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Is Apple bypassing the Web?
June 19, 2011 2:46 PM   Subscribe

Is Apple bypassing the Web? Maybe so, and the inventor of the Web's fears are one step closer to being realized.
posted by doctornemo (118 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not sure that the roll-out of iCloud means anything whatsoever when relating to the ability to write or use web applications. iCloud has been proposed as a data storage and synching solution. Web applications have never been incredibly strong on file transfer. Web browser extensions are allowing more local data storage, and local database functionality with modern browsers, but that still doesn't lend well to movement and syncing of music, photo libraries, and so on. Those are still best done with local file APIs or by streaming. Apple has opted not to fully push the streaming functionality at this point, as Google and Amazon have done.

In other words, iCloud makes native applications very appealing if they're working in those realms. I could see some web-based applications that do your data storage for you being supplemented or replaced by native apps that use iCloud APIs, but really, it'd be more of an economic incentive to use them over your own cloud storage that could easily be accessed cross-platform. If I do my native app storage connected to my web app, then I can't use iCloud. If I store data using my website and/or Android and want to develop for an iPhone, I can't use iCloud. If I don't mind locking my app to iOS, then I can use iCloud -- but as soon as I develop a second platform, I'll be fragmenting my platform, but will still be able to save money on the customers who bring their own storage to the table.

So Apple isn't really killing HTML applications any more than anyone else, but they are giving another incentive to just develop for iOS over other platforms. I don't find Tim Berners-Lee's fears really relevant to this case.
posted by mikeh at 3:06 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The web sucks. JavaScript, HTML and CSS are a monstrosity. Then there is the beast known as HTTP. Kill the browser.
posted by humanfont at 3:07 PM on June 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


I actually made the obligatory durfing before reading the link, in accordance with tradition. I'm gonna side with entropicamericana on the "what content?" front, having now clicked the frankly disappointing link. A self-styled analyst says that Apple is trying to do a thing that they're pretty clearly trying to do! Gracious me!

Kittens, that wasn't it so much as that there seems to be a veritable army of folks just itching to complain about Apple that take any mention of Apple, or apples, or anything else even vaguely related as an invitation to remind the world of how much they hate Apple, instead of limiting themselves to things that actually make sense to say in the conversational context provided. It generally seems to lead to constant derails about how much they hate one-button mice or whatever vastly outdated nonsense instead of mature discussion.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:08 PM on June 19, 2011


Sorry, I still don't get it.

How would iCloud "bypass the Web"? Isn't the cloud, by definition, web-based?
posted by Trurl at 3:15 PM on June 19, 2011


Well, the gist is that iCloud data is accessed through the programs that produced it, rather than through a web-based view. Given the deliberate attempts they've been making toward making the file system a thing that's taken care of on its own (like an automatic transmission versus a manual transmission for drivers) it kind of makes sense that you wouldn't have a browser-based view, since that'd only be useful for the file system view that they're moving away from, especially for iOS devices.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:18 PM on June 19, 2011


Trurl: "How would iCloud "bypass the Web"? Isn't the cloud, by definition, web-based?"

The internet is not Web.
posted by octothorpe at 3:19 PM on June 19, 2011 [20 favorites]


There is no real benefit to the end user for working "in the cloud" that I've been able to figure out. This is all a move on the part of the Big Boys to turn software into a subscription service.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:22 PM on June 19, 2011 [17 favorites]


I don't see as Apple is killing or bypassing the web in any meaningful way. Before iPhone, mobile browsers were almost useless (and, really, developing for "the mobile web" basically amounted to sending a user to a text-only version of your site). Now, almost all major players in the smartphone space use a Webkit-based browser (Android, iOS, Blackberry). Apple neither invented Webkit, nor made it proprietary, but they enhanced it and helped bring it to the mobile space. Others have followed suit.

But, even now, Apple allows web designers/developers to add special iPhone-specific CSS/HTML/Javascript to make a webpage feel more like an app. So much, in fact, that Google recommends using the YouTube web-based app as your go-to iPhone YouTube app instead of the native one. Add it to your home screen and it gets its own icon, no browser chrome, (and coming to iOS 5 - extra javascript speed enhancements). I'll admit that I don't know much about Android and Blackberry, but my understanding is that their OS doesn't provide any extra enhancement for web-based apps that you choose to treat as if they were their own independent application.

Just this weekend, I coded a web-based app for a podcast I have. Adding it to your home screen provides nearly-identical functionality to what you'd find in the App Store for many podcasts. I don't get to access things like push notifications or location-based services, but I don't need them for my purposes. And, best of all, it's free and doesn't require making a separate website - it's cooked into the code that I deliver all browsers, regardless of platform.

What Apple wants with iCloud is the ease of use for consumers. My brother-in-law didn't even know his iPad needed to be plugged into a computer to get updates, and was running the default iOS for almost a year before I came to visit and upgraded it via my laptop. That's the only way he even gets updates. Now, he'll never need to worry about that and can update via WiFi.

This whole concern about Apple blocking out the web or trying to lock things down is just paranoia. Apple hasn't taken anything away from the web or rendered it obsolete. Quite the opposite, frankly, as they've helped made "the web" into a system that can be accessed from any device, rather than just one or two desktop-based web browsers. And, I would argue, has renewed interest in mobile web browsing on every other platform in the process.
posted by revmitcz at 3:25 PM on June 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


The "Apple vs. The Open Web" framing is not new, and still feels ridiculous to me. In fact, Apple has built the best platform anywhere for mobile web applications with Mobile Safari, and built their mobile OS around the ability for a web app to be tap-launchable from the home screen and perform in many ways like a native app, including leveraging local storage, etc. And Apple provides developers with the UI kit to build these kind of web apps. Not to mention how on the desktop as well as mobile they've publicly and deliberately put their thrust behind open web standards vs. closed systems like Flash, etc.

The fact that iCloud feeds native apps as opposed to web apps, and thus that the iCloud rollout is much more native-apps centric, has everything to do with Apple being able to provide a much better user experience in a native app than in a web app. Whichever way you do it, it's all software -- Apple just thinks they can design the best experience if it's native.

Saying this puts them at odds with an "open web" is silly, and all these "Apple vs. Open" articles start to feel like linkbait to me.
posted by churl at 3:25 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


jinx, revmitcz
posted by churl at 3:26 PM on June 19, 2011


Robert Graves years beat Apple to this years ago when he wrote and published the great
I Claudius
posted by Postroad at 3:27 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kittens, that wasn't it so much as that there seems to be a veritable army of folks just itching to complain about Apple that take any mention of Apple, or apples, or anything else even vaguely related as an invitation to remind the world of how much they hate Apple, instead of limiting themselves to things that actually make sense to say in the conversational context provided.

Oh, we just delete conversational context now. Problem solved, Doc!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:30 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


As far as iCloud killing the web, I really don't see it yet: it's a backup/sync layer. You still have full ownership of your data. If it starts being onerous, it's up to developers to start using alternative 'cloud functionality' (surely Amazon CloudDrive is going to offer near-identical functionality within a year, unless they're leaving it to Google/Apple to duke out?) or up to customers to not demand it.
posted by pahalial at 3:32 PM on June 19, 2011


I agree with revmitcz and churl and by extension Gruber.
posted by danb at 3:34 PM on June 19, 2011


Shouldn't we be more worried about Google? Or Facebook?
posted by Apocryphon at 3:35 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yesterday when doctornemo tried to post this, somebody linked to an article wherein Steve Jobs has a conversation with a Gawker writer about whether Apple is justified in blocking pornography from the App Store. (I've de-new-Gawker-formatized the link, for those of you who hate the new layout.)

Last week, John Gruber wrote: "Google’s frame is the browser window. Apple’s frame is the screen. That’s what we’ll remember about today’s keynote ten years from now." He later wrote a follow-up article elaborating on the differences he sees between Apple's and Google's strategies.

Apple doesn't see their iOS products as open pieces of software. They believe that the kind of "open" that lets anybody freely tinker with their software often hurts usability, and prevents developers from writing sleek, polished applications that run reliably and consistently. They offer a very good web browser — the original Safari for the iPhone was revolutionary — but they don't allow anybody to modify that browser (by, say, installing Flash on it). If you want to develop something for an iOS device, you have to write a native application, or else you have to play by open web standards alone without the advantage of any plug-ins.

