Linked List: January 2023

The Talk Show: ‘Tweeter and the Monkey Man’ 

Special guest Dan Moren joins the show to talk about the new M2 MacBook Pros and Mac Minis, the state of Mac gaming, and the triumphant return of the full-sized HomePod.

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Artifact: News-Focused Social App From Instagram Co-Founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger 

Casey Newton, writing at Platformer:

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are back.

The Instagram co-founders, who departed Facebook in 2018 amid tensions with their parent company, have formed a new venture to explore ideas for next-generation social apps. Their first product is Artifact, a personalized news feed that uses machine learning to understand your interests and will soon let you discuss those articles with friends.

I lucked into an invitation from a friend. I’m square in the bullseye of the Artifact target audience, as both an inveterate news junkie and a huge fan of Systrom and Krieger’s original Instagram. Newton:

Users who come in from the waitlist today will see only that central ranked feed. But Artifact beta users are currently testing two more features that Systrom expects to become core pillars of the app. One is a feed showing articles posted by users that you have chosen to follow, along with their commentary on those posts. (You won’t be able to post raw text without a link, at least for now.) The second is a direct-message inbox so you can discuss the posts you read privately with friends.

I’ll give it some time, but at the moment, it’s a disappointment. The articles they show come directly from publishers’ websites, but because Artifact isn’t a web browser, per se, there’s no ad filtering. It’s just ads ads ads, interrupting seemingly every single article, every couple of paragraphs. This same “man, I miss ad blockers” feeling strikes me when I use Apple News too, but Apple News articles have way fewer ads, and better ads, than what I’m seeing so far in articles I read in Artifact. “Like Apple News but worse” is not a good elevator pitch.

To be clear, these aren’t Artifact’s ads. They’re the ads shown on the original web pages. But because the article design on most news websites sucks, the article design for most of the content in Artifact sucks. Update: Another annoyance: Because Artifact is using a custom web view rather than Safari’s embeddable view controller, you don’t get password autofill. I happily pay for subscriptions to over half a dozen sites, but I don’t know the passwords for any of them, because I rely on autofill from iCloud Keychain in Safari or Safari’s embeddable view controller. In some ways Artifact feels like it’s just a subpar web browser with decent suggestions for what to read.

Instagram was an instant sensation because it was obviously such a premium experience. Great photos, with cool filters (which filters were necessary to make phone camera pictures look great a decade ago), a simple social concept, all wrapped in a great app. Artifact does feel like a nice app, but the reading experience, at least today, is anything but premium. It feels cheap. And the social aspect isn’t there yet.

Was a Popular Brazilian Food Delivery App Bypassing Apple’s Location Privacy Settings on iOS? 

Rodrigo Ghedin:

iFood, Brazilian largest food delivering app evaluated at USD 5.4 billion, was accessing his location when not open/in use, bypassing an iOS setting that restrict an app’s access to certain phone’s features. Even when the reader completely denied location access to it, iFood’s app continued to access his phone’s location.

We got intrigued: how was iFood getting away with this?

An educated guess was revealed by iOS 16.3 release notes, launched on January 23th. Apple mentions a security issue in Maps in that “an app may be able to bypass Privacy preferences”. It’s CVE-2023-23503, submitted by an anonymous researcher and, so far, “reserved” in CVE’s system — which means details are pending to be published.

Via Dan Goodin, who asks:

I wonder how long this vulnerability was in effect. There may have been massive amounts of location data that was collected without users suspecting a thing.

If the iFood app was really doing this, why is it still in the App Store? If circumventing location privacy by exploiting a bug doesn’t get you kicked out of the store, what does? My hope would be that iFood wasn’t doing this maliciously. But if they were, that should be a one-strike-and-you’re-out violation.


My thanks to Vivid for sponsoring this week at DF. The latest MacBook Pros have displays that can reach 1,600 nits of brightness. Out of the box, you only see this brightness when viewing HDR videos or photos. Vivid is a utility that unlocks the full brightness of your screen, system-wide. It works on the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 or M2 chip, as well as the Pro Display XDR.

Try Vivid for free and see the difference yourself. It is not just a little brighter — it’s a lot brighter. It’s worth downloading and installing to see it in action. Whether you ordered a new M2 MacBook Pro this week, or if you want to give your “old” 2021 M1 Pro a cheap upgrade, you can get Vivid for 30 percent off — this week only.

Wayne Ma: ‘Apple Devising Software to Help Anyone Build AR Apps’ Using Siri, Not Code 

Wayne Ma, reporting for The Information (MacRumors summary):

Apple is developing software to make it easy for users of its upcoming mixed-reality headset to build their own augmented reality apps, according to four people who have worked on the headset.

With the software tools, Apple hopes that even people who don’t know computer code could tell the headset, via the Siri voice assistant, to build an AR app that could then be made available via Apple’s App Store for others to download. The tool, for example, could allow users to build an app with virtual animals moving around a room and over or around real-life objects without the need to design the animal from scratch and calculate its movement in a 3D space with obstacles.

Ma says “apps”, and if they’d go in the App Store I guess they’d be apps, but what he describes sounds more like AR content than AR apps.

Some former Apple engineers have likened Apple’s content creation tool to the popular games “Minecraft” and “Roblox,” which make it easy for children to build their own 3D worlds and objects with simple interfaces.

Minecraft and Roblox are for children, LOL.

The current status of Apple’s app development tool couldn’t be learned. But some people familiar with it had seen demonstrations as recently as 2021.

Four people saw this tool over a year ago, and it’s news? Says me, the guy linking to it — but it’s such a cool idea to have an AR content creation tool right there in the AR headset environment. I think Ma is missing a lot of information about Reality Composer (or whatever the tool is going to be named), but establishing the platform as something for creation out of the box is exciting. (It took over a decade to be able to create iPad software on an iPad with Swift Playgrounds.)

1982 TV News Report on Arcade Video Games 

This brief report was remarkably well-done. I love everything about it, including their choice of games: Pac-Man and Defender. Includes a great shot of Midway’s Pac-Man factory floor in Chicago, where they were manufacturing 350 cabinets a day.

U.S. State Department Is Phasing Out Times New Roman, Adopting Calibri 

John Hudson and Annabelle Timsit, reporting last week for The Washington Post:

In a cable sent Tuesday and obtained by The Washington Post, Secretary of State Antony Blinken directed the department to use a larger sans-serif font in high-level internal documents, and gave the department’s domestic and overseas offices until Feb. 6 to “adopt Calibri as the standard font for all requested papers.”

“The Times (New Roman) are a-Changin,” read the subject line.

It is correct for the State Department to have a house style for documents. I’m not sure what font they should use, but it wasn’t Times, and it shouldn’t be Calibri. Off the top of my head, I’d suggest Caslon — a sturdy, serious typeface that looked good 250 years ago, looks good now, and should look good 250 years from now.

Facebook Reinstates Trump’s Accounts 

Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta:

Like any other Facebook or Instagram user, Mr. Trump is subject to our Community Standards. In light of his violations, he now also faces heightened penalties for repeat offenses — penalties which will apply to other public figures whose accounts are reinstated from suspensions related to civil unrest under our updated protocol. In the event that Mr. Trump posts further violating content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation.

So no matter what Trump does, the longest they’ll suspend him is another two years? This is whistling past the graveyard. Trump wasn’t suspended because he posted something, say, racist or untruthful or hateful. It’s not about Trump and his supporters being on the political right. The man tried to overthrow the democratically elected government of the United States while serving as President of the United States. He still insists he was correct to do so, and quite obviously intends to try again. If there were only one person in the world suspended from Facebook’s platforms, it should be Donald Trump. No one is more dangerous. No one is more deserving of being outcast as a pariah.

