In September 2020, a new social network named Telepath launched. I had been beta-testing it for over a year before it debuted, at the invitation Marc Bodnick, one of Telepath’s co-founders and a Quora alum. My first impression, in a DM exchange with Bodnick in May 2019, was that Telepath struck me as “something like Twitter but with real names and enforced civility, and with hashtags as Slack-like channels of interest.” Bodnick’s reply: “Yeah, in so many words.”

Good coverage from Telepath’s 2020 launch: Biz Carson at Protocol, Casey Newton at The Verge, and Sarah Perez at TechCrunch. I liked the concept, and I really liked Telepath’s design: clear, attractive, distinctive, iOS native. I wanted to like it. It seemed like something I should have liked. But a certain je ne sais quoi just wasn’t there. Something fundamental about Telepath just never clicked for me.

Perhaps my je ne sais quoi spidey-sense remains well tuned: Telepath never really took off. There’s a good chance you don’t recall ever hearing about Telepath.

Then last June, Bodnick reached out to me again, asking if I’d be interested in something new from the same team: Wavelength, a group messaging app focused on privacy and intuitive threading, and which integrates GPT-3.5 AI chat into group discussions. The Telepath DNA was obvious: good design, idiomatically native to iOS, and the groups I joined all had very high signal-to-noise ratios. That’s no surprise: their team is small, with just two developers and fellow co-founders: Richard Henry and Riley Patterson. Wavelength immediately felt like a new band from the same musicians. And this time, something did click. The je nais se quoi was there. I felt certain they were onto something with Wavelength.

In August the company announced they were shutting down the Telepath app, and shifting their entire focus to Wavelength. This announcement was so low on hype that Casey Newton simply published a short statement from the team on Twitter:

We’re shifting our focus to private group chat because it’s incredibly fun and we love it, and also because it sucks. The world has been moving from public spaces into messaging apps, and I think many of us are feeling the strain of these products. Group chats get noisy really quickly, and you can only talk about a single thing at a time without derailing everything. If a conversation is noisy, the only option is to mute the entire group. On Wavelength you can mute a thread about a basketball game you’re not interested in, while staying looped in on another thread about dinner plans for tonight.

Messages on Wavelength are completely private and secure, using state of the art end-to-end encryption. It also includes an optional message history sync feature; this means that when new members are invited to a group, the existing members can automatically re-encrypt and securely send the recent message history — which is important for threaded chat, so that conversations aren’t broken. This is the first time that an end-to-end encrypted messaging app has a feature like this.

I’ve quoted Bodnick’s statement in its entirety because it remains a perfect description of Wavelength. I can’t say what it was about Telepath that didn’t click for me. I don’t know why I can’t, but I can’t. But I can say why Wavelength does click for me.

One of my strongest product design beliefs is that it matters, greatly, where you start conceptually. Every successful software platform evolves, but its origin, the core, pervades forever. Personal messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and Apple’s Messages all support group chats. But they are fundamentally apps for one-on-one messaging, with group chat added on. Messages is by far my most-used messaging app, but I’m active, weekly if not daily, on Signal and WhatsApp too. All three feel most natural in one-on-one chats, and with groups small enough such that the members could all fit in an SUV or minivan. If you can’t count the members of a group chat in those apps on a single hand, it’s probably an unwieldy group. I have never been in a group chat in such apps with more than 10 participants, nor in a group where I don’t somehow know each of the participants. Group chats in such apps aren’t just private, they’re personal.

Messages, Signal, WhatsApp, and their cohorts all share the same fundamental two-level design: a list of chats, and a single thread of a messages within each chat. This is the obvious and correct design for a messaging app whose primary focus is one-on-one personal chats. Group chats, in these apps, work best the closer they are in membership to one-on-one.

Wavelength is different because it’s group-first. This manifests conceptually by adding a third, middle level to the design: threads. At the root level of Wavelength are groups. Groups have an owner, and members. At the second level are threads. Inside threads, of course, are the actual messages.

Messages / Signal / WhatsApp, conceptually:

  Groups → One thread of all messages for that group


  Groups → Threads → Messages for each thread

The difference made by adding threads as an additional hierarchical layer is so simple to understand that it feels obvious, not designed per se but merely discovered. But the difference is profound.

The other difference that being group-first makes is that while every group in Wavelength is private, they’re not necessarily personal. I’m an active participant in several groups with hundreds of members, and even some of the smaller groups I’ve been invited to include people whom I don’t know personally. That’d be weird in Messages. It’s perfectly naturally in Wavelength. One way to think about it is that while Wavelength itself is not a social network, it’s a platform that lets you create your own private micro social networks in the form of groups. If you’re old enough, you can draw an analogy to the heyday of Usenet — Wavelength groups feel a bit like Usenet groups, if Usenet groups had been private.

You only join groups that interest you. You only pay attention to threads within the group that interest you. The result feels natural and profoundly efficient in terms of your attention and time.

Earlier this year, Bodnick let me know that Wavelength would soon be moving out of TestFlight invitation-only testing and opening up, quietly but not secretly, via public distribution on the App Store.1 This made sense to me — I’d been using Wavelength almost daily since June. It was good from my start with it and was constantly getting better. I agreed it felt like time to expand — both because the app was good enough to justify expanding, and because Wavelength needed the feedback and perspective from a wider and more diverse base of users.

But there had always been something about Wavelength that didn’t sit right with me. The top-level list of groups was great. The bottom-level list of messages within a thread was good. (At the time it sorely needed a better indication of which messages were new to you, but I knew they were working on that.) But the middle level, the list of threads within a group, was wrongly designed.

What they had for that list of threads was a clever idea. For each thread, Wavelength presented a sort-of card, with the first message in the thread at the top, and the most recent message or two in the thread at the bottom, and between them, an indicator showing how many other messages were in the thread, between the first message and the last one or two that were shown in the card. “4 more messages”, “26 more messages”, etc. Here’s a screenshot from that thread list design:

A screenshot of an older version of Wavelength’s iPhone app, showing a list of threads.

That’s attractive, and conceptually it makes obvious sense. Here’s a thread, with the first message at the top, the most recent message at the bottom, and an indicator of how many total messages are in the thread between them. In the abstract there’s nothing wrong with this design, and as I already said, it’s clever and original. In promotional screenshots like the one above, it looks like a design that works. But in practice it was clumsy and frustrating. Showing the most recent message in a thread often, if not usually, made no sense without having read the new-to-you messages in the middle. The best active groups have multiple new threads regularly, and good threads have dozens of messages. “X more messages” really only works if X is a very small number, but X is seldom a small number in a good discussion.

So this threads-as-cards presentation wasn’t useful, and it consumed a tremendous amount of screen real estate for each thread. Objectively, it provided low information density with no practical upside. Subjectively, it made catching up on the threads within a group feel like a chore — like pedalling a bike uphill, rather than coasting downhill. Not a steep incline, but an uphill incline nonetheless.

Presentation-wise, this thread view was the most original thing in Wavelength, and I felt certain they ought to throw it out.2 That’s hard advice to deliver. But if I were on the team, that’s the sort of feedback I’d want to hear — especially because I wasn’t just convinced that I could describe what was wrong, but that I could see what they should do instead: show threads like Apple Mail displays email threads — as a simple list of subjects, with a snippet of the first message, and a blue dot to indicate a thread that contains new messages. So, I wrote up my thoughts and advice, in detail, and sent it to Marc and Richard.

I’m glad I did.

Not only was my feedback warmly received, it begat a series of discussions that culminated in my gladly accepting a position as an official adviser to the company, in exchange for a small amount of equity. I’m happy to disclose this now, and will continue to disclose it when writing about Wavelength henceforth.

In the early years of writing Daring Fireball I needed outside work to make a living, and a decade ago I co-created the late great notes app Vesper with my friends Brent Simmons and Dave Wiskus. But I’ve never before taken an official advisory position like this before. You should take this as a sign of my deep enthusiasm for Wavelength. It is very good right now, and getting better quickly.

And here’s what Wavelength’s thread view looks like now:

A screenshot of the current version of Wavelength’s iPhone app, showing a list of threads.

A high-information-density list of threads. Each row in the list has a clear visual hierarchy: subject in bold, a blue “new messages” indicator dot, the name of the thread’s creator, a thumbnail of an image in the first message (if any), a short preview of the first message, the counts for total and unread messages in the thread, and the time of the latest message. There are subtle separators between threads to mark days. That’s it. It’s so obvious that it seems not designed at all, but this view looked very different just a few months ago.

AI Chat Is Fascinating in a Group Context

Broadly speaking, the team behind Wavelength has been on a continuous four-year journey that started with Telepath and evolved into Wavelength. The best parts of Telepath — the focus on privacy, high-quality discourse, and topic-based groups — work better for more people in a chat app than a social network.

In one sense, though, their timing was almost comically bad: they officially pivoted away from Telepath, a Twitter-like social network focused on civility, just a few months before Twitter’s descent into incivility under Elon Musk’s ownership prompted an exodus of users to Twitter alternatives, primarily Mastodon. But Mastodon, and the concept of open federation, is a better solution for civil social networking than any private platform could be. I don’t think Telepath, if they’d stuck with it, was any more likely to out-Mastodon Mastodon than it was to out-Twitter Twitter.