In his email to that Gawker writer above, Jobs writes, "[Publishers] don't need to publish on the iPad if they don't want to. No one is forcing them. But it appears they DO want to." That about sums up Apple's stance regarding their products: They're not trying to force a monopoly, they're not attempting to drive their competitors out of their markets. But if you're going to use an Apple product, you have to use it on their terms, using both their hardware and software. Thankfully Apple's opened up certain parts of their ecosystem, and now I can move my music out of iTunes if I want to. I'm hoping they do the same thing with their bookstore.

Is this killing the web? No. Is this moving our reliance away from the web? Yes. Whereas Google wants the web to be where all our programs run, Apple would prefer native clients be written when they can be. Their new iOS 5 Twitter integration, for instance, makes Twitter a service you access from your phone rather than a web site that you need to go to. (As do all the Twitter apps, but now it's built-in.) Nobody's using Twitter because it's open or free. They're using it because it's a useful service that a lot of people use. So is there an upside to using Twitter from the web site as opposed to running it as an Internet-based application?

A web site like, say, Facebook isn't designed to give people freedom of expression or customization. It's a utility. It started off as a web site because people are more willing to use a web site than download a standalone application, but there's no other reason for FB to exist as a web site. (I mean, it's a walled garden even on the web, and it's been criticized for locking its users in.)

I don't think this is the death of the web. I might even suggest that this might help perception of the web, by separating utilities and Internet-reliant applications from web sites per se. When I started using the Internet, back before there were social networks and start-up utilities, the Internet felt like more of a terrain, where each person had a little place to do their thing and finding new web sites was an exploration. RSS/atom feeds reinforced this view, because they offered a way to mark off and categorize the places you'd been to, separating them from the unknown. Perhaps native apps will help reinforce that separation between the Internet and the web; I'm not sure. But I doubt we'll see the App Store keep people from using the rest of the web, and Apple doesn't seem to at all mind giving people an excellent porthole to look out on the Internet from.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:37 PM on June 19, 2011 [12 favorites]


Ummm...The "Web" is merely a subsection of this big, multi-protocol river we know as the Internet. Not everything has to run over the "Web". Quite in-fact, it's probably a good thing for large services to stay off the "Web" and operate via a different pipe altogether.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:38 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is no real benefit to the end user for working "in the cloud" that I've been able to figure out.
Says someone who hasn't tried to get a file off an iOS device. There's a real benefit there, assuming Apple wants people to keep using iOS devices.

Apple neither invented Webkit
Yes they did. "Webkit" is an Apple name, for software they forked from the kHTML engine.

As for killing the web, I don't think they're doing that -- they just don't see the web as important enough for inclusion in their 1.0 (and they're right). Given the structure of iCloud, it wouldn't be too difficult for them to give developers access to write web apps using the same store. They could host them too, for a fee.

The idea of one backend model with different sets of interface code so that you get native apps on Mac, iOS and the web is really appealing to me. Of course, if they did it we'd be back full circle at what WebObjects offered 15 years ago, but that was a bit ahead of its time anyway, that one.
posted by bonaldi at 3:39 PM on June 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


In his email to that Gawker writer above, Jobs writes, "[Publishers] don't need to publish on the iPad if they don't want to. No one is forcing them. But it appears they DO want to."

I think what most publishers want is to wake up one morning and have it magically be 1980 again, when shit made sense and it was still easy to make money via a logical exchange of goods and services. That will never happen. Since it will never happen, they are trying to stay alive by publishing on a platform that is popular with consumers. They're stuck with it. They don't want it -- I mean, they really. do not. want it. Even the good parts! They don't want those, either. They want what they already know how to do.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:45 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know about that, kittens. If a platform becomes popular enough, it can open up to entire new revenue streams which didn't exist before. There are how many iOS devices right now? 200 million? 250 million? And they come with some of the most streamlined one-click purchasing options that we've ever seen. I can buy a newspaper from my bedroom or on the bus or pretty much whenever I want to impulsively drop a little cash. And these devices are popular with very young people and very old people; I'd be curious how iOS usage compares with the ages of people reading, say, newspapers, back in papers' heydays. Plus technology lets you target niche audiences like you never could before.

Some publishers are lazy. Not all of them. Some people see the iPad as the business opportunity that it is. Some people have already seen it as that, and walked away millionaires.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:49 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Saying this puts them at odds with an "open web" is silly, and all these "Apple vs. Open" articles start to feel like linkbait to me.

Basically. Apple is one of the few commercial entities putting serious resources behind HTML5, for a start. They are working closely with Facebook on an HTML-based application platform ("Project Spartan") and have made the only serious effort to have a legitimate alternative to the closed and inferior Flash platform that Google and Adobe are trying so desperately to preserve. Not to mention that Apple's cloud approaches to date (iDisk, MobileMe, iCloud) are essentially HTTP applications and web services, much like any number of iOS apps are really nice wrappers around web services.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:49 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


How is iCloud different from a network storage device? It looks to me that its main advantage is in providing me equal access to my documents from all my (Apple) devices.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:50 PM on June 19, 2011


Some publishers are lazy. Not all of them. Some people see the iPad as the business opportunity that it is. Some people have already seen it as that, and walked away millionaires.

Publishers are mostly old, and want to focus on publishing itself, and not on a technological landscape that changes underneath their feet every five minutes. More to the point, though, what they really don't want is to have to jump through a bunch of arbitrary hoops set up by a company -- any company -- that has an exclusive lock on one of the primary means of digital distribution. What Apple has isn't exactly a monopoly, but when publishers have to tailor their materials to meet Apple's demands, the tail is wagging the dog in a way that should make people uncomfortable, and will on a long enough timeline probably no longer be possible in a legal sense.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:55 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


How is iCloud different from a network storage device?
It's not a dumb store -- there's hefty sync logic (and change push) on the network side.

Actually, this thread reminds me: if you want to talk about breaking the web, publishers like the NYPost are being much more harmful. Try to get to their site on an iPad and you hit a wall.
posted by bonaldi at 3:56 PM on June 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is no real benefit to the end user for working "in the cloud" that I've been able to figure out. This is all a move on the part of the Big Boys to turn software into a subscription service.

Software has to be subscription. Otherwise you can't keep the developers around to fix the bugs and update the features. Also running a locally hosted mail server and ERP server sucks. Also backups offsite from my desktop sign me up.
posted by humanfont at 4:01 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is an interesting change in how people use and experience applications and interact with their data; there is a real move towards software-as-a-service model. You don't buy a standalone program off the shelf so much, and carry on using it until a newer version convinces you to upgrade (or a data format change forces you to) - increasingly you buy access to it, and always have the latest version, for as long as you keep paying. Of course, the price isn't always monetary - you may be eyeballs for adverts, or the basic version is free for home users and it acts to get businesses to pay for the big version ; witness google apps vs gmail and Google docs, or microsofts online office, hosted exchange, and god knows how many productivity apps like producteev or base camp or salesforce etc etc etc.

Even gaming is moving that way with dlc, ea's online pass for 2nd hand games, modern warfare 3 charging for online premium service - and the big daddy, xbox live gold needed to play online at all.

iCloud is the natural successor to mobile me, but instead of making it platform independent its very firmly tied into the iOS and iTunes space; its all about providing an all under one roof ecosystem so instead of getting bits of what you want from everywhere, you get the whole thing, platform, os, device, services et al from apple. You only have to look at the closed shop of the app store, in-app purchases via apple, iTunes etc to see that apple wants to be the middle man in everything - and tie it all together so users don't want to go outside the walled garden.

That's not to say users don't actually want that; by having everything under one roof, with one man in charge, you can get a more universal and cohesive experience.

It is interesting though; microsoft was afraid of losing their desktop monopoly if any browser could do what they did on the desktop in windows, so tried to make the web an ie only experience.

Apple just replace it with something else altogether, and ever more so as what they provide grows in scope.


Just as Facebook is trying to do, but in a different space; they're just trying to absorb your entire social group so you never go anywhere else. They don't care what platform you use, as long as you go to them and stay there.

Apple just want you using apple hardware with apple software connected to apple services buying things via the apple stores - and tie it all tightly together so to get one bit you need more and more of the rest.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:02 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Benny Andajetz There is no real benefit to the end user for working "in the cloud" that I've been able to figure out. This is all a move on the part of the Big Boys to turn software into a subscription service.

The real benefit is to turn devices into thin clients. Lose your phone now? Total disaster. You probably haven't gotten around to backing it up onto your PC for a couple months because it takes ages, uses a cable, and turns it off while you do it. So you lose the numbers of everyone you know, your calendar, your morning alarm, your GPS, etc etc. In ten years time, losing your phone will be a concept with very little meaning. You just go to the phone vending machine, and instead of putting your old one in and getting a new (charged) one out as you usually do, you pay maybe $20 in today's money to get a new one out. You start the biometric identifier, and seconds later, you have your phone back. It tells you where your old phone is - you left it in a cafe. It asks if it should blank the old one, and you say "yes", and get on with your life. If someone finds your old phone, they can drop it into the vending machine, and assuming it passes all diagnostics, they get a small credit.