Twitter(rific) and Accessibility 

Speaking of The Iconfactory’s Ged Maheux, Steven Aquino has a brief interview with him regarding Twitterrific’s long-excellent accessibility support, and the whole Twitter shitshow:

For his part, Maheux told me in an recent interview conducted over email “accessibility should be important to any developer” but added The Iconfactory’s resolve to support it to the fullest extent possible certainly has strengthened over time. The company, he said, has garnered much feedback from people in the disability community over the years, who continually have asked for improved accessibility in Twitterrific. Moreover, Maheux explained it “really means the world to us” to have members of the community get in touch and thank them for all the hard work put into making the app as accessible as it can be to everyone.

I’ll repeat this until I’m hoarse, but the apps that best support accessibility features for disabled people invariably are also the most usable for everyone. As for the future, it’s ominous:

The loss of Twitterrific is one The Iconfactory, and especially disabled Twitter users, will mourn for some time. To its credit, Twitter’s own first-party app used to be pretty solid in terms of adopting system accessibility features like Dynamic Type and Increase Contrast on both iOS and the Mac. Of course, that all changed drastically and (likely) irreparably when Musk inexplicably and unconscionably gutted the company’s entire accessibility team as part of the layoffs that occurred in early November.

Linea Sketch 4.2 

Ged Maheux at The Iconfactory:

Organic Ink gives your sketches a rustic and natural appearance that is unlike anything previously offered in Linea. You can even tilt your Apple Pencil as you draw to quickly shade wide areas with texture.

Such a cool effect, period, but kind of amazing to see it live, not as a filter applied in post.

Users of the venerable drawing app Paper, by 53/WeTransfer, can now easily transfer their creations into Linea. When imported via iCloud, Paper files are converted into a layered sketch document, perfect for further refinement in Linea.

Spread the word about this to anyone you know with an archive of old Paper sketches. Right from the start Linea has always struck me as Paper’s spiritual successor.

LastPass Breach Is Looking Worse 

Carly Page, reporting for TechCrunch:

The breach was first confirmed by LastPass on November 30. At the time, LastPass chief executive Karim Toubba said an “unauthorized party” had gained access to some customers’ information stored in a third-party cloud service shared by LastPass and GoTo. The attackers used information stolen from an earlier breach of LastPass systems in August to further compromise the companies’ shared cloud data. GoTo, which bought LastPass in 2015, said at the time that it was investigating the incident.

Now, almost two months later, GoTo said in an updated statement that the cyberattack impacted several of its products, including business communications tool Central; online meetings service; hosted VPN service Hamachi, and its Remotely Anywhere remote access tool.

GoTo said the intruders exfiltrated customers’ encrypted backups from these services — as well as the company’s encryption key for securing the data.

This breach now sounds like a company covering its ass. LastPass users should consider everything they stored in LastPass tainted.

WSJ: ‘Banks Plan Payment Wallet to Compete With PayPal, Apple Pay’ 

AnnaMaria Andriotis, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+,

Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and four other banks are working on a new product that will allow shoppers to pay at merchants’ online checkout with a wallet that will be linked to their debit and credit cards.

The digital wallet will be managed by Early Warning Services LLC, the bank-owned company that operates money-transfer service Zelle. The wallet, which doesn’t have a name yet, will operate separately from Zelle, EWS said.

One goal of the new service is to compete with third-party wallet operators such as PayPal Holdings Inc. and Apple Inc.’s Apple Pay, according to people familiar with the matter. Banks are worried about losing control of their customer relationships.

I bet this endeavor will see similar success as CurrentC. In fact, I suggest they name the product “BanksC”. I’m sure the homonymous artist would love to create a logo for them.

Ivory 1.0 for iOS 

Still “early access”, but as a decade-long Tweetbot user, it feels like home. $2/month or $15/year — prices that better reflect the value of this extraordinary app than Tweetbot’s did. And how great is this?

Dave Winer:

I went to ChatGPT and entered “Simple instructions about how to send email from a Node.js app?” What came back was absolutely perfect, none of the confusing crap and business models you see in online instructions in Google. I see why Google is worried. ;-)

No need for a winky there. The threat to Google is real. That type of search for a clearly-written one-line programming question used to produce excellent results from Google Search. For a number of years, though, search results for queries like that — both at Google and competing search engines — have been littered with junk generated by content farms. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack sometimes, combing through the query results for a proper solution.

Stack Overflow, of course, is very successful, and the whole point of it is providing a place to find good answers to programming questions. The problem with Google Search today isn’t specific to programming questions, but the general problem of answering how-to questions in any subject.

And look who’s coming — the most ruthlessly competitive company in computing history.

Chartjunk of the Week 

Ben Norton, writing for Geopolitical Economy Report:

If a student presented this in a statistics 101 class, the teacher would likely give them an F. But because it involves Washington’s public enemy number one, Beijing, the US regional reserve bank was awarded a Golden Star for exemplary service in the New Cold War.

The St. Louis Fed listed the world’s top six countries by military expenditures, but used two separate axes: the spending of China, Russia, Britain, India, and Saudi Arabia was depicted on the left axis, which went from $0 to $300 billion; but a separate right axis was created just for the United States, which went from $400 billion to $1 trillion.

This is one of the most deliberately misleading charts I’ve seen in a long time.

Twitter’s Infrastructure Continues to Crumble, Silently 

David Frum, on Twitter:

I’m doing an experiment. On my computer, I am checking the latest tweets by people I follow. On my phone, I’m checking whether their most recent tweets are showing up in the “Following” column. I’m just getting started, but even in the first dozen cases, Twitter failed to show me an absolute majority of the tweets I had requested to see. That’s the reason your engagement is down, people: Twitter is withholding requested content from those who requested it.

For me, Twitter is most valuable as an information source. But Twitter is now rapidly mutating into a source that capriciously withholds information I asked for - including from such highly official sources as the Tate Gallery in London.

It’s as if, in the days of the old newspaper, my subscription were delivered with random stories scissored out by the publisher itself, for some capricious whim of the publisher’s own.

It’s worse than that, though, because if you were delivered a newspaper with random stories scissored out, you’d know that there were missing stories. You wouldn’t know what they were, but you’d see the gaping holes in the paper. With Twitter now, there’s no indication that you’re missing tweets — let alone a huge number of tweets. And to be clear, Frum is talking about the “Following” timeline, not the “For You” algorithmic timeline. “Following” is the timeline that dates back to Twitter’s very inception: you pick accounts to follow, then you see the tweets those accounts post.

Twitter is no longer able to do that. Here’s a speculative thread explaining what might be going on — sounds like a very solid guess to me. In short: after cutting back on servers and entire data centers, Twitter can no longer keep up with its own content.

I remarked over a week ago that I was no longer seeing mentions or replies directed at my Twitter account. For a day or two I was seeing a handful of them, but now they’re gone. At this writing I see a grand total of one mention for my account going back to January 5. My Twitter mentions are nearly completely useless. For well over a decade, Twitter mentions have been my primary way of interacting with the Daring Fireball audience. Obviously that’s no longer possible. So be it. All the good action is over on Mastodon now, anyway. I’m more active there now, and just like I used to at Twitter, I read all my mentions there. I’ve updated my Contact page accordingly.

The Lisa Turns 40 

Hansen Hsu, writing for the Computer History Museum:

Happy 40th Birthday to Lisa! The Apple Lisa computer, that is. In celebration of this milestone, CHM has received permission from Apple to release the source code to the Lisa software, including its system and applications software.

Access the code here.

What is the Apple Lisa computer, and why was its release on January 19, 1983, an important date in computer history? Apple’s Macintosh line of computers today, known for bringing mouse-driven graphical user interfaces (GUIs) to the masses and transforming the way we use our computers, owes its existence to its immediate predecessor at Apple, the Lisa. Without the Lisa, there would have been no Macintosh — at least in the form we have it today — and perhaps there would have been no Microsoft Windows either.

The Lisa was a bit before my time, and so expensive that I can’t even think of an alternate universe where I might have encountered one. To this day, I’ve never seen one. The Mac interface captured a certain magic that the Lisa’s quite obviously did not — I think the Lisa ultimately failed more because of that than its price. But its influence on the original Mac is obvious.

