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🤷♀️ Parting Clouds
Jack Dorsey’s new social platform | Apple VS Spotify | Generative AI VS all of mankind
Hello — I hope you’re reading this newsletter out loud so all your fellow commuters can follow along (they deserve it).
This week was sort of okay, I guess? 🤷♀️. It’s tough out there:
Jack Dorsey has swooped in with Bluesky, a new social media protocol which is definitely completely different from the one Mastodon uses (the Mastodon one doesn’t have his name on it — that’s the difference)
How Apple’s antitrust case with Spotify demonstrates the problem with mainstream operating systems in general
Everyone is adding generative AI sprinkles to their tired and out-of-date sundaes.
🪢 You don’t establish open standards by competing with each other, bro
So, okay… Bluesky is something that Jack Dorsey has been banging on about since 2019. For ages now, he’s had this vision that Twitter should not be a centralised social media platform, but simply a client through which people can communicate; that we should be able to send ‘social media posts’ in the same way we send emails: via a standard protocol.
This is exactly what Bluesky is, and now it’s finally out as a private beta. Bluesky is actually the name of the client you use to send posts (it looks like a barebones Twitter atm), and it’s built on what they’ve called the AT protocol. Jack wants this to be the standard protocol for social media, in the same way that SMTP is the standard protocol for email (I mean I think it is?? Who’s out there still using POP3? Grow up).
😲 Wowowowow an open decentralised STANDARD for social media?? What a great idea — too bad someone already had it. Yes that’s right, Jack has done what every fat-headed technologist always does: he’s ‘invented’ something that already exists and told us that it’s brand new. ActivityPub is an open decentralised protocol that has existed for years, and has been W3C’s recommendation since 2018 — so yeah, I’d say it’s considered the standard. It’s literally the thing that powers Mastodon.
It must be hard for Jack, having the personality of a prolapsed anus alongside the ego of a tech CEO (I’m guessing it’s quite easy, actually). He’s literally said everything right, but done everything wrong. I agree, we should have an open standard for sharing content online. However the worst way to go about this is to build your own competing standard with the one that already exists. If he actually cared about open protocols, he surely would just actually use ActivityPub — rather than splintering attention and resource away from it by developing an entire alternative ecosystem, and sloppily using the storming of the Capitol as a springboard to promote it.
My worst self almost doesn’t care which ‘thing’ people land on, as long as we land somewhere. It’s possible that Jack’s clout means he’ll be able to popularise the fediverse into the true mainstream — but really, I would rather it became ubiquitous because it just did, not because a tech CEO made it so.
🏹 Spotify’s case against Apple is a case against all operating systems, really
This week the EU updated their antitrust case against Apple, in which Spotify is the main complainant. Up until now, the EU were investigating these two Very Typical Apple practices to see if they are anticompetitive:
Forcing all apps on iOS to use Apple’s in-app purchase (IAP) system, and therefore charging them a fee on every transaction
Making it difficult/impossible to actually start a subscription with something like Spotify via the iOS app
Right so, the ‘update’ is that the EU do indeed think that point 2 is a breach in antitrust law, which makes sense, because if you’re trying to start a Spotify subscription on you iPhone and you just cant seem to figure it out, you’re obviously just going to head to Apple Music. However, they don’t seem to have a problem with point 1, where Apple collect heaps of money from people for doing basically nothing.
I’ve seen Apple’s IAP thing be scrutinised by judges and lawmakers over and over again, and then just left to continue like it’s no big deal. It’s possible that antitrust law doesn’t apply to transaction fees on IAP’s because it was written 150 years ago — but is it also not possible that, perhaps, we could maybe live in a world where products and services aren’t abstracted into something completely unrecognisable despite how ludicrously expensive they are?
☝️ This story also reveals to us another issue that we really need to get to the bottom of: the fact that mainstream operating systems are designed specifically to take power and autonomy away from users. Don’t be fooled by the native calendar widgets and condescending brightly coloured buttons — you think that stuff is there to make your life easier and more productive? WRONG. These things perform very few functions, and the two main ones are to drain your device’s resources, and the money in your bank account.
Operating systems like MacOS, iOS, and Windows are heavily controlled, and completely closed off, and yet their creators routinely tell us all that with these systems, we are limited only by our imagination; that we can have and do anything we want — but we can’t. The things available to us (apps, features, optimisations) are literally, what they give us. They overload your CPU with unnecessary background tasks so that your hardware degrades faster, forcing you to ‘upgrade’ way too often; they paywall features and sign-post you away from third-party solutions so they can make even more money from you just simply trying to exist and listen to music while you send emails all day. It’s SO STUPID.
The alternatives are no good for the average user either. I’m sorry but I don’t have time to figure out what version of Linux would be best for me, and then set it up myself, and hope that I can still use Notion when I’ve finally figured it all out. We are in desperate need of an operating system which doesn’t require you to be a software engineer to use, but also isn’t utterly intrusive and riddled with antitrust lawsuits.
🍩 Some other little bits you might like
As is typical in the world of ‘Silicon Valley innovation’, Meta have predictably jumped on the generative AI bandwagon and announced a bunch of very forgettable piffle that they’re going to thrust in our direction very soon. The word ‘experiences’ was really over-used in this announcement, with the inclusion of ‘multi-modal’, ‘delightful’ and yes, ‘futuristic’ ones to be had. The main thing though is the introduction of ‘AI personas’ which are literally chat bots, but with a deceptive name.
Something else that caught my eye this week is the discovery of crypto-mining software hidden in pirate copies of Final Cut Pro. This is both fascinating and hilarious: a completely detrimental, but completely intentional feature of Bitcoin is that it gets harder and harder to mine, so greedy crypto bros need to find new sources of computational power. Turns out one great solution is to exploit your over-powered Macbook Pro without your knowledge. Yet another reason to go open source.
Thank you for reading; I wrote this one in a hurry before running off to Margate to be gay and eat oysters, I hope it was to your liking. Stay fresh x