There are some other issues there such as lending phones to people, ie whether your (lost) phone should identify as someone else's phone if they pick it up; this is probably the better way to go. If six of us sit down for lunch, and you and I pick up the other's phone by accident, it doesn't actually matter: firstly, the phones will notify us both. Secondly, if the notification was ignored until the phones got out of conversation distance, they can then just swap identities.

This does incidentally create a surveillance society, but we're already getting that, and in my opinion we ought to get as many benefits from it as can possibly be gotten - such as completely interchangeable data devices and personal logging (what we had for lunch, what it did to our metabolisms, where we ate and when, action items from our conversation, etc).

I recommend reading Charles Stross's excellent Accelerando! - it's the best "future shock" book I've ever read, a whole lot of mindblowing ideas sewn into a novel (admittedly, the "novel" element is at best okay, really existing solely to give structure to the social and technological extrapolation; but that element of it is brilliant).
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:08 PM on June 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


Publishers are mostly old, and want to focus on publishing itself

But, see, Apple is a publisher. That's what they are. They are letting other publishers piggyback on their new publishing system (and, might I add, for a much cheaper price than it's ever cost distributors to reach this massive of an audience before), but they are becoming the primary publisher, and magazines and newspapers are becoming secondary. In fact, the iPad allows for teams of writers, editors, and designers to reach the iPad without having a publishing arm, because Apple serves as the publisher for all these people.

What Apple has isn't exactly a monopoly, but when publishers have to tailor their materials to meet Apple's demands, the tail is wagging the dog in a way that should make people uncomfortable, and will on a long enough timeline probably no longer be possible in a legal sense.

We'll have to wait and see, but I suspect you're entirely wrong about this. Having a huge amount of readers is not the same thing as having a monopoly. Even now Apple has enormous competition in the publication space from Amazon, which publishes papers and magazines to the Kindle. Though it's not really competition, because nobody's being forced to choose a side: publishers can publish on both platforms at once.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:10 PM on June 19, 2011


Is ARPANET bypassing RJE?
Is ASCII bypassing EBCDIC?
Is Compuserve bypassing Tymenet?
Is FTP bypassing UUCP?
Is Gopher bypassing FTP?
Is SSH bypassing Telnet?
Is zip bypassing tar?
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:12 PM on June 19, 2011 [23 favorites]


But, see, Apple is a publisher. That's what they are. They are letting other publishers piggyback on their new publishing system (and, might I add, for a much cheaper price than it's ever cost distributors to reach this massive of an audience before), but they are becoming the primary publisher, and magazines and newspapers are becoming secondary.

I'm not sure you understand what a publisher is. It seems like you don't. A publisher does a great deal more -- or is at least expected to do a great deal more -- than just physically make content available. Apple is basically taking the place of two industries -- printing and distribution -- neither one of which is the same as publishing, which has more to do with the cultivation, creation and promotion of content. To the best of my knowledge, Apple isn't doing that stuff. Apple is replacing a printing press and a truck, and doing a good job of it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:15 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I understand all the knee-jerk loathing of all things Apple - or, at least, I expect it and just take a shortcut around it - but what I really can NOT understand is this (presumed?) assumption that somehow Apple is "wrong" and Google is "right" as this whole "whose cloud?!" debate gets shriller and shriller.

Why is Google's lust to own and control every bit and byte of your online information for the purposes of whoring you out to every ad-space buyer it can dig up somehow more noble than Apple's "All our shit plays together, so buy in if you want this nice, seamless experience"?

And while I'm ranting, came someone explain clearly to me how Apple is "destroying the future of the open web" by offering an invisible background syncing service that keeps my media and office applications files up-to-date across devices? What the bloody hell does that have to do with the "open web"? Is it only destroying the future of the open web because you prefer to have all your documents on Google's servers, where they can index the contents and use that letter you wrote to your mother last week to show you ads about fucking florists?!
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 4:16 PM on June 19, 2011 [14 favorites]


The web sucks. JavaScript, HTML and CSS are a monstrosity. Then there is the beast known as HTTP. Kill the browser.

And replace it with?

What Apple wants with iCloud is the ease of use for consumers.

It might also help get around one of the worst things about iOS -- documents "belong" to only one application, and can't generally cross boundries unless there's a piece of system software, that's allowed outside the sandbox, to move it from one application's purview to another.

I've had to buy like four different document readers on the App Store, each broadly similar but with an individual feature or two all the others lack, like page cropping, or Bluetooth access, or AirPrint. And each requires its own copy of the files to be used in them, filling up the device's limited storage. That's crazy, and yet I hear no one mentioning it.
posted by JHarris at 4:19 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I understand all the knee-jerk loathing of all things Apple - or, at least, I expect it and just take a shortcut around it

That's funny, because I've not seen much of it around these parts. What I have seen, however, is a fair bit of knee-jerk Apple-worshipping. I like to call it "Apple polishing," actually.
posted by JHarris at 4:20 PM on June 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


Apple is basically taking the place of two industries -- printing and distribution -- neither one of which is the same as publishing, which has more to do with the cultivation, creation and promotion of content.

"Creation"? That's not publishing. That's writing. And "promotion" is marketing.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:22 PM on June 19, 2011


"Creation"? That's not publishing. That's writing. And "promotion" is marketing.

Whether editors matter is a separate conversation. Most writers tend to agree they do. And marketing happens in tandem with publishing. Apple doesn't advertise anything but itself.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:25 PM on June 19, 2011


Whether editors matter is a separate conversation.

What? I never mentioned editing. If anything, I'd say editing is half of what you called "cultivation", and the other half would be attracting talent or whatever.

And marketing happens in tandem with publishing.

No shit, but that doesn't make marketing into publishing. They're two separate things. Most publishers do both. Apple publishes, but they don't market. That doesn't mean Apple isn't a publisher; it just means that publishers do more than just publish.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:28 PM on June 19, 2011


And replace it with?
Native apps, that don't suck balls or fall into the UI uncanny valley, hopefully. Leaving the web to do what it was designed for and has been amazingly successful at: sharing information and documents.

"Creation"? That's not publishing. That's writing. And "promotion" is marketing.
Writing is to publishing as ingredients are to restaurants. You need chefs, waiters, menus etc etc. Apple are like the landlords.

They are no more a publisher than some guy with an empty room and some tables is a restauranteur.
posted by bonaldi at 4:30 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apple publishes, but they don't market. That doesn't mean Apple isn't a publisher; it just means that publishers do more than just publish.

You can think of Apple as a publisher if you want, but a publisher that doesn't seek out talent, doesn't edit work, and doesn't promote work doesn't seem like much of a publisher to me. It seems more like a virtual newsstand. If it wants to be thought of as a publisher, it's gonna have to do more than that. I don't know whether being thought of as a publisher unto itself is even on their agenda, however.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:32 PM on June 19, 2011


You have to be blind or willfully stupid to think there isn't a contingent of very vocal Apple-haters on MeFi. Roughly balanced by a small contingent of very vocal Apple-loons.

Me, I love that Apple generally provides superb warranty servicing, excellent build construction, and an "it just works" experience.

It's not perfect, but i can not over-emphasize how nice it is to not have to fight my work tools.

Not coincidently, I also find that quality handtools make car repair 10x more enjoyable, my feet feel better in quality shoes, and that high-end equipment let me really ski well.

You get what you pay for.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:34 PM on June 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


The difference between Apple and a newsstand is that a newsstand doesn't provide paper and a press for people to print on. With Apple's publishing system, once you've written your thing and put it into a bundle, it's published.

They're not a publisher in the old-school sense. They're a publisher in the newer meaning of the word, which is that they provide a platform that makes publishing easy, and that provides an audience ready to read. It eliminates a lot of the cruft of the old system, which I think is a boon. It also doesn't provide a lot of the advantages that the older-school publishers do, which I don't think is inherently good or bad. It's a different system. But it's publishing.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:40 PM on June 19, 2011


I love that Apple generally provides superb warranty servicing

I'm generally not a fan of extended warranty purchases, but I love AppleCare. It's exactly what you want in such a warranty.

I really don't trust cloud computing on a large scale. I've too much experience with online services not to believe that, at some point, the company I trust my data to isn't going to either vanish or demand money for me to access what is rightfully mine.

