Linked List: June 2023

The Talk Show: ‘The M Is for Magnificent’ 

Matthew Panzarino returns to the show for a post-WWDC discussion about Vision Pro and VisionOS.

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XKCD’s Annotated Alphabet 

Tangential to typography, but it seems fitting with this week’s theme nonetheless. This comic, to me, is Randall Munroe at his best: distilling a vague universally held thought into crystallized form.

Hoefler’s Proof for Testing Fonts 

While I’m on a font kick, I greatly enjoyed this essay from Jonathan Hoefler:

Type designers love a good pangram. Pangrams, of course, are sentences that contain each letter of the alphabet at least once, of which the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog is surely the most famous. Lettering artists of the previous generation bequeathed us jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz; puzzlers are fond of the impossibly compact Mr Jock, TV quiz PhD, bags few lynx for its 26-letter world record. Sometime in the early nineties, I whiled away an entire afternoon in a San Francisco café coming up with a bunch of my own, honoring typeface designers (mix Zapf with Veljović and get quirky Béziers), and philosophers (you go tell that vapid existentialist quack Freddy Nietzsche that he can just bite me, twice), and the uplifting grace of a cosmos in balance (Wham! Volcano erupts fiery liquid death onto ex-jazzbo Kenny G.) Pangrams are unctuous little brain ticklers, challenging to concoct, droll to read, and immensely popular for presenting fonts.

I find them singularly useless in type design, and I don’t use them in my work.

Womprat: ‘The Font You’re Looking For’ 

On another end of the new font spectrum, Womprat — designed by Louie Mantia, engineered by Ender Smith — is every bit as Star Wars-y, if not more so, than any typography from Lucasfilm itself. If I worked at Disney I’d write a check to buy the exclusive rights to Womprat. It’s so good, so right, so fun, and so amazingly technically detailed. It’s as much coded programmatically as it is designed visually. And it includes an assortment of dingbat icons. Hell, even the slogan is perfect.

Domingo Germán Throws the 24th Perfect Game in MLB History 

Lindsey Adler, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Before the season began, New York Yankees pitcher Domingo Germán changed his jersey number from 55 to 0. It turned out to be a prescient move. On Wednesday night, Germán became just the 24th pitcher in MLB history to throw a perfect game, using just 99 pitches to mow through 27 Oakland A’s batters without allowing a single baserunner.

Entering the game with a 5.10 ERA in his first 14 starts of the season, Germán completed the first perfect game since Félix Hernández threw one for the Mariners in August 2012. There were three perfectos thrown that year — by Hernández, Matt Cain, and Phillip Humber — but nearly 11 seasons had passed without one occurring.

“Growing up, [Hernández] was my idol,” Germán said through a translator after the game. “I really looked up to the way he pitched.”

LoveFrom Serif 

Mark Wilson, in a profile back in April for Fast Company about the creation of LoveFrom Serif, a new font family designed by many of the designers behind Apple’s remarkable San Francisco family:

Serifs (think Times New Roman) became the focus instead, and after an exhaustive search, LoveFrom designer Antonio Cavedoni landed on Baskerville as a source of inspiration. The typeface is one everyone has seen, so it would be quietly familiar, even timeless. But it has enough expressive components that it could live in many contexts. Just as great of an appeal was the historical context of John Baskerville himself.

“John Baskerville as a person, as a craftsperson, was uncannily similar in his obsessiveness and his character to those of us at LoveFrom,” Ive says. “And that really, in a very natural way, became the starting point for developing our own typeface.”

Baskerville was indeed obsessive, Cavedoni explains. As we wrote in our story on the Terra Carta, Baskerville first made his money in “japanned” lacquerwork items. As he reached his 40s, he had the resources to go heads-down on his passion for word-making. As a trained calligrapher, he wanted to elevate the quality of book printing. He obsessed over not just the design of his typeface Baskerville but of the crafted execution of the individual metal “punches” that pressed each letter to ensure the printing was sharp. He even formulated an improved ink, and learned he could place woven paper into hot brass cylinders to give it a glossy finish.

A type designer who veered into innovations in ink formulation and paper finishing — yes, that sounds like a kindred spirit to Ive and his colleagues.

The entirety of Steve Jobs’s Make Something Wonderful — both on the web and in the limited print editions — is, unsurprisingly, typeset in LoveFrom. Before that, I’d only encountered LoveFrom Serif in small doses, and typically at display sizes (like the LoveFrom website’s home page). Turns out it’s quite good — traditional but distinctive — as a long-form text face. Broadly speaking, most people perceive serif fonts as more formal, sans serifs more casual. LoveFrom Serif feels like a friendly, emotionally warm serif, but which cedes no ground on formality and structure. British, for sure, but somehow with a welcome whiff of California. It’s clearly derived from Baskerville, but evokes a different feel, particularly at text sizes, than the eponymous Baskerville that ships on Apple platforms.

Cavedoni presented a lecture just this week entitled “Unexpected Baskerville: The Story of LoveFrom Serif”, at San Francisco’s Main Public Library. It pains me to have missed what appears to have been a remarkable presentation, with noteworthy guests and historic books, but a video recording is forthcoming “later this year”. (Update, November 2023: The video is now available, and it’s splendid.)

Postscript: I’ve been sitting on this link for a few weeks, partly because, well, I do that, but also because I wanted to let the experience of having read Make Something Wonderful settle in. That book, to me, is LoveFrom Serif’s true debut. If you want to exercise a typeface, set a book in it. It has occurred to me several times during this stretch how much I miss Dean Allen, and specifically, herewith, I crave his thoughts on both the typeface and the book. Re-reading for the umpteenth time Twenty Faces, Dean’s remarkably concise and compelling “survey of available text typefaces”, I was reminded that his entry on ITC Baskerville points also to Mrs Eaves, Zuzana Licko’s inspired 1996 revival (has it been that long? I will forever think of Mrs Eaves as a “new” typeface), which Dean described thus: “an interesting if mannered experiment in reviving Baskerville by aping the unpredictability of form found in letterpress text.”

Ron Amadeo’s Pixel Fold Lasted Four Days 

Ron Amadeo, writing for Ars Technica:

I didn’t do anything to deserve this. The phone sat on my desk while I wrote about it, and I would occasionally stop to poke the screen, take a screenshot, or open and close it. It was never dropped or exposed to a significant amount of grit, nor had it gone through the years of normal wear and tear that phones are expected to survive. This was the lightest possible usage of a phone, and it still broke.

The flexible OLED screen died after four days. The bottom 10 pixels of the Pixel Fold went dead first, forming a white line of 100 percent brightness pixels that blazed across the bottom of the screen. The entire left half of the foldable display stopped responding to touch, too, and an hour later, a white gradient started growing upward across the display. [...]

Manufacturers keep wanting to brush off the significant durability issues of flexible OLED displays, thinking that if they just shove the devices onto the market, everything will work out. That hasn’t been the case, though, and any time you see a foldable phone for sale, you don’t have to look far to see reports of dead displays. I’m sure we’ll see several reports of broken Pixel Folds once the unit hits the general public.

Earlier today I described the market for foldables as a niche (people willing to spend nearly $2,000) within a niche (people willing to buy any phone that doesn’t support using a protective case) within a niche (people who want a foldable phone in the first place). But that’s within another level of niche: people who don’t care that foldables are relatively fragile.

Sorry, but XMPP Was Doomed, Not Extinguished by Google 

Ploum, in a piece titled “How to Kill a Decentralised Network (Such as the Fediverse)”:

In 2013, Google realised that most XMPP interactions were between Google Talk users anyway. They didn’t care about respecting a protocol they were not 100% in control. So they pulled the plug and announced they would not be federated anymore. And started a long quest to create a messenger, starting with Hangout (which was followed by Allo, Duo. I lost count after that). [...]