Here’s a gem of a comment a friend spotted in the source code (appw-prefmain.text.unix.txt):

{ Welcome to the ALL Create Preferences Window.

    Through the extensive use of hallucenogens I have found
    truth and beauty. However, those same hallucenogens have
    also made me incapable of getting to Dodge Ridge to sell
    reclaimed ski wax in the parking lot.}

No idea what that means, but the early 1980s were a different era. Might have made perfect sense then.

Update: The above comment is obviously the follow-up to this comment in appw-config.text.unix.txt:

    Don't be alarmed by the mess, we're just moving in.

    The author apologizes for the lack of style and elegance
    exhibited in this code, perhaps someday truth and beauty
    will be mine and I will rewrite it. However, if truth and
    beauty ever does come to me I'll prabably just leave and
    sell reclaimed ski wax in the Dodge Ridge parking lot.
    See you there!}
Polygon: ‘Timothée Chalamet Even Makes Stumping for Apple Seem Cool’ 

Ana Diaz, writing for Polygon:

The trailer basically serves as a giant sign trying to remind people about Apple TV and all of its projects, but it mainly just shows us that Timothée Chalamet is a phenomenal actor. In it, we get to see that even super successful actors like Chalamet can even be insecure about their careers or get FOMO! According to Puck, sources close to the deal disclosed Apple paid Chalamet the most it has ever paid for a celebrity endorsement. So it’s a good thing that’s he’s already charmed fans online.

This ad played during the football games this weekend, and I think it’s rather amazing. By paying a red-hot star like Chalamet simply to promote TV+, it’s a way of emphasizing the single most important aspect of TV+: that it is a quality-first streaming platform. Not the most content, by a long shot, but perhaps the best content. And inarguably, much of the best content.

That, in a nut, is the Apple way. They don’t sell the most computers or headphones or even phones, but they sell the best ones.

Windows Central: ‘Microsoft Has Laid Off Entire Teams Behind Virtual, Mixed Reality, and HoloLens’ 

Jez Corden, reporting for Windows Central:

For Microsoft to cull the entire team behind MRTK, which was due to release a new version just next month, it paints a picture of a company that perhaps no longer believes in virtual reality. There are many who believe the “metaverse” represents the next big opportunity in human-computer interfacing, but even Facebook, who rebranded its entire company to Meta in the belief of this technology, is scaling back in this area as well — laying off 11,000 staff back in November.

I think it’s worth noting that Facebook rebranded as “Meta” just as much because the “Facebook” brand is so sullied as anything else, but clearly, Mark Zuckerberg hopes to establish their headsets as a major new consumer computing platform.

It’s curious too that Microsoft would seemingly abandon its own years-long efforts in the XR space on the cusp of Apple’s entrance. It brings to mind the original Surface — a $10,000 touchscreen table the company started selling in May 2007, only to eventually cede the entire touchscreen revolution in personal computing to Apple and Android.

Update: This parody narration for Microsoft’s promotional video is the best review of the original Surface. (Via Colin Weir.)

Tweetbot Is Dead; Long Live Ivory 

Nice goodbye to one of the very best apps I’ve ever used, and a splendid illustration.


My thanks to Meh for sponsoring DF last week. Here’s Meh’s deal: they put up a new deal every day, and it’s not boring stuff. As they say, “It’s actual, real, weird shit you didn’t know existed for half the price you would’ve guessed.”

How they stay in business I don’t know — the only ads they ever buy are the sponsorships here at Daring Fireball. But their website is fun every single day.

WSJ: ‘How Apple Has So Far Avoided Layoffs: Lean Hiring, No Free Lunches’ 

Aaron Tilley, reporting yesterday for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

From its fiscal year-end in September 2019 to September 2022, Apple’s workforce grew by about 20% to approximately 164,000 full-time employees. Meanwhile, over roughly the same period, the employee count at Amazon doubled, Microsoft’s rose 53%, Google parent Alphabet Inc.’s increased 57% and Facebook owner Meta’s ballooned 94%.

Apple has about 65,000 retail employees working in more than 500 stores who make up roughly 40% of the company’s total workforce.

I would argue that it’s not so much that Apple has hired “lean”, but rather that its peers have hired profligately in the last 4 years. Amazon is different because they have so many retail and warehouse jobs, but it makes no sense to me that Facebook doubled its headcount after 2019 other than that they were hiring for the sake of hiring.

Update: Good chart from Chartr showing headcounts among Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook since 2018.

Google Is Laying Off 12,000 Employees (6 Percent of Workforce) 

Sundar Pichai, in a company-wide memo:


I have some difficult news to share. We’ve decided to reduce our workforce by approximately 12,000 roles. We’ve already sent a separate email to employees in the US who are affected. In other countries, this process will take longer due to local laws and practices.

This will mean saying goodbye to some incredibly talented people we worked hard to hire and have loved working with. I’m deeply sorry for that. The fact that these changes will impact the lives of Googlers weighs heavily on me, and I take full responsibility for the decisions that led us here.

This is a stronger, more confident, more honest and direct memo than Satya Nadella’s at Microsoft. (Which, as I noted, went 167 nervous words before getting to the point.)

Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today.

There are numerous reasons the tech industry wound up at this layoffpalooza, but I think the main reason is that the biggest companies got caught up in a game where they tried to hire everyone, whether they needed them or not, to keep talent away from competitors and keep talent away from small upstarts (or from founding their own small upstarts). These big companies were just hiring to hire, and now the jig is up.

There’s only one big tech company that seemingly never played this hire-for-the-sake-of-hiring game, and thus hasn’t announced any layoffs at all, let alone a headcount that would fill a basketball arena. Just one. One company that has, at its best, always kept its cool in the face of economic swings both up and down.

The Talk Show: ‘Slow-Moving Hurricane’ 

Craig Hockenberry returns to the show to talk about the demise of third-party Twitter clients, the overall Twitter shitshow, touchscreens on the Mac, and the perils of autocorrect when you have a clever username.

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Twitterrific: End of an Era 

The Iconfactory:

But, as much as it pains us to say it, Twitterrific for iOS and macOS have now been removed from both App Stores. If you had a subscription on iOS, it will be automatically cancelled by the App Store.

Finally, if you were subscriber to Twitterrific for iOS, we would ask you to please consider not requesting a refund from Apple. The loss of ongoing, recurring revenue from Twitterrific is already going to hurt our business significantly, and any refunds will come directly out of our pockets — not Twitter’s and not Apple’s. To put it simply, thousands of refunds would be devastating to a small company like ours.

A shitty situation could get even shittier.

While this chapter may have ended, our story is not over. As long as we’re able, we’ll continue improving our other apps, creating new apps, doing amazing design work for our clients, and posting awesome wallpapers to Wallaroo and Patreon. Stick around!

For a very small company, The Iconfactory has an astonishing number of useful apps in active development. Tot is a great cross-platform text scratchpad, xScope is an indispensable screen inspector for designers, and Linea is my favorite drawing app for iPad. And when you’re done with work, Frenzic is one of the very first iPhone games, now back and better than ever as part of Apple Arcade.

Twitter Officially Bans Third-Party Clients 

Karissa Bell, reporting for Engadget:

In case there was any doubt about Twitter’s intentions in cutting off the developers of third-party apps, the company has quietly updated its developer agreement to make clear that app makers are no longer permitted to create their own clients.

The “restrictions” section of Twitter’s developer agreement was updated Thursday with a clause banning “use or access the Licensed Materials to create or attempt to create a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Applications.” The addition is the only substantive change to the 5,000-word agreement.

Andy Baio posted a link to a diff between the previous and new agreement terms. It’s better to put it in writing and make it official, but it just makes Twitter’s claim two days ago that these terms were “longstanding” all the more absurd.