I'll stick with my large hard drives and cabled backups for many years to come. Maybe others will prove me wrong and wow me with what they can do with their cloud services. But I'm not a cutting-edge adopter of things, generally, and really want to know that my stuff remains mine and won't be held captive for ransom at some point.
posted by hippybear at 4:46 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can buy a newspaper from my bedroom or on the bus or pretty much whenever I want to impulsively drop a little cash. And these devices are popular with very young people and very old people;

A beautiful summation of Apple users: impulsive cash-droppers, the very young and the very old.
posted by 445supermag at 4:48 PM on June 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


They have not yet bet the company on iCloud, but it's telling how deep the integration into both iOS and OS X appears to be.

Yeah, it's telling you that apps need syncing services.

Developers are already doing syncing-type things in iOS, and they're all rolling their own solutions using AWS or Google App Engine or what have you. Some of them want to do "cloud"-style syncing but don't have the resources to work on that.

That's why iCloud (and Twitter and JSON parsing) support have made it into by iOS 5: It's a common enough application need that it makes sense for the OS to handle it. And it's why iOS has always provided web views - the web is important and sometimes you want to see it in a native app.


Man, that article was pure conjecture. I was willing to hear him out, but that was just a whole bunch of Dale Gribble-esque gibberish.
posted by ignignokt at 4:48 PM on June 19, 2011


I don't see the emergence of native apps that access data over the net as a threat to the Web any more than I see those apps as a threat to local-storage filesystems.

We want our data to be "out there"—or more exactly, we want our data to be "here," wherever here is, through whatever device is here, and storing it "out there" so far seem like the best way to achieve that. But people like native apps better than webapps. Gruber says this is because it's easier to make a great native app than it is to make a great webapp, and I can believe it. So we use the Internet to store it, but not a generic browser to access all of it. So what?

The Financial Times recently put together a webapp version of their paper for the iPhone. As revmitcz said, if you save a home-screen icon of it, it launches with no browser chrome. It uses HTML5 databases to locally cache a big chunk of content so you can use it offline. It's got the kind of UI bells and whistles you might expect from a native app (though not with native widgets). Performance is a bit draggy, but all in all, it's impressive. Now, this was built to work on Apple's mobile Safari browser, and was probably built to sidestep the rents that Apple was demanding for distributing periodicals through its iBook store (now liberalized). If Apple really wanted to kill the Web, they wouldn't be making a browser that makes this kind of nearly native-equivalent website possible.
posted by adamrice at 4:49 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It eliminates a lot of the cruft of the old system, which I think is a boon. It also doesn't provide a lot of the advantages that the older-school publishers do, which I don't think is inherently good or bad. It's a different system. But it's publishing.

I think we're gonna have to agree to disagree on the meaning of the word "publishing" -- I mean, you could argue that if I wrote something on a piece of paper and stuck it to a lamppost that I have also technically "published" it, but my royalty checks are gonna blow. The advantages of publishing straight to Apple (or Kindle, or Wordpress, or what have you) are mostly related to expedience, which is not inconsiderable, but I don't think it's easy to argue that eliminating the advantages of a traditional publisher is neither good nor bad. Amanda Hocking was making a nuclear fuckton of money selling her books through the Kindle store and took a deal with a traditional publisher anyway. Advantages are, y'know, advantageous.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:49 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can think of Apple as a publisher if you want, but a publisher that doesn't seek out talent

Talent often goes to Apple Developer Connection or uses third-party frameworks to publish.

doesn't edit work

Apple's app approval process is editing (of a particularly blunt kind).

doesn't promote work

The iOS App Store and Apple's adverts both promote apps. Writers often support this kind of promotion with their own efforts (book readings, signings, etc.).

Apple isn't a printed-book publisher, definitely, but they are an eBook and software publisher. The details might be slightly different, but Apple is a middleman to writers in many (not all, but many) of the same functional ways that a printed-book publisher is a middleman to writers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:51 PM on June 19, 2011


"and have made the only serious effort to have a legitimate alternative to the closed and inferior Flash platform that Google and Adobe are trying so desperately to preserve."

Huh? What on earth are you talking about? Google allow Adobe to put flash on Android, because they pretty much let anyone put anything on Android, but Google themselves, through gmail, docs, their calendar, reader etc, is writing more and better web apps than anyone. Do they use flash for anything except youtube? And even there they tried to use an open player back in the day before giving up for various reasons, and now you can get html5 if your browser supports it. Hell, just through that limited use Google probably shifts more html5 based bandwidth than anyone in the world.
posted by markr at 4:53 PM on June 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


BP, no offense, but what you just said was that Apple has a screening process for apps and that they also publish books. These are two different subjects.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:54 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


A beautiful summation of Apple users: impulsive cash-droppers, the very young and the very old.

Yeah, once every two weeks maybe I'll impulsively spend 99 cents and buy an app. I've got a real problem.

I mean, you could argue that if I wrote something on a piece of paper and stuck it to a lamppost that I have also technically "published" it, but my royalty checks are gonna blow.

Respectfully, Mike, I think that you're misrepresenting my argument here. The thing that makes Apple a publisher is that it lets me write something on a piece of paper and stick it to a lamppost that two hundred million people can buy from.

I think there's a real advantage to traditional publishing. I'm a year from graduating and I might try and look for work there; I'm not certain. But Apple's method of publishing allows for alternative publication routes that still allow for editing and marketing, just not through the same streams. The Internet has made it much easier to promote yourself than it's ever been before, and a lot of people are finding it easier than ever to rely on publishers like Apple to make a living without any in-between. I think that's a good thing. And a lot of those people are coming up with in-between companies that use Apple as their publisher, and I think that's a good thing too. Without Apple, those in-between companies wouldn't be possible, because Apple is remarkably good at providing content to a big audience.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:56 PM on June 19, 2011


I thought for sure you were talking about standalone book and magazine client apps, as well as iBooks-sourced eBooks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:57 PM on June 19, 2011


There's no free lunch. Google wants to index your shit to cater ads to your potential wont; Apple wants you to pay in full for an all-inclusive holiday resort of computing.

In the first case, you get pretty good web apps. If you're like me, you probably haven't clicked more than one ad a week for the last five years, but that's beside the point. They make money.

The Apple experience is comfortable. And while more expensive, you can really get used to comfortable. I don't consider myself an "Apple polisher", but I do own a unibody macbook (2.5 years and still works both perfectly and efficiently*), an iPad (TV! eBooks! MeFi browsing in bed!) and the iPhone 3G/4.

Sure, they're expensive. But in my anecdotal experience, they last a lot longer than comparable products. If you've used a unibody macbook (pro) for a while, you'd agree with me that the build quality is a game changer for laptops. Plastic just seems so wrong after having lived with the taut solidity of aluminium. My iPhone 3g has lasted me longer than any single mobile phone since I got my first one 15 years ago. And, while I disagree with the choice of glass for the iPhone 4, the sheer density and weight of it just screams quality. No flex, no budge.

Physicality is important.

*Upgraded with 6gb ram and a hybrid ssd hdd
posted by flippant at 4:59 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought for sure you were talking about standalone book and magazine client apps, as well as iBooks-sourced eBooks.

Okay, well, when you say "app," I'm thinking Angry Birds or something. I guess we can call books apps, if that's a thing we wanna do.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:00 PM on June 19, 2011


Books can be published both as ebooks in the iBook store, or they can be published as standalone apps, which are programs which display text in a certain way.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:01 PM on June 19, 2011


flippant: "If you're like me, you probably haven't clicked more than one ad a week for the last five years"

People click ads? Yikes. I honestly can't remember the last time I did.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:01 PM on June 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


They're a publisher in the newer meaning of the word, which is that they provide a platform that makes publishing easy, and that provides an audience ready to read.

This is a newer meaning only in the sense that it's required for your original Gruber-esque proclamation to work. But nobody's using it in that sense, because it's flatly inaccurate.

Apple is a distributor. There's nothing old/new about this -- it's how publishing has always worked: publishers get content to stores via distributors. Here, it's also the storekeeper, that's not really been new since Amazon came along.

What they are not publishers of software (apart from their own and Claris's), and neither are they publishers of e-Books apart from the Apple Developer Connection publications. (People like Penguin are the publishers on the iBooks store).

The thing that makes Apple a publisher is that it lets me write something on a piece of paper and stick it to a lamppost that two hundred million people can buy from.

Nope. The fact that in Apple you have a distributor and storekeeper willing to take your work on spec is what makes you a publisher, of sorts.