While XMPP still exist and is a very active community, it never recovered from this blow. Too high expectation with Google adoption led to a huge disappointment and a silent fall into oblivion. XMPP became niche. So niche that when group chats became all the rage (Slack, Discord), the free software community reinvented it (Matrix) to compete while group chats were already possible with XMPP. (Disclaimer: I’ve never studied the Matrix protocol so I have no idea how it technically compares with XMPP. I simply believe that it solves the same problem and compete in the same space as XMPP).

Would XMPP be different today if Google never joined it or was never considered as part of it? Nobody could say. But I’m convinced that it would have grown slower and, maybe, healthier. That it would be bigger and more important than it is today. That it would be the default decentralised communication platform. One thing is sure: if Google had not joined, XMPP would not be worse than it is today.

This is in the context of the situation with Mastodon and Facebook’s upcoming “Threads” project, and the subset of Mastodon instance admins who are pledging preemptively to block it. Basically it’s an argument that Google applied Microsoft’s old Embrace, Extend, Extinguish strategy to kill XMPP, and that thus XMPP is a better example than email when debating whether large scale federated protocols should allow large corporate instances to join.

I don’t buy it. XMPP is an instant messaging protocol. Instant messaging is effectively dead. AIM is gone and I learned only while writing this post that ICQ is apparently still around. All modern messaging protocols have some form of message persistence; instant messaging did not. With instant messaging you could only send a message to someone while they were logged in with the client app open and running. You can’t prove a negative, but I see no scenario where XMPP would have any relevance today, regardless of Google’s decisions a decade ago.

Allison Johnson Reviews the $1,800 Google Pixel Fold 

Allison Johnson, writing for The Verge:

Google has optimized a bunch of its own apps to work in the Fold’s unfolded tablet mode, and they’re great. Gmail, YouTube, Photos — they all make use of the full screen by putting information in sidebars and vertical columns. Chrome has a desktop-like interface, complete with tabs at the top of the window and the ability to load the full versions of websites. Google Meet readily moved a tiled view of attendees to the top part of the screen when I set the phone up in an L-shape, sliding the controls to the bottom half of the display. I didn’t have to fiddle with anything — it just worked.

A lot of third-party apps don’t take advantage of the whole inner screen, though, which stinks. Instagram is just a phone-sized app with black bars on either side. Same with Twitter, Facebook Messenger, and even Google-owned Fitbit. You can double-tap the blank space on either side to quickly slide the app to the left, right, or middle, which is nice. TikTok plays its vertical videos in the middle of the screen but at least uses the extra space on either side to move all the text that’s usually right on top of the video out of the way. Even so, it feels like a lot of wasted space when you’re not watching a video or multitasking.

This form factor seems more appealing to me than flip phones, but still, I have not an iota of envy from my perch on the iPhone side of the fence. It’s good that Google has tweaked so many of its own Android apps to fully embrace the tablet-sized folded-out screen, but if most of the third-party apps you most use don’t, that seems like the end of the discussion right there.

It’s a classic chicken-and-egg problem: third-party developers aren’t going to spend time embracing these foldable screens unless there are a lot of phones in use sporting them, but users aren’t likely to buy them until there’s widespread support for them in the apps they use most. If this is a great form factor then Google should stand behind it with a push that declares that foldable screens are the future of Android, or at least the future of Pixel phones. Otherwise it all seems like a waste of time.

The other problem, I’ll reiterate, is cases. The overwhelming majority of people put their phones in protective cases. The more expensive a phone is, the more likely people will see the need to “protect” it with a case. This phone starts at $1,800 for 256 GB of storage, and costs $1,919 for 512 GB. (The iPhone 14 Pro costs $1,200/$1,400 for the same amounts of storage.) But foldable phones can’t be put in cases. They’re targeting a niche within a niche within a niche — people willing to spend $1,800 on a phone, without using a case, with a foldable display.

Update: Turns out, there are cases for the Pixel Fold: a $60 silicone case from Google itself, and a “coming soon” leather one from Bellroy. Another Update: Some cases from Spigen, starting at $60, and a collection from Android Police of others.

‘Inside the AI Factory: The Humans That Make Tech Seem Human’ 

Josh Dzieza, in a splendid investigative report co-published by The Verge and New York Magazine:

For Joe’s students, it was work stripped of all its normal trappings: a schedule, colleagues, knowledge of what they were working on or whom they were working for. In fact, they rarely called it work at all — just “tasking.” They were taskers.

The anthropologist David Graeber defines “bullshit jobs” as employment without meaning or purpose, work that should be automated but for reasons of bureaucracy or status or inertia is not. These AI jobs are their bizarro twin: work that people want to automate, and often think is already automated, yet still requires a human stand-in. The jobs have a purpose; it’s just that workers often have no idea what it is. [...]

This tangled supply chain is deliberately hard to map. According to people in the industry, the companies buying the data demand strict confidentiality. (This is the reason Scale cited to explain why Remotasks has a different name.) Annotation reveals too much about the systems being developed, and the huge number of workers required makes leaks difficult to prevent. Annotators are warned repeatedly not to tell anyone about their jobs, not even their friends and co-workers, but corporate aliases, project code names, and, crucially, the extreme division of labor ensure they don’t have enough information about them to talk even if they wanted to. (Most workers requested pseudonyms for fear of being booted from the platforms.) Consequently, there are no granular estimates of the number of people who work in annotation, but it is a lot, and it is growing. A recent Google Research paper gave an order-of-magnitude figure of “millions” with the potential to become “billions.”

Evocative artwork by Richard Parry accompanying the piece at The Verge, too.


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Former App Store Review Lead Phillip Shoemaker Seems to Have an Oddly Personal Grudge Against Phil Schiller 

Neil Long, writing at, has an interesting interview with Phillip Shoemaker, who ran App Store review at Apple from 2009 to 2016:

Apple’s app review process remains a huge problem for mobile game-makers as they navigate vague guidelines and inconsistent rulings. So we asked Shoemaker for his thoughts on how Apple can fix it:

“The way to solve that inconsistency — and I hate to say it — is: let’s take a page from Google,” he told us. “Especially now with the AI tools that are out there. You can do probably 80% of the work the review team does.”

In the era of app stores, it’s seemed pretty clear that Apple’s has had fewer problems with malware slipping through than Google’s. I’m not aware of a single iOS developer who doesn’t think the App Store, especially review, can and should be improved in numerous ways. But neither “make it more like the Play Store” nor “use AI for review” sounds right to me.

Also, App Store review times have decreased from an average of about 5 days to 1 day since Shoemaker left Apple in 2016. (And my understanding is that new automation tools are a big part of that process improvement. Shoemaker’s gripes about App Store review seem stuck in 2016.)

Schiller appears to be the last holdout when it comes to automating app review compared to Apple SVPs Eddy Cue, Greg ‘Joz’ Joswiak and App Store VP Matt Fischer. “I think the way to radically improve the App Store is have Phil be an Apple fellow and get his hands off the App Store,” says Shoemaker. “That’s what they really need to do. Eddy’s more progressive, Joz is more progressive, and we know Matt is as well. Phil just needs to get his meaty paws off the App Store.”

“If Phil doesn’t step back, it’ll absolutely be the courts making changes,” Shoemaker continues.

If I worked at Apple I’d print up a “Meaty Paws” sign and tape it to Schiller’s door.

“Phil needs to step back, I think that’s the main thing — new blood needs to come in there and make some changes because cutting the price and opening up the guidelines to allow new interesting things is going to be critical.”

Phil Schiller, of course, is the executive who suggested decreasing Apple’s rake in a memo back in 2011.

“It was tough working for Phil…he was one of those guys that would love to throw insults at people, right? I mean he had no boundaries — he’d insult your children and you’re like: ‘Why am I working at this company again?’”

