Brave Search Now in Public Beta 

Brave:

Brave Search is available in beta release globally on all Brave browsers (desktop, Android, and iOS) as one of the search options alongside other search engines, and will become the default search in the Brave browser later this year. It is also available from any other browser at search.brave.com. […]

Brave Search is different from other search engines because it uses its own index and follows different principles:

  1. Privacy: no tracking or profiling of users.
  2. User-first: the user comes first, not the advertising and data industries.
  3. Independence: Brave has its own search index for answering common queries privately without reliance on other providers.
  4. Choice: soon, options for ad-free paid search and ad-supported search.
  5. Transparency: no secret methods or algorithms to bias results, and soon, community-curated open ranking models to ensure diversity and prevent algorithmic biases and outright censorship.
  6. Seamlessness: best-in-class integration between the browser and search without compromising privacy, from personalization to instant results as the user types.
  7. Openness: Brave Search will soon be available to power other search engines.

I’m interested to see how it compares to DuckDuckGo (my default for several years now) in daily driving.

Roger Montti at Search Engine Journal had good things to say about it last week:

Brave search is currently in testing mode. So it’s not fair to make judgments on an unfinished product. That said, the quality of the search results that I have seen are outstanding in terms of usefulness. […]

There is a lack of clutter in Brave that sets it apart not only from Google but from Bing and DuckDuckGo. After using Brave, I suspect that a reason why I have not embraced Bing, despite liking Bing’s search results, is that Bing feels similar to Google.

Brave on the other hand offers me something different that feels just right and makes me want to return to it, something I’ve never felt using any other Google competitor.

‘This One Email Explains Apple’ 

Matthew Panzarino, in a piece published just before WWDC:

An email has been going around the internet as a part of a release of documents related to Apple’s App Store-based suit brought by Epic Games. I love this email for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that you can extrapolate from it the very reasons Apple has remained such a vital force in the industry for the past decade. […]

This efficacy is at the core of what makes Apple good when it is good. It’s not always good, but nothing ever is 100% of the time and the hit record is incredibly strong across a decade’s worth of shipped software and hardware. Crisp, lean communication that does not coddle or equivocate, coupled with a leader that is confident in their own ability and the ability of those that they hired means that there is no need to bog down the process in order to establish a record of involvement.

A truly remarkable email exchange, and a model of clarity and conciseness.

Feature-by-Feature System Requirements for Apple’s 2021 Operating Systems 

Josh Centers, writing at TidBITS:

We’re all eagerly awaiting iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS 12 Monterey, and watchOS 8, but will they run on the devices you have now? Apple continues to do an excellent job of supporting old devices, but many iPhone and iPad features will require at least an A12 Bionic chip. On the Mac side, some of the new features require an M1 processor.

Overall, maintaining support for old devices while restricting certain new features to more capable recent models is a great strategy. That way, fewer people are forced to buy new hardware just to participate, but the new features encourage hardware upgrades for those who want to take advantage of them.

It’s a testimony to Apple’s commitment to device longevity that iOS 15 will run on A9-based iPhones (2015’s iPhone 6S and 2016’s original iPhone SE). Of course they don’t get all the new features. The Android world is nothing like this.

Centers’s article is a detailed rundown of which devices get which features that were announced at WWDC two weeks ago.


The New York Times: ‘Sundar Pichai Faces Internal Criticism at Google’

Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for The New York Times:

It is hard to argue that things aren’t going great for Google. Revenue and profits are charting new highs every three months. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is worth $1.6 trillion. Google has rooted itself deeper and deeper into the lives of everyday Americans.

But a restive class of Google executives worry that the company is showing cracks. They say Google’s work force is increasingly outspoken. Personnel problems are spilling into the public. Decisive leadership and big ideas have given way to risk aversion and incrementalism. And some of those executives are leaving and letting everyone know exactly why.

Fifteen current and former Google executives, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering Google and Mr. Pichai, told The New York Times that Google was suffering from many of the pitfalls of a large, maturing company — a paralyzing bureaucracy, a bias toward inaction and a fixation on public perception.

I think there’s something interesting going on here, but Wakabayashi’s lede is far juicier than the meat of the article warrants. I’d argue that it boils down to the fact that Pichai has transformed Google into a more focused, and perhaps more boring, company, and that his internal critics preferred the old Google culture — one that did things just because they seemed clever or cool, not because they were necessarily strategically useful to the company. Google Glass, for example.

A comparison to Apple (shocking, coming from me, I know) is apt. Apple has touted that when it comes to product ideas, they have “a thousand no’s for every yes”. Coincidentally, that WWDC-opening video is from 2013, the same year Google Glass became available. In 2013, Steve Jobs’s death was still a fresh emotional wound. But that “thousand no’s for every yes” mantra wasn’t defining a new Apple, it was clarifying that post-Jobs Apple would remain the same Apple. Here’s Jobs at that extraordinary open-question session at WWDC 1997, at the very start of the Apple-NeXT reunification that marks the beginning of modern Apple, explaining that “Focusing is about saying no.”

It seems undeniable that under Pichai, Google is more focused: more no’s, fewer yes’s. The sources in Wakabayashi’s report clearly want more yes’s. Maybe they’re right! Google is quite obviously a different company with a very different culture than Apple. But the results under Pichai, so far, are pretty good.

Here’s one of the examples cited by Wakabayashi:

A common critique among current and former executives is that Mr. Pichai’s slow deliberations often feel like a way to play it safe and arrive at a “no.”

Google executives proposed the idea of acquiring Shopify as a way to challenge Amazon in online commerce a few years ago. Mr. Pichai rejected the idea because he thought Shopify was too expensive, two people familiar with the discussions said.