Amazon Lays Off ‘Up to 50 Percent’ of Staff at ComiXology 

Rich Johnston, reporting at Bleeding Cool:

Today, there are significant redundancies and firing occurring at Amazon, with executives sending statements to staff. This included staff members at the digital comic book publisher and distributor ComiXology, acquired by Amazon and later integrated into the main Amazon site, with reports of up to 50% layoffs.

Brutal. I don’t know anyone who likes comics who doesn’t love ComiXology.

Layoffpalooza in Tech 

Microsoft is far from alone in announcing signficant layoffs. CNBC has the tally at 60,000 total jobs:

CNBC put Google on the list, but at just 230 employees (from their health service division), that’s a different ballpark.

Microsoft to Lay Off 10,000 Employees (5 Percent of Workforce) 

Satya Nadella in a company-wide memo, after 167 words of throat-clearing:

Today, we are making changes that will result in the reduction of our overall workforce by 10,000 jobs through the end of FY23 Q3. This represents less than 5 percent of our total employee base, with some notifications happening today. It’s important to note that while we are eliminating roles in some areas, we will continue to hire in key strategic areas. We know this is a challenging time for each person impacted. The senior leadership team and I are committed that as we go through this process, we will do so in the most thoughtful and transparent way possible.

Second, we will continue to invest in strategic areas for our future, meaning we are allocating both our capital and talent to areas of secular growth and long-term competitiveness for the company, while divesting in other areas. These are the kinds of hard choices we have made throughout our 47-year history to remain a consequential company in this industry that is unforgiving to anyone who doesn’t adapt to platform shifts. As such, we are taking a $1.2 billion charge in Q2 related to severance costs, changes to our hardware portfolio, and the cost of lease consolidation as we create higher density across our workspaces.

Curious what “changes to our hardware portfolio” means.

Twitter’s Revenue Dropped 35 Percent in Q4 

Erin Woo, reporting for The Information:

Twitter’s fourth quarter revenue fell about 35% year over year to $1.025 billion, a top ad executive revealed at a staff meeting Wednesday, the most detailed sign yet of how much revenue has fallen. That was 72% of Twitter’s internal goal for the quarter, according to a slide showed to employees.

The executive, Twitter’s global sales and marketing chief Chris Riedy, also said the company is hoping to generate $732 million in revenue in the first quarter, which would be a drop of 39% from the first quarter of last year.


The Financial Times: ‘With $1.5 Billion Bill Due at Month-End, Elon Musk’s Options Aren’t Great’ 

Tabby Kinder, Richard Waters, and Eric Platt, reporting for The Financial Times:

The bill for Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter is coming due, with the billionaire facing unpalatable options on the company’s enormous debt pile, ranging from bankruptcy proceedings to another costly sale of Tesla shares. Three people close to the entrepreneur’s buyout of Twitter said the first installment of interest payments related to $13 billion of debt he used to fund the takeover could be due as soon as the end of January. That debt means the company must pay about $1.5 billion in annual interest payments. [...]

Musk’s personal equity investment in Twitter of about $26 billion would be effectively wiped out in the event of a bankruptcy, alongside other equity stakeholders such as Sequoia Capital, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, and Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. In the queue for repayment, their investments would be behind the banks that have loans secured against Twitter’s assets, as well as the company’s unsecured lenders and trade creditors.

Boy, you’d just hate to see it.

Meanwhile, with Tesla’s stock falling 65 percent last year and Musk selling heavily, the value of his stake in the company has plunged to about $50 billion, from $170 billion when he offered to buy Twitter in April last year. That has left him with far less room to raise cash by collateralizing more shares. One alternative would be to exercise some of his stock options, though that would leave him with a large — and immediate — tax bill. The biggest concern for Tesla investors has been if Twitter continues to bleed cash then Musk may have to sell more stock. [...]

Technology equity analyst Dan Ives at Wedbush Securities said that Twitter was worth closer to $15 billion today than the $44 billion Musk paid for it.

Heck, Tesla’s stock is down 25 percent in the last month alone. Heartbreaking.

Simon Fraser on the Joy of the Fahrenheit Scale 

Whole bit is spot-on, but the thing about the thermostat is chef’s kiss.

Apple Announces M2 Pro and M2 Max-Powered MacBook Pros and Mac Minis 

Dan Moren has a good summary of today’s announcements at Six Colors:

As expected, Apple on Tuesday took the wraps off updates to its MacBook Pro and Mac mini lines, featuring as their centerpiece the new M2 Pro and M2 Max processors.

The MacBook Pro update is basically a speed bump: the base level $1999 14-inch model moves to a M2 Pro 10-core CPU/16-core GPU configuration, with build to configure options for M2 Pro 12-core with a 19-core GPU, or to M2 Max with 12 cores and either 30 or 38 cores of GPU. Options at $2499 and $3099 come with the higher M2 Pro and the M2 Max, respectively. Meanwhile, the 16-inch model’s base configuration, at $2499, starts with a 12-core CPU/19-core GPU M2 Pro, while the $2699 and $3499 models feature the 12-core/19-core M2 Pro and 12-core/38-core M2 Max options.[...]

On the Mac mini side, Apple has finally axed the Intel Mac model and now offers three configurations of mini, starting with the same 8-core CPU/10-core GPU M2 configuration in the MacBook Air at $599 — $100 less than its M1-powered predecessor. While a $799 model features more storage with the same chip configuration, there’s also for the first time an option for Apple’s more powerful M2 Pro chip, in a $1299 10-core CPU/16-core GPU option, with a build to order configuration also offering a bump to a 12-core/19-core GPU M2 Pro. The M2 Pro configuration also offers four Thunderbolt 4 ports on the back, up over just two on the M2 configurations.

Announcements from Apple’s Newsroom:

Apple released a 20-minute video announcing these products, hosted by John Ternus. It’s linked from Apple’s home page, but isn’t listed on their Events page, so I’m not sure if the URL is a permalink. (I wouldn’t read too much into it, but I did notice that the URL for the video has “/2022/” in the path, which makes me wonder if this was all originally intended to be announced a month ago.)

One purely cosmetic surprise to me: the Mac Mini is still only available in silver, no space gray. I would have bet (and lost) that the regular M2 models would remain silver, but the M2 Pro and Max models would have been space gray. That’s how the lower-end and higher-end Intel Mac Mini models were colored.

Tesla Video Promoting Self-Driving Was Staged, Engineer Testifies 

Hyunjoo Jin, reporting for Reuters:

A 2016 video that Tesla used to promote its self-driving technology was staged to show capabilities like stopping at a red light and accelerating at a green light that the system did not have, according to testimony by a senior engineer. The video, which remains archived on Tesla’s website, was released in October 2016 and promoted on Twitter by Chief Executive Elon Musk as evidence that “Tesla drives itself.”

But the Model X was not driving itself with technology Tesla had deployed, Ashok Elluswamy, director of Autopilot software at Tesla, said in the transcript of a July deposition taken as evidence in a lawsuit against Tesla for a 2018 fatal crash involving a former Apple engineer. [...]

To create the video, the Tesla used 3D mapping on a predetermined route from a house in Menlo Park, California, to Tesla’s then-headquarters in Palo Alto, he said. Drivers intervened to take control in test runs, he said. When trying to show the Model X could park itself with no driver, a test car crashed into a fence in Tesla’s parking lot, he said. “The intent of the video was not to accurately portray what was available for customers in 2016. It was to portray what was possible to build into the system,” Elluswamy said, according to a transcript of his testimony seen by Reuters.

When Tesla released the video, Musk tweeted, “Tesla drives itself (no human input at all) thru urban streets to highway to streets, then finds a parking spot.”


There’s Weak Sauce, and Then There’s Weak Sauce 

The @TwitterDev account, three hours ago:

Twitter is enforcing its long-standing API rules. That may result in some apps not working.

That’s the entirety of the tweet, and that tweet is the only comment the company has made. Give them a point for brevity, I suppose, but there’s literally no one on the planet who believes a word of this. Third-party clients weren’t violating any existing rules, and there’s no “may” about the fact that they stopped working because Twitter revoked their authorization credentials. If there was some way they could show even less respect for third-party client developers and users, they found it.