But in a more important sense, Wavelength’s timing feels incredibly serendipitous, because its rollout coincides with the arrival of genuinely useful AI chat. Wavelength’s GPT-3.5 AI integration is trendy, yes, but not all trends are fads. Some are enduring. Bill Gates is placing the arrival of AI on the same level as the graphical user interface, the internet, and mobile phones. That feels right to me.

Wavelength was conceived for human group chat. But when OpenAI’s chat appeared a few months ago, the team realized they’d built the perfect platform and interface for it. A good chat interface is a good chat interface, whether it’s a human on the other end or an AI construct. And the best chat interfaces are in dedicated chat apps — not web browser tabs. The proof of that is in the immense worldwide popularity of dedicated chat apps. There’s no reason to silo AI chat away from human chat. And Wavelength’s focus on threading fits terrifically with AI. You can have one thread where you’re getting help with a programming task like writing a Python script, and a separate thread where you’re spitballing with the AI to suggest names for a new product. Both threads maintain their own contextual history.

And the biggest thing is that interacting with AI chat in a group of people is a different experience from one-on-one AI chat. Group chat with an AI bot as a member is both fun and useful. The Wavelength team has a slew of ideas for where to take AI integration going forward (e.g. persona customization), but as it stands today, it’s already hard for me to imagine launching Wavelength without it.

AI integration is a recent addition to Wavelength, but I’d argue it’s the number one reason to try the app. It’s “AI with friends” — and no other group messaging platform has this yet.

Why I Think Wavelength Is Worth My Time as an Adviser and, More Importantly, Your Attention as a Potential User

I mentioned personal messaging apps like Messages, Signal, and WhatsApp above. At the other extreme of the messaging platform space are apps like Discord, Slack, and Microsoft Teams. I have used Slack, in particular, for a long time. I give Slack grief every chance I get regarding its overall complexity, non-native desktop Mac app, and the non-idiomatic design and organization of its iOS app.3 But Slack is designed to scale to the needs of very large organizations — companies with thousands or even tens of thousands of employees, often with stringent data storage regulations. That’s a really tough problem to solve, and Slack pulls it off. To my knowledge Slack is the best product out there for large enterprises, and whatever product is in second place remains a distant second.

But in the same way that personal messaging apps designed foremost for one-on-one chats don’t scale up to large groups, Slack feels like overkill for smallish groups. At the highest level, switching from one Slack organization to another feels more like switching between apps than switching between groups. I, like many people, tend to call an organization or group’s Slack instance a “slack”, as in, “There’s a good discussion about this feature in the NetNewsWire slack.” At the next hierarchical level, Slack’s channels are the wrong concept for a small group. And “channels” seldom make sense for a fleeting discussion. A small or even medium sized group doesn’t need channels, it just needs threads. And don’t get me started on Slack’s odious threading presentation within channels.

So on one extreme are personal messaging apps that are optimized for one-on-one chats and groups small enough to fit in a van. On the other are enterprise apps like Slack and Teams that are optimized for organizations that could fill a theater or even an arena.

Wavelength is designed for the area between those extremes. Think: groups that could fit in a bus, or even an airplane. I suppose Discord is a competitor, but I find Discord more visually cacophonous than even Slack, and conceptually, Discord is Slack-like, with top-level “servers”, and ugly IRC-style #channels-whose-names-are-lowercase-and-can’t-contain-spaces-like-dos-filenames-from-40-fucking-years-ago. Nor is Discord designed with privacy in mind.

Wavelength is the opposite of cacophonous. It’s visually quiet. It looks a lot like what I’d imagine a new “Messages for Groups” app from Apple itself would look like.

What else:

  • Wavelength is currently available only for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. An Android app is planned (see next item). The iOS app is really good. The Mac app is good too, but not yet really good. It’s built using Catalyst, and some Catalyst-isms still show through. Off the top of my head: scrolling via keyboard shortcuts like the space bar and page up/down keys doesn’t yet work; and it doesn’t respond to commands from the system-wide Services menu.) But these are known issues, and as Wavelength’s Mac app stands today, it’s infinitely better than the Electron web-app-wrappers that attempt to pass as “Mac apps” from most messaging platforms. If not for Wavelength’s obvious commitment to building great modern native apps for both iOS and Mac, I wouldn’t be involved as an adviser, and I likely wouldn’t even be a user. You either get why native apps are essential, experience-wise, or you don’t. The Wavelength team gets it.

  • As mentioned above, Wavelength’s development team is very small. Two people, Henry and Patterson. That puts a limit on how much they can accomplish — hence the lack of an Android app at the moment. And this makes Wavelength a poster child for why Catalyst exists. Again, Wavelength’s Mac app is good, not great (yet), but likely wouldn’t exist at all if not for Catalyst and the ability to share almost the entirety of its source code between iOS and Mac. But this small team size is also why they can move fast. There is zero bureaucracy, and with their shared experience coming from Telepath, years-long familiarity and camaraderie.

  • Wavelength’s double ratchet end-to-end encryption game is on-point, and the platform was designed from the ground up with state-of-the-art encryption in mind.

  • The privacy policy is clear and good. Wavelength’s App Store privacy scorecard is succinct.

  • When you sign up, Wavelength asks for your phone number. That’s just your identifier. You’re not going to get any phone calls, and Wavelength is never going to sell your number to spammers. In lieu of passwords, when you sign in on a new device, Wavelength sends a confirmation code via SMS. (Support for passkeys and hardware security keys is forthcoming.)

  • From the department of “If you’re not the customer you’re the product”: Wavelength is free to use and will remain so. There are no ads and there are never going to be ads. (And because of the way the E2E encryption works, it’s not even possible hypothetically to serve algorithmic ads based on message content.) Wavelength plans to make money selling pro features, including, perhaps, a version of Wavelength for organizations.

  • Wavelength is deceptively simple. You will never get lost. There is a welcome scarcity of settings. But its deceptive simplicity means you can be an active participant (or simply a sideline follower/lurker) in a large number of active groups, each with a large number of active threads, and it never seems overwhelming. I’m active in several groups with hundreds of members. That’s just not feasible in personal messaging apps like Messages or Signal. But I’d never join any of these groups if they were in Slack or Discord. Joining a Wavelength group is no heavier a task nor any more of a commitment than, say, following an RSS feed. Don’t like a group? Just leave.

  • A key aspect of Wavelength’s utility for following multiple large, active groups are fine-grained, easy and obvious controls for notifications. For each group you join, you can choose to be notified about new messages or not, or to get alerts only for threads in that group in which you’ve posted. And within each group, you can mute individual threads. So if you’re in a group for which you want notifications on by default, but there’s an active thread about something you’re not interested in, you can just mute that thread and continue getting notifications for the other threads in that group. Even for small groups, this is a huge advantage of Wavelength compared to group chats in apps like Messages, Signal, or WhatsApp, which have no concept of threads, which means you can only mute the entire group.

The Chicken and Egg Problem

That’s about it for now. I’ve been a happy Wavelength user for over 9 months now, and I’m proud to be an official adviser to the company. If you’re intrigued, you should download the app and give it a try. But that leads to a bootstrapping dilemma. Wavelength is not a social network. There is no public timeline or directory of public groups. Being the only Wavelength user you know is like being the only WhatsApp or Signal user you know.

One thing you can do solo in Wavelength is converse with the AI, privately via direct message threads. It’s fun and genuinely useful. But it’s a lot more fun with even just one friend in the chat with the AI. Unlike OpenAI’s chat and Google’s just-gone-public Bard, there’s no waiting list for Wavelength. Just install the app, invite a friend or two, and start prompting the AI just by mentioning “@AI” in your groups.

And again: Wavelength is really good at all-human group chat too. So the other thing you can do is spread the word to your friends. Maybe you’re in a group chat in Messages that’s a bit too large or too active for the constraints of a single group thread, and would be better served in Wavelength. Or maybe you’re in a group chat in Slack or Discord where those platforms’ complexity is overkill, and where threads would make more sense than channels. (Or maybe, like me, you just think Slack and Discord are ugly.) It’s worth your while to give Wavelength a look, and bring your friends along. 

  1. Wavelength’s approach to opening is worth a long story of its own, in my opinion — instead of remaining utterly secret and attempting to explode in popularity with a single big unveiling, they’ve instead eschewed secrecy and open up to more people slowly and steadily. ↩︎

  2. I emphasize “presentation-wise” here because the most innovative aspects of Wavelength are technical, not visual. First: Wavelength’s peer-to-peer history sync for messages in a group using state-of-the-art end-to-end encryption. No other messaging platform does this, and it works seamlessly. When you join an existing group, old messages and threads populate your view of the group, but those messages aren’t stored on Wavelength’s servers — they come to you from the existing members of the group, and are delivered with cryptographic privacy. Second: integrating ChatGPT-3.5 AI within a group context. No other messaging platform offers this either. ↩︎︎

  3. It also annoys me to no end that Slack uses a punctuation-characters-for-text-styling syntax that is Markdown-esque but definitely not Markdown, and they have the temerity to call this Bizarro World syntax “mrkdwn”.  ↩︎︎

‘Apple Passwords Deserve an App’ 

Cabel Sasser:

We all know that Apple has nice built-in password management in macOS and iOS. But very, very few people know that Apple’s passwords can also:

  • Autofill any 2FA verification codes, which you easily can add by scanning QR codes!
  • Keep a “Notes” field where you can add extra data, like 2FA backup codes, for each password!
  • Import passwords exported from another app, like 1Password!