Shoemaker would regularly get feedback from his kids on apps and games and use that feedback in the ERB meetings. “Phil would say things like, oh, that’s a stupid thing to say, are your kids that dumb? And you’re like, are you freaking kidding me?”

Seems like the two Phils did not get along. No word from Shoemaker on whether iWiz is coming back to the App Store, either.

Why Has Mastodon Adoption Stalled? 

Bloonface, in a thoughtful post regarding the stagnation in growth in the Fediverse:

Mastodon is at risk of falling into the trap that a lot of free/open source software does, where the idea of the software being “free as in speech” is expected to outweigh or explain away deficiencies in its usefulness. However, this ignores three salient facts:

  • Most people don’t give a thruppenny fuck about their freedom to view and edit the source code of the software they use, which they would not know how to do even if they cared;

  • Most people are not ideologically opposed to the notion of proprietary software, and cannot be convinced to be because it is simply not important to them and cannot be explained in terms that are important to them; and

  • When given the choice between a tool which is immediately useful for achieving some sort of goal but conflicts with some kind of ideological standpoint, and a tool which is not as useful but they agree with ideologically, they will probably choose the former.

After Elon Musk took the helm at Twitter there was an initial burst of new users and increased usage on Mastodon (and the rest of the Fediverse, but mostly this is about Mastodon as an alternative to Twitter). And then it flattened, and perhaps has even declined.

I would like to see Mastodon thrive. But the platform’s ideological zealotry is obviously holding it back and seemingly isn’t going to change. That’s why I’m much more optimistic about Bluesky’s long-term prospects. Six weeks later and I feel stronger than ever about this quip I posted in early May:

Bluesky: “If you liked Twitter, you’ll love Bluesky.”

Mastodon: “If you hated Twitter, you’ll like Mastodon.”

Hundreds of millions of people liked what Twitter once was, and what it aspired to be. Bluesky might be that.

WebKit on VisionOS Will Support Open WebXR Content 

Ben Lang, writing for Road to VR:

In a somewhat surprising move, Apple confirmed that Safari on Vision Pro will support WebXR. Prior to the reveal of the headset, it was an open question whether the company would entertain the idea of XR experiences through the browser, and even more so if the company would adopt the relatively new WebXR standard. But now Apple has confirmed that Safari on Vision Pro will indeed support WebXR.

The company confirmed as much in its WWDC 2023 developer talk titled Meet Safari for Spatial Computing, in which Apple explained the version of Safari running on Vision Pro “truly is Safari with the same WebKit engine underneath, plus some thoughtful additions for [Vision Pro].”

Thanks to Safari on visionOS being a fully-featured version of the browser, existing websites should work exactly as expected, the company says. But to go beyond flat web pages, Safari on visionOS includes support for WebXR for immersive experiences and the new <model> tag for 3D models.

I don’t find this surprising at all. Apple has always embraced open content and the web, to the extent that it makes sense in the overall platform experience. Web browsing on mobile phones was practically non-existent before the iPhone. (Steve Jobs aptly described the circa 2007 mobile web as “the baby Internet” during the iPhone introduction.)

Perhaps most tellingly regarding VisionOS, Apple hired Ada Rose Cannon a year ago — she’s co-chair of the W3C Immersive Web Working Group and a preeminent figure in the WebXR community.

Ian Betteridge on Meta and Mastodon 

Ian Betteridge:

What defines Mastodon is not the use of a protocol. The protocol is just an enabler. Instead, Mastodon is defined by allowing communities (instances) freedom of association. It is the ability of communities to choose not to federate with anyone else which gives Mastodon its strength.

His whole post is thoughtful and considered, and worth your attention. Betteridge largely disagrees with me on this issue, and while he hasn’t changed my mind, I’m happy to direct your attention to his arguments.

But I do disagree with this:

If you want to understand why some communities are wary of Meta, it’s worth remembering how ActivityPub works. Let’s say I run an instance called If I don’t defederate (block) Meta’s server, any user on their server and any user on EvilMole can follow each other. So suppose that @[email protected] follows @[email protected]. What happens?

First, every single one of Molesworth’s posts are now available to Meta, including all the replies they make to everyone including people who don’t follow anyone on Meta’s server. In other words, Meta gets access to posts from people who may very well have an issue with that.

If you don’t want Meta (or Google, or whoever) to see your posts, then no matter which instance you’re on, and which other servers your instance chooses to federate with, you need to make your account private. If you’re posting publicly on any Mastodon server, everything you post is visible to the world, including Meta. If your account isn’t private, you’re posting to the open web. Google doesn’t run an ActivityPub instance (yet?) but clearly they’re indexing Mastodon posts.

First Look at Early VisionOS Apps 

Simon B. Støvring:

It’s amazing how much the appearance of a Vision Pro app changes depending on whether it’s built “Designed for iPad” against the iPadOS SDK or it is built as a proper Vision Pro app against the visionOS SDK.

I think “Designed for iPad” apps stand very little chance of becoming successful at launch. Users will expect apps that make heavy use of frosted glass and all the transitions that come with the visionOS SDK.

James Thomson:

This is PCalc running as a native Apple Vision Pro app (rather than running the existing iPadOS app as before).

Paul Hudson:

Once you have the visionOS SDK installed you can really see how the idea of light and dark mode just doesn’t make sense with Vision Pro — click the mountain icon in the bottom-right corner to try different environments, and also different times of day.

Exciting times ahead.

Typography 2024: Matthew Butterick on the Campaign Websites Thus Far 

Matthew Butterick:

Even more confusing is the quadrennial hand-wringing about so-called “spoiler candidates”, a pejoration that keeps slouching toward normalized use, sort of like “frivolous lawsuit”. Let’s keep the blame for “spoiling” any election where it be longs — with the people who voted.

Largely, however, I think these theories are promoted by political journalists as a means of protecting their own hoary narratives of presidential politics. Here’s mine: It’s chaotic. It’s weird. Nobody knows anything. Thus, evaluating the candidates through the design & typography of their campaign websites is as valid a method as any. If you think otherwise, you’re a typographic spoiler.

Nothing inspiring in the whole bunch.

The best campaign branding I’ve seen in a long time was PA Senator John Fetterman’s last year. A distinctive color scheme, and typography that matched his personal image.

Chargers and Ports Designed by Committees Generally Suck, EV Edition 

Fred Lambert, writing for Electrek:

CharIn, the association behind the CCS EV charging standard, has issued a response to the Tesla and Ford partnership on the NACS charging standard. [...] Last month, Ford announced that it will integrate NACS, Tesla’s charge connector that it open-sourced last year in an attempt to make it the North American charging standard, into its future electric vehicles.

Obviously, CharIn is trying to defend itself and survive here, but I don’t think it is necessarily fighting fair.

When it comes to the charge connector itself, there’s no doubt that they lost the battle. It is almost comical how bad the design of the CCS connector is compared to Tesla’s.

The CCS charger is big fat and ugly, and has reliability problems. Tesla’s NACS charger is smaller, more reliable, and more elegant. The CCS charger is the EV equivalent of pre-USB-C USB ports. NACS is like Lightning. Rivian and GM are now on board with NACS too.

The best way to get a good standard port is to let proprietary designs fight it out in the market, and let the winner become the de facto standard.

David Pogue Had Suspicions Regarding Missing OceanGate Titanic Submarine 

Jake Kanter, writing for Deadline:

A six-month-old CBS report on OceanGate’s Titanic tourism submarine is going viral on social media after reporter David Pogue raised safety concerns about the now-missing vessel.

Pogue visited OceanGate’s operations last year and was submerged in the $1M submarine, named Titan, which vanished off the coast of Canada on Sunday. It was carrying a pilot and four passengers, including OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush. [...]

“It seems like this submersible has some elements of MacGyvery jerry-rigged-ness. You are putting construction pipes as ballast,” Pogue said to Rush in an interview.

