace, personified. What a thrill, just to see him.

What was he doing? Playing with his iPhone, of course.

Beam 

My thanks to Beam — now in public beta — for sponsoring this week at DF. Beam is a browser new type of software for searching healthy thinking on the internet.

It’s a Mac app with some really clever ideas — like built-in notes (with Markdown support) — and an exquisite attention to detail in the UI. Download for free and try it yourself.

Apple Q3 2022 Results 

Jason Snell, Six Colors:

Apple’s fiscal results are out. The company generated $83B in revenue. Compared to the year-ago quarter, Mac sales were down 10%, iPad sales down 2%, iPhone up 3%, Services up 13%, and Wearables down 8%.

As usual, Snell has plenty of charts to visualize the data, and a transcript of the analyst call. Apple’s statement of operations (the numbers) is here.

At a glance it looks bad that Mac revenue is down 10 percent year-over-year. M2 MacBook Airs didn’t go on sale until July, which is Q4, but I don’t think that’s relevant to this dip. (Most M2 MacBook Air configurations are backordered about two weeks, but I think that’s because of supply chain bottlenecks, not unexpectedly high demand.) The dip is because so many businesses and consumers bought new laptops during the pandemic because they needed them for work-from-home and school-from-home. The big tell on that for Apple is the monster quarter the Mac had back in the July–September quarter in 2020. That was the quarter before Apple unveiled the first M1 Macs (including the bestselling MacBook Air), but after Apple told the world that they’d be shifting the entire Mac platform to its own silicon by the end of the year.

I realize a lot of normal people would have bought MacBooks in that quarter of 2020 even if COVID hadn’t happened, because they’re not nerds and didn’t know or care about Apple silicon vs. Intel, but that quarter was record-breaking for Mac sales. Sales weren’t just up year-over-year, they were up 29 percent!

Instagram Walks Back Recent Changes (But the Whole Thing Is Still Going to Shit, Don’t Worry) 

If you haven’t been paying attention to Instagram lately, they’ve been steadily dialing up the algorithmic content users see in their feeds, especially video. More stuff in your feed from accounts you don’t follow, selected by machine learning algorithms, at the expense of stuff from people and brands you have chosen to follow. To top it off, they recently rolled out a limited test to a small — but not that small — number of users that turned those users’ timelines into something basically like TikTok: full-screen videos (and some images) that you go through one at a time. This did not go over well.

They are listening though, and they’re rolling back some of those changes for everyone and, for now, cancelling the TikTok-style timeline test. This news was announced by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri today in a deft interview by Casey Newton at Platformer:

But Instagram will temporarily reduce the amount of recommended posts and accounts as it works to improve its personalization tools. (Mosseri wouldn’t say by how much, exactly.)

“When you discover something in your feed that you didn’t follow before, there should be a high bar — it should just be great,” Mosseri said. “You should be delighted to see it. And I don’t think that’s happening enough right now. So I think we need to take a step back, in terms of the percentage of feed that are recommendations, get better at ranking and recommendations, and then — if and when we do — we can start to grow again.” (“I’m confident we will,” he added.)

Mosseri made clear that the retreat Instagram announced today is not permanent. Threats to the company’s dominance continue to mount: TikTok is the most downloaded app in the world, the most popular website, and the most watched video company. Meanwhile, Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature has blown a $10 billion hole in Meta’s core advertising business, and on Wednesday Meta reported its first-ever quarterly revenue decline. Zuckerberg has assumed a war footing, and promised that many more changes are on the way.

It goes without saying that Instagram has no plans to allow users to turn off recommendations. Instagram users will be getting “recommended” content whether they want to see any of it or not, they’re just going to try to do a better job with it.

Users serve Instagram, not the other way around.

‘Unplugged Mysteries’ 

Nick Heer, writing at Pixel Envy, regarding the just-announced $850 Unplugged Phone — an ostensibly “government-grade” private Android phone from Trump-pardoned war criminal Erik Prince:

Most of all, though, the phone resembles the Liberty Ghost Phone, announced in May in a since-deleted tweet — and the relationship does not appear to stop there. Liberty is promoting the Unplugged suite on its own website, and both phones run the Android fork LibertOS which sports “government-grade” security, whatever that means. The specs of the Ghost Phone are nearly identical to those of the Unplugged; the sole difference I can see is the resolution of the main rear camera. Indeed, if you try to pre-order the Liberty Ghost Phone, a notice appears on the shopping cart page advising you to read the full pre-order terms on Unplugged’s website. It is almost enough to make you think these are the same company.

But there is one more thing: Liberty explicitly claims its “phones are never made in China”, and all of the similar phones I can find are made by Chinese firms. To be clear, I cannot find the same claim on Unplugged’s website or marketing materials. But it is odd, right? I just cannot help but wonder what the chances are that two companies make nearly identical phones that seem to be based on devices from Chinese companies, but one of them says theirs is not made in China. I sent a list of questions to Unplugged, but my email went unanswered; I will update this article if I hear back.