(And it all syncs across your devices, for free?!)

Very few people know these things because Apple tucks all of their important password features away in weird little Settings panels, instead of in a Proper Real App. I think this is a mistake.

Passwords are productivity, not preferences.

I understand the tension within Apple on this front. iOS already has so many apps that many people complain about how many apps are in the system, so Apple is very conservative about adding new apps. But password management is really important, and Apple’s password/security team has done an outstanding job over the years building a reliable trustworthy system. Effectively, there already is an Apple Passwords “app”, but it’s buried inside Settings. There are a lot of nerds who don’t even know that Apple’s built-in password manager can handle 2FA verification codes, because people have a totally reasonable assumption that Settings, as sprawling as it is, only contains ... settings. Not features.

So count me in with Sasser: Apple should break these features out into a discrete Passwords app, and they should launch a marketing campaign to raise awareness of it. I’ve been using the built-in password management in iOS and MacOS (and iCloud for syncing) for years, and last summer I switched all of my 2FA verification codes to it too. It’s a great system, especially if you use Safari as your web browser. But the biggest reason it isn’t used more is that zillions of people don’t even know it’s there.

If Tips is worth a standalone app, surely Passwords is too.

(As a postscript, it’s also possible that you know this feature exists within Settings, but don’t know that it offers full import and export options, because those commands are tucked away in a “···” menu. You can import from, say, 1Password, and export everything back to 1Password.)

Apple TV+ ‘Friday Night Baseball’, Season 2 

Apple Newsroom:

This season, “Friday Night Baseball” welcomes an exceptional group of broadcast talent to the announcer booths, including Wayne Randazzo (play-by-play), Dontrelle Willis (analyst), Heidi Watney (sideline reporter), Alex Faust (play-by-play), Ryan Spilborghs (analyst), and Tricia Whitaker (sideline reporter). Game assignments for announcers will be shared on a weekly basis.

That’s a completely different lineup of broadcasters from last year. But the biggest change from last year is that the games aren’t going to be made available free-of-charge — you’ll need an active TV+ subscription to watch. That’s not surprising, but it’s worth noting.

“Friday Night Baseball” will be produced by MLB Network’s Emmy Award-winning production team in partnership with Apple, bringing viewers an unparalleled viewing experience. Each game will feature state-of-the-art cameras to present vivid live-action shots, and offer immersive sound in 5.1 with Spatial Audio enabled. “Friday Night Baseball” will again utilize drone cameras for beautiful aerial stadium shots, as well as player mics and field-level mics to immerse fans in the gameplay and stadium atmosphere. Fans in the U.S. and Canada will also have the option to listen to the audio of the home and away teams’ local radio broadcasts during “Friday Night Baseball” games.

On that last point, here’s Jason Snell:

One of the biggest complaints people had last year about Friday Night Baseball — and let’s be honest, it’s a complaint about any sport with a strong local announcer base that’s then broadcast to a single national audience using a neutral set of announcers — is that people couldn’t hear the voices they knew and loved while watching the game. Apple has addressed this issue by letting users switch over to audio from home or away radio broadcasts. (This is also a feature of Apple’s MLS streaming package, though right now I believe it’s home radio only.)

Years ago I tried getting this experience manually: when the Yankees were playing on national TV, I’d turn the sound off on my TV and listen the Yankees’ radio announcers (John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman) via the MLB app on my phone. It was so tricky to get the timing just right that I gave up on it. Having it as a perfectly-synced option for Friday Night Baseball is a breakthrough feature.

Bonus factoid, via Jayson Stark at The Athletic (paywalled, but here’s an archive link just in case you need it):

The only other change this season involves games televised by MLB Network and Apple TV+. For those games, viewers will get a live look at MLB’s replay center. And if a replay decision in those games warrants more explanation, a former umpire, such as Brian Gorman or Dale Scott, will explain the verdict — while doing their best and most eloquent imitations of former NFL and college basketball official Gene Steratore.

A few years ago, at the invitation of the MLB Advanced Media team, I got to see the replay center in New York. I wasn’t allowed to go in the room, but could see inside through large windows. It’d be fun to see it during games, and it’s a great idea to have former umpires available to explain these verdicts. That’s worked out well for the NFL.

Tad Friend’s 2016 Profile of Sam Altman for The New Yorker 

I remember reading and enjoying this profile of Sam Altman that was published in The New Yorker in October 2016, but I stumbled across it again over the weekend, and read it with new eyes. When published, Altman was running Y Combinator, and the profile largely focuses on that. But OpenAI — then new and mysterious — was mentioned quite a bit, and those are the bits that struck me now:

A.I. technology hardly seems almighty yet. After Microsoft launched a chatbot, called Tay, bullying Twitter users quickly taught it to tweet such remarks as “gas the kikes race war now”; the recently released “Daddy’s Car,” the first pop song created by software, sounds like the Beatles, if the Beatles were cyborgs. But, Musk told me, “just because you don’t see killer robots marching down the street doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned.” Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana serve millions as aides-de-camp, and simultaneous-translation and self-driving technologies are now taken for granted. Y Combinator has even begun using an A.I. bot, Hal9000, to help it sift admission applications: the bot’s neural net trains itself by assessing previous applications and those companies’ outcomes. “What’s it looking for?” I asked Altman. “I have no idea,” he replied. “That’s the unsettling thing about neural networks — you have no idea what they’re doing, and they can’t tell you.”

OpenAI’s immediate goals, announced in June, include a household robot able to set and clear a table. One longer-term goal is to build a general A.I. system that can pass the Turing test — can convince people, by the way it reasons and reacts, that it is human. Yet Altman believes that a true general A.I. should do more than deceive; it should create, discovering a property of quantum physics or devising a new art form simply to gratify its own itch to know and to make. While many A.I. researchers were correcting errors by telling their systems, “That’s a dog, not a cat,” OpenAI was focussed on having its system teach itself how things work. “Like a baby does?” I asked Altman. “The thing people forget about human babies is that they take years to learn anything interesting,” he said. “If A.I. researchers were developing an algorithm and stumbled across the one for a human baby, they’d get bored watching it, decide it wasn’t working, and shut it down.”

To my mind, OpenAI’s GPT chat passes the Turing test. Artificial general intelligence is nascent, to be sure, but it’s no longer in the future. It’s the present.

Apple Watch as a Post-Steve-Jobs Product 

Two weeks ago I wrote a column in response to a Financial Times story about Apple’s forthcoming AR headset, and one objection I raised was the FT’s claim that “The headset will be Apple’s first new computing platform to have been developed entirely under his leadership. The iPhone, iPad and even Watch were all originally conceived under Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs, who died in 2011.”

I called it a retcon to give Jobs credit for it. Here’s a piece that backs it up, a behind-the-scenes profile by Brad Stone and Adam Satariano for Bloomberg Businessweek back in September 2014, published just after Apple unveiled the Apple Watch at the keynote event for the iPhone 6:

With an Apple Watch wrapped around his hand brass-knuckle style, Ive reveals that the project was conceived in his lab three years ago, shortly after Jobs’s death and before “wearables” became a buzzword in Silicon Valley. “It’s probably one of the most difficult projects I have ever worked on,” he says. There are numerous reasons for this — the complexity of the engineering, the need for new physical interactions between the watch and the human body — but the one most pertinent to Ive is that the Apple Watch is the first Apple product that looks more like the past than the future. The company invited a series of watch historians to Cupertino to speak, including French author Dominique Fléchon, an expert in antique timepieces. Fléchon says only that the “discussion included the philosophy of instruments for measuring time” and notes that the Apple Watch may not be as timeless as some classic Swiss watches: “The evolution of the technologies will render very quickly the Apple Watch obsolete,” he says.


My thanks to Kolide for again sponsoring DF last week. 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.

Gurman: Apple Presented Headset at Top 100 Meeting 

Mark Gurman, in his Power On column at Bloomberg:

There was a momentous gathering at Apple Inc. last week, with the company’s roughly 100 highest-ranking executives descending on the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California. The group, known as the Top 100, was there to see Apple’s most important new product in years: its mixed-reality headset. [...]

But this time was different. Earlier demonstrations were lower-key affairs, meant to show progress and secure the headcount needed to keep going. The latest preview took place in the Steve Jobs Theater, Apple’s biggest showcase, suggesting that a public unveiling is getting close. The executives attended the event ahead of heading to their annual offsite, held at a resort in Carmel Valley, California.

The demonstrations were polished, glitzy and exciting, but many executives are clear-eyed about Apple’s challenges pushing into this new market.

The New York Times: ‘At Apple, Rare Dissent Over a New Product: Interactive Goggles’ 

Tripp Mickle and Brian X. Chen, reporting for The New York Times:

The headset looks like ski goggles. It features a carbon fiber frame, a hip pack with battery support, outward cameras to capture the real world and two 4K displays that can render everything from applications to movies, two of the people said. Users can turn a “reality dial” on the device to increase or decrease real-time video from the world around them. [...]

Because the headset won’t fit over glasses, the company has plans to sell prescription lenses for the displays to people who don’t wear contacts, a person familiar with the plan said.