“I don’t know if I would use that description,” Rush replied. He added that the OceanGate worked with Boeing and Nasa on the pressure vessel. “Everything else can fail. Your thrusters can go, your lights can go, you’re still going to be safe.”

Pogue said he was nervous before boarding and revealed some of the contents of the waiver form he was required to sign. This described the submarine as an “experimental submersible vessel that has not been approved or certified by any regulatory body and could result in physical injury, disability, emotional trauma or death.”

Hindsight is 20-20, blah blah blah, but there’s no way you could have gotten me to go on this thing. So many red flags, not the least of which is that the vessel’s lone portal was only certified for a depth of 1,300 meters, but the Titanic wreck is 3,800 meters deep.

VisionOS SDK Is Now Available 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today announced the availability of new software tools and technologies that enable developers to create groundbreaking app experiences for Apple Vision Pro — Apple’s first spatial computer. Featuring visionOS, the world’s first spatial operating system, Vision Pro lets users interact with digital content in their physical space using the most natural and intuitive inputs possible — their eyes, hands, and voice. [...] With the visionOS SDK, developers can utilize the powerful and unique capabilities of Vision Pro and visionOS to design brand-new app experiences across a variety of categories including productivity, design, gaming, and more.

Next month, Apple will open developer labs in Cupertino, London, Munich, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo to provide developers with hands-on experience to test their apps on Apple Vision Pro hardware and get support from Apple engineers. Development teams will also be able to apply for developer kits to help them quickly build, iterate, and test right on Apple Vision Pro.

Three thoughts:

  • This is the same SDK Apple itself is using to develop VisionOS apps. I mean, sure, Apple has access to private APIs, but that’s true on MacOS and iOS too. But this is not like the original WatchKit in 2015, where third-party developers were stuck with a severely limited SDK that was nothing like the APIs being used by Apple itself for the built-in WatchOS apps. This is real dogfooding, and I bet we see some very strong apps and games for VisionOS on day one.

  • These in-person labs will prove essential for many developers during this prelude period, where developers won’t have access to Vision Pro itself while working on apps.

  • I think Reality Composer Pro could be the sleeper hit of this SDK — a tool not (just) for programmers, but for creative artists. Like what Adobe Illustrator was to graphic design vs. writing Postscript code at the outset of the desktop publishing revolution a generation ago.

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro: I-95 Will Re-Open This Weekend 

Josh Shapiro on Twitter:

Based on the tremendous progress these crews made over the weekend, I can now say:

We will have I-95 back open this weekend.

We have worked around the clock to get this done, and we’ve completed each phase safely and ahead of schedule.

I would’ve bet a lot money on this taking more than two months. It’s not just inspiring to see a big government project succeed, it’s downright fun. A lesson in how to accomplish big things: figure out a plan, get to work, work hard, and keep working until it’s done.

Fosstodon’s Measured Take on Facebook and the Fediverse 

Kev Quirk, co-founder of Fosstodon (a 60,000-user Mastodon instance):

Truth is, there isn’t that much info out there on how this thing will actually work, or what it will be capable of. Lots of people seem to be concerned about Facebook “getting their info”. Fact is, they can do that now if they really want to — it would be trivial for Facebook to stand something up that hoovers up all the public data that’s on the Fediverse, via API.

And that’s the clincher here — it’s all public data. So the best advice I can give if you’re concerned about your data, is lock down your account and don’t post publicly.

All that being said, here’s what we plan to do if this thing ever sees the light of day:

  • As a team, we will review what the service is capable of and what advantages/disadvantages such a service will bring to the Fediverse
  • We will then make a determination on whether we will defederate that service
  • We will NOT jump on the bandwagon, or partake in the rumour mill that seems to be plaguing the Fediverse at the moment

It’s important to say that neither myself or Mike like anything that Facebook stands for. Neither of us use it, and both of us go to great lengths to avoid it when browsing the web. So if this service introduces any issues that could negatively impact our users, we will defederate.


Masnick’s Impossibility Theorem: Content Moderation at Scale Is Impossible to Do Well 

Mike Masnick, back in 2019:

I’ve argued for years that while many people like to say that content moderation is difficult, that’s misleading. Content moderation at scale is impossible to do well. Importantly, this is not an argument that we should throw up our hands and do nothing. Nor is it an argument that companies can’t do better jobs within their own content moderation efforts. But I do think there’s a huge problem in that many people — including many politicians and journalists — seem to expect that these companies not only can, but should, strive for a level of content moderation that is simply impossible to reach.

And thus, throwing humility to the wind, I’d like to propose Masnick’s Impossibility Theorem, as a sort of play on Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem. Content moderation at scale is impossible to do well. More specifically, it will always end up frustrating very large segments of the population and will always fail to accurately represent the “proper” level of moderation of anyone. While I’m not going to go through the process of formalizing the theorem, a la Arrow’s, I’ll just note a few points on why the argument I’m making is inevitably true.

DPReview Found a Buyer: Gear Patrol 

Scott Everett, writing at DPReview:

We’ve heard from many of you over the past several weeks, and we realize there are many questions about what comes next for DPReview. We’re thrilled to share the news that Gear Patrol has acquired DPReview. Gear Patrol is a natural home for the next phase of DPReview’s journey, and I’m excited to see what we can accomplish together. [...]

Will all DPReview staff join Gear Patrol?

Our current core editorial, tech, and business team is moving forward with DPReview. Gear Patrol is committed to continuing DPReview’s industry leading journalism, and we look forward to collaboratively investing in the site’s future moving forward.

Will DPReview change its editorial coverage or site features as a result of this?

The site will continue to operate as it was before, with all editorial coverage and site features remaining the same, and all historical content accessible. That being said, we are excited to begin a new chapter working within and alongside an editorial company like Gear Patrol and expect to continue evolving DPReview based on customer feedback and the rapidly changing state of the publishing industry.

This sounds like nothing but good news.

Regulation for Thee, but Not for Me 

Billy Perrigo, reporting for Time:

The CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman, has spent the last month touring world capitals where, at talks to sold-out crowds and in meetings with heads of governments, he has repeatedly spoken of the need for global AI regulation.

But behind the scenes, OpenAI has lobbied for significant elements of the most comprehensive AI legislation in the world — the E.U.’s AI Act — to be watered down in ways that would reduce the regulatory burden on the company, according to documents about OpenAI’s engagement with E.U. officials obtained by Time from the European Commission via freedom of information requests.

I think concerns about the current state of AI are overwrought, and that regulation is not called for. But what Altman seems to be pushing for isn’t a hands-off approach from regulators — instead he just wants it enshrined in law that OpenAI and only OpenAI is exempt from regulations.

A very interesting and cogent paper leaked out of Google a few weeks ago, with the title “We Have No Moat, and Neither Does OpenAI”. The basic argument in the paper is that open-source AI will outcompete Google and OpenAI’s proprietary approaches. Ever since I read this leaked paper, it’s seemed clear to me that Sam Altman believes this as well, and so he’s been devoted to creating a regulatory moat to protect OpenAI.

On Scanning QR Codes With Your iPhone 

Tim Hardwick, on a tweaked feature in iOS 17 beta 1:

Apple in iOS 13 decided to redesign QR code scanning so that the link appeared as a yellow button within the camera viewfinder itself. However, in doing so, it created a new problem: The button would rove around in the viewfinder if the camera lens was also in motion, which made tapping it even more tricky than before.

Thankfully, in iOS 17, Apple has made another small, and this time welcome, change that improves the situation immeasurably. Now when you scan a QR code, the link button automatically appears at the bottom of the Camera interface. So instead of chasing the dancing link around the viewfinder, you can simply tap its fixed location above the shutter button.