But those people said that they had never thought Mr. Pichai had the stomach for a deal and that the price was a convenient and ultimately misguided justification. Shopify’s share price has increased almost tenfold in the last few years. Jason Post, a Google spokesman, said, “There was never a serious discussion of this acquisition.”

One former executive said the company’s risk aversion was embodied by a state of perpetual research and development known internally as “pantry mode.” Teams will stash away products in case a rival creates something new and Google needs to respond quickly.

One person’s overcaution is another’s focus. 


David Cicilline’s Anchoring Strategy 

Ben Thompson, writing last week about the four legislative proposals released by the House Subcommittee on Antitrust:

I don’t think it is an accident that these bills were presented as a package, but I think it has been a mistake in a lot of coverage to view the package as one bill. It seems to me that Chairman Cicilline has played his cards very deftly here: start with the fact that while every bill was authored by a Democrat, they all have a Republican co-sponsor; if some combination of these regulations pass they will likely be with overwhelmingly Democratic support, but the fact they are starting out as nominally bi-partisan efforts is savvy.

The real tell about Cicilline’s strategy, though, is the seeming contradictions between his own bill and that of Representative Jayapal. Cicilline seeks to restrict platforms from behaving in non-discriminatory ways, with the threat of break-up if they don’t, while Jayapal jumps straight to break-up. This strikes me as an anchoring strategy: Jayapal’s approach is both unworkable and undesirable — it leaves the FTC and ultimately the courts as the ultimate arbiter of what is part of a core platform’s offering and what rests on top, and not only does that evolve as technology matures, it also makes it impossible to deliver an experience that is approachable for regular consumers. As I noted above, is a networking stack part of an operating system? Is a browser? Is an App Store? Moreover, Jayapal’s bill, if enacted, makes Cicilline’s bill immaterial: there would be nothing to discriminate against.

That’s why I suspect that Cicilline’s goal is to stake out the most extreme position — the Jayapal bill — with the goal of getting his own bill passed as a compromise, perhaps with Scanlon’s as well.

Here’s Thompson’s description of Jayapal’s bill:

[I]nstead of banning discriminatory behavior it simply bans platforms from owning any product or service that rest on top of its platform and compete with 3rd-parties in any way. The provision is as broad as it sounds, which is interesting to think about in a historical context: operating systems used to sell the networking stack separately — would it be illegal now for iOS to include TCP/IP? That’s just one obvious example of how this bill would quickly devolve into product design by the judiciary.

I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say that the Jayapal bill would profoundly change Apple and all of Apple’s products, platforms, and above all, services — in ways that ultimately would be ruinous for the company as we know it. It’s a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” bill that betrays a profound misunderstanding of how platforms evolve. Even if it is just an anchoring strategy to make Cicilline’s own bill look moderate in comparison, Apple should be extremely concerned that Jayapal’s bill is even on the table.

Simris 

My thanks to Simris for sponsoring DF this week to promote their algae-based omega-3 supplements. One third of the matter in your brain is literally made of omega-3, and many people eat fish and take fish oil as an omega-3 supplement. But the source of omega-3 is algae — not fish. Fish get their omegas from eating algae. Simris Algae Omega-3 is a completely plant-based and superior alternative to fish oil and krill, without the mercury, PCB, and dioxins, and without harming our oceans.

Simris is a Swedish pioneer company growing microalgae. They save and protect endangered marine habitats by replacing unsustainable marine ingredients, and proudly combine Scandinavian innovation and design at its finest.

Everything about Simris’s products is just really nice: from their website to their packaging to the actual capsules. Just take a look at how nice their ad looks here on the DF sidebar. Great design through and through.

Apple’s ‘Trusted Partners’ for iCloud Private Relay Include Akamai, Fastly, and Cloudflare 

Dan Rayburn, writing for Streaming Media Blog:

On Monday, Apple announced some new privacy features in iCloud, one of which they are calling Private Relay. The way it works is that when you go to a website using Safari, iCloud Private Relay takes your IP address to connect you to the website and then encrypts the URL so that app developers, and even Apple, don’t know what website you are visiting. The IP and encrypted URL then travels to an intermediary relay station run by what Apple calls a “trusted partner”. In a media interview published yesterday, Apple would not say who the trusted partners are but I can confirm, based on public details (as shown below; Akamai on left, Fastly on the right), that Akamai, Fastly and Cloudflare are being used.

It’s a little weird that Apple doesn’t want to talk about who these “trusted partners” are, because if we don’t know who they are, how are we supposed to trust them? Putting your name on a product or service is a badge of trust.

Restoring a Badly Damaged Watch 

If you find this as soothing and satisfying to watch as I do, you’ll enjoy a few others in this fellow’s YouTube channel. (Via Sebastiaan De With.)

The All-Star Mac Bundle Featuring Parallels Pro 

My thanks to Stack Social for sponsoring DF last week to promote The All-Star Mac Bundle Featuring Parallels Pro — a fantastic deal on some great Mac utilities. The bundle features five award-winning Mac apps for just $25 with coupon code: ALLSTARMAC, including the one used by over 7 million people to run Windows software on their Macs: Parallels. You’ll score a year’s subscription to the latest version, plus lifetime access to FastestVPN, BusyContacts, Moho Debut animation software, and PDFChef.

$25 is a great price just for Parallels Pro alone.


The Talk Show Remote From WWDC 2021, With Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak

Special guests Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak join me to discuss the news from WWDC 2021: the all-new multitasking interface in iPadOS 15, on-device Siri, new privacy controls in Safari and Mail, MacOS 12 Monterey, and more.