This seems like an impediment to an impulse purchase, especially in the U.S., where corrective lenses require an up-to-date prescription from an optometrist or ophthalmologist. And won’t this make it tricky to share a headset between multiple people? If it really costs $3,000, I suppose that’s the biggest impediment to an “impulse” purchase.

During the device’s development, Apple has focused on making it excel for videoconferencing and spending time with others as avatars in a virtual world. The company has called the device’s signature application “copresence,” a word designed to capture the experience of sharing a real or virtual space with someone in another place. It is akin to what Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, calls the “metaverse.”

The chicken-and-egg problem here is that everyone you’re “copresencing” with needs an Apple headset too.

The device will double as a tool for artists, designers and engineers, tracking them as they draw freely in space in image-editing applications and tracking hand gestures for the editing of virtual reality films. Lastly, it will function as a high-resolution TV with custom-made video content from Hollywood filmmakers such as Jon Favreau, the director of Iron Man.

The key sentence in the story is this:

Some internal skeptics have questioned if the new device is a solution in search of a problem.

The RIAA v. Steve Jobs 

Paul Kafasis, writing at the Rogue Amoeba blog:

Earlier this month, however, we heard a chilling story. It comes from the Podfather himself, Adam Curry, who was instrumental in helping podcasts take off in the mid-2000s. He’s also a long-time Audio Hijack user and supporter, one who provided us with many helpful suggestions in the early years. Recently, Adam gave an interview detailing his efforts to modernize the podcasting format. Therein, he told a story about the origins of podcasts in iTunes, and a conversation he had with Steve Jobs circa 2005.

Amazing story. Curry himself added this note, on Twitter:

His actual words were “fuck them”.

Intel Co-Founder and Semiconductor Titan Gordon Moore Dies at 94 


Intel and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation announced today that company co-founder Gordon Moore has passed away at the age of 94.

The foundation reported he died peacefully on Friday, March 24, 2023, surrounded by family at his home in Hawaii. [...]

Pat Gelsinger, Intel CEO, said, “Gordon Moore defined the technology industry through his insight and vision. He was instrumental in revealing the power of transistors, and inspired technologists and entrepreneurs across the decades. We at Intel remain inspired by Moore’s Law and intend to pursue it until the periodic table is exhausted. Gordon’s vision lives on as our true north as we use the power of technology to improve the lives of every person on Earth. My career and much of my life took shape within the possibilities fueled by Gordon’s leadership at the helm of Intel, and I am humbled by the honor and responsibility to carry his legacy forward.”

Walden Kirsch, in a remembrance published by Intel:

Of the countless tech industry titans Silicon Valley has minted over the past six decades, Gordon Moore stood alone. He was “easily the most beloved,” wrote biographer Michael Malone.

Moore was utterly unlike Robert Noyce and Andy Grove. Those two were the bigger-than-life personalities with whom Moore joined in 1968 to create Intel — what Malone, in his now-classic book The Intel Trinity, called “the world’s most important company.”

By all accounts, Moore was neither brash nor in-your-face like Grove. Nor was he charismatic and high-energy like Noyce. The “law” that bears his name was not self-proclaimed, but popularized by a Cal Tech professor in the mid-1970s. As one measure of his modesty, Moore once confessed to biographer Leslie Berlin that he was “embarrassed to have it called Moore’s Law for a long time.”

Joe Pepitone Dies at 82 

Bruce Weber, writing last week for The New York Times:

For most of his career, Pepitone undermined his own gifts with his rambunctious and self-destructive behavior. He had money problems and marital problems. His night life began after night games; he drank with and without his teammates and was no stranger to drugs. He claimed at one point to have turned Mantle and Whitey Ford on to marijuana, and in an interview in Rolling Stone magazine in 2015, he recalled that when he was with the Cubs, fans in the bleachers would throw packets of joints and cocaine at him in the outfield, and he would hide them in the ivy that covered the stadium wall.

“Used to be I was always the first person at the ballpark, and the first one to leave; next thing you know, people are wondering why I’m hanging out at the ballpark so long,” Pepitone told Rolling Stone. When the manager, Leo Durocher, asked him what he was doing hanging around, he would say he was going to get a rubdown from the trainer.

“Then I’d be out in center field with my shorts on, looking through the ivy to find my dope,” he said. “I loved Chicago!”

Love this quote from the Mick:

“I wish I could buy you for what you’re really worth,” Mantle once said to him, according to the website Baseball-Almanac.com, “then sell you for what you think you’re worth.”

Devin Coldewey on Amazon Killing DPReview 

Devin Coldewey, writing at TechCrunch:

The team’s knowledge, acumen and extensive objective testing contributed to reviews that famously reached near-comical lengths at times, but that was because shortcuts simply were not taken: You could be sure that even minor models were getting not just a fair shake, but the same treatment a flagship model received. Its back catalog of camera reviews and specs is an incredible resource that I have consulted hundreds of times. [...]

Somehow Amazon never really found a way to capitalize on this one-of-a-kind asset, and DPReview has carried on over the years more or less untouched, to the point where it seems possible its parent company forgot they owned them. It’s hard not to see the opportunities that present themselves when you own one of the world’s leading expert voices on a major category, but perhaps unsurprisingly, no one thought to invest in and integrate DPReview closely with Amazon’s other properties. It isn’t the first time the left hand and right hand have been incommunicado at that company.

Despite being a very longtime devotee of DPReview, as I noted yesterday, I actually never noticed (or, perhaps, long ago forgot) that Amazon had acquired them in 2007. That acquisition didn’t change the content or quality of DPReview’s coverage at all — they certainly didn’t turn into a shill, just trying to sell kit available at Amazon.

Welcome Back, Hipstamatic 

Remember Hipstamatic, the original retro filter camera app for iPhone? At its peak in 2012, photographer Ben Lowy shot the cover image for Time magazine using it. Hipstamatic never really disappeared, but it seemingly lost relevance.

Well, they’re back — recognizable, for sure, but different. New: a photo-sharing social network, ad-free, algorithm-free, and monetized only by a paid membership tier. Hipstamatic co-founder Lucas Buick, on Product Hunt:

But why bring back Hipstamatic now, after it faded from popularity over a decade ago? The answer lies in the growing dissatisfaction with the current state of social media. The recent controversies surrounding Facebook and Meta, as well as concerns over data privacy and the addictive nature of technology, have sparked a desire for something different.

Hipstamatic represents a return to the roots of mobile photography, a time before algorithms and AI ruled the day. It’s a reminder that technology can be used for fun and creativity, not just profit and engagement. The app’s member-supported community is proof that there are people out there who still value genuine connections and the simple pleasure of taking and sharing photos.

I dig it. Not sure about the fact that photos posted to Hipstamatic expire after 4 weeks, but that’s certainly different. Worth installing on your iPhone just to get that icon on your Home screen.

Update: What I love about Hipstamatic is how ambitious it is, UI-wise. Or perhaps better put, how ambitious it remains. There’s an exuberance the app wears on its proverbial shirt sleeve. It unabashedly tells you, from your first impression down to the smallest details in its settings, that it’s supposed to be fun. When people speak of Apple’s foundational iOS 7 redesign a decade ago, the primary adjective bandied about is flat. iOS 7 certainly did get flat. But in hindsight, I’d argue that the operative adjective is whimsy. iOS 1—6 were full of whimsy, iOS 7 took it all out, and the entire industry followed Apple’s lead. Everything everywhere looks like iOS 7 today: Android, MacOS, Windows, the web. Hipstamatic’s re-launch is a statement that whimsy and fun and panache have their place in UI design, and I am happy to co-sign.

Recommended: ‘‎Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming With Dave Letterman’ 

Is this a U2 special with Letterman emceeing, or a Letterman special featuring Bono and The Edge playing stripped down versions of some of U2’s best songs? Yes. It felt perfectly balanced to me. Funny but not a comedy, wonderful music but not at all a concert film. More like this, please.

(Would love to see Letterman do this with Mick and Keith, Page and Plant — or, my god, Paul and Ringo.)

Microsoft Loop : Notion :: Teams : Slack 

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:

Microsoft is now letting anyone preview Microsoft Loop, a collaborative hub offering a new way of working across Office apps and managing tasks and projects. Much like Notion, Microsoft Loop includes workspaces and pages where you can import and organize tasks, projects, and documents. But what sets the two apart is Loop’s shareable components that let you turn any page into a real-time block of content that can be pasted into Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Word on the web, and Whiteboard.

Loop components are constantly updated and editable for whoever they’re shared with. Imagine a table that you’re working on with colleagues; you can drop that as a Loop component into a Teams message or Outlook email, and any edits to the table will be reflected wherever it’s embedded or shared.

For some reason I’m having flashbacks to a college internship, when I had to read the spec for OpenDoc. It was like a phone book in size but less readable.

Microsoft Loop is designed with collaboration and co-creation in mind. The main interface looks a lot like Notion, a workspace app that is used by Adobe, Figma, Amazon, and many other businesses.

Is Loop a Notion rip-off, or simply in the same space? As ever with Microsoft, they are unafraid to copy. Teams doesn’t just do similar things as Slack — it looks like Slack. Likewise, Loop looks like Notion. I’m not a Notion user so I’m not super-familiar with it, but Loop feels very similar. Loop has the same “::” grippy indicator for dragging components on a page up and down to reorder them, and more tellingly, the same “just type /” slash key trigger for shortcuts. But Slack uses slash the same way and Microsoft copied Slack years ago with Teams.

