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A Web Comic About Steve Jobs And Steve Wozniak As Young Hippies

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Patrick Farley, the artist behind the pioneering web comic E-Sheep, has a series that started today. Steve and Steve follows the adventures of Apple Computer founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak as young, acid tripping hippies in the 70s. The ending of the prologue makes me think this may be an alternate history comic. It also displays the fascination with early hominids found in Farley’s last comic the First Word.

Apple bans another comic from iOS for gay sex

Apple bans another comic from iOS for gay sex

Apple Rejected the Drone Tracker App Because it Could

Apple has for the third—and what looks like the final—time rejected an app that would send alerts every time a U.S. military drone made a kill. The first two times Apple said no to Drones+, it said it was “not useful” (we beg to differ), then told the makers there was a problem with the corporate logo, report Danger Room’s Christina Bonnington and Spencer Ackerman. This last time, however, Apple has given its definitive no, citing “objectionable and crude” content — the type of stuff that isn’t in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines. It’s not clear what part of the app is “objectionable or crude” because as Bonnington and Ackerman put it, “Drones+ doesn’t present grisly images of corpses left in the aftermath of the strikes. It just tells users when a strike has occurred, going off a publicly available database of strikes compiled by the U.K.’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism,” they write. (Wired has a video of how the app works.) But it doesn’t really matter what part they find “objectionable.” Apple’s history of iPhone app store censorship has shown that Apple does what it wants because it can — and it’s nice enough to have even told the Drones+ makers its reasons.

Apple has never wanted to key us in on its reasons for doing things because that way it can do what it wanted without explanation.

The Atlantic: Apple Rejected the Drone Tracker App Because it Could

The Atlantic Profitable Again, Considering Apps for Individual Writers

The Atlantic

The Atlantic is probably my favorite right now, glad to hear it’s doing well. Highlights from Daily Finance’s article:

The magazine is on pace to be profitable this year for the first time in many years, according to Justin Smith, the company’s president (pictured). The growth is coming from both print and digital: November figures to be the single biggest month for advertising revenue in the publication’s history, and Smith projects a year-over-year increase for 2010 of 45%. “We’ve been really fortunate to come out of the recession in a strong position,” he says. [...]

Somewhat notoriously, Apple has so far refused to allow most publishers to sell subscriptions directly to consumers via the iTunes store, insisting on handling all the transactions — and keeping the valuable information they generate — itself. To get around this roadblock, the Atlantic employed a vendor called Urban Airship, which allowed it to offer a reasonable facsimile of a subscription, including renewal notices and choices of multiple subscription terms. [...]

Other apps are still on the drawing board, but one avenue being considered is to offer mini-apps that give access to the output of individual writers, such as Andrew Sullivan, whose Daily Dish blog continues to be the Atlantic’s biggest traffic draw.

Daily Finance: Behind Atlantic Media’s Growth: A Return to Profits at The Atlantic

Why the Web Isn’t Dead – A Few More Points

At the risk of beating a dead horse and becoming bona-fide member of the slow media, I want to make a few more points about that recent Wired cover story. Some of this may seem like semantics or nit-picking, but I think the details here are important for understanding what is and isn’t happening to the web. (My previous thoughts are here).

What are the defining features of the web?

“It’s driven primarily by the rise of the iPhone model of mobile computing, and it’s a world Google can’t crawl, one where HTML doesn’t rule.”

Anderson keeps mentioning HTML, HTTP, and port 80 as the key features of the web. I don’t think that’s the case. Quite a lot of apps for iOS, Android and Adobe AIR are built using HTML and, presumably, access data using HTTP over port 80. Even apps that aren’t just glorified shortcuts to a company’s web site (TweetDeck, feed readers, and Instapaper are good examples of great apps that change how we consume web content) don’t seem far off from the typical web experience – they’re just custom browsers, still using the same old ports and protocols. (I could be wrong about those specific apps, but the tendency remains.) What’s really happening is that the browser is becoming invisible – it’s becoming the OS. Which is what web people have been saying would happen all along.

But what, at its core, is “the web”? To me it’s about hypertext – the ability to link and be linked. Interconnectedness. So apps can either be walled gardens – with no way to link or be linked to – or they can incorporate links. If it’s the former, then they’re no longer part of the web. If it’s the latter – isn’t it still the web?