My tip for scanning QR codes is not to use the Camera app at all. Instead, enable iOS’s hidden built-in Code Scanner app in Contol Center. Go to Settings → Control Center, and under More Controls, enable Code Scanner. (This is also a good reminder that you can disable Control Center items you seldom use.) Now when you encounter a QR code, just pull down Control Center and use the Code Scanner app.

Worth keeping in mind, too, that when you use the regular Camera app to scan a QR code, if you open the link, it opens in Safari. With the Code Scanner app in Control Center, links open in a sandboxed in-app web view, which is more private. The only downside is that if you want to keep the opened page around, you’ll need to open it in Safari from within Code Scanner.

Code Scanner is a fantastic little “do one thing and do it well” app, but because you can only get to it via Control Center but it’s not shown in Control Center by default, most people don’t even know it exists. It’s truly a hidden gem.

Update: Turns out you can also launch the Code Scanner app by searching for it on the iOS home screen. Also, you can tell Siri “scan a QR code” or “open QR Code Scanner” and it’ll open. Nice!

Not That Kind of ‘Open’ 

The Anti-Meta Fedi Pact:

“i am an instance admin/mod on the fediverse. by signing this pact, i hereby agree to block any instances owned by meta should they pop up on the fediverse. project92 is a real and serious threat to the health and longevity of fedi and must be fought back against at every possible opportunity”

Yours truly, on Bluesky a month ago (which, ironically, is not yet open itself, so here’s an open preview):

Masto zealots: We’re open, federate with us!

Instagram: Great, we’re building a new thing to join you.

Masto zealots: Not that kind of open!

It should go without saying that I’m no fan of Meta/Facebook. But the idea that administrators of Mastodon/Fediverse instances should pledge to preemptively block Facebook’s imminent Twitter-like ActivityPub service (purportedly named Threads) strikes me as petty and deliberately insular. I don’t like Facebook, the company, and I’ve never seen the appeal of Facebook, the product (a.k.a. “the blue app”). But there are literally billions of good people who use their services. Why cut them off from the open ActivityPub social world? Large swaths of Mastodon seem to relish the fact that it’s confusing how to get started, and that this confusion is keeping Mastodon small.

The whole point of ActivityPub as an open protocol is to turn Twitter/Instagram-like social networking into something more akin to email: truly open. If Facebook were on the cusp of launching a Gmail-like email service, would you preemptively declare that your email server would block them? To me that’s what this “Anti-Meta Fedi Pact” is arguing for.

Maybe I’m wrong! I certainly don’t think the “let’s pledge to block Facebook before their Fediverse thing even starts” people are nuts. But to me this feels like convicting Facebook of a pre-crime. Is the goal of the Fediverse to be anti-corporate/anti-commercial, or to be pro-openness? I think openness is the answer. Others clearly disagree.


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

Kolide solves the device compliance element of Zero Trust for companies that use Okta. Kolide’s unique approach works with Okta to make device compliance part of the authentication process. If a device isn’t compliant, users can’t log in to their cloud apps until they’ve fixed the problem. And instead of creating more work for your IT team, Kolide provides instructions so users can get unblocked on their own.

Kolide works across your Mac, Windows, and even Linux devices, with mobile support coming soon. Visit Kolide’s website to learn more and see it in action.

The Talk Show: ‘An Extra Kick in the Nuts’ 

Christian Selig, developer of the excellent apps Apollo and Pixel Pals, joins the show to talk about Reddit’s Twitter-fication, along with highlights from WWDC 2023.

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Google Domains Shutting Down, Assets Sold to Squarespace 

Abner Li, reporting for 9to5Google:

In an unexpected announcement today, Google Domains is “winding down following a transition period,” with Squarespace taking over the business and assets.

Squarespace announced today that it “entered into a definitive asset purchase agreement with Google, whereby Squarespace will acquire the assets associated with the Google Domains business.” This includes “approximately 10 million domains hosted on Google Domains spread across millions of customers.”

Google cited “efforts to sharpen our focus” in selling the Google Domains registrar business, which launched in 2014 as a big proponent of HTTPS and top-level domains (TLDs) as of late. The service exited beta in 2022.

Funny enough, I just used Google Domains for the first time two weeks ago to register a .foo domain name to use with Bluesky. (Very easy to do, and one of Bluesky’s best and most innovative features.) I went to check on it when I saw this news that Google Domains is shutting down, and I had an alert that the new domain name I registered would be put on “hold” today if I didn’t verify the email address I used to register it. I hadn’t seen any verification emails from Google about it. I told Google Domains to send another verification email. Still didn’t see it. Turns out that even though I used an address to register the domain, every single email from Google Domains was being flagged as spam. So Google’s own email service considers all emails from Google’s own domain name service to be spam.

So, yeah, I’d say Google needs to focus.

Jay Peters Interviews Reddit CEO Steve Huffman for The Verge 

Huffman: We offer the API so the vast majority of our use of the uses of the API — so not these, the other 98 percent of them that make tools, bots, enhancements for Reddit — that’s what the API is for.

It was never designed to support third-party apps. We let it exist. And I should take the blame for that, because I was the guy arguing for that for a long time. But I didn’t know — and this is my fault — the extent that they were profiting off of our API. That these were not charities.

The ones that actually are doing good for our users — RedReader, Dystopia, Luna — like actually adding real value at their own cost? We’ve exempted. We’ll carry that cost.

Peters: I want to stop you for a second there. So you’re saying that Apollo, RIF, Sync, they don’t add value to Reddit?

Huffman: Not as much as they take. No way.

Either you see the value of a great user experience or you don’t. No surprise that the CEO of a company whose website is so bad that they’ve had to keep the old one around as an alternative doesn’t see the value Apollo adds to the Reddit experience.

Apple’s Game Porting Toolkit Is Already Showing Results 

Christina Warren, writing at Inverse:

But buried in the keynote was a macOS feature that Apple should have called out with more fanfare: DirectX 12 support for macOS. As PC gamers already know, this software support means the floodgates are open for some real games — not that casual Apple Arcade stuff — on Mac. Maybe, just maybe, this is the beginning of the end to the old joke that Macs can’t play AAA games. [...]

DirectX 12 support within the Game Porting Toolkit skips right over all of these translations. With zero need to modify any game code, games such as Grand Theft Auto V, Diablo IV, Cyberpunk 2077, and Hogwart’s Legacy can now run on Apple silicon Macs almost as if they’re native. Naturally (and quicker than anyone expected), enthusiasts and game developers started to try out the new toolkit. YouTube videos, Reddit posts, and Mac gaming wikis have been busy showing off some truly remarkable results on machines that just days earlier, were utterly unable to play AAA titles.

See also: This brief YouTube video from Dave Lee.

Counterpoint: Flip Phones Are a Dumb Idea 

David Pierce for The Verge, “Every Smartphone Should Be a Flip Phone, Starting Right Now”:

Okay, so I’ve convinced you, right? Flip phones forever! Here’s the problem: none of the flip phones currently on the market live up to this promise. There aren’t even many to choose from. The Z Flip 4 gets a lot of things right, but it’s held back by a too-small front screen and a just-fine camera setup. The new Razr Plus looks really promising, particularly because of its larger front screen, though its processor and durability ratings aren’t particularly impressive. It also gets the software wrong, I think; letting me run full apps on the front screen isn’t just silly — it runs against the whole appeal of a flip phone.

What we need is competition. That’s going to take the rest of the smartphone world, from Apple and Google to Huawei and Oppo to Nothing and OnePlus, to all decide that flip phones are the future. They can and should keep working on slab phones and foldables because those have their place and their users. But we had it right in 2003: the best kind of phone is a flip phone. Phones got smarter, and their shape got worse. It’s time for us to finally get the best of both worlds.