16 Years Ago: ‘Introducing Twitterrific’ 

I’m not sure what’s cuter: that The Iconfactory needed to explain what Twitter was, or that my @gruber account counted as “famous” on Twitter back in 2007.

What a glorious, groundbreaking app. So it goes.

Twitter’s Rummage Sale 

Online auction where you can bid on now-unneeded office equipment, furniture, coffee machines, and so forth from Twitter. Feels like something you typically see after a company has gone bankrupt and shuttered its doors, not just downsized. This is the right amount of dignity for Twitter today, though.

Craig Hockenberry: ‘The Shit Show’ 

Craig Hockenberry:

Like my mom, the API has been declining for awhile. Endpoints were removed, new features were unavailable to third parties, and rate limiting restricted what we could do. And like my mom, we struggled on and did the best we could, trying to stay upbeat about it all.

What bothers me about Twitterrific’s final day is that it was not dignified. There was no advance notice for its creators, customers just got a weird error, and no one is explaining what’s going on. We had no chance to thank customers who have been with us for over a decade. Instead, it’s just another scene in their ongoing shit show.

But I guess that’s what you should expect from a shitty person.

Personally, I’m done. And with a vengeance.

I read an early draft of this post, and this is the polite version.


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.

If You Needed Any More Confirmation, Internal Slack Messages at Twitter Show That Cutting Off Third-Party Clients Was ‘Intentional’ 

Some reporter, writing for one very expensive paywalled blog:

The reason for the suspension couldn’t be learned. Speculation on one blog this week raised the possibility that Twitter might have turned off access to the apps deliberately because they don’t help drive ad revenue. At least some don’t show ads that appear on Twitter. That means the apps may be hurting Elon Musk’s ability to stop a major decline in ad revenue in the past two months.

“One blog” was this excellent early report on the outage by Ben Schoon for 9to5Google.

It is of course true that third-party clients didn’t show Twitter’s ads, but Twitter never tried putting those ads into the feeds delivered by the APIs used by third-party clients. And it’s obviously true that third-party Twitter clients weren’t suddenly getting users to switch from Twitter’s first-party clients.

In the day and a half since users started reporting problems with the apps, neither Twitter’s official account nor the Twitter support account have explained what caused the outage, including whether it was deliberate or accidental. Musk also hasn’t commented on his Twitter account.

But a senior software engineer wrote Thursday night that “Third-party app suspensions are intentional,” in an internal Twitter command center Slack channel, used by employees to handle outages and interruptions to Twitter’s services. The engineer declined to comment when contacted by The Information on Saturday afternoon.

The internal messages seen by The Information also show that Twitter employees have been discussing when the decision would be announced publicly. A Twitter employee working on product partnerships asked on Friday morning when employees could expect a list of “approved talking points” for questions from partners related to “3party clients revoked access.”

A product marketing manager responded on Slack that morning that the company had “started to work on comms” but that there was no estimate as to when it would be ready, the messages show.

Twitter can of course do what it wants, and Musk owns Twitter so he can do what he wants. But pulling the plug on these clients and ghosting everyone on communications about it is so absurdly disrespectful. Zero respect for the users for those apps, zero respect for the developers behind them — many of whom had been building on the Twitter platform for 10-15 years. Just a clown show.

Meanwhile, using Twitter’s own apps or website, my @gruber account shows a total of 7 mentions since January 5. Using Twitterrific for Mac — the plug for which has somehow not yet been pulled — I count 239 mentions since January 5.

Twitter’s own first-party service is falling apart.

AI-Generated Stills From a Movie That Doesn’t Exist: Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1976 Version of ‘Tron’ 

The New York Times has a jaw-dropping feature from Frank Pavich and Johnny Darrell:

I was recently shown some frames from a film that I had never heard of: Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1976 version of Tron. The sets were incredible. The actors, unfamiliar to me, looked fantastic in their roles. The costumes and lighting worked together perfectly. The images glowed with an extravagant and psychedelic sensibility that felt distinctly Jodorowskian.

However, Mr. Jodorowsky, the visionary Chilean filmmaker, never tried to make Tron. I’m not even sure he knows what “Tron” is. And Disney’s original Tron was released in 1982. So what 1970s film were these gorgeous stills from? Who were these neon-suited actors? And how did I — the director of the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, having spent two and a half years interviewing and working with Alejandro to tell the story of his famously unfinished film — not know about this?

The truth is that these weren’t stills from a long-lost movie. They weren’t photos at all. These evocative, well-composed and tonally immaculate images were generated in seconds with the magic of artificial intelligence.

It’s staggering how beautiful these stills are, and so evocative of what this imaginary film should look and feel like. You can practically hear them, they’re so sensual. The animation of stills atop the feature even feels like a trailer for the movie. Look at this on the biggest display you can.

The downside to this is that it has created in me a strong desire to see a movie that can never exist.

The Trio of Apps That Will Replace iTunes for Windows: Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Devices 

Andrew Cunningham, writing for Ars Technica:

Today, as part of a new Windows 11 preview build for Windows Insiders, Microsoft has announced that previews of new Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Devices apps are available in the Microsoft Store for download.

The Apple Music and Apple TV apps handle iTunes’ music and video functionality, just as they do on macOS, and provide access to the Apple Music and Apple TV+ subscription services. The Apple Devices app is what you’ll use to make local device backups, perform emergency software updates, sync local media, and the other things you can do with an iDevice that’s plugged into your PC (in macOS, similar functionality was added to the Finder, rather than being broken out into its own app).

Kinda sad that an app as legendary as iTunes is living out its last days as a Windows exclusive.

Meanwhile, Over at Twitter, They’re Giving Away Ads 

Suzanne Vranica and Patience Haggin, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+ and Archive links):

Twitter Inc. is offering advertisers a new incentive in an attempt to woo brands back to the social-media platform, which has seen its ad business deteriorate following Elon Musk‘s $44 billion takeover.

The tech company is dangling free ad space by offering to match advertisers’ ad spending up to $250,000, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The full $500,000 in advertising must run by Feb. 28, the emails said.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer company.

Saks Unveils Plan for Casino Atop Its Flagship Manhattan Store 

Lisa Fickenscher, reporting for The New York Post:

Saks Fifth Avenue finally tipped its hand, confirming plans to bid for a casino license on the top floors of its flagship store on Fifth Avenue. [...]

The renderings show stylishly dressed guests, seated at roulette tables, posh bars and upholstered chairs, clinking cocktails. They enter the building via a separate entrance on a red carpet that extends out onto the sidewalk and opens into a vast lobby area with multiple chandeliers and plush decorative rugs.

The casino would take up three floors, starting on the ninth, where servers will be dressed in black tie and hand out champagne flutes to gamblers, Richard Baker, executive chairman and chief executive of HBC, the Toronto-based company that owns Saks told The Post. [...]

The stylish Saks casino would be similar to the one featured in the James Bond movie “Casino Royale,” according to Baker. “In Monte Carlo they have fancy casinos so why not in Manhattan,” Baker said. “Why should Manhattan have another slobby casino. … We need spectacular.”

What a grand idea. I love a nice casino but most casinos are anything but nice.

The End May Be Nigh for Third-Party Twitter Clients 

Last night around 11pm ET, Tweetbot and Twitterrific stopped working, with authentication errors. They’re still down, as are other popular clients. Twitter has said nothing, either publicly or in communications to the affected developers, so your guess is as good as mine whether this is an unintended outage from Twitter’s skeleton crew staff or a strategic decision to pull the plug on third-party clients. Last night I’d have bet — a small amount — that it was an unintentional outage. Today I’d bet the other way, that this is the end. If so, this is probably the end of my regular usage of Twitter. Twitter’s official client has been terrible ever since it was anything other than a rebranded version of Tweetie. The first-party experience has gotten worse in recent weeks during the Musk era — both in their iOS app and on their convoluted website.