It might not be this way forever, but the New York Times iOS app (at least as it runs on my iPod Touch) has outbound links (which open within the NYT app), and the ability to e-mail, text, Tweet or copy permalinks to the stories you read in the app (but if you open the links from your e-mail on your iOS device, they open in Safari and not in the NYT app). So even if it’s not using HTML, HTTP and port 80 (and I’m pretty sure it actually is), it’s still providing a rich hypertext experience. It’s still, all in all, the web.

Facebook is searchable by Google

“It’s a world Google can’t crawl, one where HTML doesn’t rule.”

It should also be noted that Facebook is searchable by Google now. So are Twitter, Tumblr, and most other big name social media sites. Mobile and desktop apps aren’t, but again – most of the apps there are still pulling content from or pushing content to the open web, where it’s being crawled by Google. Facebook has been pushing to make profiles public specifically to court more search engine traffic. Certainly there’s a lot of data that Facebook generates that it holds onto itself – all that data that’s going into its Open Graph project. That’s how it generates value. But it’s still an ad-supported system that depends on getting targeted traffic – and search seems to be a part of its strategy.

It may also be worth noting that The New York Times shut down its previous walled garden experiment in order to get more search traffic. The current semi-permeable wall idea is designed in part to encourage search traffic and link sharing.

Of course others, like the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, both of which have had semi-permiable pay-walls, are going the opposite direction. So it remains to be seen which model will win. It seems likely that pay-walls will work for some content but not for others. It’s hard to imagine the Wired article in question getting so much traction and generating so much debate in a world of walled off, stand alone apps with no links.

The link is still the currency of social media

“Facebook became a parallel world to the Web, an experience that was vastly different and arguably more fulfilling and compelling and that consumed the time previously spent idly drifting from site to site.”

I’m not sure this is entirely true either. What exactly do people do on Facebook? A lot of different stuff, but one of those things is sharing links. The same is true on other social media sites. “Giving good link,” as Jay Rosen calls it, is still the best way to be popular on Twitter. Links – whether to articles, videos, or whatever – are still what generate activity on social media sites. True you can do more and more within Facebook without ever having to refer out to any external content, but it’s hard to imagine the value of the link diminishing enough for it to vanish from the social media ecosystem altogether any time soon.

The social graph only goes so far

Social media is a key way to find new links, but it’s not the only way and isn’t always the best way. Some of the “search is dead” sorts of articles that have been floating around about Google lately seem to believe that you can replace search with your “social graph.” You just ask your friends “Hey, where’s a good place to get a smoothie around here?” or “What kind of cell phone should I buy?” and you get your answer.

But that just isn’t the reality of the situation. I recently bought a Samsung Vibrant. If I’d been depending on my “social graph” I’d never have bought it since no one I knew had one. I had to depend on search engines to find reviews. I did an experiment the other day – I asked if anyone had an ASUS UL30A-X5 or knew someone who had one. This laptop wasn’t as new a product as the Vibrant. Also, it was part of the line of laptops Engadget called laptop of the year in 2009. So it seemed plausible that in my network Twitter followers and Facebook friends (over 1,000 people combined), including lots and lots of geeks and tech savvy people, SOMEONE would either have one or know someone who did. But no one did. Or if they did, they didn’t say anything.

And consumer electronics are a relatively un-obscure interest of mine. If I’d asked my social graph if they knew of any essays comparing Giotto’s Allegories of the Vices and the Virtues to the tarot, would anyone have been able to point me towards this essay? Maybe, but sometimes it’s easier to to just fucking Google it.

Don’t get me wrong, I get a lot of answers through my friends via social media. But it’s not a replacement for Google. (And while there might not be much room for Google to grow its search business, it’s far from irrelevant.)

How open has the Internet ever been?

First it was getting listed by Yahoo!, then it was getting a good ranking in Google, now it’s getting into the Apple App Store. In each case, the platform owner benefited more than the person trying to get listed. This is not new. That certain sites – like Facebook at YouTube – have become large platforms is certainly interesting. That Apple, Facebook and Google have a disproportionate say over what gets seen on the Internet is problematic, definitely. But there was never any golden age when the Net was truly open. The physical infrastructure is owned by giant corporations, and ICANN is loosely controlled by the US government. And the biggest threat to openness on the Internet is international agreement that has nothing to do with the shift to apps.

Furthermore, even the App Store is open in a certain sense. It’s important to remember that Apple didn’t invent the app store – or even the mobile app store. They’ve been around for quite a while. I had a plain non-smart phone on Verizon that had access to an app store. Part of what made Apple’s app store successful though is that anyone could buy the SDK and submit apps to it. You didn’t have to be invited, and the cost wasn’t prohibitive. Very few developers could develop apps for that old Verizon store. In that sense, the app store is extremely “open.”