Seriously, they're really not publishers; the new thing about the App Store is its willingness to take almost anything for sale, not that it somehow turns them into publishers.

(I'm pretty sure the contracts even make this clear. It matters legally because if they were publishers they'd get a whole host of nasty liabilities for the content they'd be "publishing".)
posted by bonaldi at 5:06 PM on June 19, 2011


ArmyOfKittens: I thought I didn't, but then I realized that when looking for commercial stuff, I would, sometimes, click the sponsored result just to check.

I can't remember actually buying stuff after clicking ads, however. Ever.
posted by flippant at 5:06 PM on June 19, 2011


I can't remember actually buying stuff after clicking ads, however. Ever.

I've done it. I've spent an afternoon googling, trying to find the best deal on the weird fooznat that I need, failing miserably.

Then, I'll click the sponsored link in frustration. Only to find the mythical web merchant of reasonably-priced fooznats. And so I buy from them.

It's an experience very much like calling all my friends for a recommendation before just picking up the damn yellow pages.
posted by Netzapper at 5:14 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


People click ads? Yikes. I honestly can't remember the last time I did.

Seen on the web:

Google: Thanks for looking at hundreds of ads you hate.
Apple: Thanks for buying hundreds of dollars of stuff you love.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:14 PM on June 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Respectfully, Mike, I think that you're misrepresenting my argument here. The thing that makes Apple a publisher is that it lets me write something on a piece of paper and stick it to a lamppost that two hundred million people can buy from.

Agreed on that score, but the questions are: Will two hundred million people see it? And: Will two hundred people, if they see it, see it in its best possible form? I am not trying to romance the role of traditional publishers too much -- certainly a huge number of writers have wound up doing much more self-promotion than they ever imagined they'd have to once they had a publishing house on their side, and God knows I have read any number of "professionally" published books that were such a cavalcade of typos that it dizzies the imagination and roils the gut -- but I am saying that there is no clean find-and-replace between traditional publishers and Apple as it stands right now (or Kindle, or...), and in the best cases, what a traditional publisher has to give is so much more it could be the difference between a career or...not.

I think there's a real advantage to traditional publishing. I'm a year from graduating and I might try and look for work there; I'm not certain. But Apple's method of publishing allows for alternative publication routes that still allow for editing and marketing, just not through the same streams. The Internet has made it much easier to promote yourself than it's ever been before, and a lot of people are finding it easier than ever to rely on publishers like Apple to make a living without any in-between. I think that's a good thing. And a lot of those people are coming up with in-between companies that use Apple as their publisher, and I think that's a good thing too. Without Apple, those in-between companies wouldn't be possible, because Apple is remarkably good at providing content to a big audience.

A big potential audience, yes...but then you have to look at Apple's content restrictions, which I don't think have been such a big deal when it comes to anything other than obvious porn yet, but could be indeed such a big deal down the road. I think of Netflix's decision a while back (which they later reversed) not to carry Harmony Korine's Trash Humpers -- a film that I haven't seen, and that I'm guessing I wouldn't much wanna see, but that isn't the point. The point is that Netflix decided that I didn't need to see it, and while Netflix does not have a monopoly on movies, they do control such an incalculably huge share of that market that such a thing could be potentially devastating for a filmmaker. It disturbs me to think that a distribution channel could have that level of power, and I think it should disturb everybody who cares about the arts at all. Twenty years ago, NC-17 very briefly allowed filmmakers to include material in their work that would have been impossible in a mainstream film to that point...but then newspapers refused to carry ads for NC-17 films, and the NC-17 film basically was DOA. It is impossible to argue that this is censorship, because it isn't censorship...you can always go somewhere else, right? Except that, really, you can't.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:16 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


what a traditional publisher has to give is so much more it could be the difference between a career or...not.
Jesus, don't fall for this stupid dichotomy. There are no "traditional" publishers, because Apple isn't a "new" publisher.

It can't possibly be, because it doesn't replace the work of a publisher in any way. It allows people to self-publish, but that's nothing different from the deal self-publishers have always had. Easier and less expensive, maybe, but they're sure as hell not becoming your publisher when they accept your app or eBook for distribution and sale.
posted by bonaldi at 5:21 PM on June 19, 2011


bonaldi: Fair enough. I'm getting my words tangled; what I should have said is that I think the role of traditional publishers is in a large part one of distribution; Apple threatens that publishing model (which includes things like newspapers that require massive distribution in order to be read and which completely tie its distribution services up with its publishing and its editing and what-have-you) because they sever the need for a publisher to need to figure out how to distribute. In fact, they make publishers unnecessary for some, such as writers who are confident enough about editing and marketing to just pass their work on to distribution without a gap.

kittens: A big potential audience, yes...but then you have to look at Apple's content restrictions, which I don't think have been such a big deal when it comes to anything other than obvious porn yet, but could be indeed such a big deal down the road. I think of Netflix's decision a while back (which they later reversed) not to carry Harmony Korine's Trash Humpers[...]

Thanks for mentioning that Trash Humpers thing. I hadn't known that Netflix ever did that; it makes me more leery of that sort of wide-scale distribution to think that the distributors might be censoring.

What I didn't mention in my first comment was that I agree with Apple's decision not to provide porn applications; I think there's something fundamentally different about a distribution center that offers "adult" content that might scare away certain audiences (especially parents buying for children). But that's a gray area that worries me somewhat, even though I'm not interested myself in producing anything that comes close to the line. These huge distributors — Apple, Netflix, Amazon, Google?, Facebook? — have such huge audiences that their decisions to censor could potentially impact creators of controversial work.

If that's what you meant in your earlier comment ("the tail is wagging the dog in a way that should make people uncomfortable, and will on a long enough timeline probably no longer be possible in a legal sense"), then I think I agree with you. mass-scale open distribution is great. Mass-scale nearly open distribution is worrisome if the rules aren't clear in advance. Which is what I think you were saying initially; I'm sorry that I repeatedly misinterpreted your comments.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:22 PM on June 19, 2011


> There's no free lunch. Google wants to index your shit to cater ads to your potential wont; Apple wants you to pay in full for an all-inclusive holiday resort of computing.

I really like this. Well-put.
posted by churl at 5:24 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


what I should have said is that I think the role of traditional publishers is in a large part one of distribution;
The two are tightly bound (and in some industries virtually inseparable) but they're not the same thing. In some cases, the distribution is pretty much irrelevant to the publishers.

Most newspapers, for instance, use separate companies for distribution, sometimes subsidiaries and sometimes wholly different businesses. As far as they're concerned, all they have to do is create the product and then give it to whichever distributor turns up at the gates. Similarly with book publishers.

The trick -- the real gatekeeping -- has always been with the creation of the product. Record companies were the only people with the wherewithal to press vinyl, book publishers knew how to turn your text into a printed novel, and newspapers were the only guys with broadsheet printing presses.

The web changed all that, and gave anybody the tools required for publication. There was no distribution and (crucially) no stores. This wasn't great for the publishers, as we know.

The iPad seems to offer a change to some of that. Just as iTunes brought the store back into the music publishing game, the App Store (and now NewsStand) resurrects the old model of creating an end product then handing it off to a distributor and eventually getting paid by a cash-earning store.

So really what Apple has done isn't so much invent a new paradigm in favour of the little guy -- we already have that, in the web -- as revitalise an old one, in a new and less exclusive way. I guess in this sense they are against the open web, but it's more in a complementary than a competitive way.
posted by bonaldi at 5:45 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Despite the magic of on-demand and DV, I wanna watch the Game of Thrones finale nowww, so I have about ten minutes here. Bonaldi, I think you're right that "non-traditional publishers" are not just "traditional" publishers in pog form -- this is what Rory and I were arguing about for like an hour or so -- but vocabulary fails me when it's time to make a quick and dirty distinction between Apple and, say, Random House. Mostly because the service that's being provided to self-publishers here is not something that directly replaces any service from even a decade ago. We need a better word for it -- one that is neither dismissive nor too generous in the attributes that it implies.

Rory -- no worries, and yeah, what I meant is that Apple (or anyone) having too much power over the type of material that's available is a scary thing. That's a big subject, though, and I'm sure those without HBO will have a lot to say about it in the next hour. Winterfell!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:58 PM on June 19, 2011


but vocabulary fails me when it's time to make a quick and dirty distinction between Apple and, say, Random House.

I realise we're just getting semantic here instead of discussing the meat, but the distinction seems pretty easy -- Apple are distributors and/or storekeepers (depending on what you're discussing) and Random House are publishers.
posted by bonaldi at 6:02 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess we can call books apps, if that's a thing we wanna do.