Brought to you by these outstanding sponsors:

  • MacPaw — Get started with the free version of CleanMyMac X and install Setapp to get 200+ curated Mac apps for free.
  • Flatfile — The data onboarding platform for any company that relies on migrating data from point A to point B, as intuitively as possible.
  • Linode — voted the Top Infrastructure as a Service Provider by both G2 and TrustRadius. Use this link and get $100 in credit when you create a free account.

Extra special thanks to my friends at Sandwich for their deft work on the video. 


Some Details on How Spatial Audio Will Work With AirPods on Apple TV 

Igor Bonifacic, writing for Engadget:

Apple told Engadget the feature will work with stereo, 5.1, 7.1 and Dolby Atmos content. Whether you’re using a pair of AirPods Pro or AirPods Max, the software that powers the feature will widen the soundstage so that it seems like the entire room you’re in is being filled with sound. When you sit down to watch a movie or TV show, the included head tracking feature will lock in after it detects you’ve been looking in the same direction for a while. Once you get up to walk around, it will reactivate. Connecting your AirPods to an Apple TV is also easy in this context. When you’re near the device with your headphones, it will display a popup that will allow you to quickly connect, and you won’t need to dig into the settings menu.

Magneto: ‘These New “Magnetic” Vaccine Mutants Are Extremely Disappointing’ 

Alexandra Petri, writing for The Washington Post:

I am Magneto, and I would like to register a complaint. Frankly, all of these new mutants are terrible. […]

I met the people who were saying that metal objects now stuck to them because of their vaccines and gave them a whole recruitment speech about how they were the next stage in evolution, but once I said the word “evolution,” they looked at me doubtfully. Then I asked them to show off their abilities, and — I hate to say this but, have you ever been at a friend’s amateur magic show, where the magic show is not going quite as was hoped, and there’s a lot of saying “hold on” and “wait, hang on” and “sorry” as they fail several times running to identify your card, and then a dead bird falls unprompted out of someone’s hat? Frankly, that would have been an improvement.

We have our first nomination for the 2021 Pulitzer for commentary.

Trump Department of Justice Subpoenaed Apple for Records of Democrats and Their Family Members 

The New York Times:

As the Justice Department investigated who was behind leaks of classified information early in the Trump administration, it took a highly unusual step: Prosecutors subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides and family members. One was a minor.

All told, the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including those of Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, then the panel’s top Democrat and now its chairman, according to committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry. Representative Eric Swalwell of California said in an interview Thursday night that he had also been notified that his data had been subpoenaed. […]

Moreover, just as it did in investigating news organizations, the Justice Department secured a gag order on Apple that expired this year, according to a person familiar with the inquiry, so lawmakers did not know they were being investigated until Apple informed them last month.

Adam Schiff:

Trump repeatedly demanded the DOJ go after his political enemies.

It’s clear his demands didn’t fall on deaf ears.

This baseless investigation, while now closed, is yet another example of Trump’s corrupt weaponization of justice.

And how much he imperiled our democracy.

OldOS: iOS 4 Rebuilt in SwiftUI 

Holy hell this new project from Zane Kleinberg, a talented 17-year-old developer who just dropped this out of the blue yesterday. It’s available via TestFlight (the first one is full already, though) and as open source code you can build yourself.

It’s exquisitely well done, very fun to play with, and surprisingly usable. And what a remarkable testimony to the expressiveness of Swift UI.

Once you get past the surface aesthetic differences, it’s also interesting as a way to remember how many little things iOS has added over the years. iOS is so much richer now. You couldn’t do anything in list views back then. E.g., if you wanted to delete a note in Notes, you had to open the note and tap the Trash button. In a view hierarchy, you couldn’t go back just by swiping from the left edge of the display — you had to tap the Back button in the navigation bar at the top of the display. Going back to this simulacrum of iOS 4 reminds me of what it felt like going back to, say, System 6 (1988) after taking for granted all the various little things added to the Mac between then and Mac OS 8.6 (1999).

A decade is a long time. Even the 1990s — the most dysfunctional decade of Apple’s corporate existence — was a productive one for the Mac. Now, though, with Apple firing on all cylinders throughout the 2010s, iOS 4 feels joyful but crude, barren of small conveniences.

A Linus Torvalds Rant We Can All Get Behind 

Linus Torvalds, on the Linux Kernel mailing list:

Please keep your insane and technically incorrect anti-vax comments to yourself.

You don’t know what you are talking about, you don’t know what mRNA is, and you’re spreading idiotic lies. Maybe you do so unwittingly, because of bad education. Maybe you do so because you’ve talked to “experts” or watched youtube videos by charlatans that don’t know what they are talking about.

But dammit, regardless of where you have gotten your mis-information from, any Linux kernel discussion list isn’t going to have your idiotic drivel pass uncontested from me.

A shrinking violet, as ever.

Our Long National HBO Max Apple TV Nightmare Is Over 

Screen Times:

At the end of last week we detailed an update to the HBO Max Apple TV app that introduced a whole host of issues, making the app almost unusable. Check out our article for the very long list. The issues were so bad that HBO exec Andy Forssell even addressed them in a reply to John Siracusa on Twitter.

Thankfully, HBO has now issued a software update that reverts the playback UI to the original tvOS version. I’ve verified this in the 50.30.2 update and can confirm everything is back to normal from skipping ahead to asking Siri ‘What did they say?’ and everything in between.

You make a mistake, you fix it as fast as you can. Kudos, HBO Max tvOS team.

Someone should send this to the new team behind the MLB app.

Blade Runner: The Animated Series 

Fun work by Tom McWeeney.