What do we need to do to ensure the app and post-app ecologies are “open”?

Even if we are going to see the end of the Open Web, replaced instead by an app economy or later an object ecosystem, we don’t need to have a closed Internet. Here are some of the keys to an open future:

-Open Data
-Open APIs
-Data Portability
-Net Neutrality
-Disclosure of data collection and usage
-Open-source apps and objects
-An independent Internet

Steve Jobs on Web Objects, Media Democratization in 1996

Mediapunk readers know I’m no fan of Steve Jobs, but this 1996 interview in Wired – from when he was still at NeXT – is brilliant. It explains a lot about where he’s coming from now.

Now Jobs is making a third guess about the future. His passion these days is for objects. Objects are software modules that can be combined into new applications (see “Get Ready for Web Objects”), much as pieces of Lego are built into toy houses. Jobs argues that objects are the key to keeping up with the exponential growth of the World Wide Web. And it’s commerce, he says, that will fuel the next phase of the Web explosion.

WebObjects

WebObjects is still around – it’s a web application framework closer to Ruby on Rails than Momcomp or JackBe. But I have to hand it to him, he was ahead of the times. Remember that Jobs’ original vision for the iPhone was based around mobile web apps, not the app store.

More highlights:

The problem is I’m older now, I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t.

That’s going to break people’s hearts.

I’m sorry, it’s true. Having children really changes your view on these things. We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much – if at all.

These technologies can make life easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. You may have a child with a birth defect and be able to get in touch with other parents and support groups, get medical information, the latest experimental drugs. These things can profoundly influence life. I’m not downplaying that. But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in this radical new light – that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important. [...]

I don’t see most people using the Web to get more information. We’re already in information overload. No matter how much information the Web can dish out, most people get far more information than they can assimilate anyway. [...]

To be honest, most people who have something to say get published now. [...]

When you’re young, you look at television and think, There’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It’s the truth. [...]

I’m an optimist in the sense that I believe humans are noble and honorable, and some of them are really smart. I have a very optimistic view of individuals. As individuals, people are inherently good. I have a somewhat more pessimistic view of people in groups. And I remain extremely concerned when I see what’s happening in our country, which is in many ways the luckiest place in the world. We don’t seem to be excited about making our country a better place for our kids.

Wired: The Next Insanely Great Thing

(via Chris Jones)

Safari’s “Reader” Mode May be Best Case Scenario for Online Advertising

It it seems like so many sites are just getting so bad with road-blocks and screen hogging ads. It’s getting like it was in the late 90s and early 2000s, with pop-ups. You’d go to a page and you’d get 3 or 4 pop-ups. And now pop-up blockers are built into all browsers, basically. So that’s not even a viable form of advertising any more. So I expect ad-blockers will become a standard part of browsers – I just don’t know how companies are going to expect to profit from advertising in the future.

– Me, in my interview with Richard Metzger.

Shortly after that interview was conducted, Apple announced it was integrating the browser plugin Readability into Safari.

Reader mode
Screenshot from the big sloppy blowjob Ad-Age gave Apple for Reader

Apple is simultaneously shipping ad-blocking technology in its browser and entering the advertising market. Some, such as Ars Technica’s Ken Fisher cried foul:

So the company that has made an advertising platform a major part of its iOS strategy is also hawking an ad-blocking technology for its Web browser, where it has no stake in ads. App Store: use our unblockable ads, developers! They help you get paid for your hard work! Web: hey, block some ads, readers! They’re annoying!

(Fisher and Ars Technica have previously protested ad-blocking)

Chris Arkenberg noted “Apple’s iAd/ad-block duality underscores their anti-Flash agenda. If they can’t own & control the platform, they will try to crush it.”

Certainly this is relevant, especially if Apple doesn’t offer the ability to block its own iAds in apps. And readers of this site know I’m no fan of Apple’s strong-arm control tactics. But it’s worth noting that Reader/Readability is a different sort of ad-blocker.

It loads the full page, ads and all, and then gives the reader the option of blocking ads while they read the content. This means, for impression driven advertising, that sites still get their pageviews – and advertisers still get some exposure, if for only a few seconds.