In the context of this discussion, it makes sense to call some eBooks "apps" or software, since apps/software are what Apple publishes through its storefronts.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:04 PM on June 19, 2011


since apps/software are what Apple publishes through its storefronts.

Gragh. It "publishes" about eight apps at last count. It distributes hundreds of thousands. Were you just trolling me, or did you want to blithely ramrod through the whole publishing/distribution distinction? Because there is one, and it matters when you're talking about their effect on industries, as we are. Would have MeMail'ed this, but you've got it turned off, hence small
.
posted by bonaldi at 6:18 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It occurs to me that my Microsoft, Toshiba, and Sony experiences must have traumatized me, because my preference for Apple is mostly based on my not being continually pissed off by the product.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:20 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Were you just trolling me, or did you want to blithely ramrod through the whole publishing/distribution distinction?

Neither. I just think the "distinction" seems semantic and therefore not useful, as the distinction exists to some degree because of the relative novelty of eBook readers that are actually popular with the masses, and some of the technical differences between eBooks and printed books. It still seems fair to call Apple a publisher with respect to electronic print media, because it does a lot (not all, but a lot) of the same things that a paper-based publisher (Random House, etc.) does.

Would have MeMail'ed this, but you've got it turned off

You don't need to avoid commenting here. It's all part of the larger discussion.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:34 PM on June 19, 2011


I just think the "distinction" seems semantic and therefore not useful, as the distinction exists to some degree because of the relative novelty of eBook readers that are actually popular with the masses, and some of the technical differences between eBooks and printed books.

I disagree, and so does Apple. Do you really see no difference other than technical or novelty between what they do when they publish iWork and when they distribute Angry Birds? Or when they publish Inside Macintosh and distribute The DaVinci Code?

The things it does electronically that seem similar to what Random House does in paper are only similar because you don't realise that behind the scenes the distribution etc in paper is also done by a third-party, and that Random House wouldn't see Apple replacing their current third party as a threat.

Even Apple enabling self-publishing via iBooks isn't them becoming a publisher. If they were to become publishers, this would be a huge, huge market-changing deal, as big as if they started signing bands for iTMS.

The fact that it isn't -- and that you don't call them a record label for running the iTMS -- shows there is a real meaning to the distinction.
posted by bonaldi at 6:46 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I realise we're just getting semantic here instead of discussing the meat, but the distinction seems pretty easy -- Apple are distributors and/or storekeepers (depending on what you're discussing) and Random House are publishers.

The distinction is an important one. Distributors aren't publishers, and vice versa, for very good reasons. The problem is that Apple is pushing to become both, or at least what it sees as the most profitable and controlling aspects of both, and that the deleterious effect this has on the end product is being blithely ignored.
posted by kafziel at 6:58 PM on June 19, 2011


People above talking about protocols are totally missing the point.

When timbl talks about "the Web", he's not talking about HTTP, he's talking about URLs. You can be on the web without being on HTTP, and you can be on HTTP without being on the Web.
posted by cdward at 7:08 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's all IP in transit, no one cares bout BGP, or IPv6, so why does anyone care about HTTP? Hyperlinks? How 1989.

Seriously, the future is here and running roughshod over the browser-based paradigms.
posted by roboton666 at 8:18 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is no real benefit to the end user for working "in the cloud" that I've been able to figure out. This is all a move on the part of the Big Boys to turn software into a subscription service.

The pirates have been winning for a long time now. Despite their best efforts the software, movie, and music industries continue to have their products released for free for anyone with a moderate amount of technical knowledge. They are losing billions, and most attempts they've made to thwart it (DRM, DLC, going after file sharing services/individual downloaders) have failed and resulted in a PR backlash.

There seems to be two choices. Either accept that those who are willing and able to pirate copyrighted content comprise a growing percentage of the population, or find a way to undermine the anarchistic culture the internet has created. The thing is people don't like having their freedom taken away.

This anarchy we call the internet is an amazing place; it has people creating, collaborating, and selling things for themselves, or even just giving away their labour for free. Incredibly, more and more of these creations are turning out to be better than those put out by conventional businesses. Unfortunately, to your average person it's also a scary place full of viruses and evil hackers.

Against the backdrop of all of this chaos, they need to be a palatable way to get people to start giving them money again. So what can they do?

Take one of the most prominent groups in this anarchy, and tell them to plant a flag and start a kingdom. Create a narrative for this kingdom, give it a personality so that people will identify with it, fill the kingdom with patriots who proselytize at every opportunity.

When people hear about the kingdom, and start asking to be included tell them that they can join you but only if you buy some of their land, and only buy from their merchants. In return, you'll receive their protection from the dangerous elements of the anarchy, get to participate in the collective identity of the kingdom, and have access to the growing market that the kingdom provides.

But hey, even the kingdom isn't perfect; people still live in villages and villages can burn down. The kingdom's castle however, is impenetrable. It only makes sense to store one's harvest there with everyone else's, where it can't be taken or destroyed; especially when they say they'll raise the portcullis and let you in anytime you want. Right?

This is nothing less than the feudalisation of the internet, and those of you content to look out of your beautifully designed portholes onto a future that is heading towards a surveillance society anyways, well, you frighten me.
posted by paradoxflow at 8:24 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you look a bit further down the front page, to the Canucks riot, you'll find we are already several years into the surveillance society.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:30 PM on June 19, 2011


you'll find we are already several years into the surveillance society

Anyone who has ever heard of Mark Klein and Room 641A knows this has been true for years.
posted by hippybear at 8:36 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


you don't call them a record label for running the iTMS

A lot of people did and still do. Apple Records did, for one, especially since Apple (the technology company) ended up working directly with Apple Records to publish the Beatles on iTMS.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:54 PM on June 19, 2011


"Google: Thanks for looking at hundreds of ads you hate.
Apple: Thanks for buying hundreds of dollars of stuff you love."

Except you can block the ads so you never actually see any, I don't think Apple accept invisible money yet.
posted by joannemullen at 9:09 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


joannemullen: ""Google: Thanks for looking at hundreds of ads you hate.
Apple: Thanks for buying hundreds of dollars of stuff you love."

Except you can block the ads so you never actually see any, I don't think Apple accept invisible money yet
"

Though there are ways of taking advantage of what they provide without their seeing any compensation for it all the same.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:52 PM on June 19, 2011


The web sucks. JavaScript, HTML and CSS are a monstrosity. Then there is the beast known as HTTP. Kill the browser.

You're soaking in it.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:59 PM on June 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


All I know is that iTunes keeps deleting my damn library randomly. I've just lost hundreds of dollars worth of shows, movies, and music for the [nth + a million] time. It's INCREDIBLY frustrating. And although Apple will, reluctantly, let me re-download it all, I have moved to a land that has this whole "bandwidth cap" beast, so I get charged a small fortune in overage fees, have my internet throttled, and even shut down. If this iCloud thingy can keep the content stored securely off-site, that's great, as long as I can still store it locally (so I don't have to again deal with the bandwidth monster).
posted by 1000monkeys at 10:22 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The cloud is great until some random group gets a hold on the keys to the castle door and that novel you've been working on or that dissertation or sales report is gone permanently because you don't have true ownership of your data or the responsibility to keep it safe "hey it was on the cloud so how can I lose it". Multiply this by hundreds of thousands of users. I hope apple treats its employees well.

Cloud computing seems like rent seeking to me. I wonder what the cost analysis on this idea is. Will you end up paying more but not notice because you pay a few dollars at a time?

If you have an application that is a few years old, do you really need the newest version if you are happy with what you have and it works? Sounds like you will be forced into updating.
posted by dibblda at 10:58 PM on June 19, 2011


The cloud is great until some random group gets a hold on the keys to the castle door and that novel you've been working on or that dissertation or sales report is gone permanently because you don't have true ownership of your data or the responsibility to keep it safe "hey it was on the cloud so how can I lose it".

I don't get this, who in their right mind would put all their stuff, or even their most important stuff, on an online service like this, and only there? No local backups? It costs less to get an external hard disk than to get more than a few GB on dropbox or icloud or whatever.

I don't see a conflict between cloud storage vs. hard disk storage, to me they have different purposes, they just complement each other. External disk is where you do a full backup. Cloud is where you'd put the stuff you want instantly and easily synced between different devices in different locations. That's all.

If some evil entity takes over and deletes the synced data from the online server, it's still all there on your physical devices, and your physical backup(s). Easy peasy.