Some New MacOS 12 Monterey Features Are Unavailable on Intel-Based Macs 

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors:

On the macOS Monterey features page, fine print indicates that the following features require a Mac with the M1 chip, including any MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and iMac model released since November 2020:

  • Portrait Mode blurred backgrounds in FaceTime videos
  • Live Text for copying and pasting, looking up, or translating text within photos
  • An interactive 3D globe of Earth in the Maps app
  • More detailed maps in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and London in the Maps app
  • Text-to-speech in more languages, including Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and Finnish
  • On-device keyboard dictation that performs all processing completely offline
  • Unlimited keyboard dictation (previously limited to 60 seconds per instance)

Apple has not explained why any of these features are not available on Intel-based Macs. For what it’s worth, Google Earth has long offered an interactive 3D globe of the Earth on Intel-based Macs both on the web and in an app.

I don’t think Apple has to explain. These features all clearly are built on code that uses features exclusive to Apple Silicon. E.g. for Portrait Mode in FaceTime, it uses the M1 imaging pipeline — the same thing that makes all FaceTime footage on the M1 MacBooks look so much better than on any Intel MacBook, even though the camera hardware is the same. The speech/dictation features on this list are surely using the Neural Engine, something Intel Macs don’t even have.

Digging Into Apple’s iCloud Private Relay 

Good overview of one of this week’s biggest announcements from Dave Hamilton for The Mac Observer:

Apple’s iCloud Private Relay works similar to a VPN in that it routes your traffic through other servers, hiding your IP address from the websites you visit, and hiding your traffic from whomever manages your local network. Where it differs is that a VPN is generally just one server between you and the website you’re visiting. With a VPN, your traffic takes the route of You ↔︎ VPN Server ↔︎ Website. Private Relay adds another server to the mix, which ensures that no one in the chain — not even Apple — can see the whole picture: You ↔︎ Apple’s Ingress Server ↔︎ Content Provider’s Egress Server ↔︎ Website.

This is, as Apple calls it in their “Get Ready for iCloud Private Relay” WWDC Session on the topic, “Privacy by Design.”

Apple made specific mention that while the “Ingress Proxy” servers are run by Apple, the “Egress Proxy” (aka the server which communicates with the websites you visit) is not controlled by Apple and is under the control of “a (trusted) content provider”. This means that Apple doesn’t know what site(s) you’re visiting, and the third-party content provider doesn’t know who you are.

I’m using this on both an iPhone and iPad running the new OS betas, and it doesn’t seem to slow anything down. I did run into a problem where initially, both devices were saying I needed to upgrade to a paid iCloud account to enable the feature in Safari (also for Mail’s new tracker privacy protection), even though I’ve got an Apple One family account. I “fixed” that by restarting both devices after poking around the iCloud section in Settings. Not a bad bug for a developer beta 1 — just figured I’d mention it here in case anyone else runs into it.

What’s New in the App Store Review Guidelines 

Not a lot new this year, but this one jumped out to me:

5.1.1(v): Apps supporting account creation must also offer account deletion.

I don’t see how anyone could disagree that this is a good rule. There’s a lot to complain about in the App Store Guidelines but there’s also a lot that’s unambiguously pro-user.

The Verge: ‘Facebook Plans First Smartwatch for Next Summer With Two Cameras’ 

Alex Heath, for The Verge:

Facebook is taking a novel approach to its first smartwatch, which the company hasn’t confirmed publicly but currently plans to debut next summer. The device will feature a display with two cameras that can be detached from the wrist for taking pictures and videos that can be shared across Facebook’s suite of apps, including Instagram, The Verge has learned.

A camera on the front of the watch display exists primarily for video calling, while a 1080p, auto-focus camera on the back can be used for capturing footage when detached from the stainless steel frame on the wrist. Facebook is tapping other companies to create accessories for attaching the camera hub to things like backpacks, according to two people familiar with the project, both of whom requested anonymity to speak without Facebook’s permission.

Sounds right. A tiny concealable camera to take surreptitious photos that upload to Facebook sounds exactly like something Mark Zuckerberg came up with himself.

Yours Truly on CNBC’s TechCheck Today 

I enjoy doing these quick hits on CNBC. I get on, I get a few questions, I answer as best I can, and I’m out. Two tidbits on my spot today:

  • It seems like a widespread misconception that iCloud+ is a new additional paid tier. It’s not: “iCloud+” is now just a name for any paid tier of iCloud, even the $1/month tier. If you pay anything at all for iCloud, you get iCloud+ features like the new Private Relay feature for Safari.

  • Another question was about the relative dearth of AR announcements. I pointed to Maps, which is clearly moving in a very AR direction with turn-by-turn directions. But another big AR announcement from Apple this week is RealityKit 2, with 3D Object Capture using nothing more than your iPhone or iPad camera. (Or a DSLR or drone camera.) This makes creating AR objects based on real-world objects several orders of magnitude easier, faster, and more accessible.

Billboard: ‘Eddy Cue Believes the Future of Music Isn’t Lossless — It’s Spatial Audio’ 

Eddy Cue, in an interview with Micah Singleton for Billboard:

One of the first people that told me about Dolby Atmos was Adam Levine. I happen to know him, and we were in the same place, so he was like, “Have you listened to this?” And he sends me this song and he was really excited. He said, “I can’t believe what I can do with this.” It’s going to be really exciting to see how this evolves, and all of what artists are going to be able to do with this, and how exciting it is for fans and listeners to be able to do this.

So we went after the labels and are going to the artists and educating them on it. There’s a lot of work to be done because we have, obviously, tens of millions of songs. This is not a simple “take-the-file that you have in stereo, processes through this software application and out comes Dolby Atmos.” This requires somebody who’s a sound engineer, and the artist to sit back and listen, and really make the right calls and what the right things to do are. It’s a process that takes time, but it’s worth it. […]

To me, when I look at Dolby Atmos, I think it’s going to do for music what HD did for television. Today, where can you watch television that’s not in HD?