Fisher notes this, but worries about articles split up into multiple pages. Sites might not be able to get pageviews for each and every single one of those pages. Cry me a fucking river! The content industry (of which I’m now very much a part, now being a writer for ReadWriteWeb) is on the verge of having the rug pulled out from under it by ad-blockers, and you’re worried that you might not be able to tack on a few extra pageviews for longer content? (Some sites already let you hit “single page” or view a printer friendly version if you don’t want to click through multiple pages.) We’re going to be goddamn lucky if readers stick to Readability and don’t go all out with Ad-Block Plus – or both.

The good news for both advertisers and content providers is that only 40% of Facebook readers say they dislike ads. And I’d guess Facebook users are fairly representative sample of the Internet. That means that unless browsers start shipping with an Ad-Block Plus-like ad blocker, we can expect that at least 60% of Internet users won’t bother to install an ad-blocker more aggressive than Readability.

But Facebook’s ads are pretty unobtrusive, unlike Salon’s monstrous screen hogging ads that try to drive you off the Internet and back onto paper. Considering 40% of Facebook users are annoyed by Facebook’s relatively tiny ads, the number of readers annoyed by “road block” ads and those “Congratulations, you’ve just been selected to receive a free iFuck-in-Ass” ads are probably more in the 98-99% range (the other 1-2% are too stupid to realize those road-blocks and fake contests are ads). Those really obtrusive ads could ruin it for everyone – they’re what finally drove me to install Ad-Block Plus, something I resisted for years.

Advertisers and publishers need to forget about being able to monetize every single pageview and focus on offering unobtrusive and highly targeted advertising – and ostracize anyone who tries to push obnoxious advertising on the web before browser makers start including real ad-blocks by default.

Steve Jobs Can Shove an iPad Up His Cock

Steve Jobs getting ready to cram an iPad up his limp dick

Y’know what? Steve Jobs can go sound himself with an iPad.

If you haven’t heard by now, in its puritanical crusade to shield the eyes of youth everywhere from naughty images (or at least, naughty images not promoted by major corporations), Apple, in its infinite wisdom, decided line drawings of penises, illustrations of men kissing, and depictions of Jesus as a zombie hunter, are “obscene, pornographic, or defamatory” and banned them from the App Store.

Apple, after enough bad PR, allowed some of these comics to appear in the App Store after all – but, as Prism Comics points out, “Since the rejection was entirely at Apple’s discretion, there was no way to protest except in the media.” Furthermore, it seems to be only indie creators that have this problem – far more graphic content is published on the iPad by Marvel Comics or by large movie studios without any intervention from Apple.

The moral of the story: unless you’re a big company, or you can get media attention to your plight, you face the risk of getting excluded from the largest mobile content marketplace in the world if you don’t follow a Disney-level of “family friendliness.”

wwdc comic
A comic satirizing tech press’s reaction to Jobs’ presentation at WWDC

The Prism Comics article doesn’t have a datestamp, but I tweeted it on June 2nd. However, it wasn’t until June 12th when Slate’s Big Money covered the issue that the story got legs. After that, it got picked up by Gawker and many other outlets.

On the 14th of June, Apple admitted to making a mistake and invited both the Ulysses Seen‘s Rob Berry and Josh Levitas and The Importance of Being Earnest‘s Tom Bouden to resubmit their comics (no word about the other two censored comics that Prism mentioned). Considering this was after Berry and Levitas tried resubmiting Ulysses Seen with a leaf over the penis, it seems pretty clear that Apple was responding to negative publicity, not correcting a mere oversight.

This follows Jobs flat-out lying about the Mark Fiore incident, and his Orwellian pronouncement that Apple offers Freedom from Porn.

I probably don’t need to point out the irony of these moves coming from a company that launched the Macintosh with its famous 1984 ad, and successfully reinvigorated itself with its “Think Different” campaign.

freedom from porn

Previously:

Julian Assange: Journalists should stop slavishly promoting the iPad

Probably false rumors about OSX app crackdown

steve jobs email

According to third party Macintosh developers Rixsoft are claiming that as of OSX 10.7 “No software will be able to run on Mac OS X 10.7 without being approved and signed by Apple, Inc.”

I’d never heard of Rixstep before, but the buzz on Twitter is that they are not to be trusted. Meanwhile, another developer is circulating an e-mail from Steve Jobs claiming the rumor is untrue, but I have no reason to trust that this is a real e-mail either.

I’ve been worried that this was the direction Apple was headed, but it doesn’t seem like they’re going there yet.

Apple and Control Machines

apple: come see our latest restriction

In the days before the new Apple tablet was announced the anti-DRM group Defective by Design dubbed Apple’s announcement event the “Come see our latest restriction” event. Since then, there’s been a lot of chatter about the various limitations of the device – DRM, or otherwise.