They could come up with the most awesome cloud service but you will always need hard backups, not just because you will be able to backup everything, no size limits, no extra fees, but even in case you're left with no internet access, your computer crashes, you have to reinstall everything, you can't rely on a cloud service for that. If you don't keep a backup of all your stuff on an external disk, you're taking a stupid risk, and no technology or company can be blamed for that stupidity.
posted by bitteschoen at 12:31 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


And all I have to say on the iCloud is: finally! finally they are coming up with a proper syncing service for their platform, about f'ing time. Let's see how it works, hopefully it won't be crap and ridiculously expensive like their previous attempts that shall go unnamed.

And Dropbox is great already, but some things can clash with the mac system (it can be complicated to sync some preferences or user folders), so it'll be interesting comparing the two for practicality. And well if 5GB are free, it's better than 2GB free, thank you very much. (Apple should also come up with their own software for syncing computers/devices locally, on your network, to sync all the data directly, because relying on third party applications for that can be messy.)

That's why they're doing it, believe it or not, shockingly enough, it's because there is a use for it. Same with the dedicated apps for devices, for websites/services that can be more practically accessed through a dedicated app than through a browser. If there's an evil plan behind all this, it's not called "bypassing/killing the web", it's called "making more money by selling more of our products by giving users what they want/need, and creating more wants/needs by creating more products and more services for them". It's what everyone is doing, some more smartly than others.

Google is doing it too, but they don't have the hardware plus software complete offer, so if you have Apple hardware and you have a choice between online storage/syncing services that are made for all systems, and services made by and precisely for Apple systems, well, it may be easier and more practical to use the latter. If the lessons from previous epicfails have been learnt.
posted by bitteschoen at 12:48 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


@humanfont How is an entire server needed for erotic roleplay? Can't you just use a chatroom?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:58 AM on June 20, 2011


JHarris writes "It might also help get around one of the worst things about iOS -- documents 'belong' to only one application, and can't generally cross boundries unless there's a piece of system software, that's allowed outside the sandbox, to move it from one application's purview to another."

This never stops seeming idiotic.

bitteschoen writes "I don't get this, who in their right mind would put all their stuff, or even their most important stuff, on an online service like this, and only there? No local backups? It costs less to get an external hard disk than to get more than a few GB on dropbox or icloud or whatever. "

The same people who don't make local backups now. IE: A surprisingly large percentage of people. It'll be fun to watch when Apple discontinues iCloud services.
posted by Mitheral at 2:43 AM on June 20, 2011


A lot of people did and still do. Apple Records did, for one, especially since Apple (the technology company) ended up working directly with Apple Records to publish the Beatles on iTMS.

Going to need cites on these lots of people if you're going to be this obstinate. Because Apple Records didn't ever call them a record label; they sued Apple Inc for infringing the terms of their licence to the name "Apple", which precluded them from operating inside the music industry. And Apple remain the publishers of the Beatles, even though Apple Inc worked with them for the digital release.
posted by bonaldi at 3:47 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


You have to be blind or willfully stupid to think there isn't a contingent of very vocal Apple-haters on MeFi.

And you have to be rather sure of yourself to make such an assertion. So it shouldn't be hard to prove me wrong by example.
posted by JHarris at 4:55 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The real takeaway from the article is that Apple is making efforts to further integrate vertically, most notably with its own processor design for iOS devices. This isn't the first time I've heard that Apple is looking to replace x86 on their Macs - the lack of horsepower at the high end is probably keeping them from pulling the trigger. But as the GPU becomes more and more central to modern computing, Apple may decide to buy the best one it can find, integrate it with an ARM core or eight, and start rolling that out as it's high end.

The death of the general purpose processor as the driving force in computational performance is another of those stories grumbling around, but not yet gaining much traction. Keep an eye on Apple - they've got the resources and the total platform control required to shift development to new hardware models.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:10 AM on June 20, 2011


Actually, this thread reminds me: if you want to talk about breaking the web, publishers like the NYPost are being much more harmful. Try to get to their site on an iPad and you hit a wall.

Just read that on Ars Technica this morning. Forcing app sales by refusing to let iPad users browse via the iPad's ordinary browser?

Insane.
posted by mediareport at 5:29 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


They believe that the kind of "open" that lets anybody freely tinker with their software often hurts usability, and prevents developers from writing sleek, polished applications that run reliably and consistently.

This is demonstrably untrue, however. I've had plenty of iPhone apps crash, run poorly, just stop working altogether until I delete and reinstall them, etc.

In ten years time, losing your phone will be a concept with very little meaning. You just go to the phone vending machine, and instead of putting your old one in and getting a new (charged) one out as you usually do, you pay maybe $20 in today's money to get a new one out. You start the biometric identifier, and seconds later, you have your phone back. It tells you where your old phone is - you left it in a cafe. It asks if it should blank the old one, and you say "yes", and get on with your life. If someone finds your old phone, they can drop it into the vending machine, and assuming it passes all diagnostics, they get a small credit.

This sounds exactly like the kind of stuff I used to read in Popular Mechanics. None of it happened, either. This is ridiculously pie in the sky.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:37 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look--Apple is interested in selling iPhones (etc.). They will make decisions that further the goal of selling iPhones.

Seamless sync? Sells iPhones. The first mobile browser worth a damn? Sells iPhones. Removing the ability for customers to use this "web" thing that customers seem to enjoy? Not so much.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:42 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


How is an entire server needed for erotic roleplay? Can't you just use a chatroom?

his roleplay is huge.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:54 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Look--Apple is interested in selling iPhones (etc.). They will make decisions that further the goal of selling iPhones.

You sound so sure that they are making the best ones to further the platform's spread in all ways. But what is actually the best way to do that?

Apple has repeatedly shown themselves willing to make controversial decisions in the name of strategy. One wishes they'd just stop weirding things up and make the damn stuff. The iPad's idiosyncrasies have directly affected my ability to use the device, in several ways.
posted by JHarris at 2:40 PM on June 20, 2011


if you're going to be this obstinate

Thanks for your time. Good luck.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:49 PM on June 20, 2011


Thanks for your time. Good luck.
I don't think it's unfair to describe your last post as "obstinate" when you danced past all the glaring holes in your position -- like iWork vs Angry Birds -- without attempting a rebuttal, then strung together the most tenuous possible remaining connection that would let you keep ploughing the furrow.

That's not debating in good faith, and it's not being "part of the conversation". And after that to try and do a high-grounding "bye then" ... well, it's nagl, frankly.
posted by bonaldi at 5:26 PM on June 20, 2011


Talking to a wall, bonaldi. Blazecock unapologetically killfiles people who call him on his hypocrisies and derails.
posted by kafziel at 6:25 PM on June 20, 2011


While Blazecock Pileon does have a kind of Apple-shaped blind spot (and I've remarked upon it several times before, and come just short of accusing him of being paid by Apple), he's very good in other regards. A blind spot regarding Apple products isn't really that bad as things go, not compared to the likes of ParisParamus back in the Older Times. We all have our crotchets -- I turn into the Hulk when someone mentions D&D 4E for instance.

I guess what I'm saying is: Blazecock Pileon. Decent chap, but I'm fairly certain what his favorite My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic character is.
posted by JHarris at 6:40 PM on June 20, 2011


you danced past all the glaring holes in your position -- like iWork vs Angry Birds

There are no "glaring holes" in my "position", since I was just making some observations about the state of the app store, what gets sold on it, and who runs that store, not stating any personal opinion about any of it (with the exception of the HTML5 comment). I also made no mention of iWork or Angry Birds. But I suppose saying that I have no opinion about those two apps is also "obstinate".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:06 PM on June 20, 2011


Mmmm. Yummy bait, prepared by masters of baiting. Can things get any better around here?!

Here's five bucks, go get a room.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:49 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


since I was just making some observations about the state of the app store, what gets sold on it, and who runs that store

Not from here on you weren't, we were both discussing the appropriateness of calling Apple a publisher instead of a distributor (and latterly of calling them a music label, too).

Your position was that it was fine to call them a publisher, since in your eyes they did the work of publishers and the rest of the difference was simply semantic.

You don't need to have an opinion about iWork or AB, because I raised them, but if you wanted to keep this little-more-than-semantic-difference idea you'd have to explain how the glaring difference between them fits in with it. Otherwise your "I say they're a publisher and I'll just ignore any discussion otherwise" stance falls to bits.

fff: your money is wasted, he has rooms turned off.
posted by bonaldi at 4:17 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


five fresh fish writes "Here's five bucks, go get a room."