One of the advantages music has over television is you can’t take an old TV show and truly up-res it to HD because it was shot on low-quality cameras. But in the case of audio, all these things were recorded on multiple tracks, and so it’s possible to go back to a lot of the songs and be able to do this.

The article is behind Billboard’s “Pro” paywall on their website, but the full interview is available on Apple News — and it seems to work even if you’re not a News+ subscriber.

Apple’s WWDC Newsroom Announcements 

Collected here for posterity:

Might as well toss in a permalink to the keynote, too.

Adobe Announces Native Apple Silicon Versions of Illustrator and InDesign 

Jasmine Whitaker, writing for Adobe:

Today, we’re thrilled to announce that Illustrator and InDesign will run natively on Apple Silicon devices. While users have been able to continue to use the tool on M1 Macs during this period, today’s development means a considerable boost in speed and performance. Overall, Illustrator users will see a 65 percent increase in performance on an M1 Mac, versus Intel builds — InDesign users will see similar gains, with a 59 percent improvement on overall performance on Apple Silicon.

Specific things like opening complex documents and scrolling are even faster than those overall numbers: Adobe claims scrolling in Illustrator is 4× faster. Just from porting to run natively on Apple Silicon.

And we’ve only seen Apple’s consumer Apple Silicon chips for Mac.

Playdate Update 

Like a little mini keynote from Panic about their little mini gaming device. Don’t want to spoil anything but I burst with joy when I saw the first non-game app for Playdate. Perfect.

‘Philly Vax Sweepstakes’ 

Speaking of playing the lottery, Philadelphia is getting in on the lottery-for-getting-vaccinated trend:

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced today the launch of “Philly Vax Sweepstakes,” a series of three citywide drawings designed to give Philadelphians extra motivation to get their vaccination against COVID-19 as the city fully reopens this summer.

A total of 36 vaccinated Philadelphians will win cash prizes up to $50,000, totaling nearly $400,000 in giveaways. In each of the three drawings on June 21, July 6, and July 19, six individuals will win $1,000; four will win $5,000; and two will win $50,000.

I really do love the idea of these lotteries and giveaway promotions. It’s innumeracy that leads some people to grossly miscalculate the risks vs. rewards of getting vaccinated, and it’s innumeracy that leads people to play lotteries. Sweepstakes for getting vaccinated put innumeracy to work.

WWDC 2021: Day One in a Nutshell 

I was hoping Serenity Caldwell would be doing these daily wrap-ups again this year. (Got a bunch of things I was hoping for today — maybe I should play the lottery.)


App Store: The Schiller Cut

The email evidence1 in the Epic v. Apple trial has offered a cornucopia of insight into Apple’s internal deliberations over the last 14 years. Juicy stuff always comes to light in a big-money trial like this, but the discovery evidence in Epic v. Apple has struck me as particularly juicy.

On the cusp of WWDC 2021, my thoughts remain focused on one in particular — a 28 July 2011 email from Phil Schiller to Steve Jobs and Eddy Cue. (Jobs, at the time, was a month away from stepping down as CEO; I don’t know what to make of the fact that Tim Cook wasn’t included on the email.)

The subject of Schiller’s email ostensibly was this Wall Street Journal story positing that HTML5 was a threat to both Adobe Flash and Apple’s App Store. But, really, the email was about the future of the App Store itself. The entire email (from slide 44 of Epic’s Opening Demonstratives:

From: Philip Schiller
Subject: HTML5 Poses Threat to Flash and the App Store
To: Eddy Cue, Steve Jobs
Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2011 09:27:10-0700

Food for thought:

Do we think our 70/30 split will last forever? While I am a staunch supporter of the 70/30 split and keeping it simple and consistent across our stores, I don’t think that 70/30 will last that unchanged forever. I think someday we will see enough challenge from another platform or web based solutions to want to adjust our model (already Google has rolled out a web in app purchase model at 95/5).

If someday down the road we will be changing 70/30, then I think the question moves from “if” to “when” and “how”. I’m not suggesting we do anything differently today, only that whenever we make a change we do it from a position of strength rather than weakness. That we use any such change to our advantage if possible. And thinking about this long in advance can only help to look at an eventual change as an opportunity (with developers, press, customers, etc).

Just as one thought, once we are making over $1B a year in profit from the App Store, is that enough to then think about a model where we ratchet down from 70/30 to 75/25 or even 80/20 if we can maintain a $1B a year run rate? I know that is controversial, I just tee it up as another way to look at the size of the business, what we want to achieve, and how we stay competitive. Again, just food for thought.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/BL-TEB-2920

This email is simultaneously not surprising — because he’s Phil Schiller, steward of the Apple brand, and because, of course, at some point surely some discussion was had within Apple about the permanence of 70/30 — but also shocking, because, my god, it spells out a game plan that would have kept Apple out of all this.

Apple’s antitrust concerns around the world are almost entirely centered around the App Store. Some of those concerns are not about the 70-30 / 85-15 splits. Some of the concerns are simply about Apple’s total control over the platform — the lack of options for distributing native software from any sources other than the App Store; the fact that Apple can build features like Find My into the operating system while third parties like Tile cannot; the fact that Apple Music is installed by default and Spotify is not, etc. There are some serious complaints that would not go away if Apple were to unilaterally reduce the App Store commission to, say, 80/20 or even 90/10.

But: an awful lot of the complaints about the App Store — legal objections from competitors, regulatory investigations from governments, and developer community frustrations — would not be on the table today if Apple had followed Schiller’s loose plan outlined in this email. A lot of it is about the money.