This whole piece by Heer is glorious, including the footwork he put into contacting the subjects involved, including Glenn Greenwald, who was seemingly pulled into this weird story without his knowledge or permission.

The thing I’m reminded of is the “Freedom Phone” — a $500 phone that was announced last year by cryptocurrency genius Erik Finman and promoted to MAGA wingnuts as being super-duper secure, free from Apple and Google’s nefarious control, and most definitely not made in China. It turned out to be a rebranded piece of shit $120 Chinese phone — shocker.

The snake oil practically sells itself. Wingnuts have been convinced that both Apple and Google are on the wrong side of the woke-commie-libtard / heroic-patriot tribal divide. But, just like people who are sane, wingnuts’ phones are deeply integrated into their lives. They’re thus stuck in a catch-22 — they don’t trust Apple or Google and definitely don’t want either company to profit from them, but seemingly every phone they might want to buy is either an iPhone or an Android phone dependent on Google services. So you just pretend to have what they want and some of them will buy it because they’re idiots.

It’s easier to convince a nutter that Earth is a flat disk — which, of course, is not just false but preposterously nonsensical — than that the planet is, say, cylindrical — which is also false, but not nearly as preposterously so. Likewise with convincing a derpy MAGA loon that some upstart company founded by an established member of the wingnut tribe has made a feature-competitive extra-secure modern phone — hardware, software, and services — without any involvement from any company you’ve ever heard of or any Chinese-made components. The unlikelihood of that makes it more believable to the wingnut mind.

Facebook’s Quest 2 Headset Goes from $300 to $400 

Upload:

Oculus Quest 2 debuted at $299 in 2020, $100 cheaper than Oculus Quest from 2019. In 2021, Facebook bumped the base Quest 2 headset’s storage from 64GB to 128GB while holding the suggested entry price firm at $299. Earlier this year, Meta changed the headset’s branding on the physical device to its new corporate identity — officially becoming Meta Quest 2.

The price change will kick in officially on August 1, with the 128GB model increasing to $399 and the 256GB model increasing to $499.

Zuckerberg, one year ago:

“Unlike some of the other companies in the space that basically charge premium prices as their business model, one of our core principles is we want to serve everyone. I’m very focused not only on how you can create a good VR and AR device, but how do you make it so it’s $300 instead of $1,000.”

Inflation, of course, is a real issue, but Zuckerberg’s the one who said he was focused on selling headsets for $300.

M.G. Siegler’s Three Favorite iOS 16 Features 

M.G. Siegler:

I’ve been using the iOS 16 public beta for the past couple of weeks. It’s nice in that it’s pretty stable. But it’s also honestly not that different in day-to-day usage. Except for three really key and really awesome changes.

I agree on all three of his features. But one of them I did not even know existed until I read M.G.’s post — an option to turn on haptic feedback for the on-screen keyboard. I’ve now gone from thinking “Hey, iOS 16 betas are pretty damn stable this year” all the way to “I might have to install this on my primary iPhone right now”.

Also:

And might I suggest pairing it with sound? As in, the sound turned on. My phone is almost always muted of any noise, but I’ve long loved the iOS keyboard faux “clicks” and wish I could just turn those on and nothing else. Now I want that even more with haptic feedback. Because it makes typing on the device almost fun. Sort of whimsical.

I know most people seemingly despise the key click sounds, but I have always loved them. I don’t know if I do type better on-screen with them, but I feel like I do, which is actually more important. I’ve long wished for an option in Settings to keep key clicks audible even when the hardware mute switch is engaged. (If anyone at Apple is listening, go ahead and put that option somewhere inside Accessibility, where all the other awesome “secret” settings are.)

Ring, Google, and the Police 

Ry Crist, reporting for CNet:

Ring, the Amazon-owned video doorbell and home security company, came under renewed criticism from privacy activists this month after disclosing it gave video footage to police in more than 10 cases without users’ consent thus far in 2022 in what it described as “emergency situations.” That includes instances where the police didn’t have a warrant. [...]

The disclosure, released in response to questioning from Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, comes after years of extensive and controversial partnerships between Ring and various police institutions. Now privacy advocates at organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation say that warrantless footage requests endanger civil liberties.

And:

While Ring stands alone for its extensive history of police partnerships, it isn’t the only name I found with a carveout clause for sharing user footage with police during emergencies. Google, which makes and sells smart home cameras and video doorbells under the Nest brand, makes as much clear in its terms of service.