Been a while since you got a room FFF? Even dorm hostel rates are higher than $5 a piece.
posted by Mitheral at 8:41 AM on June 21, 2011


It's an arbitrary number. I chose it because it's the price of a MeFi signup. Feel free to substitute your own preferred value. Sheesh.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:44 PM on June 21, 2011


Apple has repeatedly shown themselves willing to make controversial decisions in the name of strategy. One wishes they'd just stop weirding things up and make the damn stuff. The iPad's idiosyncrasies have directly affected my ability to use the device, in several ways.

Examples?
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 9:45 AM on June 22, 2011


It looks like iCloud will be available through the Web.
posted by doctornemo at 3:24 PM on June 24, 2011


>The iPad's idiosyncrasies have directly affected my ability to use the device, in several ways.
Examples?

1. The App Store, and the inability to install software that doesn't come from there. This is the biggest thing by far -- everything else would probably not be so bad if people had freedom to put on their device what they damn well pleased, because those problems could be fixed by other people. That is directly Apple's fault, and I hold them accountable for it.
2. This is likely why we don't have Chrome or Firefox on iOS yet. It's definitely why we have Flash. For all its bad points it's still a major part of the current-day internet.
3. It's also why we'd have to jailbreak a device to run an emulator.
4. Or Python.
5. Or develop for the thing without paying the $99-a-year Apple tax.
6. Or develop on the thing itself at all!
7. Plus, now, an additional $4.99 for Xcode through the Mac App Store, which is weird considering it contains GNU software.
8. Oh also, being able to develop for it from something other than a Mac.
9. It'd also be nice to be able to send and receive SMS from it using Gmail/Google Talk like I can from a PC.
10. Or view the full versions of the Daily Show/Colbert Report website. That's Apple's fault because of their pushing sites to make iOS-specific apps for their content, which then they try to sell, often to provide less content than the full site, which is the case with both the Daily Show and Colbert Report sites, and I hear is the case with others too.
11. I've remarked on Apple's hostility to the idea of people changing the batteries on their own damn device before, so I'll leave discussion of that particular beef with that.
12. What about the discovery that iOS devices were reporting on their locations to Apple?
13. It'd be nice to be able for more than one program to be able to use a given file on the device.
14. It'd also be nice to have access to the filesystem, which might mean that I could transfer a file between program directories manually instead of having to use a computer intermediary.
15. Or use Bluetooth devices without having to buy a separate app for each one.
16. Or have access to Bluetooth data storage.

Et cetera. Rest assured this is not all of the list, but that should be enough for examples. You can say what you want about these things not fitting Apple's design goals. Phooey -- it's a computer, we should be able to do what we want with it.

It's one thing to put a device to uses the creator didn't intent, it's quite another thing for the creator to actively continue to put walls between the user and what he damn well wants to use his device for!
posted by JHarris at 5:56 PM on June 26, 2011


it's a computer, we should be able to do what we want with it.

I agree that we should be able to do what we want with it, but it's not a computer, it's a gated content access device.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:42 PM on June 26, 2011


Phooey -- it's a computer, we should be able to do what we want with it.

It's an appliance. Just because you can't do the geeky crap you want to do with it, doesn't mean it isn't hugely successful for what it is designed to do.

I recently read something about Apple's Final Cut Pro X release, which disappointed many pros, even if they're perfectly happy with the old version: "Apple is willing to piss off a thousand pro users to make a million non-pro customers very happy."

The iPad isn't an appliance for geeks, it's a post-PC device. Geeks keep forgetting that, and judging it by their old PC-centric thinking. The iPad is designed to liberate people from computer geeks. If you want a computer, go buy a MacBook Air. If you want to be a geek and write python, go buy an old stinkpad and run linux on it (onion to wear on your belt not included).
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:23 PM on June 26, 2011


When you build a computer, and then break parts of it until it can't be used as more than an appliance, you don't have an appliance. You have a broken computer. Just because it's defective by design doesn't mean it's not defective.
posted by kafziel at 9:41 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


It has a microprocessor in it, does it not? It's a COMPUTER. You're mincing words.

charlie don't surf, you're making a fairly major assumption on how all those millions of Final Cut Pro users will feel about the new version, and you're also making a causation error. Why can't they improve it AND not remove features that many people rely upon? And why can't they allow access to more than just the Fisher-Price surface of the machine AND make it easy for most users? It is as simple as offering an advanced mode switch in settings. (Simple for the user at least. It might take some effort on the part of Apple's programmers, but probably not as much as it did to lock off all that functionality.)

It never ceases to amaze me how much individuals will bend over backwards to defend the interests of gigantic corporations.
posted by JHarris at 11:05 PM on June 26, 2011


My breadmaker has a microprocessor in it, but I sure as hell wouldn't call it a computer, let alone expect to hack it.

I can say the same about the ebook device and my car.

The problems not with the iDevices. It's with your expectations and mental framework.

Fortunately for you there are a number of competing devices that will let you have the hacker accessibility you want.

"It just works" and hacker-friendly are mutually exclusive.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:25 PM on June 26, 2011


"It just works" and hacker-friendly are mutually exclusive.

Horseshit. OSX disproves that. Android disproves that.

The problems not with the iDevices. It's with your expectations and mental framework.

The problem is how they lock the iDevices down so tight, that when the general public run up against the limits they just take it for granted that such a thing is not possible. Then apple come up with some new feature that's been around for ages on other devices - like multitasking, like cut-n-paste, like wireless sync - flogs it as the next huge thing that's revolutionary, and the public lap it up because they don't know any different.

Quality does not have to mean locked down as tight as a drum. We appear to be rapidly heading into a technology dark ages where virtually all computing is proprietary, locked down and microtransactioned up the wazoo by middle men. Where virtually everything is just a 'content consumption device'. Where just wanting to do what you want with the hardware you own gets sneered at as some kind of 'hacker shit', and is quite possibly illegal.

I first read Stallman's right to read over a decade ago, and it seemed pretty laughable then.

Between the DMCA, DRM, 'content consumption devices', federal take downs of websites, software-as-a-service (in the cloud, natch) that's only licenced, not bought, Amazon's kindle DRM, the ever tightening grip of mass copyright holders on government (see the UK move to filter 'bad' copyright infringing websites, french '3 strike rules') etc etc it's not quite so laughable any more.

Technology treating us like children, and putting in plenty of locks to stop us being naughty is a bad idea. That it's coming from Apple, a company that was kept alive in it's bad years by the creative, the professionals and the tinkerers is especially disappointing; we expect that shit from microsoft. the kiddyfication of Final Cut Pro is just one more example of how Apple no longer care about the people who actually create the content that's supposed to go on these content consumption devices.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:38 AM on June 27, 2011


Oh, and before you dismiss me as some sort of apple-hating zealot, I've also plenty of dislike for the way companies like Facebook, Sony, Google and the carriers, hand-in-hand with governments are killing off the principles of privacy and security in the digital age, and the way people concerned about that are dismissed as some kind of sandal-wearing hippy geek.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:52 AM on June 27, 2011


five fresh fish writes "My breadmaker has a microprocessor in it, but I sure as hell wouldn't call it a computer, let alone expect to hack it. "I can say the same about the ebook device and my car."

Plenty of people hack the computers in their cars.
posted by Mitheral at 7:43 AM on June 27, 2011


Android "just works"? Since when?

The public is stupid and thinks cut-and-paste is some great invention, and that's Apple's fault? That's quite an odd idea.

When general-purpose computers and software start disappearing, I'll buy into this hysteria.

But get upset over a fancy cellphone that's locked into a one-piece case with no user serviceable parts? Puh-leese.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:53 AM on June 27, 2011


Um, I have had no problems with my Android phone so far, and in fact it is significantly easier to use than my iPhone in a couple of edge case (but important to me) respects. So yes. It just works.

Apple wanting to "liberate the masses from computer geeks"? Puh-leese.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:43 AM on June 27, 2011


I mean, it's a phone. Who would tolerate it if it didn't work?
posted by adamdschneider at 9:25 AM on June 27, 2011


Why can't they improve it AND not remove features that many people rely upon? And why can't they allow access to more than just the Fisher-Price surface of the machine AND make it easy for most users?

If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

I think you're making this argument in the wrong MeFi thread. Perhaps you should try this one, and be sure to watch the video. This Stevenote appeared elsewhere on the web under the headline, quoting Jobs, "Focus means saying no."

Apple said no to you and Stallman and your impractical utopian ideas, in order to say yes to millions of their customers. You're not one of Apple's customers.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:18 AM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


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