Apple makes record-shattering amounts of revenue and profit. But they don’t make every bit of money they can from every single opportunity. To do so would be counterproductive — to squeeze too tightly on every possible source of revenue would dent the company’s brand. To name one seemingly inconsequential example: they do not sell t-shirts or other souvenir-type logo paraphernalia in their retail stores, other than at the visitor center at Apple Park. They choose to leave that money on the table.

You cannot place a dollar value on many essential aspects of any company’s business. What is the Apple logo worth? Think about that. I’m not being coy to state flatly that the Apple logo is invaluable. It is literally priceless. The Apple logo means something very important to the company, but no dollar value can be placed on it. And they could squander some of that value by overusing (or misusing) it.

The App Store, though, feels more and more like the one area of the company where they’ve committed to squeezing as much money as they can out of it. The damage this has caused to Apple’s third-party developer relations is immense.

During Tim Cook’s testimony a few weeks ago, the most strident questions he faced came not from Epic’s attorneys (who, quite frankly, did not seem to have a coherent game plan) but from Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who throughout the trial seemed rightly focused on App Store rules I’ve long objected to — anti-steering provisions. These are the rules that forbid apps from telling users they can sign up for accounts (or buy e-books or other digital content) at the company’s website. The rules against explaining the rules, as I like to put it.

But Gonzales Rogers also pointed to a survey suggesting 39 percent of developers are either “somewhat” or “very” unsatisfied with the App Store:

Rogers also expressed doubt that Apple’s Small Business Program, which cut App Store fees in half for small developers, was made out of concern for small businesses during the Covid pandemic, as Cook testified on Friday. “That seemed to be the result of the pressure accrued because of investigations, of lawsuits,” Rogers said.

Cook said that lawsuits were in the back of his head, but what triggered the program was worry over small businesses during Covid.

Rogers remarked that she had seen a survey that 39% of Apple developers are dissatisfied with the App Store. “It doesn’t seem to me that you feel any pressure or competition to actually change the manner in which you act to address the concerns of developers,” Rogers said.

Cook disagreed and said that Apple “turns the place upside down for developers.”

Most developers I know think that the only thing Apple turns upside down for developers is the proverbial couch, out of which Apple seemingly wants to shake every last nickel of spare change it can.

Apple’s platforms have never been for every developer. (The closest, perhaps, was the Apple II era.) But post-Macintosh, for a certain type of developer, Apple’s platforms were the show. The big leagues. I stole that from a post by my friend and colleague Brent Simmons:

I don’t think Joel is wrong about anything he says. It’s true, for instance, that “if your Windows product appeals to 1 in 100 Windows users, you have to appeal to 25 in 100 Mac users to make the same amount of money.”

On the other hand, it’s still true that if Joel sells 10,000 copies to Windows users of a $100 app, he makes the same amount of money as I do if I sell 10,000 copies to Mac users of a $100 app.

But whatever.

One of the reasons I develop for OS X is that, when it comes to user interface, this is the big leagues, this is the show. That’s probably what Joel would call an “emotional appeal” — and to call it that, that’s fine by me.

Brent wrote that 19 years ago.

I’m talking about the sort of developer who, back then, chose to write Mac-exclusive software in the years when the Mac was languishing, or even during the rebound years of the early OS X era, when the Mac market was growing again but still small compared to Windows or the universal platform of the web.

The sort of developers who today would prefer to create something iOS-specific — building on the frameworks and design idioms exclusive to Apple’s specific platforms, not to “mobile” as a general idea.

The sort of developers who want to do what Apple does with software: make things that are delightful, exquisite, and just right for the platform.

It’s these developers, who were once the most firmly committed to developing software exclusively for Apple’s platforms, whose criticisms of Apple’s App Store policies are the most cogent and strident.


In my imagination, a world where Apple had used Phil Schiller’s memo above as a game plan for the App Store over the last decade is a better place for everyone today: developers for sure, but also users, and, yes, Apple itself. I’ve often said that Apple’s priorities are consistent: Apple’s own needs first, users’ second, developers’ third. Apple, for obvious reasons, does not like to talk about the Apple-first part of those priorities, but Cook made explicit during his testimony during the Epic trial that when user and developer needs conflict, Apple sides with users. (Hence App Tracking Transparency, for example.)

These priorities are as they should be. I’m not complaining about their order. But putting developer needs third doesn’t mean they should be neglected or overlooked. A large base of developers who are experts on developing and designing for Apple’s proprietary platforms is an incredible asset. Making those developers happy — happy enough to keep them wanting to work and focus on Apple’s platforms — is good for Apple itself. “Only on iPhone” is powerful.

I’ve been deeply involved with the Apple developer community since the 1990s. There has always been conflict between developers and Apple. Over the balance of fixing bugs versus adding features to the platforms, over the quality of documentation, over the tools, over everything. But the relationship has clearly turned for the worse during the App Store era, and the reason, I think, is money.

What’s weirdest about Apple’s antitrust and PR problems related to the App Store is that the App Store is a side hustle for Apple. Yes it’s earning Apple $10+ billion a year, and even for Apple that’s significant. But it’s not Apple’s main business by a longshot. To my knowledge no company in history has ever gotten into antitrust hot water over a side business so comparatively small to its overall business. Apple doesn’t need this.

I think Apple’s senior leadership — Cook in particular — truly does believe that Apple has earned every dollar it generates from third-party software in the App Store, and that their policies in place are just and fair. That righteousness came out on the stand in the Epic trial. But even if Apple’s executives are correct — if the current rules and revenue splits could somehow be proven to be dialed in to a hypothetical Platonic ideal of fairness to all parties involved — that doesn’t change the fact that so many developers see it otherwise.