Notion makes it easy to share a page as a public website (Hipstamatic’s relaunch press release that I linked to an hour ago is on Notion); Loop doesn’t seem to have that feature. Both Notion and Loop are only available on the web on the Mac, but both do work in Safari. [Update: Whoops, wrong, Notion does offer desktop apps for Mac and Windows from their website, but it’s an, err, notional “app” at best — really just an Electron wrapper around their web app. Still, though, we regret the error.] Microsoft’s ChatGPT-powered Bing chat not only doesn’t work in Safari, it requires the bleeding-edge “dev” builds of Edge. Notion has mobile apps for iOS and Android, and Microsoft does too, albeit in beta. Notion’s AI assistant, curiously enough, is more advanced. (Microsoft’s Copilot is coming to Loop, but seemingly isn’t available there for me yet.) I asked Notion’s AI “What are the differences between Notion and Microsoft Loop?” and got a reasonable answer — impressive considering that Loop was only announced today.

If you create software that gains traction in work environments, it’s inevitable that Microsoft is going to follow.

Amazon Layoffs Will Shut Down Camera Review Site DPReview After 25 Years 

Andrew Cunningham, reporting for Ars Technica:

Amazon has plans to lay off at least 27,000 workers this year, including 9,000 that were announced in an internal email Monday morning. One unexpected casualty: Digital Photography Review, also known as DPReview, is losing its entire editorial staff, and the site will stop publishing on April 10.

The announcement post, written by DPReview General Manager Scott Everett, says that new pieces will continue to be posted through April 10, and “the site will be locked” afterward. It’s unclear what will happen to the site’s content afterward — the post promises only that the site’s articles “will be available in read-only mode for a limited period afterwards.” [...]

Founded in November 1998, DPReview is one of the few active review sites as old as Ars Technica. Amazon purchased it in 2007, and the site’s team has been located in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle since 2010.

The “DP” in “DPReview” stands for “digital photography”. The site is so old that that was necessary, because in 1998 most pro and prosumer photography equipment still revolved around shooting on film. DPReview went all-in on digital photography at a time when many photographers were deeply skeptical of its potential, because the technology was nascent. I’ve bought a fair amount of photography kit over the last 25 years, and never once bought a camera or lens without first reading and watching what DPReview had to say about it. I just bought my first new standalone camera in years a few weeks ago — the Ricoh GR IIIx — and DPReview’s review was the one that sealed the deal for me.

Layoffs are brutal, always, but it feels especially cruel that Amazon is noncommittal regarding keeping DPReview’s content around in perpetuity. Why only keep it available “for a limited time”? How much could it cost to just keep it around forever? Did they even try to sell it? How about letting the staff take over the site as part of their severance?

Widgetsmith Hits 100 Million Frigging Downloads 

“Underscore” David Smith:

Widgetsmith has just achieved a remarkable milestone, surpassing 100 million downloads since its launch in September 2020. A number that I can’t really wrap my mind around. A number larger than the population of all but 14 countries (🤯).

I was very conflicted about whether I should share and observe this milestone publicly. I am by nature a very shy, quiet person and not one to seek the spotlight.

Ultimately I decided to share this milestone for two reasons: Gratitude and Community.

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, truly. Widgetsmith is proof that you just never know when something is going to really resonate and take off. Smith is a very talented developer (and designer) with a bunch of successful apps, but Widgetsmith in particular is a genuine sensation. Just like Smith, 100 million downloads is a number I can’t even get my head around.

‘aCropalypse’: Android and Windows Bugs Allow Cropped-Out Content From Screenshots to Be Recovered 

Simon Aarons:

Introducing acropalypse: a serious privacy vulnerability in the Google Pixel’s inbuilt screenshot editing tool, Markup, enabling partial recovery of the original, unedited image data of a cropped and/or redacted screenshot. Huge thanks to @David3141593 for his help throughout!

David Buchanan:

The bug lies in closed-source Google-proprietary code so it’s a bit hard to inspect, but after some patch-diffing I concluded that the root cause was due to this horrible bit of API “design”: https://issuetracker.google.com/issues/180526528.

Google was passing "w" to a call to parseMode(), when they should’ve been passing "wt" (the t stands for truncation). This is an easy mistake, since similar APIs (like POSIX fopen) will truncate by default when you simply pass "w". Not only that, but previous Android releases had parseMode("w") truncate by default too! This change wasn’t even documented until some time after the aforementioned bug report was made.

The end result is that the image file is opened without the O_TRUNC flag, so that when the cropped image is written, the original image is not truncated. If the new image file is smaller, the end of the original is left behind.

I ran a few cropped screenshots from my Pixel 4 running Android 13 through their proof-of-concept tool, and some of them revealed quite a bit of cropped-out content.

And it’s not just Android: Buchanan today discovered that Windows 11 and 10 have a similar bug.

Solid State Volume Buttons and Mute Switch on iPhone 15 Pro Models 

Chance Miller, writing for 9to5Mac:

Earlier this month, 9to5Mac exclusively reported that the upcoming iPhone 15 Pro will have new unified volume buttons and a new “pressing type” mute button. Now, freshly-leaked CAD files have corroborated our report and offered a closer look at the new design.

This year’s phones will adopt new solid-state buttons with haptic feedback, similar to the Home button introduced with iPhone 7. This means that the buttons will no longer have moving parts and will identify the pressure level to work.

I trust Apple on this, because they absolutely nailed it with the iPhone 7 home button. That button was better than the buttons that actually clicked. Same thing for Apple’s modern trackpads — their simulated haptics clicks are better than the old trackpads that actually clicked. But I’m damn curious about two things:

  • How will the mute switch work? It’s a real benefit that you can discern the current state of the mute switch by feel alone, while the iPhone remains in your pocket or purse. (And lo these many years later, I still remain baffled that among all the umpteen design elements that Android phones have copied from iPhones, no popular or even semi-popular Android phones have ever had hardware mute switches. Not even Nothing, whose first phone unapologetically apes the iPhone frame.)

  • How will these haptic buttons work with cases? And gloves? Is pressure sensitivity enough? Or will iPhone 15 cases need to have pass-through capacitive buttons?

It’s Game Over on Vocal Deepfakes

You may recall back in October I linked to an AI-generated simulated interview between Joe Rogan and Steve Jobs. I wrote:

I also don’t buy their claim that these voices are completely generated. Most of Jobs’s lines have auditorium echo — they sound like clips copy-and-pasted. If they can really generate these voices, why doesn’t their virtual Rogan actually say Steve Jobs’s name? Send me a clip of virtual Steve Jobs saying “John Gruber is a bozo, and I tell people not to waste their time reading Daring Fireball.” Then I’ll believe it.

I neglected to follow up until now, but Ignaz Kowalczuk from ElevenLabs (the company behind Prime Voice AI) took me up on the challenge and sent me this clip:

That clip sounds noticeably stilted, but it does sound like Steve Jobs.

Now come this: a Twitter thread from John Meyer, who trained a clone of Jobs’s voice and then hooked it up to ChatGPT to generate the words. The clips he posted to Twitter are freakishly uncanny. It really sounds like Jobs. The only hitch is that it sounds like Jobs reading from a script, not speaking extemporaneously. But damned if it doesn’t sound like him.

It’s all fun and games in these demos, but this is inevitably going to be put to use by ratfuckers to create fake scandals in political campaigns. Recall the infamous “When you’re a star, they let you do it. Grab them by the pussy” Access Hollywood tape that The Washington Post published in October 2016. That tape obviously didn’t prevent him from winning the election, but it did hurt him by a few percent in the polls. There was no question at the time that the tape was legitimate. But if it came out now?

And it feels inevitable that a Roger Stone or Steve Bannon type will use this technology to commission, say, a recording of Joe Biden forgetting his own name or what year it is, or Kamala Harris claiming to be running an abortion clinic in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building or admitting to the existence of a Democrat-run sex-trafficking pedophile ring. A dangerous chunk of wingnuts bought into such a conspiracy in 2016 without compelling deepfake forgeries.

Real recordings will be called fake and fake recordings will be leaked as purportedly real. I don’t think the general population is prepared for this, and I worry that news media organizations aren’t either


My thanks to WorkOS for sponsoring last week at DF. WorkOS is like “Stripe for enterprise features.” They make it easy for developers to build features needed by enterprise customers, such as Single Sign-On and SCIM.

Shipping these feature is important because they enable selling upmarket for bigger deals. Without these features, the IT department will reject your app. But these enterprise features are complex and time-consuming to build yourself, usually taking months.

With WorkOS you can integrate and ship enterprise features in minutes. Beautiful API docs guide you through every step of the way, and transparent pricing scales based on usage. It’s a product built by developers, for developers.

Tim Urban on ‘Social Authoritarianism’ 

Tim Urban, on Twitter:

We can illustrate this by comparing how people react to an upcoming talk by a speaker they disagree with. High-rung thinkers find a lot of value in having their beliefs challenged. Low-rung thinkers, not so much. But only the idea supremacist tries to cancel the event.