I enjoy an honest contrarian take as much as the next person, but I legit don’t get why any company makes one of these, let alone why Pierce would suggest they might go mainstream. Foldables I sort of get, in terms of potential — you carry a double-thick rectangular phone in exchange for a tablet-sized large screen when unfolded. I’ve yet to see one that seems good, but I get the potential for the basic concept — bigger screens are better, all things considered. Westworld’s super-thin tablets that fold into pocketable phones are the best vision for this I’ve seen, and the best examination of Westworld’s tablets was published by ... The Verge, back in 2018.

But a flip phone that folds into a double-thick square? I don’t get it. You gain no reduction in volume or weight, and no increase in usable screen real estate. But now you have an extra step each time you want to use your phone, an additional point of mechanical failure on the device, and a form factor that isn’t compatible with putting your phone in a protective case.

Time Flies, Reddit-Scale 

Eight years ago:

Hey Everyone, I’m Steve, aka spez, the new CEO around here. For those of you who don’t know me, I founded reddit ten years ago with my college roommate Alexis, aka kn0thing. Since then, reddit has grown far larger than my wildest dreams. I’m so proud of what it’s become, and I’m very excited to be back.

I know we have a lot of work to do. One of my first priorities is to re-establish a relationship with the community. This is the first of what I expect will be many AMAs (I’m thinking I’ll do these weekly).

Well he certainly has established a relationship with the community.

Tim Hardwick, writing for MacRumors:

With just a few taps, you can create links between notes, making it easy to jump from one idea to another. Long press on a space in any note, and a new “Add Link” option can be found in the pop-up menu. Tapping it lets you link to another note by searching its title or entering a URL.

You can create an optional alternative title for the link, or just stick with the original title for clarity. Once you’re done, the link appears as hyperlink-style underlined text in your note, and tapping it snaps you straight into the note you linked to.

The Notes app also offers an additional, quicker way to add links: Typing two greater-than symbols (>>) into a note invokes a list containing your six most recently modified notes, and tapping one instantly adds a link to that note.

This feature doesn’t just work for links between notes — you can add URLs of any sort, like the Edit → Add Link command in Mac apps. And the “>>” shortcut is pretty clever.

Vision Pro Displays Run at 90 Hz, and 96 Hz for 24 FPS Video 

Umar Shakir, writing for The Verge:

Apple’s revealing that its new Vision Pro mixed reality headset is outfitted with displays that have a 90Hz refresh rate. The new detail comes in an online WWDC session for developers where Apple shares how 2D video and stereoscopic 3D video work in the headset. [...]

The Vision Pro screens can also automatically switch to 96Hz, which is designed for playback of videos that are running at 24 frames per second, like most movies. There’s also support for both standard and high dynamic range (HDR) content.

From what I experienced, I figured it had to be at least 90 Hz. But I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it goes all the way to 120 Hz when needed, like Apple’s ProMotion displays for iPhone 14 Pro models.


My thanks to Retool for sponsoring last week at DF. Programming hasn’t fundamentally changed in a long time. Building an app usually means searching for the right component library, debugging dependencies, rewriting a lot of boilerplate code, and figuring out where and how to deploy. Everything but solving the problem at hand.

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Reddit Users Revolt 

The moderators of the popular r/iPhone are taking it private:

Q: What does making r/iPhone private mean, in this case?

A: Taking r/iPhone private means that no-one, except moderators and approved submitters, can see the subreddit’s front page. When attempting to access the subreddit, you will be met with a blank screen stating “r/iPhone has been set to private by its subreddit moderators.”

Q: What does indefinite mean in this case?

A: Originally, the protest was planned to be 48 hours. However, after a shambolic AMA held by Reddit’s CEO, it has become clear to us that Reddit doesn’t intend to act in good faith. When the CEO is willing to lie and spread libellous claims about another third-party developer, and then try double down by vilifying them, again, in an AMA, despite being proven as a liar by the developer through audio recordings, that’s when we knew what we were up against. Therefore, the subreddit will be privatised until such time as a reasonable resolution is proposed.

The moderators at r/Videos are doing the same:

Q: Won’t Reddit just remove you as moderators and reopen the subreddit?

A: This is a distinct possibility, Reddit has made it clear that the “health” of their site is more important to them. We as a team are prepared for this, none of us want to continue to volunteer for a company that disrespects the people who helped build it into the front page of the internet.

Q: An indefinite lockdown? I thought this was only supposed to be for 48 hours?

A: Originally it was our intention to spread awareness of these issues, but over the past week it has become clear that Reddit doesn’t intend to act in good faith, and our role in the protest became clear. The owners of Reddit have taken their users, community developers, and their moderator teams for granted and used them to build up a multimillion dollar company which is now focused not on the community, but on how many commas they can get out of Silicon Valley investors.

For posterity: screen captures of the r/iPhone and r/Videos threads.

**Update: Live-updated list of subreddits going dark or read-only on Monday.

Apollo Is a Work of Art 

It’s worth perusing the replies to Apollo developer Christian Selig’s sunsetting announcement on Mastodon and Twitter (as well as the long thread on Reddit itself). So much love and affection and appreciation for Selig’s nearly decade of hard work, all for what outsiders must surely see as a mere “app”. These threads show how much the relationship between developer and users can be like that between any artist and their deepest fans.

Reddit’s Hoped-For IPO and Pipe Dream of Cashing in on OpenAI’s Hype 

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

I gotta be honest, this Huffman guy sure looks like a lying creep, and all of Reddit’s public statements about honoring third-party apps seem like an attempt to lie to Redditors so they don’t look like the bad guys. But the bottom line is that Reddit repriced its API in order to bankrupt third-party apps. (Selig says he’ll lose $250,000 in the shutdown.)

It seems pretty clear that all of Huffman’s recent decisions are driven by Reddit’s hoped-for IPO. On one front is the ugly fact that Reddit’s valuation is sinking. TechCrunch reported last week:

Fidelity, the lead investor in Reddit’s most recent funding round in 2021, has slashed the estimated worth of its equity stake in the popular social media platform by 41% since the investment. [...]

This devaluation, part of a broader trend that has hit a variety of growth stage startups across the globe in the past year, raises uncertainties about whether Reddit will maintain its initial intent to reportedly go public at a valuation around $15 billion.

On the other front is OpenAI, currently buoyed by a sky-high valuation, and which used Reddit content as part of its massive training data. The whole point of going from free-of-charge to very-expensive with these APIs is to get OpenAI and similar companies to pay for them. It’s a pipe dream. Julie Bort at Insider:

“The Reddit corpus of data is really valuable. But we don’t need to give all of that value to some of the largest companies in the world for free,” said Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit.

I asked ChatGPT if it is going to pay for Reddit data. It told me its training data cut-off was September 2021 so it didn’t know what was happening after that date.

Reddit already gave all its data to large companies for free. Huffman is trying to charge now for horses that were let out of the barn years ago. And he obviously doesn’t care about Apollo or other third-party Reddit clients, or what these moves do to Reddit’s reputation as a platform vendor. He’s just trapped in a fantasy where investors are going to somehow see Reddit as a player in the current moment of AI hype.

Facing Reddit’s Exorbitant API Pricing, Christian Selig Is Shutting Down Apollo 

Christian Selig, writing in r/apolloapp:

Eight years ago, I posted in the Apple subreddit about a Reddit app I was looking for beta testers for, and my life completely changed that day. I just finished university and an internship at Apple, and wanted to build a Reddit client of my own: a premier, customizable, well-designed Reddit app for iPhone. This fortunately resonated with people immediately, and it’s been my full time job ever since.

Today’s a much sadder post than that initial one eight years ago. June 30th will be Apollo’s last day.

I’ve talked to a lot of people, and come to terms with this over the last weeks as talks with Reddit have deteriorated to an ugly point, and in the interest of transparency with the community, I wanted to talk about how I arrived at this decision, and if you have any questions at the end, I’m more than happy to answer. This post will be long as I have a lot of topics to cover.

