May 30, 2023

Snippet: Two Texas Indie Developers Made It Big on Twitter a Decade Ago. Now They’re Fighting It ☇

Andrew Logan for TexasMonthly:

When Paul Haddad unfolded his laptop to start working after dinner on a Thursday evening in mid-January, he didn’t realize his life was about to be turned upside down. Haddad, the brainy cofounder of Tapbots, an award-winning software company that develops apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, clacked away writing lines of code in the living room of his home in Flower Mound. A text message interrupted him. “I’m having problems logging in,” wrote Mark Jardine, Haddad’s mild-mannered business partner, referring to Tapbots’ flagship product, Tweetbot. As a third-party Twitter app, Tweetbot provided a more personalized and curated experience by allowing users to customize their timelines with robust filters and view their feeds in reverse chronological order.

Most of this is a review for anyone following the decline of Twitter and the rather abrupt end of third-party app support, but there are quite a few fascinating data points.

Snippet: Lisa’s Final Act: How Apple Invented Its Future by Burying Its Past ☇

William Poor for The Verge:

Last December, along with a Verge video crew, I found myself wandering across a snowy mountain of garbage in Logan, Utah. Everyone we’d talked to told us that Logan was a gorgeous place to visit pretty much anytime except the dead of winter. They also told us the landfill wasn’t the most pleasant place to explore at any time of year. The landfill in the dead of winter was a real one-two punch — though the cold probably helped with the smell a little.

This is a fantastic half hour documentary and while that whole chapter in Apple history took place before I was even using computers, I do have fond memories of Sun Remarketing for old Mac things in the late-’90s.

May 24, 2023

Snippet: Happy Hour vs. Wine Lists ☇

Joe Rosensteel:

Companies are way ahead of people here. Part of the reason cable has been so slow to address cord cutting in any meaningful way is because they knew they still had people who did not want to cut the cord, despite high prices, and ads. Invariably this comes down to how we use television to adjust the balance of chemicals in our brains.

Not everyone wants on demand content that they specifically select from a menu like they’re looking through the wine list at a restaurant. Some people just want whatever the happy hour specials are. That’s not an indictment of the consumers, or the restaurant/streamer, but simply a function of preference. Sometimes people go back and forth in their behavior based on their mood. Stop the presses: People have moods!

This is a great analysis of where the streaming world is going—yours truly much prefers the “wine list” side of things, but it does feel that we’re moving more and more toward cheap, ad-supported disposable content.

Snippet: Netflix Begins Its Password Sharing Crackdown in the US and Global Markets ☇

Sarah Perez for TechCrunch:

Netflix’s crackdown on password sharing is now beginning to roll out to U.S. subscribers and other global markets, after a delayed launch. The streamer had originally planned to introduce “paid sharing” to U.S. subscribers in the first quarter of this year but pushed the start date back to the summer, after seeing cancellations in markets where it had already launched the changes. Under the new rules, U.S. subscribers will have to either kick people off their Netflix account or pay $7.99/month for an additional membership for those outside their main household. […]

For those sharing someone else’s Netflix account, they can make the transition to an account of their own through a “Transfer Profile” option that will help them to relocate their existing account information, including their viewing history and watchlist.

The feature has been met with much consumer backlash, but Netflix assured investors that despite some early cancellations, it believes the password crackdown will be beneficial to its long-term growth as a business and to its financial health.

I don’t begrudge Netflix enforcing this, but I think there’s two bigger problems that Netflix isn’t addressing:

  1. In order to get 4K, you have to have the top-tier plan, which also allows 4 simultaneous streams. If someone lives by themself or with one other person, why not allow sharing the extra screen(s)?
  2. There’s a serious trust problem with Netflix as so many shows have been canceled abruptly, despite having good buzz and a decent following.

Out of the two of these, the first lends itself to two friends splitting an account if they care about video quality. Why have the number of screens tied to video quality anyway? For the second, I’ve found myself less likely to try a new series on Netflix. After a few long-running series wrap up, it’s going to make it harder to justify keeping Netflix. I suspect others feel the same and I’m guessing that there will be fewer add-on memberships or migrations than Netflix is assuming.

Snippet: Max is Worse Than HBO Max ☇

John Gruber:

I told you these Warner “Bros” Discovery executives are morons. On all the good platforms, you have to install an altogether new app. Why not just update the existing HBO Max app with (yet another) a new name and icon? Because they’re morons. (Even better: when I launch the old HBO Max app on my Apple TV, it doesn’t tell me anything about the new app — it just shows an error screen saying “Something went wrong.”)

This much moronity I expected. But it gets worse. As Judge documents, with the new app they’ve once again dropped tvOS’s excellent native video player for a custom video player that utterly sucks: “up next” support in the TV app is now broken or missing, HDR and frame-rate match are gone, the new video player doesn’t support the Siri remote’s jog support, no picture-in-picture, and no support for the wonderful “What did they just say?” feature (speak that to your Siri remote and the video jumps back 10 seconds or so and temporarily enables subtitles).

I get the WarnerMedia merger with Discovery made some sense—complementary content to build a massive library (although much different audiences) and well-known brands, plus it allowed AT&T to mostly get out of its failed media experiment. On the other hand, my knee-jerk reaction was the same as Gruber’s—they could’ve simply changed the app icon and things would’ve been fine. Instead, there’s a new app that is much worse and the whole migration process just seems really stupid. It’s also broken branded remotes.

It still irks me that they strayed away from the HBO brand because they were afraid that it would turn off new subscribers. Then again, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav came from the world of stupid reality shows and basically pushing networks like Discovery, TLC, Food Network, and others away from their original format in favor of disposable nonsense. That doesn’t seem to mesh well with a brand that invented prestige television.