I don’t think the developers are wrong, but even if they are wrong, it’s not good for Apple that they’re so unhappy, and feel so aggrieved. It’s not good for Apple that developers don’t see the App Store as a platform that works in their interests.

Like the Apple logo, “developer goodwill” has no price tag. But Phil Schiller’s decade-ago idea to start dialing down the revenue split — in favor of developers — comes pretty close to assigning it one. 


  1. It really has all been email, too. Unless I’m missing something, not one piece of communication entered into evidence — from either Apple or Epic — has been anything other than an email message. Not one message from iMessage or any other messaging service. I find that very surprising. Do Apple executives never use iMessage to discuss work? Nor Epic’s? If anyone with legal expertise can explain why this is, let me know. ↩︎


Quill 

My thanks to Quill for sponsoring last week at DF. Quill is a new messaging app for teams, made by people who love messaging — many of them grew up on IRC. Messaging is their favorite way to collaborate, but not if it’s overwhelming or disorganized. Unlike a lot of messaging platforms, Quill looks great — on both iOS and MacOS.

It’s a more deliberate way to chat. Try it for free.

Becky Hansmeyer: ‘A Few Thoughts on the Eve of WWDC’ 

Becky Hansmeyer:

It’s not about giving in to every little demand being lobbed at them. It’s about collecting information, determining what the right thing to do is, and doing it the Apple Way. When Apple does that and does it right, the results are fantastic.

Let’s hope we see some of that Apple shine through this week.

Theme Parks and Public Parks 

Good column (and video) from Joanna Stern on Apple’s “walled garden”. The people who use the term “walled garden” in this context typically do so as a pejorative. But that’s not right. Literal walled gardens can be very nice — and the walls and gates can be what makes them nice. That’s been a recurring theme in the testimony from Apple executives in the Epic trial. Asked about rules and limits on iOS that Epic presents as nefarious — nothing but tricks to lock users in — Apple witnesses typically responded by presenting them as features. That iOS is wildly popular not despite the “walls”, but because of them.

It’s a trade-off, for example, that anything you can install on iOS can be trivially uninstalled just by deleting the app icon from your home screen. The downside is that iOS doesn’t support any third-party ideas that would require system-level background agents or extensions. I can name dozens of great Mac utilities that I’d enjoy, if not love, on iOS, but which can’t exist on iOS because of the rules. That sucks. But those same rules mean there’s no way to mess up your iPhone or iPad by installing something you don’t like and which is difficult to uninstall. That’s great.

Better than “walled garden”, I like the comparison to theme parks. People love theme parks. Not everyone, of course, but a lot of people. They’re fun, safe, and deliver a designed experience. They’re also expensive, and the food, to put it kindly, generally sucks. Public parks are great too — in very different ways. We should have great public parks, and we should have great open computing platforms. But not every park should necessarily be public, and not every closed computing platform would be better off open.

HBO Max tvOS Update Breaks a Slew of Features 

Screen Times:

The bottom line is, the viewing experience in the HBO Max app is now horrifically bad and almost unusable unless you’re planning just to play and pause. If you need to do anything else, don’t get your hopes up.

The fact that they completely broke fast-forwarding and rewinding is mind boggling. Those aren’t exactly obscure power user features. Just use the standard video player. I don’t know how this update shipped. (The worst part is, my wife and I are hooked on Mare of Easttown, and have been binging it all week. Really sucks not being able to do anything except play and pause.)

Internal Letter Circulates at Apple — and Leaks to The Verge — Pushing Back Against Returning to the Office 

1,400 words to say they’d prefer a policy that allows teams within Apple to determine their own remote work policies. Good communication is to the point, and this is not to the point at all. No wonder the letter-writer(s) feel “unheard”. It’s hard to get through the whole letter, and if you do make it through, it reeks of self indulgence. Some serious ✊🍆 vibes. The “formal requests” at the end about employees with disabilities and the “environmental impact of returning to onsite [sic] in-person work” are such transparent pandering. (I have never once heard of Apple not doing whatever it takes not only to accommodate employees with any disability, but to make them feel welcome.)

And who are these people who took jobs at Apple not knowing the company’s on-site culture? Do they think Apple built a new $4 billion campus on a lark? Three days a week on site and two days remote is a huge change for Apple.

Given that these letters keep leaking to Zoe Schiffer at The Verge, I can’t help but think that the problem for Apple is that they’ve grown so large that they’ve wound up hiring a lot of people who aren’t a good fit for Apple, and that it was a mistake for Apple to ever hook up a company-wide Slack. Companies are not democracies, but the employees writing these letters sure seem to think Apple is one. It’s not, and if it were, the company would sink in a snap. Apple’s new “three days on site” policy wasn’t a request for comments — it was a decision — and Tim Cook’s company-wide letter already leaves room for individual teams to adjust it to their own needs.

Former Blogger Donald Trump’s Facebook Ban Extended at Least Two Years 

Nick Clegg, VP of global affairs at Facebook:

We are today announcing new enforcement protocols to be applied in exceptional cases such as this, and we are confirming the time-bound penalty consistent with those protocols which we are applying to Mr. Trump’s accounts. Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols. We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year.

As part of this decision, Facebook is rescinding the special privileges heretofore extended to world leaders and political figures that largely exempted them from Facebook’s content policies on the grounds of “newsworthiness”.

Dithering 

New month, new cover art.

June 2021 cover art for Dithering, featuring a young man in cap and gown celebrating graduation.

Dithering, of course, is the now year-old podcast from Ben Thompson (CEO) and yours truly (President). Two episodes per week, 15 minutes per episode. Not a minute less, not a minute more.