Please note that I recorded all my calls with Reddit, so my statements are not based on memory, but the recorded statements by Reddit over the course of the year. One-party consent recording is legal in my country of Canada. Also I won’t be naming names, that’s not important and I don’t want to doxx people.

Given what we knew about Reddit’s stance on this API pricing a week ago, this isn’t surprising, but it still feels tragic. Apollo — like Tweetbot and Twitterrific before it — isn’t merely a nice client for a particular service. It’s one of the best apps ever made, full stop.

Let’s stop attributing this shutdown to “Reddit” the company, though, and pin responsibility where it truly lies: on Reddit CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman, personally. When Twitter killed third-party clients everyone naturally and correctly pinned responsibility on Elon Musk, because Musk is very famous and very much public in his stewardship of Twitter now that he owns it.

I’ll bet many of you reading this, even Reddit users, couldn’t recall Reddit’s CEO’s name before I named Huffman above. But it’s clear from Selig’s description — and his receipts, as it were — that Huffman is intimately involved in this decision, and is not only responsible, but is actively besmirching Selig with provably false accusations of both extortion and shoddy engineering.

Reddit didn’t kill Apollo. Reddit CEO Steve Huffman did.

Let’s see if Huffman has the courage to go through with this planned AMA today to discuss Reddit’s API policy changes. I have one simple question for him: What do you think Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz would say about this if he were still alive?

Lionel Messi Is Coming to MLS, With a Revenue Sharing Deal From Apple 

MG Siegler:

Earlier today, it was announced that Lionel Messi, the world’s greatest soccer player, would be leaving Europe behind and joining Inter Miami. This matters because the biggest name in fútbol (soccer), and arguably in all sports, is coming to America. But it also matters because he’s coming to play in the MLS. A league that has an exclusive television deal with Apple. And as such, Apple apparently helped lure Messi over with an extraordinary offer: a cut of revenue from new subscribers to their Season Pass service.

I’d be very curious to learn just how big a revenue share Messi is getting from Apple, but regardless of the details, this is simply an extraordinary coup for both MLS and Apple TV+. There are only a handful of athletes who are so good, and so beloved, that they can singlehandedly elevate an entire league in a team sport. Lionel Messi is one of them.

Of the people who got early looks at Vision Pro, there’s seemingly universal praise for the NBA court-side and MLB dugout demos. These were apparently shot with special cameras which Apple manufactured to be able to capture footage that could take full advantage of the viewing experience on the new device. It will likely take a bit for this type of content to become more widespread and accepted amongst the leagues. You know where it won’t be? MLS. I fully expect Apple to be filming games with their new Spatial Cameras (I made up the name, but it seems like something they might use… ) soon, if they haven’t started already! Apple isn’t undercutting any other TV rights here (as they might be with say, the NBA), they have exclusive rights. To display any game, any time, anywhere on any device.

It occurred to me after my demo with Vision Pro that it was slightly surprising that Apple included spatial presentations of NBA basketball and MLB baseball, but not MLS soccer — the sport TV+ is most all-in on. (Apple does of course have weekly national broadcasts of MLB with Friday Night Baseball.) But I’ll eat my hat if Apple isn’t planning to broadcast entire MLS games with this technology.

And finally, fifth, much like Apple used AT&T as their exclusive carrier for the iPhone when it launched, I could see them using their MLS deal in a similar manner. That is, work with a league/carrier that is willing to break norms and allow Apple to be in control of the product and offering. And when it’s a success, watch the other leagues/carriers trip over themselves to get in line. It worked with the iPhone. Will it work here? Feels like a pretty good bet to make.

This is exactly what I was thinking when I mentioned in a footnote in my first impressions piece this week that the NFL in particular might have made a colossal mistake signing a long-term deal with Google for Sunday Ticket broadcast rights. Siegler’s comparison to how Apple leveraged its initial exclusivity deal with AT&T with the iPhone seems apt.

Update: Apple also announced a four-part docuseries on Messi’s career coming to TV+.

Last-Minute Tickets for The Talk Show Live From WWDC 2023 

Seats are getting closer to full, but tickets are still available for The Talk Show Live From WWDC tomorrow:

Location: The California Theatre, San Jose
Showtime: Wednesday, 7 June 2023, 5pm PT (Doors open 4pm)
Special Guest(s): Revealed in this GIF

Use discount code “lastminute” for $50 off the price of the remaining general admission tickets. Video of the show will, of course, be published at the end of the week, but will not be livestreamed. So if you want to see the show tomorrow, you need to be there. And if you can make it, you should. There’s a lot to talk about.

Introducing the Wavelength AI Bot Designer 

Richard Henry, writing for the Wavelength blog:

AI is a huge part of Wavelength today — 1/3 of all messages sent invoke the @AI bot in a conversation.

Today we’re launching an AI bot designer built into Wavelength. This lets you easily create custom AI bots — amazing lifelike personalities that you can interact with in your group chats or via direct message. You can choose from GPT-3.5 or Claude Instant v1.1 for the model that powers your bot. We’ve found that sometimes a particular model is much better for a character, so it’s worth trying both and comparing results. [...]

Make a fun bot? You can share it with others using a link, or make it public so that anyone can discover it. Make a fun character, a text-based adventure game, or anything else!

I’ve been testing this feature for a few weeks (in my previously disclosed role as an advisor to Wavelength), and it’s a lot of fun. For characters, I’ve found the Claude model, from Anthropic, to be better. Or at least more “in character”. Two fun bots I’ve made: Don Rickles and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

Here’s a screenshot showing the difference — same prompt/bot definition, just switching from GPT 3.5 to Claude. It’s fun to get trivia question answers with a bit of personality.

Ted Chiang on AI: ‘The Machines We Have Now Are Not Conscious’ 

Science fiction writer Ted Chiang, in an interview with Madhumita Murgia for The Financial Times ( link):

Chiang’s main objection, a writerly one, is with the words we choose to describe all this. Anthropomorphic language such as “learn”, “understand”, “know” and personal pronouns such as “I” that AI engineers and journalists project on to chatbots such as ChatGPT create an illusion. This hasty shorthand pushes all of us, he says — even those intimately familiar with how these systems work — towards seeing sparks of sentience in AI tools, where there are none.

“There was an exchange on Twitter a while back where someone said, ‘What is artificial intelligence?’ And someone else said, ‘A poor choice of words in 1954’,” he says. “And, you know, they’re right. I think that if we had chosen a different phrase for it, back in the ’50s, we might have avoided a lot of the confusion that we’re having now.”

So if he had to invent a term, what would it be? His answer is instant: applied statistics.

My puerile mind is tempted to make a joke that tacking on “system” would make for a fun acronym, but I shan’t crack that joke, as I think Chiang makes a strong point here. What we have with these LLMs isn’t low-level intelligence but rather high-level applied statistics that creates the powerful illusion of low-level intelligence.

See also: Chiang’s very short story “What’s Expected of Us”, referenced in the interview.

Sky Guide 

My thanks to Sky Guide for sponsoring this week at DF. Sky Guide brings the beauty of the stars down to Earth. Just hold it overhead to automatically identify any star, constellation, planet, or satellite. Thanks to AR, understanding the cosmos has never been simpler. (Good timing?)

Sky Guide is just a wonderful, painstakingly well-crafted app made by a small team that clearly has tremendous enthusiasm both for astronomy and making great apps. Download and try it out free of charge.

Among the Companies With the Worst Reputations in America: Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok 


This survey is the result of a partnership between Axios and Harris Poll to gauge the reputation of the most visible brands in America, based on 20 years of Harris Poll research.

