June 8, 2023

Snippet: Reddit Just Wants to be “Fairly Paid” ☇

Scharon Harding for Ars Technica (via Matt Birchler):

As thousands of subreddits prepare to go dark in five days to protest Reddit’s jacked-up API fees, Reddit claims it’s only asking for what’s fair. At the same time, the company is reportedly enacting layoffs and slowing hiring.

Reddit used to provide free access to its API, enabling various developers to build and create apps aimed at improving the Reddit experience. But similar to Twitter, Reddit last month announced that it would start charging apps to access its API.

I’ll echo Matt Birchler’s commentary on this story:

So obviously Reddit has no obligation to provide API access to outside developers, and certainly not for free, but this argument that they need to be “fairly paid” for these is patently ridiculous.

Reddit is burning up a lot of goodwill with this move and for a company that is rumored to be headed towards an IPO, their communications channels absolutely suck, sometimes with employees commenting on threads on behalf of the company:

Last week, a Reddit employee in the r/Redditdev community claimed Apollo’s high-cost expectations were tied to inefficiencies but didn’t specify what those were when Selig asked for clarification. […]

“However, not all apps operate this way today. For example, Apollo requires ~345 requests per user per day, while with a similar number of users and more comment and vote activity per user, the Reddit is Fun app averages ~100 calls per user per day. Apollo as an app is less efficient than its peers and at times has been excessive—probably because it has been free to be so.”

Rather than simply cut off the API, it feels like there’s a large chunk of Reddit’s management that wants third-party apps gone and thought outrageous pricing would be the way to handle it cleanly. Poisoning the well by claiming technical incompetence about Apollo (although no proof that it’s not users that are simply more active) feels like a low-blow.

I really like Reddit, as some of the communities I’m involved with are great places to learn things and hang out with others. I’ll like it a lot less if third-party apps go away and the way they’re handling it really doesn’t sit well with me. I think they’re also failing to realize that no social network is mandatory and it’s really easy for a lot of people to lose interest and move on.

Update: According to Christian Selig, Apollo will shut down on June 30th.

June 7, 2023

Snippet: Vision Pro and iOS 7 ☇

Andy Matuschak (via Benjamin Mayo) has an interesting bit of iOS history and how some of it made its way to visionOS):

You might remember the “parallax effect” from iOS 7’s home screen, the Safari tabs view, alerts, and a few other places. We artificially created a depth effect using the device’s motion sensors. Internally, even two months before we revealed the new interface, this effect was system-wide, on every window and control. Knobs on switches and scrubbers floated slightly above the surface. Application windows floated slightly above the wallpaper. Every app had depth-y design specialization: the numbers in the Calculator app floated way above the plane, as if they were a hologram; in Maps, pins, points of interest, and labels floated at different heights by hierarchy; etc. It was eventually deemed too much (“a bit… carnival, don’t you think?”) and too battery-intensive. So it’s charming to see this concept finally get shipped in visionOS, where UIKit elements seem to get the same depth-y treatments we’d tried in 2012/2013. It’s much more natural in the context of a full 3D environment, and the Vision Pro can do a much better job of simulating depth than we’d ever manage with motion sensors.

Snippet: Vimeo Shutting Down TV Apps ☇

Todd Spangler for Variety:

Vimeo is ending support for its existing TV apps — with the video management and hosting provider telling customers they’ll have a “better ongoing experience” by using video-casting features instead.

The company is ceasing support for Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, and Roku as of June 27, 2023. “That means we will remove the TV apps from the app stores and we will not publish any new releases, security updates or provide technical support for TV apps,” Vimeo says in a notice on its help site.

This isn’t a great sign, especially as Apple TV and Android TV devices are sort of “inexpensive” for developers to port their apps to (based on the mobile operating system, redesign the UI for a TV and can ship something fairly basic). While AirPlay and casting are suitable in limited situations, I much prefer to turn on my Apple TV and select what I want to watch.

Then again, Vimeo seems to be less of a threat to YouTube and having its own troubles:

For the first quarter of 2023, Vimeo’s revenue fell 4% year-over-year to $103.6 million and gross profit declined 2% to $79.9 million. The company narrowed its net loss to $700,000 (versus a net loss of $26.6 million in the year-earlier period). In a bid to cut costs, Vimeo this January announced that it would lay off 11% of its employees.

June 1, 2023

Snippet: Google Wallet Adds Support for QR-Based Cards and Insurance Cards ☇

Ivan Mehta for TechCrunch:

The company said that users will soon be able to quickly scan barcodes or QR codes from things like gym passes or loyalty cards and save them to Google Wallet. The feature also supports scanning these codes from an existing image of an e-commerce return QR code or a digital parking ticket.

While Google is adding support for government-issued IDs to catch up with Apple’s effort, adding your own passes from existing barcodes and QR codes is a great idea and something Apple should have done years ago. As so many merchants are trying to push you to their apps, the ability to added loyalty passes to Wallet have been disappearing a bit, so being able to scan and save your own pass either from a physical item or a screenshot would be a welcome addition.

May 31, 2023

Snippet: Reddit Drank Some of the Twitter Kool-Aid ☇

Christian Selig, developer of the wonderful Apollo app for Reddit:

I’ll cut to the chase: 50 million requests costs $12,000, a figure far more than I ever could have imagined.

Apollo made 7 billion requests last month, which would put it at about 1.7 million dollars per month, or 20 million US dollars per year. Even if I only kept subscription users, the average Apollo user uses 344 requests per day, which would cost $2.50 per month, which is over double what the subscription currently costs, so I’d be in the red every month.

I’m deeply disappointed in this price. Reddit iterated that the price would be A) reasonable and based in reality, and B) they would not operate like Twitter. Twitter’s pricing was publicly ridiculed for its obscene price of $42,000 for 50 million tweets. Reddit’s is still $12,000. For reference, I pay Imgur (a site similar to Reddit in user base and media) $166 for the same 50 million API calls.

At this point, if you’re developing a third-party client for any closed social network, it may be time to start thinking of something new. Unlike Twitter, which had an abrupt shut down of third-party clients with no communication, Reddit is giving some notice, but the pricing is making it where most clients will be unsustainable. Like Twitter, the native app for Reddit is also terrible, making this change an even more disappointing.