Low-rung thinkers may not be great at learning, but as long as they don’t prevent others from learning, it’s fine. Even the social bully is fine — they only hurt people who choose to be their friend.

But idea supremacy is a direct affront to the workings of a liberal society.

A short thread, but a good one. If you refuse to listen to people you disagree with, let alone try to prevent them from even speaking, how do you even know you disagree with them? Perhaps because I was young at the time, I often think back to Bob Dole’s “nightmares of depravity” broadside against popular movies and music in 1995, when he began his campaign for president:

Natural Born Killers, the story of a couple on a killing spree as they cross the country, was one example of films and recordings cited by Mr. Dole as “nightmares of depravity” for their depictions of gratuitous sex and violence. He also attacked the film True Romance and the rap groups Cannibal Corpse, Geto Boys and 2 Live Crew. Aides to Mr. Dole said he had not seen the movies he cited but had read about them and had also read offending rap lyrics.

The thing that got me then and still gets me now is that Dole had not seen the movies. Railing against a movie you haven’t seen is more offensive to me than the actual contents of any movie could be.

Anyway, Urban’s Twitter thread is promoting his new book, What’s Our Problem: A Self-Help Book for Societies, which is at the top of my reading pile.

Apple’s ‘Hello Yellow’ TV Commercial 

Speaking of TV commercials for camera phones, Apple’s new 30-second spot for the iPhone 14’s new yellow color features a protagonist who does nothing with his iPhone other than use it as a camera.

Samsung Responds, Hand-Wavingly, to Fake Moon Photos Controversy 

Jon Porter, The Verge:

Samsung has published an English-language blog post explaining the techniques used by its phones to photograph the Moon. The post’s content isn’t exactly new — it appears to be a lightly edited translation of an article posted in Korean last year — and doesn’t offer much new detail on the process. But, because it’s an official translation, we can more closely scrutinize its explanation of what Samsung’s image processing technology is doing.

There’ve been a couple of follow-ups on this since I wrote about it a few weeks ago. Marques Brownlee posted a short video, leaning into the existential question of the computation photography era: “What is a photo?” Input’s Ray Wong took umbrage at my having said he’d been “taken” by Samsung’s moon photography hype in this Twitter thread.

Here’s a clarifying way of thinking about it. What Samsung is doing with photographs of the moon is fine as a photo editing feature. It is not, however, a camera feature. With computational photography there is no clear delineation between what’s part of the camera imaging pipeline and what’s a post-capture editing feature. There’s a gray zone, to be sure. But this moon shot feature is not in that gray zone. It’s post-capture photo editing, even if it happens automatically — closer to Photoshop than to photography.

Where I draw the line is whether the software is clarifying reality as captured by the camera or not. Is the software improving/upscaling the input, or substituting the input with imagery that doesn’t originate from the camera? Here’s a snippet of a debate on Twitter, from Sebastiaan de With (at the helm of the Halide camera app account):

One can argue “Well, it’s the moon, it’s always the same” — and perhaps that’s true, but the issue is with photographic accuracy. In-fill should be informed by underlying input data and shape the output image; you can argue output shouldn’t reshape the input this significantly.

And that’s my point. What if the moon weren’t the same? What if it gets hit by a large meteor, creating a massive new visible-from-earth crater? Or what if our humble friend Phony Stark blows tens of billions of dollars erecting a giant billboard on the surface of the moon, visible from earth, that reads “@elonmusk”? A photo of the moon taken with one of these Samsung phones wouldn’t show either of those things, yet would appear to capture a detailed image of the moon’s surface. A camera should capture the moon as it is now, and computational photography should help improve the detail of that image of the moon as it appears now. Samsung’s phones are rendering the moon as it was, at some point in the past when this ML model was trained.

And that’s where Samsung steps over the line into fraud. Samsung, in its advertisements, is clearly billing these moon shots as an amazing feature enabled by its 10× optical / 100× digital zoom telephoto camera lens. They literally present it as optically superior to a telescope. That’s bullshit. A telescope shows you the moon as it is. Samsung’s cameras do not.

‘Hating Everyone Everywhere All at Once at Stanford’ 

Ken White, writing at The Popehat Report:

Associate Dean Steinbach and her ilk are campaigning to undermine free speech legal and social norms, striving to make someone’s subjective reaction to speech an unquestionable justification for suppressing it. Academic freedom is under state assault and she’s busily undermining it and telling students they have a right to shut people up.

Stanford, and schools like it, are shitting the bed over controversial speakers. Decide that students can shut down speeches they don’t like, if you want to take that path. If not, protect speakers from disruption and have the students escorted out if they shut down a speech. Don’t half-ass it and then apologize afterwards.

And students. Students think that they should be able to dictate which speakers their peers invite, who can speak, what they can say, and who can listen. They’re not satisfied with the most free-speech-exceptionalist system in the world that lets them respond to speech by assembling, protesting, and reviling people of authority like Judge Duncan. They demand the right not just to speak, but to control the speech of others. That’s straight-up thuggish, an aspiration born of a fascist soul. These are law students. They are training to express themselves for a living. If their view is “we can’t respond to awful speech, we can only stop it from happening,” then they’re going to be terrible lawyers.

Sony Design Gallery 

I wish this historical gallery of hardware from Sony were 10 times larger. I just love their older stuff. Gun to my head, I think I’d choose Sony’s ’60s/’70s aesthetic over Braun’s. And how have I never before heard of Sony’s HB-101 “HITBIT MEZZO” personal computer? Gorgeous.

(Via Tim Van Damme.)

Meanwhile, Over in Chromebook Land 

Monica Chin, continuing to do yeoman’s work reviewing crummy laptops for The Verge:

The only time I heard fan noise was when I was trying to stream a Spotify playlist overtop the aforementioned load while running an external display. The keyboard was often warm, and the keys in the center occasionally toed the “uncomfortable” line, but nothing caught fire.

But the biggest problem I had was with battery life. Two and a half hours. That’s how long this device lasted me to a charge on average, running the workload I described above at medium brightness. I certainly got longer than this in some trials, especially those that were lighter on the Android apps, but I am fairly confident that, if this were my personal device, I would need to charge it two, maybe three times per day.

Runs hot and gets just 2.5 hours of battery life for $999. Who is buying these things?

Microsoft Introduces 365 Copilot, Their AI Chat Integration for Office 

Jared Spataro, “corporate vice president, modern work & business applications”,* on the Microsoft blog:

Copilot is integrated into Microsoft 365 in two ways. It works alongside you, embedded in the Microsoft 365 apps you use every day — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams and more — to unleash creativity, unlock productivity and uplevel skills. Today we’re also announcing an entirely new experience: Business Chat. Business Chat works across the LLM, the Microsoft 365 apps, and your data — your calendar, emails, chats, documents, meetings and contacts — to do things you’ve never been able to do before. You can give it natural language prompts like “Tell my team how we updated the product strategy,” and it will generate a status update based on the morning’s meetings, emails and chat threads.

With Copilot, you’re always in control. You decide what to keep, modify or discard. Now, you can be more creative in Word, more analytical in Excel, more expressive in PowerPoint, more productive in Outlook and more collaborative in Teams.

Hard to predict how these AI-powered features are going to play out, but it feels like they’re soon going to be table stakes. An accurate, concise, automatically generated summary of a meeting you missed — that feels undeniably useful.

* What a mouthful of a job title. Why not just “vice president, business applications”? “Corporate” seems unnecessary, and “modern” even more so. Is there a VP for out-of-date business applications too? Someone who’s still in charge of updating the DOS versions of Word and Excel?

WSJ: ‘U.S. Threatens Ban if TikTok’s Chinese Owners Don’t Sell Stakes’ 

John D. McKinnon, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+ link):

The Biden administration is demanding that TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their stakes in the video-sharing app or face a possible U.S. ban of the app, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move represents a major shift in policy on the part of the administration, which has been under fire from some Republicans who say it hasn’t taken a tough enough stance to address the perceived security threat from TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius — a multiagency federal task force that oversees national security risks in cross-border investments — made the sale demand recently, the people said.

Trump was against TikTok too, but didn’t get this done. (And he tried, corruptly, to work a deal to hand TikTok over to Larry Ellison.) Banning TikTok or forcing the CCP to sell it makes sense both on national security grounds and as tit-for-tat trade policy. China effectively imposes an infinite tariff on U.S. social networks — none of them are available there. The U.S., to date, has imposed a 0 percent tariff on TikTok.

‘The Apple II Age’ 

Upcoming new book by Laine Nooney:

Skip the iPhone, the iPod, and the Macintosh. If you want to understand how Apple Inc. became an industry behemoth, look no further than the 1977 Apple II. Designed by the brilliant engineer Steve Wozniak and hustled into the marketplace by his Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, the Apple II became one of the most prominent personal computers of this dawning industry.

The Apple II was a versatile piece of hardware, but its most compelling story isn’t found in the feat of its engineering, the personalities of Apple’s founders, or the way it set the stage for the company’s multi-billion-dollar future. Instead, as historian Laine Nooney shows, what made the Apple II iconic was its software. In software, we discover the material reasons people bought computers. Not to hack, but to play. Not to code, but to calculate. Not to program, but to print. The story of personal computing in the United States is not about the evolution of hackers — it’s about the rise of everyday users.

Did I preorder a copy immediately? Come on, you know the answer.

