What I’ve Read This Week (May 10 2021 to May 16 2021)

Maureen Ryan writes a fantastic review of Ted Lasso. I watched Ted Lasso last weekend and her review sums up just why I love that show. If you have Apple TV+, I would highly recommend you give Ted Lasso a shot, if you don’t, its worth signing up for the trial to see it.

So I put off checking out Ted Lasso, only to find out that, in the grand tradition of Friday Night Lights, it’s a stealth show that seems like it’s about sports while it’s actually about situations that are much richer, weirder and more important. Both shows subtly highlight the importance of compassion, humility, enlightened discipline and common decency; both shows are about how difficult and cathartic change can be. You could easily build a highlight reel of characters from both shows calling each other on the carpet for their mistakes, and comforting each other when things go wrong, on and off the field. I thought about all the times FNL made me cry when Ted Lasso made me tear up toward the end of the season, because it’s 2020, and—did I mention?—it’s been a hard damn year.

I am looking forward to watching the second season when it comes out on July 23, 2021.

Alex Russell looks into the significant feature and capability gap between Apple’s browser engine and others and how Apple’s App Store policies force a choice between using the much more powerful native capabilities vs the much inferior web application experience provided by Safari on iOS. One of the biggest missing features is the lack of web push notifications which significantly hampers the viability of any web application that needs to deliver push notifications (that’s a lot of them folks!).

 The data agree: Apple’s web engine consistently trails others in both compatibility and features, resulting in a large and persistent gap with Apple’s native platform.

Apple wishes us to accept that:

  • It is reasonable to force iOS browsers to use its web engine, leaving iOS on the trailing edge.
  • The web is a viable alternative on iOS for developers unhappy with App Store policies.

One or the other might be reasonable. Together? Hmm. Parties interested in the health of the digital ecosystem should look past Apple’s claims and focus on the differential pace of progress.

Geoff Huston writes about another bout in the ongoing war between content providers and carriage (ISPs). This one is about the use of the use of transport layer encryption to make transport headers opaque to the network to prevent meddling by ISPs in the name of QoS or other selective service degradation.

Perhaps this shift to opaque transport headers goes a little further than just a desire for greater levels of control by applications. The shift that QUIC represents could be seen as the counter move by content providers to another round of a somewhat tired old game played by networks operators to extract a tax from content providers by holding their content traffic to ransom, or, as it came to be known, a tussle over ‘network neutrality’.

There have been times when network operators have implemented measures to throttle certain forms of traffic that they asserted was using their network in some vaguely unspecified manner that was ‘unfair’ in some way. The vagueness of all this is probably attributable to a base desire on the part of the carriage operator, which was to extort a carriage toll from content providers in a crude form of basic blackmail: ‘My network, my rules. You customer, you pay’.

I suspect that many carriage providers in this industry, who are witnessing the content providers take all the money off the table, believe that they are the victims here. Their efforts to restore some of their lost revenue base has meant that they are looking to restore a ‘fair share’ of revenue in forcing the giants of the content space to pay for their share of carriage costs.

Incumbent ISPs have little to benefit from network neutrality and they see it as a encroachment on their desire to make money by extracting rent from not only their direct customers but also the content providers that their customers use. Double dipping as it were.

Benedict Evans writes about Apple’s forays into the advertising business and whether their latest attempts will be of any success. Anybody else remember iAd? To be quite honest, I find the presence of search ads in the iOS App Store to be abhorrent and I cannot think the last time an ad in a App Store search result was actually of any help to me.

Why not? Well, Apple first got into mobile ads in 2010 when it bought Quattro Wireless for close to $300m and set up iAd. (It bought PA Semi two years earlier, for almost the same price.) But Apple never really understood what to do with it, nor how the ad business worked, and wasn’t able to be a great partner for publishers and advertisers. iAd shut down in 2016. A decade on, Apple still has many of the same issues partnering, as also seen at Apple News. Building an ad-tech business is not just about tech: Google and Facebook have vast campuses in Silicon Valley full of engineers, but also have whole city blocks in Manhattan full of advertising people, talking to advertisers and ad agencies. Apple also has a systemic cultural and operational bias against rapid iteration and shipping of any kind of software, but especially cloud services. You can’t launch an ad platform in iOS 15 next month and then wait a year to add new stuff in iOS 16. And even more, Apple has always been ambivalent about the web itself – that might be the biggest cultural shift of all.

Ambivalent is not the term I would use to describe Apple’s current relationship with the web. As the Alex Russell piece from earlier demonstrated, it is an active hostility.

Casey Newton writes two expose pieces on what happened at Basecamp recently. An absolutely horrid but unsurprising lack of good management.

From the first piece:

“There’s always been this kind of unwritten rule at Basecamp that the company basically exists for David and Jason’s enjoyment,” one employee told me. “At the end of the day, they are not interested in seeing things in their work timeline that make them uncomfortable, or distracts them from what they’re interested in. And this is the culmination of that.”

From the second one:

But as much as the conversation about Basecamp’s moves has been framed as “politics,” it seems important to remember that the entire affair began when a third of the company — not all of whom are among the 20 who have departed so far, by the way — volunteered to help the company become more diverse and equitable. It was only when their committee dug a skeleton out of the company closet — that list of names — that Fried and Hansson moved to shut the whole thing down.

That is all from me this week, see y’all next week!