๐Ÿ‘ This week was good! Finally...

Christmas comes early for Google | An Elon Musk fail | Our lives are mostly online now โ€” let's regulate!

๐ŸŽ„ Hello fellow users of the internet. According to all my hand held devices, wearables, and ambient computer systems, next Friday is CHRISTMAS. Try and enjoy it, even though you won't be getting a newsletter...

This week was: ๐Ÿ‘ good! Finally. Wow, what an improvement from last week! Why?

  • This whole antitrust thing might make a dent? (or I canโ€™t be bothered to be negative anymore)
  • New regulations force some accountability and transparency from powerful platforms
  • Elon Musk continues to be himself

๐Ÿ Antitrust? More like antiTHRUST, amirite?

You probably already know that the FTC and 48 US states are all flexing their lawsuit muscles, ready to break Facebook up and finally press shift-delete on that smug look on Zuckerberg's face. This is historic, and may result in more than just memes of Mark drinking water.

Okay but what you may not have known is:

  • Facebook are thrusting full throttle into further consolidation of some of those other companies they've bought over the years โ€” cheeky devils.
  • Their mixed reality division is now becoming Facebook Reality Lab. Before, it was known as Oculus Research. ย They've also replaced the word 'Oculus' on their annual event. Oculus Connect = Facebook Connect. I think I see what they're trying to do...
  • You now have to sign in with Facebook to use an Oculus VR headset. If you don't merge your Oculus account with your Facebook one, you can say goodbye to support in two years.

Sure, maybe we can break Instagram and WhatsApp away โ€” but Facebook are more than just social media. Segmenting audiences based on their online presence is old fashioned. Why not track behaviours via the eye movements and gait of a physical body?

A sort of related thing: The FTC are also ordering several social media platforms and video sharing sites to reveal how they collect and use data. This actually sounds great (I don't mean that sarcastically โ€” I'm being sincere for once, this is a good thing).


๐Ÿ“ญ 2020 got all a bit too much for Google, so they took a well deserved break โ€” good for them!

On Monday, Google was down for 50 excruciating minutes, just as the business hours in multiple time zones were beautifully converging. Like with AWS the other week, this downtime exposed our fellow members of society who rely very heavily on IoT devices in their daily lives. Here's the best from Down Detector:

  • "Cant open my garage door. Greetings from Asunciรณn Paraguay"
  • "Google Hub Down. We have 3 of them and they are all announcing they have a glitch and try later. This was my alarm clock and I was late."
  • "all of my home devices tell me there's a glitch or something went wrong. I can't get anything to work. Thankfully, I have an echo dot that is working. You hear that Google? I have a working Echo Dot!" [this person clearly has problems spanning beyond broken smart devices...]

Okay, but what does this mean?

This is a glistening, fresh reminder that Google are not an innovative company, but an aggressive, monopolistic tech giant. Google themselves know very well that their services don't even have to be good, they just have to be working. That's how you squash 'competition': by being the only service that is FREE and ON ALL THE TIME.

Conclusion: less than an hour without Google Docs should not bring the world to a grinding halt. Consider using Notion to do collaborative work instead. Or if you hate collaborating (right on) just use Open Office which is open source, almost exactly like MS Office, and does not require an internet connection to work.

What about email, which was also affected, you ask? Stop being lame and check it less often. It was only 50 minutes...


๐Ÿ‘ฎโ€โ™€๏ธ Double the regulation, double the highly controlled fun

There are two key regulations starting crown, that you might find interesting. I can't fully tell if these are good yet, but I do know that regulations like this at the very least bring forth some kind of narrative shift.

An online harms bill

The UK government are getting frothy over a new bill which will seek to limit the amount of illegal content published on online platforms. This would likely affect platforms like TikTok, Youtube, and Facebook. How will Ofcom enforce these rules?

๐Ÿ’ธ With fines: you know, those things that always deter tech giants from doing bad things, and are definitely NOT just the cost of doing business. They can fine up to ยฃ18m or 10% of global turnover, which ever is highest. FYI Facebook's 2019 turnover was over $70bn and the last 'large' fine they paid was $5bn โ€” and they didn't even feel it. What if fines don't work? Well...

๐Ÿšซ Just BAN apps, then. Right, that makes sense. No wait... Ofcom will have the power to block apps and services in the UK, if they don't comply with the rules (which still aren't clear)? What does banning apps do, besides upset users and content creators, really? And why, then, are piece of shit newspapers like the Daily Mail still allowed to exist?

The Digital Services Act

This is a big, comprehensive tech regulation for the EU. The last one of those we had was the GDPR, and all that resulted in was bad UX on websites by way of tiresome, deceptive cookie banners. We all obviously LOVE those, so let's see what treats the Digital Services Act has in store for us.

What will it do?

  • Force platforms to be more transparent, including about how they use recommendation algorithms. Good, because everything I've ever said about recommendation algorithms is probably bullshit.
  • Allow users to dispute content moderation decisions. Very interesting, considering how many of those decisions are made by 'AI'.
  • Allow researchers to access key data to understand how online risks evolve. This could actually be a game-changer: it means (somewhat) opening up data which has been otherwise siloed for years.
  • This is not limited to consumer services, the rules also apply to hosting services and ISPs.

Why is this even happening? There are lots of reasons, many of them good (e.g. making large platforms more accountable). But let's not skim over the ones like 'to foster innovation and growth in the single market'. Fostering those two things is what got us in this mess in the first place, isn't it? Right?


๐Ÿš€ I leave you with this quote from Elon Musk

Tweeted right after a Starship prototype exploded, instead of landing safely:

Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD, but we got all the data we needed! Congrats SpaceX team hell yeah!!

Yes I love explosions too, Elon.