(Twitterrific for Mac is still functioning, though — at least as I write this. Unlike Tweetbot, Twitterrific uses different app IDs for iOS and Mac, and whatever is going on, it seems to have affected only the most popular third-party apps.)

Update: The Iconfactory has a blog post up. No news yet, but it’s worth checking out just for the chef’s kiss custom illustration. A picture says a thousand words and this one sums up the whole situation, no matter how it turns out.

Also: What a load of bullshit it is that Twitter no longer has a comms team. Apparently that’s how Musk runs all his companies, but it’s just childish.

Headline/Subhead Pairing of the Day 

Android Authority headline: “Google TV Is About to Get a Remote That Never Runs Out of Power”.

Subhead from the same article: “There’s no date for when to expect the remote to launch.”

That’s one of the best “about to”s in CES history.

El Pintador – AI Art Generation App for iOS 

One reason a scam like the aforementioned ChatGPT rip-off is annoying is that it distracts from legitimate apps in the same space. El Pintador is a new iOS app built atop Stable Diffusion that is worth your attention:

Simply tell El Pintador what you would like to see and watch as the AI generates beautiful new art right before your eyes.

In addition to a bunch of helpful templates that serve as starting points, El Pintador features lessons to help people fine tune their prompts. It’s fun, and the team behind it (Xibbon, founded by Miguel de Icaza) has been responsive to feedback since launching it just before Christmas. Also: free of charge to download and try.

App Store Scam of the Week: ‘ChatGPT Chat GPT AI With GPT-3’ 

Sami Fathi, reporting for MacRumors:

ChatGPT is free to use on the web for anyone with an OpenAI account, but it has inspired scammers and sketchy developers to take advantage of its popularity for ill-gained profit. One app in particular, named “ChatGPT Chat GPT AI With GPT-3,” gives the impression it is the official app for the ChatGPT bot, but appears to have no affiliation to Open AI, the creators of ChatGPT, or the bot itself.

The app charges users a $7.99 weekly or $49.99 annual subscription to use the bot unlimited times and eliminate intrusive in-app ads. The app and its bot are inconsistent, sometimes providing generic or entirely irrelevant responses to a prompt offered by the user.

The app is currently the second most popular productivity app on the App Store in the United States, indicating it is rather popular. The app has nearly 12,000 ratings, with a number of positive and negative reviews. “This is a fake app,” one review said. “This is just faking openai endorsement and more bad stuff,” another user said. Despite its suspicious activity, presence, and soaring popularity, the app has passed Apple’s App Store review process multiple times since its initial launch three weeks ago.

As noted by Fathi in an update, the app was pulled from the App Store yesterday. But it should have been flagged sooner. I don’t think it’s feasible to expect App Store reviewers to catch every potential scam app. But as I’ve long argued, I do think it’s reasonable to expect Apple to catch every scam app that makes its way onto the list of most popular apps. They can’t catch every scam app but they ought to be able to catch every successful one.

Surveillance Footage of Tesla ‘Full Self-Driving’ Crash on Bay Bridge 

Ken Klippenstein, reporting for The Intercept:

Highway surveillance footage from Thanksgiving Day shows a Tesla Model S vehicle changing lanes and then abruptly braking in the far-left lane of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, resulting in an eight-vehicle crash. The crash injured nine people, including a 2-year-old child, and blocked traffic on the bridge for over an hour.

The video and new photographs of the crash, which were obtained by The Intercept via a California Public Records Act request, provides the first direct look at what happened on November 24, confirming witness accounts at the time. The driver told police that he had been using Tesla’s new “Full Self-Driving” feature, the report notes, before the Tesla’s “left signal activated” and its “brakes activated,” and it moved into the left lane, “slowing to a stop directly in [the second vehicle’s] path of travel.” [...]

Since 2016, the federal agency has investigated a total of 35 crashes in which Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” or “Autopilot” systems were likely in use. Together, these accidents have killed 19 people. In recent months, a surge of reports have emerged in which Tesla drivers complained of sudden “phantom braking,” causing the vehicle to slam on its brakes at high speeds. More than 100 such complaints were filed with NHTSA in a three-month period, according to the Washington Post.

The footage of the crash is weird. The Tesla just slows to a stop in the passing lane. When AI systems make mistakes, they often are very different from the sort of mistakes people make.

It ought to be enough for self-driving systems to be safer, mile-per-mile, than human-driven vehicles. That may even be true for Tesla’s “full self-driving” mode, today. 35 crashes in 6 years isn’t a lot. But that’s not going to be enough. It’s not fair, but the bar for self-driving cars is much higher than having a lower accident rate than human-driven vehicles. Even though human-caused crashes are increasing in frequency, they’re so commonplace that they don’t register as shocking. (Same thing with gun deaths in the U.S.) An accident caused by an AI-driven car, though — that’s jarring because that’s novel. “Dog Bites Man” doesn’t make the front page. “Man Bites Dog” does.

As for Tesla’s system in particular, it strikes me as bizarre that it’s legal for them to enable this when they themselves still describe the feature as “beta” software.

Semafor: Microsoft Looking to Invest $10B in OpenAI, Maker of ChatGPT 

Liz Hoffman and Reed Albergotti, reporting for Semafor:

The $29 billion is a big valuation for OpenAI, a company that hasn’t yet figured out its business model, and $10 billion is a big price tag for Microsoft’s shareholders. [...] If OpenAI figures out how to make money on products like ChatGPT and image creation tool Dall-E, Microsoft will get 75% of the profits until it recoups its initial investment.

Beyond the financial risks and rewards for Microsoft, the bigger prize is that it gets to work alongside OpenAI in developing the technology on Microsoft Cloud, which instantly puts Microsoft at the forefront of what could be the most important consumer technology over the next decade.

That’s a huge coup for Microsoft, especially considering Google, a rival, has helped pioneer some of the technology used by OpenAI. Microsoft was also in talks to incorporate some of those features into its other programs, like Word and Outlook email, The Information reported.

Clippy, but actually smart and useful. That’d be one hell of a feature.

Dare Obasanjo, on Twitter:

Satya Nadella cements his entry in the CEO hall of fame by spotting OpenAI early and locking down access to its fruit for use in Office and Bing.

FTC is worried about Activision which is gaming’s past when Microsoft is locking down the future of AI.

It seems way early to credit this investment as a hall of fame decision, but it does seem forward-looking in a way that the Activision acquisition does not.

Executive Turnover at Rivian 

Sean McLain and Nora Eckert, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

The departures, confirmed by a Rivian spokeswoman, are the latest developments in what has been a challenging period for Rivian, which has been rolling out its first all-electric models but last year missed a critical milestone of manufacturing 25,000 vehicles. The company said it was off its goal by about 700 vehicles in part because of difficulty getting parts.

Rivian’s stock has also tumbled since its blockbuster initial public offering in November 2021, down roughly 79% through Tuesday’s close.

Rivian’s stock price is what it is — but a miss of 700 vehicles from a goal of 25,000 seems pretty good to me. That’s about 97 percent. But for context, Tesla made a record 1.3 million vehicles last year. Rivian obviously has a long way to go to reach a mainstream level of vehicle production.

The executives who have left were some of Rivian’s longer-tenured employees. Among them is Randy Frank, vice president of body and interior engineering, and Steve Gawronski, the vice president in charge of parts purchasing. Both had departed around the beginning of this year. Mr. Frank joined Rivian in 2019 from Ford Motor Co. Mr. Gawronski joined in 2018 from the autonomous vehicle startup Zoox.

When executives who’ve only been at the company for 3 or 4 years are among the “longer-tenured”, I think it’s more a sign of how dynamic the entire electric vehicle industry is at the moment, rather than a mark against Rivian in particular. There’s a lot of turnover (and effectively, musical chairs, as they tend to go from one company to another) at Tesla and Apple’s secretive Project Titan, too. After leading development of Tesla’s Model 3, Doug Field went to Apple, but then left Apple for that plucky startup Ford. But then Apple hired an executive who’d spent 31 years at Ford. It’s a huge market that’s being disrupted from multiple angles.