Sign up for now to hear post-WWDC-keynote thoughts on Tuesday morning. Subscriptions are just $5/month (good deal) or $50/year (great deal). And your subscription will work in every popular podcast app — now including Spotify, if that’s your bag, baby.

KeyboardCleanTool 

Free Mac utility from Andreas Hegenberg, developer of BetterTouchTool and BetterSnapTool:

KeyboardCleanTool is a super simple little tool which blocks all Keyboard and TouchBar input.

In 2011 Apple rejected the app for the Mac App Store because apparently it’s “not useful”, however I often use it to clean my MacBook keyboard without producing annoying input.

I have also heard of people who use it to let their toddlers pretend they work on a computer.

The app has been around for 10 years, but I don’t recall hearing of it before. It’s more useful than ever today, because modern MacBooks will power on with the press of any key on the keyboard. It used to be that you could wipe your keyboard clean while powered down, but Apple changed that a few years ago, apparently because a fair number of users were confused how to turn their MacBooks on, now that the power/Touch ID button has no power icon. (Joanna Stern and I talked about this on the most recent episode of The Talk Show.)

KeyboardCleanTool is a great solution.

Update: See also: Shaun Inman’s Little Fingers, a similarly-purposed utility that also blocks input from the mouse/trackpad.

Bing Censors Image Search for ‘Tank Man’, Even in U.S. 

Joseph Cox, writing for Vice:

Bing, the search engine owned by Microsoft, is not displaying image results for a search for “Tank man,” even when searching from the United States. The apparent censorship comes on the anniversary of China’s violent crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. […]

Bing displays ordinary, non-image search results for “tank man” when searching from a U.S. IP address; the issue only impacts the Images and Videos tabs. Google, for its part, displays both when connecting from the same IP address.

Motherboard verified that the issue also impacts image searches on Yahoo and DuckDuckGo, which both use Bing. Neither company immediately responded to a request for comment.

George Orwell, 1984:

In the walls of the cubicle there were three orifices. To the right of the speakwrite, a small pneumatic tube for written messages, to the left, a larger one for newspapers; and in the side wall, within easy reach of Winston’s arm, a large oblong slit protected by a wire grating. This last was for the disposal of waste paper. Similar slits existed in thousands or tens of thousands throughout the building, not only in every room but at short intervals in every corridor. For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes. When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.

PDF Diff 

Another Mac utility worth your attention: Alexander Jaehrling’s PDF Diff is a $20 app for comparing the text differences between two PDFs. Last July I asked:

What’s the best tool for diffing PDF files? Is it Acrobat? Tell me it’s not Acrobat. But if it’s Acrobat OK I’ll break a years-long streak and install Acrobat.

PDF Diff wasn’t out at the time, but I wish it had been. It’s the best tool I’ve found for this.

Craig Hockenberry’s Anti-Wish List for WWDC 

Craig Hockenberry:

Everyone has their wishlist for things they want to see on Monday’s WWDC keynote. Here is my anti-wish list — things I do not want to see. […]

  • More multitasking gestures in iPad OS. Make multitasking spatial, or make it stop. I hate user interfaces that are driven by guessing.

  • More features in macOS that I’ll never use. It’s great as-is, just fix bugs and everyone will be happy.

Dan Moren’s iPadOS 15 Wish List 

Dan Moren, writing at Macworld:

Multitasking on the iPad is, to put it generously, a mess. Split View and Slide Over, first introduced in 2015’s iOS 9 and refined a couple of times over the years, have always had the feeling of a band-aid slapped over a mortal wound. Their limitations (like the dance of getting an app that’s not in your dock into Split View) and awkward gestures (how many times have you activated Slide Over when you meant to simply swipe) feel cumbersome, especially compared to the multitasking we’ve always had on the Mac.

So I’m hoping that 2021 is the year that Apple finally cracks multitasking on the iPad. I’m not sure exactly what that looks like; there are those who argue for the wholesale transplant of macOS’s windowing system, but that seems as though it might be another imprecise fit borne out of convenience rather than actual appropriateness. Fundamentally, though, the iPad has always been built around the idea of one app on the screen at any time, and it’s clear that simply won’t do in a world where people expect to be able to run multiple apps at once.

It’s amazing how often I make a slide-over Safari “window” on iPad without wanting to. And then I’m stuck with a new Safari instance with no actual tabs. You can get into Slide Over inadvertently, and if you do, it’s hard to undo it. It’s like instantly creating detritus you need to clean up. iPadOS is the only GUI system I’m aware of that has “windows” that don’t have close buttons.

My wife uses her iPad Pro more than any other device. She loves it. But Slide Over was driving her nuts until I showed her how to turn it off. “Why is that on by default?” she asked.

Coleman Sweeney, the World’s Biggest Asshole 

Fantastic ad from 2016 I somehow hadn’t seen until this week. Hilarious, and the humor plays directly into the ad’s effectiveness. Trust me, just watch.

(Via Jason Fried.)

WSJ: ‘Stack Overflow Sold to Tech Giant Prosus for $1.8 Billion’ 

Ben Dummett, reporting for the WSJ:

Prosus said it struck a $1.8 billion deal to acquire Stack Overflow, an online community for software developers, in a bet on growing demand for online tech learning. […]

Prosus, one of Europe’s most valuable tech companies, is best known as the largest shareholder in Chinese internet and videogaming giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. Listed in Amsterdam, Prosus signaled its appetite for deal making when it sold a small portion of its equity stake in Tencent in April for $14.6 billion. The Stack Overflow deal ranks among Prosus’s biggest acquisitions.

Acquisition prices have skyrocketed since 2012, but still, that’s almost two Instagrams.