I’m not as interested in the top of the list as the bottom. Here are the companies with the worst reputations, starting with the obvious “winner”:

  1. The Trump “Organization”
  2. FTX
  3. Fox Corporation
  4. Twitter
  5. Meta
  6. Spirit Airlines
  7. TikTok
  8. Bitcoin
  9. BP
  10. Balenciaga

So other than the two outright criminal organizations at the top and an ostensible “news” network that just lost the largest defamation lawsuit in history, there are no big companies in America with worse reputations than Twitter or Facebook, and the only company separating them from TikTok is the worst airline in the country. Sounds right.

(But what the hell did Balenciaga do to get on this list? Update: This.)


June 2023 cover art for Dithering, depicting a couple cuddling in a movie theater while wearing 3D glasses.

How could I not link to this month’s cover art (by the ever-talented Brad Ellis) for yours truly and Ben Thompson’s podcast? Two episodes per week, 15 minutes per episode. Not a minute less, not a minute more for just $5/month or $50/year. We’re now starting our fourth year, and we’ve had remarkably little churn — people who subscribe to Dithering tend to stay subscribed.

Ben and I will both be in Cupertino next week for WWDC, and our next episode, with thoughts on the keynote, will be out Tuesday morning.

Bonus content:

iA Presenter 

New Mac app, now out of beta, from the makers of the renowned iA Writer. iA Presenter is a presentation/slide deck creation tool where you write your deck using Markdown. But even though you’re creating with plain text, iA Presenter is, as you’d expect, an exquisite design tool. $4.50/month, $44.50/year, or a one-time purchase of $89.

See also: iA founder Oliver Reichenstein is hanging out on Product Hunt today, answering questions regarding iA Presenter.

You Should Follow Daring Fireball on Mastodon 

Inexplicably late but better than never, there’s now a Daring Fireball account on Mastodon where links to new articles are posted automatically. You should follow.

Twitter Staff Exodus Continues After a Weird, Sad Day on Twitter Even by Twitter’s Weird, Sad Standards 

Mike Masnick, writing at TechDirt:

Basically, a manufactured martyrdom controversy, combined with Twitter pretending to stand up to encouraging hatred, only for Musk to double down that hate has a comfy, welcoming home on Twitter.

Of course, in the midst of all this, the news came out that Ella Irwin, who had been leading trust and safety since relatively early in the Elon Musk reign, and who had been on Twitter through Wednesday directly responding to trust and safety requests, had resigned and was no longer at the company. It’s unclear if her resignation had anything to do with this mess, but the timing does seem notable.

Still, given all of this, is it really any wonder that advertisers like Ben & Jerry’s have announced that they’re ending all paid advertising on the site in response to the proliferation of hate speech?

Also yesterday, Twitter iOS engineer Yoshimasa Niwa resigned:

I just sent that email.

-- numstat gives me these numbers.
+ 728752, - 263722

One former Twitter colleague told me, “This is a big deal. One of the few (8?) remaining iOS engineers at Twitter. Yoshi has been at the company for something like 14 years and is one of the very best iOS engineers I know — maybe one of the best in the world.” Until yesterday Niwa had been at Twitter since 2010, and thus may well have been the longest-standing employee in the entire company. He’d worked at Twitter for more time cumulatively than Jack Dorsey. That “numstat” nerdery reveals the number of lines of source code Niwa had added and removed over his tenure — just short of one million in total.

Sidenote: In recent weeks Niwa published AlpacaChat, an open-source Swift library to run the Alpaca-LoRA LLM locally on Macs and iOS devices.

Update 3 June: Adam Singer, a Twitter engineer for 8 years, resigned today.

MLS Season Pass Drops Price for Midseason 

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:

MLS Season Pass on Apple TV is dropping its price to account for the fact that about half of the season is now over. The 2023 pass subscription is now available for $49 (down from $99), with an additional $10 discount for Apple TV+ subscribers. The monthly subscription price is unchanged.

Although Apple does not release viewership figures, Apple SVP of services Eddy Cue commented this week that MLS Season Pass had exceeded its own expectations and doing “much better than forecasted” in terms of both subscription and viewership numbers.

We’ll have to take Cue at his word on that, given that Apple never released its forecast nor is releasing viewership numbers now, but I’m not surprised. MLS has a smaller fanbase than the NFL, NBA, MLB, or even NHL, but I’m sure its fans skew younger.

‘Asteroid City’ Letterboxd Scavenger Hunt 


In a marvelous first for us, we’ve teamed up with Focus Features to create a playful Asteroid City scavenger hunt. You’ll be looking for fourteen items inspired by Wes Anderson’s signature aesthetic, hidden around our website and apps, in the lead up to the theatrical release of his eleventh feature film.

Every day for the next fourteen days, a new item will be hidden on Letterboxd somewhere in the extended Wes Anderson universe of films and their creators. We’ll drop daily clues on our social media, and once you have collected all fourteen items, you’re automatically in the draw to win the grand prize: a private screening of Asteroid City for you and your friends at your nearest cinema.

Letterboxd continues to ascend in Hollywood, and I love to see it. They’ve even got an announcement video from Jeffrey Wright, whose palpable disdain for the teleprompter is absolutely endearing.

See also: This recent feature on Letterboxd by Harper Lambert for TheWrap.

The Talk Show: ‘’ 

Guy English returns to the show to talk about the live show from WWDC, Mac Pros past and future, Marathon and Mac gaming, and Apple’s seemingly imminent XR headset. And definitely not to talk about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

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Survey Results on Why Android Users Switch to iPhone 

Michael Potuck, reporting for 9to5Mac on a survey of Android switchers conducted by CIRP:

The top reason was actually an issue with the Android experience. Over 53% of respondents said they moved to iPhone because of problems with their Android smartphone. Specifics cited were “their old phone did not serve them, because it was aging, needed repair, or had some deficiency that affected their user experience.” The second most common reason to switch was for new features on iPhone like “a better camera, enhanced accessory options, or a more intuitive user interface.” [...]

Finally, just 6% of those who switched from Android to iPhone said they made the move because of iMessage and FaceTime.

It’s easier, and more comfortable, for Google to argue that it’s all about the green bubbles. The hard truth is that iPhones and iOS are simply better overall.

Facebook Pre-Announces Meta Quest 3 Headset; Timing Is Purely Coincidental I’m Sure 

Facebook, on the Meta Quest blog:

The countdown is on for today’s Meta Quest Gaming Showcase, but there’s some juicy news we just couldn’t wait any longer to share.

Today, Mark Zuckerberg announced our next-generation virtual and mixed reality headset, which launches later this year. It’s called Meta Quest 3. It features higher resolution, stronger performance, breakthrough Meta Reality technology, and a slimmer, more comfortable form factor. Quest 3 will ship in all countries where Meta Quest is currently supported this fall. The 128GB headset starts at $499.99 USD, and we’ll offer an additional storage option for those who want some extra space. Mark your calendars because we’ll have lots more to share at Meta Connect, which returns this year on September 27.

One difference between Apple and other companies: Apple acts like they are the only company in the markets they are in. They never rush out scared pre-announcements to get “ahead” of Samsung or whoever. Apple has the discipline and confidence to hold their fire until they are ready.

Three Mint-Condition 2010 Tesla Roadsters Available at Auction 

Rob Stumpf:

Earlier in May, we told you about three zero-mile 2010 Tesla Roadsters found in a shipping container overseas. These pristine examples will seemingly be the last brand-new, completely assembled first-gen Roadsters to be sold 13 years after they were initially built. But why were they never delivered? And how did they land in China?

Gruber Motors, the shop brokering the deal, performed some detective work to figure it out. It was discovered that the three Roadsters were all intended to be dismantled by an early Tesla competitor — test mules in last decade’s international EV race. And now, someone has submitted a $2 million bid in hopes of adding them to their collection.

First time I’ve had reason to actually link to Gruber Motors. (No relation.) Here’s a link to the auction.