“If we reasonably believe that we can prevent someone from dying or from suffering serious physical harm, we may provide information to a government agency — for example, in the case of bomb threats, school shootings, kidnappings, suicide prevention and missing persons cases,” Google’s TOS page on government requests for user information reads. “We still consider these requests in light of applicable laws and our policies.”

But:

Others, most notably Apple, use end-to-end encryption for user video as the default setting, which blocks the company from sharing user video at all.

“HomeKit Secure Video is end-to-end encrypted, meaning even Apple cannot access it,” a company spokesperson said.

Surveillance camera systems that don’t use end-to-end encryption should have a policy where footage is shared with third parties if and only if device owners have explicitly opted in to sharing footage with any entity, including the police, including in emergencies, without a warrant. Not just some small print in a long terms of service agreement, but a simple explicit dialog box along the lines of Apple’s “Ask not to track” opt-in. And in all cases, owners should be immediately notified when footage has been shared, with all pertinent details: what footage, shared with whom, for what reason.

I don’t know what Amazon is thinking with regard to this cozy-with-the-police policy with Ring. It’s the number one reason people are saying “Fuck no” regarding their prospective acquisition of One Medical. I’m no expert on HIPAA, but it looks like the law here in the U.S. has several carveouts allowing/requiring medical providers to share personal health records with law enforcement. So as a consumer, what it comes down to is trust. I trust every doctor I have an ongoing relationship with, and if I didn’t, I’d find new doctors.

I think Amazon has a good reputation on privacy — except for their ongoing stewardship of Ring. And handing camera footage over to police without a warrant is a big exception. I don’t know what Ring is worth to Amazon financially, but I genuinely wonder if they’ve done more reputational harm to Amazon’s overall brand than Ring is worth dollar-wise.

Republican Congressman Attended Gay Son’s Wedding Three Days After Voting Against Same-Sex Marriage 

Zachary Schermele, reporting for NBC News:

A Republican lawmaker attended his gay son’s wedding just three days after joining the majority of his GOP colleagues in voting against a House bill that would codify federal protections for same-sex marriage.

The gay son of Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., confirmed to NBC News on Monday that he “married the love of [his] life” on Friday and that his “father was there.” NBC News is not publishing the names of the grooms, neither of whom is a public figure.

Via Dan Rather, who wrote “Sharing without further comment.”

I’ll add one comment: Yes, the hypocrisy is maddening, but if you put yourself in the shoes of anyone in this family, imagine the actual interactions and conversations and arguments and the feelings, it’s just profoundly sad.

Make it two comments: I sincerely hope the wedding was a joyous affair for the couple and for all their friends and family who support them openly and wholeheartedly.

Twitter Poll for Safari Users: How Often Do You Use Tab Groups? 

I asked this on Twitter this morning — poll runs for another 12 hours. I’m genuinely curious how much this feature is used.

The Talk Show: ‘I’ve Kissed That Mouse’ 

Marco Arment returns to the show to talk about the new M2 MacBook Air and stuff.

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TextExpander Raises $41 Million in Funding 

Ingrid Lunden, reporting for TechCrunch:

Today, a company called TextExpander — which has identified and built a way to fix a similar gap in another repetitive aspect of business life, communications, by letting users create customized shortcuts to trigger longer text-based actions such as specific phrasing around a topic, calendar events, emails, messages, CRM systems and many other environments — is announcing $41.4 million in funding to expand something else: its business.

Alongside the funding, the company is also appointing a new CEO, J.D. Mullin, who is taking over from Philip Goward, who co-founded the company originally with Greg Scown. TextExpander was born out of another developer platform they built called Smile — you can read more about that early history, with an interesting nod to how they originally met at Macworld and how the threat of a clone led them to build for iOS after first launching on Mac, here — and both are keeping seats on the board and remaining involved in aspects of development.

Mullin arrives at TextExpander after a four-year stint as an executive at Intuit, a company beloved in the Mac community for its commitment to excellent platform-native software.

Apropos of nothing, longstanding rivals to TextExpander include Typinator, TypeIt4Me, and aText.

The Apple Store Time Machine 

Michael Steeber:

The Apple Store Time Machine is a celebration of the places and products that have shaped our lives for more than twenty years. This interactive experience recreates memorable moments in Apple history with painstaking detail and historical accuracy.

What Steeber has made here is astonishing. It’s effectively a Mac game that you download and explore. The “levels”, as it were, are exquisitely-detailed 3D recreations of four iconic Apple Stores, including the Fifth Avenue “cube” in New York. Each store has been rebuilt to look exactly like it did on grand opening day, right down to the boxes of software on the shelves. However uncannily accurate, nostalgic, and fun you might be thinking this sounds based on the above description, you’re underestimating it.

It’s free to download and explore, if you choose, but Steeber also has an option to pay a voluntary amount. If this pleases you even half as much as it does me, I’m sure you’ll do what I just did and pay for it.