The Complexity of Evaluating Modern Phone Cameras 

Marques Brownlee’s title for this video is “What Is Happening With iPhone Camera?”, but it’s a nuanced consideration of just how complex phone cameras have gotten in the era of computational photography.

Tom Brady Taking It on the Chin With FTX Holdings 

Jeremy Hill, Bloomberg:

Billionaire New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and star NFL quarterback Tom Brady are among those sharing in the pain of FTX Group’s sudden implosion.

Brady, formerly a prominent FTX booster, owns more than 1.1 million common shares of FTX Trading, bankruptcy court documents show. His ex-wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, has more than 680,000 shares in the same entity.

He might have to play until he’s 50 to make up for this.

Eddy Cue on Apple’s Year in Services and Original Content 

Eddy Cue, in a rare personally-signed post to Apple Newsroom (“Thoughts on Services”?):

At Apple, we have the privilege of partnering with creators of all kinds, while building products and services that enable even more creativity. Our mission has always been to enrich people’s lives and to leave the world better than we found it, and we know that takes more than technical skill. It requires leading with our values in everything we do. We believe that our products and services should be made for everyone. We believe that privacy is a fundamental human right, and that our highest obligation to our customers is security. We believe that a culture where everybody belongs can drive innovation, and that we must stand up for the change we want to see in the world.

When we started Apple TV+ a few years ago, we did so to tell stories that reflect our broader humanity. And whether it was CODA winning the Oscar for Best Picture or Ted Lasso winning back-to-back Emmys for Best Comedy, we have seen, in so many ways, the validation of this kind of storytelling and the strong desire for more of it.

Apple’s services initiatives are multivariate, but the overall quality of Apple TV+ content is an unsung story. Apple started on awkward footing with Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke as their initial original content releases — but it makes sense that they started with low-stakes reality shows. At this point Apple has established a quality-over-quantity track record with their original shows and movies. The average Apple TV+ show/movie is good. I don’t think that’s true for any other streaming service except HBO, and even for HBO, the “Max” content has watered down their quality considerably. To my thinking, that’s exactly the right strategy and execution for Apple: quality and mainstream appeal above all else.

(Reading between the lines, I can’t help but wonder if this no-news-just-an-update post from Cue is related, timing-wise, to the weekend news that longtime Cue lieutenant and possible successor Peter Stern has left Apple. My read is that the point of this post is “Fuck you, I’m Eddy Cue, and I’m not going anywhere.”)

Was Salesforce’s Acquisition of Slack a Bust? 

Angus Loten writing for The Wall Street Journal:

When Salesforce Inc. bought the messaging application Slack for $27.7 billion almost two years ago, it said the marriage would “transform the way everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world.” Corporate technology buyers so far aren’t impressed, analysts said.

The acquisition sought to capture the fast-growing market for communications and collaboration software during the Covid-19 pandemic, as employers sent workers home and shifted to remote systems.

Today, companies in the market for customer-relationship management software — Salesforce’s signature product — don’t appear to be swayed one way or another by the addition of messaging and collaboration features, said Liz Herbert, a vice president and principal analyst at information-technology research firm Forrester Research Inc.

“We don’t really see, when it comes to Slack, any pent up demand from Salesforce’s base for a tool like that,” Ms. Herbert said. “It really hasn’t become something compelling,” she said.

I’ll go to the mat arguing that Slack is better-designed and better-implemented than Microsoft Teams. But to make a very broad analogy, I think Slack is to Teams today where Mac OS was to Windows in the mid-1990s: better designed, for sure, but not in a way that makes a difference to the corporate IT decision makers and bean counters who are making the call on which platform to use.

The key is not merely to be better, on some vectors. The key is to be better on the vectors that people with purchasing power care about. Missing this has been the death knell for many good products. One difference between the iPhone and Mac is that the iPhone came of age at the cusp of the “bring your own device to work era”, so factors that appealed to individuals (looks cool, fun to use) outweighed factors that might have swayed traditional corporate IT purchasers (low price, “standards”).

U.S. Supreme Court Lets Meta’s WhatsApp Pursue ‘Pegasus’ Spyware Suit 


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let Meta Platforms Inc’s WhatsApp pursue a lawsuit accusing Israel’s NSO Group of exploiting a bug in the WhatsApp messaging app to install spy software allowing the surveillance of 1,400 people, including journalists, human rights activists and dissidents.

The justices turned away NSO’s appeal of a lower court’s decision that the lawsuit could move forward. NSO had argued that it is immune from being sued because it was acting as an agent for unidentified foreign governments when it installed the “Pegasus” spyware.

Strange times make for strange bedfellows. Very glad to be in agreement with the Supreme Court on this issue. I’m pretty pessimistic about how often I’ll be able to say that in 2023.

Sports Events Account for 94 of the Top 100 Telecasts of 2022 

Austin Karp, reporting for Sports Business Journal:

The NFL and college football continued to draw the most viewers of any form of programming as viewers watched sports in record numbers. Overall, sports accounted for 94 of the 100 most-watched telecasts for the year. That was down just one number from last year, but up from 75 during the election-heavy 2020 docket, and from 92 telecasts in 2019.

The NFL put a record number of telecasts in the top 100 in 2022, with a stunning 82 games cracking the list. That figure is up from 75 in 2021, 72 in 2020 and 78 in 2019. Those numbers came even as the league’s “Thursday Night Football” package moved from linear television to Amazon this season. No Amazon “TNF” games cracked TV’s top 100 in 2022. In comparison, six of the Fox/NFL Network “TNF” games in 2021 made the top 100.

It makes sense that Thursday Night Football viewership is down. The basic idea for “how do I watch this game?” has always been that you turn on your TV and punch in a channel number. Putting TNF exclusively on Amazon Prime breaks that, and a certain segment of potential viewers don’t understand that, or, even if they do understand it, don’t subscribe to Amazon Prime.

Entertainment continues to lose its influence on the linear TV business. For the second consecutive year — and second time in history — not one scripted TV show made the top 100.

This, to me, makes sense, because scripted TV is perfectly suited to watching whenever. What makes sports so different is the obvious motivation to watch live.

The Academy Awards made its way back to the list last year following a 2021 when no entertainment awards shows cracked the top 100. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was another non-sports program on the list.

The enduring appeal of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is, for me, by far the most surprising thing in this report.

20 Years of Safari and WebKit 

Don Melton, on Mastodon:

Today is the twentieth anniversary of #Apple’s #Safari Web browser being publicly introduced. That stunning debut happened at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco on January 7, 2003. And, of course, I was there. Here’s what I wrote about that event ten years ago.

From his decade-ago remembrance:

Until I watched that video I found and posted of the Macworld keynote, I had completely forgotten what else was announced that day. Which is pretty sad considering I saw Steve rehearse the whole thing at least four times.

But you have to realize I was totally focused on Safari. And Scott Forstall, my boss, wanted me at those rehearsals in case something went wrong with it.

There’s nothing that can fill your underwear faster than seeing your product fail during a Steve Jobs demo.

Without question one of the most successful software projects in history.

FTC Chair Lina Khan on the Problems With Noncompetes 

Lina Khan, in an essay for The New York Times:

When you add it up, the evidence to date suggests that noncompetes suppress wages, reduce competition and keep innovative ideas from breaking into the market. One study even found that noncompetes lead to higher prices for consumers by reducing competition in the heavily concentrated health care sector.

I think she makes a compelling case that noncompete agreements reduce competition, and competition is what drives a fair economy.

U.S. Moves to Bar Noncompete Agreements in Labor Contracts 

Noam Scheiber, reporting yesterday for The New York Times:

The proposed rule would ban provisions of labor contracts known as noncompete agreements, which prevent workers from leaving for a competitor or starting a competing business for months or years after their employment, often within a certain geographic area. The agreements have applied to workers as varied as sandwich makers, hairstylists, doctors and software engineers.