I think some of these limitations could be important for the future of computing and media.

Limitations could be a feature – keeping people focused on reading. Perhaps we shouldn’t be thinking of this as a laptop or netbook alternative at all, but as an text reader and video player. Having a limited multitasking abilities and a lack of Flash might be a means to limit our level of distraction from e-mail and instant messaging. Stan Schroeder wrote for Mashable:

Then, there’s multi-tasking. Nearly everyone I’ve talked to thinks this is a huge deal-breaker, but I think it makes sense. Although Steve Jobs was trying hard to prove to us that the iPad is a computer, it isn’t. Just like the iPod and the iPhone, its main purpose is to give the users an easy way to consume certain types of digital content. After music (iPod) and mobile applications (iPhone) comes iPad with video, photos, e-books, e-magazines, games. Apple doesn’t really want you to do complex photo editing on the iPad; you’ve got your Mac or PC for that. Apple wants you to touch a button, and start consuming content (preferably paying a couple of dollars for it).

Finally, the camera. Yes, it would be nice to have video chat. But once again, Apple wants you to do that on a Mac. If you want to snap photos, you should do it on the iPhone — you’re carrying it with you all the time, anyway. Once again, it becomes clear that Apple doesn’t want to sell devices that can do everything; they want to find the best form factor to consume some types of digital content, and then focus on them. If you look at it, you can do pretty much everything on your personal computer; by that philosophy, you don’t need anything else besides a laptop. And yet, you’ve now got smartphones and e-readers selling very well. Could it be that one powerful device is not as good as several less powerful, but more focused ones?

If that’s the case, and the iPad is just another consumer device and a paradigm, then it’s no big deal.

But if they’re letting users instal everything from the iPhone app store, then are they really designing useful limitations to keep the device focused? You can install apps that do just about anything, not just consume media. And the keyboard extension explicitly allows two-way media interaction.

Ultimately the lack of Flash or multitasking or a web cam seem trivial to me. They’re just features that may or may not be able to make or break the latest in consumer technology. And that’s just not important. But there’s a scarier possibility – that Apple is slowing easing its customers into an app-store centric world, where every app that runs on their platform on a “legitimate” (non-”jailbroken”) device has to pass their gates. It may sound conspiratorial, but I worry that Apple is trying to migrate their closed device paradigm from the mobile world (where that sort of thing is already pretty common) to the desktop world (where that’s unheard of). It’s strange that years after Trusted Computing became an information liberty concern, it’s been Apple, not Microsoft, leading the way to a more restrictive computing environment.

Peter Kirn at Create Digital Music has an extensive post considering the potential problems of the “closed Apple” world:

Apple already has a dangerously dominant position in the consumption of music and mobile software, and their iTunes-device link ensures that content goes through their store, their conduit, and ultimately their control. This means that developers are limited in what they can create for the device when it comes to media – a streaming Last.fm app is okay, but an independent music store (like Amazon MP3 on Android) is not. Now, you can add to that Apple dominating book distribution. At a time when we have an opportunity to promote independent e-book publishing, the iPad is accompanied by launch deals from major traditional publishers. What does that mean for independent writers and content? [...]

Apple threatens to split computing into two markets, one for “traditional,” “real” computers, and another for passive consumption devices that try to play games without physical controls and let you read books, watch movies, play music, and run apps so long as you’re willing to go through the conduit of a single company.

And, of course, this wouldn’t be worth my breath if not for my real concern: what if Apple actually succeeds? What if competitors follow this broken path, or fail to offer strong alternatives? The iPad today is a heck of a lot slicker than alternatives. It’s bad news for Linux, Windows, and Android, none of which have really workable competitors yet. It’s especially bad for Linux, in fact, which had a real chance to make its mark on mobile devices.

Timothy Blee makes the case that restricted computing will lose out in the market. I’m not so optimistic.

On not-so-dark note, I was disappointed at how uninnovative the iPad is. It’s just a big iPod touch, or a really crippled tablet pc. It seems like it could be an interesting musical insturment (a nice platform for RJDJ, for instance) It doesn’t seem like as much of a game changer as something like this:

microsoft courier

It’s unusual for Microsoft to out innovate Apple (or rather, to beat them to stealing good ideas), but their Courier seems to do just that. Of course, it’s vaporware right now, and could continue to be so, just like its abandoned predecessor the OLPC2:

olpc 2

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