Colorado Catholic Group Bought App Data That Tracked Gay Priests 

Michelle Boorstein and Heather Kelly, reporting for The Washington Post:

A group of conservative Colorado Catholics has spent millions of dollars to buy mobile app tracking data that identified priests who used gay dating and hookup apps and then shared it with bishops around the country. [...]

One report prepared for bishops says the group’s sources are data brokers who got the information from ad exchanges, which are sites where ads are bought and sold in real time, like a stock market. The group cross-referenced location data from the apps and other details with locations of church residences, workplaces and seminaries to find clergy who were allegedly active on the apps, according to one of the reports and also the audiotape of the group’s president.

Sherman said police departments have bought data about citizens instead of seeking a warrant, domestic abusers have accessed data about their victims, and antiabortion activists have used data to target people who visit clinics.

But Bennett Cyphers, a special adviser to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights organization, said the Burrill story was the first time he had heard of a private group buying commercial data and using it against a specific individual.

Makes me wonder how often this technique is being used to blackmail people. This group was targeting gay priests to out them; they could have just as easily blackmailed them.

OpenAI’s GPT-4 Teaser Video 

A tangential detail regarding this 3-minute video: despite including people from Microsoft talking about their partnership with OpenAI, of the dozens of laptops shown, all of them are MacBooks.

Facebook to Lay Off 10,000 More Employees 

Mark Zuckerberg, in a company-wide memo:

Here’s the timeline you should expect: over the next couple of months, org leaders will announce restructuring plans focused on flattening our orgs, canceling lower priority projects, and reducing our hiring rates. With less hiring, I’ve made the difficult decision to further reduce the size of our recruiting team. We will let recruiting team members know tomorrow whether they’re impacted. We expect to announce restructurings and layoffs in our tech groups in late April, and then our business groups in late May. In a small number of cases, it may take through the end of the year to complete these changes. Our timelines for international teams will also look different, and local leaders will follow up with more details. Overall, we expect to reduce our team size by around 10,000 people and to close around 5,000 additional open roles that we haven’t yet hired.

Keep in mind that Facebook’s headcount increased 2.4× (from 36K to 87K) between 2018 and 2022.

Leaner is better

Since we reduced our workforce last year, one surprising result is that many things have gone faster. In retrospect, I underestimated the indirect costs of lower priority projects.

It seems like someone should have bought Zuckerberg a copy of Fred Brooks’s The Mythical Man Month a few years ago.

‘BlackBerry’ Trailer 

Not a documentary, but a fictionalized telling of the rise and fall of BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion. Sort of like Titanic, we know how it ends, but sometimes knowing the ending makes for a more compelling story. (Glenn Howerton as Jim Balsillie is unrecognizable.)

FTC Finalizes Order Requiring Epic Games to Pay $245 Million for Tricking Users Into Making Unwanted Charges 

The Federal Trade Commission:

The Federal Trade Commission has finalized an order requiring Epic Games, the maker of the Fortnite video game, to pay $245 million to consumers to settle charges that the company used dark patterns to trick players into making unwanted purchases and let children rack up unauthorized charges without any parental involvement.

In a complaint announced in December as part of a settlement package with Epic, the FTC said that Epic deployed a variety of design tricks known as dark patterns aimed at getting consumers of all ages to make unintended in-game purchases. Fortnite’s counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration led players to incur unwanted charges based on the press of a single button. The company also made it easy for children to make purchases while playing Fortnite without requiring any parental consent. According to the FTC’s complaint, Epic also locked the accounts of customers who disputed unauthorized charges with their credit card companies.

Sure would be great if Apple were forced to allow these guys to run an entire app store for iOS.

Petey: ChatGPT App for Apple Watch 

Briefly known as “WatchGPT” but now renamed to Petey (because the App Store is cracking down on apps with “GPT” in their names, as it’s a registered trademark of OpenAI), this is a simple, super easy-to-use ChatGPT app for Apple Watch by Hidde van der Ploeg. I’ve been using it for a week or so and it’s occasionally been genuinely handy, especially if you keep it on an easily-accessed watch face complication. With other devices, you can just search the web for answers to questions. Oftentimes, when you ask a question to Siri, you get redirected to a web search. But if all you have handy at the moment is your watch, a web search is useless. Petey gives good answers to a lot of questions. I dig the simple aesthetic too — using SF Mono for the type gives the app an appropriately robotic feel.

$5 one-time purchase in the App Store. Worth it. (Privacy policy: “The developer does not collect any data from this app.”)

Noam Chomsky: ‘The False Promise of ChatGPT’ 

Noam Chomsky, Ian Roberts, and Jeffrey Watumull, in an essay for The New York Times:

It is at once comic and tragic, as Borges might have noted, that so much money and attention should be concentrated on so little a thing — something so trivial when contrasted with the human mind, which by dint of language, in the words of Wilhelm von Humboldt, can make “infinite use of finite means,” creating ideas and theories with universal reach.

The human mind is not, like ChatGPT and its ilk, a lumbering statistical engine for pattern matching, gorging on hundreds of terabytes of data and extrapolating the most likely conversational response or most probable answer to a scientific question. On the contrary, the human mind is a surprisingly efficient and even elegant system that operates with small amounts of information; it seeks not to infer brute correlations among data points but to create explanations.

Kottke.org Is 25 Years Old Today and Jason Wrote About It 

Jason Kottke:

My love for the web has ebbed and flowed in the years since, but mainly it’s persisted — so much so that as of today, I’ve been writing kottke.org for 25 years. A little context for just how long that is: kottke.org is older than Google. 25 years is more than half of my life , spanning four decades (the 90s, 00s, 10s, and 20s) and around 40,000 posts — almost cartoonishly long for a medium optimized for impermanence. What follows is my (relatively brief) attempt to explain where kottke.org came from and why it’s still going.

A thought that occurred to me when Jason was on my podcast this month (you should listen! — it’s one of my favorite episodes ever): at 25, Kottke.org is over one-quarter as old as The New Yorker magazine, which was founded in 1925. I’ve grown up thinking The New Yorker had been around “forever”. That makes Kottke.org ... one-quarter of “forever” old? My mind boggles.

Congratulations, my friend. Here’s to 25 more.

Meanwhile, Over in PC Laptop Land 

Monica Chin, reviewing a $2,000 configuration of the Dell Latitude 7330:

For one, I only averaged three hours and 35 minutes of battery life, which would be a big problem even if everything else about this device was incredible. But even while on power, I could feel the thing chugging toward the higher end of my workload. For example, while I was operating a second screen over Thunderbolt, loading some files from external drives, running a few downloads, and trying to work over that in 20-ish Chrome tabs, the Latitude had visible slowdown. I don’t see this as an unrealistic office workload, so that’s concerning.

A $2,000 laptop that gets under 4 hours of battery life and slows down under nominal use. Jiminy.

Facebook on NFTs: Never Mind 

Molly White:

In a Twitter thread, Meta (formerly Facebook) Head of Commerce and Fintech Stephane Kasriel announced that they would be “down digital collectibles (NFTs) for now to focus on other ways to support creators, people, and businesses”. Meta had only launched its support for NFTs in Facebook and Instagram partway through last year — a bit late to the NFT craze, which had largely cooled by that point.

Mark Zuckerberg had once talked about eventually using NFTs for Meta’s metaverse projects, suggesting that eventually “the clothing that your avatar is wearing in the metaverse, you know, [could] be basically minted as an NFT and you can take it between your different places”. It sounds like that plan may no longer be on the table now.

To Ship or Not to Ship, Headset Edition

Patrick McGee and Tim Bradshaw, reporting for The Financial Times, under the headline “Tim Cook Bets on Apple’s Mixed-Reality Headset to Secure His Legacy” (archive link, just in case your FT login credentials aren’t working):

The stakes are high for Cook. The headset will be Apple’s first new computing platform to have been developed entirely under his leadership. The iPhone, iPad and even Watch were all originally conceived under Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs, who died in 2011.

It’s unfair, I say, to put Apple Watch in the “developed under Steve Jobs” column. Apple certainly might have been talking about a watch while Jobs was still alive, but it wasn’t announced until three years after he died. Apple Watch is a Tim Cook product. (In the early years of Apple Watch, when conventional wisdom was bizarrely of the mind that it was a flop, I recall numerous wags claiming that Apple Watch was proof that Apple couldn’t create great all-new products without Steve Jobs. Now that Apple Watch is undeniably a massive hit, it’s a retcon to give Jobs credit for it.)

Apple’s growth during Cook’s tenure has been spectacular, growing its market capitalisation from around $350bn in 2011 to around $2.4tn today. But despite the twin hit launches of Apple Watch in 2015 and AirPods a year later, which have helped turn its accessories division into a $41bn business, the company has been accused of iterating on past ideas rather than breaking new ground.

Apple hasn’t produced any great new products other than the great new products they’ve produced.

The timing of the launch has been a source of tension since the project began in early 2016, according to multiple people familiar with Apple’s internal discussions. Apple’s operations team wanted to ship a “version one” product, a ski goggle-like headset that will allow users to watch immersive 3D video, perform interactive workouts or chat with realistic avatars through a revamped FaceTime.

But Apple’s famed industrial design team had cautioned patience, wanting to delay until a more lightweight version of AR glasses became technically feasible. Most in the tech industry expect that to take several more years.