Studies show that noncompetes, which appear to directly affect roughly 20 percent to 45 percent of U.S. workers in the private sector, hold down pay because job switching is one of the more reliable ways of securing a raise. Many economists believe they help explain why pay for middle-income workers has stagnated in recent decades.

Other studies show that noncompetes protect established companies from start-ups, reducing competition within industries.

I used to think of noncompete agreements as applying mostly to the tech industry, in the name of protecting trade secrets, but that bit about the practice trickling down even to sandwich shops is no exaggeration.

Study Suggests That Hardware Buttons in Cars Are Safer and Quicker to Use Than Touchscreens 

Frank Landymore, writing for The Byte on a study conducted by Swedish car magazine Vi Bilägare:

Over the summer, the magazine conducted tests across 12 models of cars — eleven modern, along with one 2005 Volvo with physical controls — and allowed test drivers to get to know the ins and outs of the vehicles. The tests themselves were simple: drivers were instructed to cruise down an empty airstrip at 68 miles per hour and were timed on the completion of four infotainment tasks, ranging from adjusting the AC to messing with the radio.

The Swedish magazine found that the 2005 Volvo far outperformed the modern, infotainment screen equipped cars, with a driver completing all four tasks in just ten seconds and 1,000 feet traveled.

Meanwhile, the best time in the modern cars was nearly 14 seconds. But even these speeds were relative outliers, because for the majority of infotainment equipped vehicles, it took well over 20 seconds and at least 2,000 feet.

I am nearly certain that everyone knows this is true, especially the designers at car companies. The reason that cars are largely switching to mostly touchscreen controls is the same reason phones switched — software is more flexible than hardware. Cars today do more than cars from 2005 did. But in the same way that all phones still have some hardware buttons (volume, power, mute), cars should too. The trick is getting the balance right. A couple of recent cars I’ve driven have definitely gotten that balance wrong.

It’s also the case that as cars take baby steps toward self-driving, previously stateful hardware controls need to become stateless. A traditional turn signals sticks in place until you complete the turn. That’s tricky with a car that can turn itself. Or just think about volume knobs on stereo equipment. In the old days, the physical knob indicated the volume level, usually on a scale of 0–10 (but not always, of course). Nowadays, though, playback volume is generally adjusted directionally, up or down, and the knob or buttons don’t indicate where the level is set, because the level is a value stored in software, and indicated on a display.

We’re not going back to hardware buttons for everything, but we have a long way to go until touchscreens surpass the usability of familiar hardware buttons.

Dahlia Lithwick on the House Speaker Vote 

Dahlia Lithwick, writing for Slate:

Perhaps one difference is that this time, the ask — what they are fighting for — is actually less clear. On Jan. 6, amid the chilling cries of “Hang Mike Pence” and “Stop the Steal,” the ask was at least coherent: reinstate Donald Trump as president. The foggy MAGA ask of 2023? I have no idea. Power, sure. Fame and celebrity, definitely. Mumble mumble debt ceiling. OK. As John Boehner wrote in his 2021 memoir, the endgame now is chaos itself:

What they’re really interested in is chaos … They want to throw sand in the gears of the hated federal government until it fails and they’ve finally proved that it is beyond saving. Every time they vote down a bill, they get another invitation to go on Fox News or talk radio. It’s a narcissistic — and dangerous — feedback loop.

Governance is not the point, it’s the enemy. Government is not the point, it’s the enemy. In 2021, that was on display in what we could all recognize as violence and threats of bodily harm. In 2023, it’s being done with speeches and backroom negotiations and the stand-up-sit-down whack-a-mole energy of a Monty Python sketch. Those chairs they are seeking? It’s not to do anything with them, beyond further themselves. None of it will lead to a better, healthier, more functional or stable government, even if the week doesn’t end with feces smeared on the walls.

I agree that Republican nihilism — or perhaps better put, burn-it-all-down-ism, is genuinely dangerous. But I disagree that it also hasn’t been very funny to watch.

Lenovo: Fuck Everything, We’re Doing Five Blades, Err, Two Screens 

Scharon Harding, writing for Ars Technica:

Lenovo’s press release calls the Yoga Book 9i the “first full-size dual screen OLED laptop” among vendors selling at least 1 million units a year. Targeting creative consumers who also want a machine with strong productivity that’s also fit for entertainment, the laptop has two 13.3-inch OLED panels connected by the soundbar hinge that Lenovo has been using in its Yoga convertible lineup for a while.

Each OLED screen has 2880×1800 pixels in a 16:10 aspect ratio. That’s 255.36 pixels per inch (ppi) for each panel and 10,368,000 pixels total. That’s 12.5 to 25 percent more total pixels than a 4K screen, depending on whether it’s 16:9 or 16:10.

It’s like one of Dana “@NanoRaptor” Sibera’s renders of imagined devices that never existed, but real.

Alcoholic Vodka 

Without question the most honest brand of booze I’ve ever seen. Currently only available in Sweden, alas.

‘Why Not Mars’ 

Maciej Ceglowski, writing at Idle Words:

Somehow we’ve embarked on the biggest project in history even though it has no articulable purpose, offers no benefits, and will cost taxpayers more than a good-sized war. Even the builders of the Great Pyramid at Giza could at least explain what it was for. And yet this project has sailed through an otherwise gridlocked system with the effortlessness of a Pentagon budget. Presidents of both parties now make landing on Mars an official goal of US space policy. Even billionaires who made their fortune automating labor on Earth agree that Mars must be artisanally explored by hand.

The whole thing is getting weird.


Fourth graders writing to Santa make a stronger case for an X-Box than NASA has been able to put together for a Mars landing.

To be clear, he’s talking about a manned mission to Mars. I am all in favor of exploring the entirety of our solar system with robots (and I believe Ceglowski is too). What makes almost no sense is exploring — let alone colonizing — Mars with humans.

It makes more sense to colonize the Gobi Desert than to colonize Mars — at least it’s relatively safe and inexpensive to get there and back. But no one proposes doing so because it’s so inhospitable. But the Gobi Desert is far more hospitable than the surface of Mars. (E.g. breathable air.)

This is why we make robots and computers — to do things humans can’t do, don’t want to do, or simply aren’t good at doing.

Barbara Walters on Late Night With David Letterman in 1983 

One good interviewer interviewing another. So great.

(And here she is with Johnny Carson the same year.)

Russell Jacobs on Dark Sky: ‘The Rise and Fall of the Best and Worst Weather App Ever’ 

Russell Jacobs, writing for Slate:

Indeed, Dark Sky’s big innovation wasn’t simply that its map was gorgeous and user-friendly: The radar map was the forecast. Instead of pulling information about air pressure and humidity and temperature and calculating all of the messy variables that contribute to the weather — a multi-hundred-billion-dollars-a-year international enterprise of satellites, weather stations, balloons, buoys, and an army of scientists working in tandem around the world (see Blum’s book) — Dark Sky simply monitored changes to the shape, size, speed, and direction of shapes on a radar map and fast-forwarded those images. “It wasn’t meteorology,” Blum said. “It was just graphics practice.”

Dark Sky Goes Dark 

Apple bought the groundbreaking weather app/service Dark Sky back in March 2020. As promised, the app stopped working last night at midnight. (The API will keep functioning until the end of March.) Apple has integrated some of Dark Sky’s features into the Weather app — most importantly, hyper-local precipitation forecasts. But the overall interface of Weather is quite different from Dark Sky’s. Me, I long used Dark Sky for precipitation alerts, but I never loved the app’s interface. Many people did, though, and I don’t think there’s any other app with a similar presentation.

So it goes.

Update: Carrot Weather now has an “Inline” layout that is a pretty good approximation for Dark Sky’s presentation. Here’s a promo from the voice of Carrot itself.