In deciding to press ahead with a debut this year, Cook has sided with operations chief Jeff Williams, according to two people familiar with Apple’s decision-making, and overruled the early objections from Apple’s designers to wait for the tech to catch up with their vision.

Just a few years ago, going against the wishes of Apple’s all-powerful design team would have been unthinkable. But since the departure of its longtime leader Jony Ive in 2019, Apple’s structure has been reshuffled, with design now reporting to Williams.

The design team was never all-powerful. Jony Ive, personally, was perhaps nearly so. But even Ive reported to, and by several accounts occasionally clashed with, Tim Cook.

The FT’s reporting here is certainly interesting, but I wouldn’t read too much into it because it’s obviously incomplete. It’s also seemingly being misinterpreted to some degree. MacRumors’s recap is under the headline “Report: Apple CEO Tim Cook Ordered Headset Launch Despite Designers Warning It Wasn’t Ready”. That’s not what the FT is reporting. The FT isn’t reporting that Apple’s design team thinks the mixed-reality goggles aren’t ready yet — they’re reporting that the design team didn’t want to ship mixed-reality goggles at all. They’re not saying the design team advised waiting until the goggles got a little better — they’re saying the design team advised waiting until AR glasses — an entirely different product — were feasible.

But more importantly, the FT’s reporting makes it sound as though this decision was solely between the industrial design team and Jeff Williams’s operations team. That’s not how Apple works. Left out of the FT’s reporting are both Mike Rockwell’s AR/VR team within Apple (more of a division than a mere team — at least 1,000 software and hardware engineers, designers, and AR/VR content creators), and Greg Joswiak’s product marketing division. Rockwell has been leading Apple’s entire foray into both AR and VR for 8 years. (He was my guest at the live-on-stage WWDC episode of The Talk Show 5 years ago.) Out of everyone in the entire company, his opinion on what AR/VR hardware Apple ought to ship and when is the one I’d consider most salient. And as I’ve long said about Apple’s “product marketing”, the operative word is more product than marketing. The role Phil Schiller carved out, and which Joswiak now holds, doesn’t start when a product is finished and needs to be packaged and advertised. Apple product marketing is deeply involved in all phases of product development from conception onward. (It was Schiller, to name just one example, who came up with the idea for the iPod’s click wheel.) Does Joz think this imminent headset is a product Apple ought to ship? The FT is silent.

This is akin to talking about the decision to greenlight a movie and including only the opinions of the studio executives (in this case, Cook and Williams) and, say, the special effects/cinematography team (in this case, industrial design) — with no mention of the screenwriter (product marketing), the actors (engineering), or the director (Rockwell?). Or maybe the design team is the actors and the engineers are the special effects/cinematography team — it doesn’t matter. What matters is that, like moviemaking, product-making and platform-building are profoundly multidisciplinary endeavors, and Apple’s internal culture is deeply collaborative across those disciplines. Apple’s industrial design team is deservedly renowned and undeniably highly influential, both within and outside the company, but they’re relatively tiny headcount-wise. There are at least 1,000 people who’ve been working full-time for years on Apple’s upcoming mixed reality platform.

I’m not faulting the Financial Times here — you take the sources you can get, and seemingly they have sources from within Apple’s tight-knit design team. (Or, perhaps more likely, from former members of the team.) It is fascinating, if true, that Apple’s design team didn’t want to ship a mixed-reality headset at all, and wanted Apple to wait for full AR glasses — technology which, at a minimum, is years away. (High quality all-day AR glasses may well be a decade or longer away.) And the whole thing plays right into my intense curiosity regarding just what the intended use cases are for this product.

What I don’t buy, though, is the angle that Tim Cook is fast-tracking the product because he sees it in any way as essential to bolstering his “legacy”. First, Cook could announce his resignation tomorrow and his legacy would be gold: he guided the company past Steve Jobs’s tragic, far-too-young death; the company’s market cap has increased nearly ten-fold under his leadership; he oversaw the construction and opening of Apple Park; he turned Apple into a services juggernaut in addition to maintaining its position as the most profitable hardware company in the world; and product-wise, under his leadership Apple has launched Apple Watch (the most popular and profitable watch and fitness tracker in the world), AirPods (the most popular and profitable augmented reality devices in the world), and overtaken Intel as the premiere silicon design company in the world. Nor does it seem like he’s going anywhere soon. Furthermore, even without the above litany of accomplishments over the last decade, Tim Cook just does not seem ego-driven in the least. If he thinks Apple should launch a mixed-reality headset this year, it’s because he thinks doing so is in the best interest of the company, not his legacy. And by the “who should get credit for what” accounting in this same article, Cook should get credit for Apple’s XR platform even if the first devices don’t launch until three years after he retires.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that Cook is preoccupied with thoughts of his legacy. If that’s true, he’d likely be overly cautious about launching this new platform, not rushing it out the door against staunch internal opposition. I say “John Sculley”, you hear “Newton”. Launching a high-profile expensive dud would cause more harm to Cook’s legacy than launching a successful headset would do it good. He can stand pat with his accomplishments to date and surely be remembered for decades as one of the best CEOs not just in technology history, but business history. In a certain sense, Apple under Cook is undefeated. Launch a Newton-like bust on his way out the door, however, and that might prove an indelible stain on a heretofore impeccable record.

Regarding Sales Figures

On another front, the FT reports:

Apple is only expecting to sell around a million units of its headset in its first 12 months, according to two people familiar with its planning, fewer than the first generations of the iPhone or Apple Watch did in the year following their launch.

The complex device, which will contain an array of cameras and high-resolution screens, is expected to cost around $3,000, triple the price of Meta’s Quest Pro, potentially limiting its appeal. Generating even $3bn in annual sales would be a tiny fraction of Apple’s revenues of around $400bn last year.

The modest target might give the impression that Apple is expecting a dud. But Apple also has a long history of starting slowly when it enters new product categories, then taking the market by storm within a few years. People close to Apple say that despite the modest sales target, the company is preparing a marketing blitz for the new product.

To their credit, the FT illustrates with a nice chart how with the iPhone, Apple Watch, and especially iPod, unit sales didn’t hit their stride until the third or fourth generation products. But it’s also worth comparing to the market as a whole. When he introduced the original iPhone in January 2007, Steve Jobs said that Apple’s goal was 1 percent of the world market for cell phones by the end of 2008. There were 1.2 billion phones sold in 2008, and with just under 20 million iPhones sold that year, Apple exceeded that goal.

What would 1 million Apple headsets be as a percentage of the global market? IDC, in a report just a few days ago, estimates a total 8.8 million AR/VR headsets were sold globally in 2022. The NDP Group put the number at 9.6 million. So one million headsets in the first year would give Apple roughly 10 percent of the global market, right out of the gate. That same NPD report pegged U.S. (not worldwide) revenue from headset sales in 2022 at $1.1 billion. If this thing really is going to sell for $3,000 (I remain deeply skeptical of that price, but The Financial Times reiterates it), Apple would need only sell about 400,000 units in the U.S. to take a majority share of U.S. headset sales by revenue. One million total units and $3 billion in revenue would likely give Apple a majority share of worldwide revenue. Modest indeed. 

David Zaslav Might Be Stupid 

Sharon Knolle and Scott Mendelson, reporting for TheWrap:

Warner Bros. Discovery is pushing forward with a plan to drop “HBO” from the name of its flagship streaming service HBO Max. That decision for the long-planned rebranding of the combined HBO Max and Discovery+ services was partially informed by the company’s belief that “the HBO name turns off many potential subscribers,” Bloomberg reported on Thursday and TheWrap independently confirmed.

The name change is meant to signal that the service will not just be HBO Max with Discovery content, nor will HBO Max be ported over to Discovery+. “Max” is the leading contender, though Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said on a recent earnings call that the new name would be officially unveiled April 12. [...]

When HBO became an award-winning juggernaut in the ’90s with “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos,” the catchphrase used in its marketing was, “It’s not TV. It’s HBO.” A new motto could well be: “It’s not HBO. It’s Max.”

Changing the name of the streaming service to just “Max” has been rumored for months, and it sounds just as stupid now as it did then.

‘Can You Believe We Have to Talk About This Shit Again?’ 

David Dayen, writing for The American Prospect:

The first words out of the mouth of Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) when I talked to her on Sunday were: “Can you believe we have to talk about this shit again?” She was referring to a conversation we had in 2018, when she was still just a financial expert and a candidate for Congress, about S.2155, which I call the Crapo bill, a reference to its co-author (Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo) and its underlying contents. [...]

The most important part of the Crapo bill was Section 401, which increased by fivefold the threshold for enhanced regulatory standards, from $50 billion in assets to $250 billion. Silicon Valley Bank’s CEO, Greg Becker, lobbied explicitly for this change. It meant that banks under $250 billion would not be subject to additional stress tests and heightened capital and liquidity requirements. SVB topped out around $200 billion, after growing rapidly in the past few years. [...]

So you have depositors that either didn’t know the first thing about risk management, or were bribed by the bank into neglecting it. And you have a bank that didn’t have a chief risk officer for close to a year, that put their entire risk management on autopilot and got blindsided by interest rate–fueled losses. “Interest rates do two things, they go up and down. SVB did not foresee and manage properly that inevitable thing,” Porter said.