Life After Content Blocking

 

Pour MN 382

By Jean-Louis Gassée

Ad blocking started as an initiative by independent developers who wanted to improve our browsing experience. Now that at least one company, Apple, has made Content Blocking “official”, ad-supported publishing business models are in trouble.

Back in the days when we bought a newspaper or magazine at the newsstand, we thought we were paying for the newspaper. We were only faintly aware that advertising contributed a large share of the paper’s revenue. In some cases, like old computer magazines, ads were welcomed and even avidly sought by the reader; they provided a needed source of information in a rapidly evolving field.

No strings attached, we buy, we read, and we’re done.

Then, the Web happened and newspapers and magazines became available on line. The unlimited number of sources of information and entertainment has lead to a new kind of Tragedy of the Commons: When finite advertising budgets are divided by an almost infinite number of Internet billboards, the revenue per ad tends to zero. As revenue from print ads continues to decline, Web ads aren’t picking up the slack:

Pew
We now have a race to the bottom where publishers use tricks (some say fraud) to generate advertising revenue. This leads to pages that are overloaded with ads that publishers no longer control, combined with the collection of the most minute crevices of user behavior, information that’s then pimped to advertisers who are constantly looking for more finely-tuned methods to target their ads.

Ad Blocking technology — browser modules that could detect and block ads — emerged as a way to combat some of these abuses. Unavoidably, this led to cat and mouse games. As detection improved, advertisers learned to sniff the rules and avoid the blocks. It also led to whitelisting, a “feature” that I can’t but call an extortion racket. Adblock Plus from Eyeo GmbH maintains a whitelist of the “good guys”, advertisers who pay to be let through the gates. Large companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Taboola pay AdBlock Plus to lift the ad barrier. Lovely, especially for small, marginally profitable companies who can’t afford the bribe.

We’re now about to have a cleaner set of content blocking APIs in upcoming versions of Safari for OS X (desktop) and iOS 9 (mobile). These APIs will allow app developers, Apple included, to create a range of blocking tools aimed at removing or filtering ads and improving privacy. An early example is Crystal by Dean Murphy, which demonstrates marked improvements in page load times and sizes:

Crystal Page Load Times
(TechCrunch provides a detailed overview of the Content Blocking wave).

The good news: We’ll soon have ways to streamline our browsing experience and avoid being pimped to advertisers.

The bad news: Marginally profitable Web sites, which is most of them, will lose advertising revenue and plunge into the red. The big guys that have paywalls in place, sites such as The New York Times, Financial Times, or Le Monde, will be much less vulnerable. (More on the Web publishing landscape in the postscript.)

What are the smaller publishers to do?

Displaying their outrage by posting “Access Denied” when reached by an “offending” browser won’t work.

Some very specialized sites, such as Ben Thompson’s Stratechery and Ben Bajarin’s TechPinions, are able to generate membership revenue because the quality of their content — sober analysis versus mere reporting — makes it worth the price of subscription.

But these are exceptions. Too many sites are just echo chambers, they rewrite news releases, add strong adjectives and adverbs, and a bit of spin. Competition for attention, pageviews, and advertising dollars drives them to shout from the rooftops. If they don’t want to disappear or be rolled up into a larger entity to “optimize expenses”, they’ll have to get us to pay for their content.

This is much easier said than done. It’s difficult to conjure up a picture in which we’ll have subscriptions to most of the sites we graze today in their ad-supported form.

An alternative to subscriptions for content we may or may not actually “consume” is pay-as-you-go. In principle, this isn’t very different from what we do when we buy an episode of Breaking Bad. We gladly pay $2.99 to watch what we want, when we want, and without ads.

This works well for TV shows, but it doesn’t easily translate to websites.

First, we’re not going to pay $2.99 for an article on The Huffington Post. We’ll only pay a small fraction, 1/100th perhaps, of the price of a TV episode.

Second, once we start paying for articles, even in tiny sums, we’ll become much more selective. Irrespective of the amount, the move from free to paid will influence our choices. For many sites, crossing that chasm might prove impossible.

Third and perhaps most important: How will these purchases be transacted? A separate account for each site is impossible. For this to work, we’d have to be registered in a single location from which we could browse, buy, and read. That location would log transactions, count the money, take funds from our credit card or bank account, pay content suppliers on a weekly basis… and keep a percentage for its services.

Sounds familiar? In 2003 Apple opened the iTunes Store with two innovations: Content by the slice and micro-payments; selling music one song at a time for 99 cents.

For a brief dreamy moment, similar arrangement for websites might sound attractive, but the cold reality is that there’s no practical way to put so many websites under one umbrella, Apple’s or anyone else’s, and the business of collecting pennies doesn’t seem viable.

(Apple’s iOS 9 News app is coming. It looks like a clean and well-lighted place for news consumption. It’s too early to weigh its impact but I don’t think it’ll do much to help ad-supported echo chambers.)

In a previous Monday Note, Frédéric Filloux discussed what he called Ad Block’s Doomsday Scenarios. This was prophetic: We didn’t know yet about Apple’s addition of Content Blocking technology to OS X and iOS. Ad Blocking is now moving from third party initiatives to a broad assault based on platform technology. This is going to be painful for those whose ad-supported business model is in danger of breaking. There will be blood.

JLG@mondaynote.com

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PS: A few thoughts on the Web publishing investment landscape:

Some high-quality sites, such as Om Malik’s GigaOM, have folded, while others have been rolled up into larger entities. The Huffington Post was acquired by AoL; Re/Code (née All Things D) was absorbed by Vox Media, which is now partly owned (a $200M investment) by NBC Universal, itself a part of the Comcast empire. NBC/Comcast just made $200M investment in BuzzFeed.

Other media organizations have found individuals of substantial means to buy a large stake in the company, or acquire it outright. Jeff Bezos now owns the Washington Post, and also made “a significant investment” in Business Insider (whose Wikipedia page makes no mention of Bezos). The  New York Times’ largest shareholder is Mexican magnate Carlos Slim, the second richest person in the world.

Similar moves have taken place in Europe. Bernard Arnault, the billionaire head of the luxury goods LVMH conglomerate, owns two newspapers: French business daily Les Echos, and Le Parisien. Not to be outdone, billionaires Xavier Niel and Pierre Bergé, joined by investment banker Mathieu Pigasse, are heavily invested in Le Monde. And cable operator magnate Patrick Drahi now owns l’Express and a substantial stake in Libération. None of these French newspapers are in good financial health.

This is puzzling. Newspapers are in trouble due to the never ending fall in ad revenue, that’s why they get acquired by larger entities or must find a rich investor. But what do these benefactors see in properties that depend on troubled web advertising business models? Do they really believe they’ll make money with these newspapers, perhaps monopoly profits if they manage to win The last Man Standing game? Or, more disturbingly, do they want to influence the news?

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Why Europe Hates US Internet Giants In Six Charts

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by Frederic Filloux

Here in Europe, America’s domination of the digital world is met with unabated detestation. Today’s first of two articles looks at the facts.  

This summer, as I prepared lectures for my foreign students at the Sciences-Po School of Journalism, I wanted to explain who “owns” internet traffic and audiences in Europe.
The figures are irrefutable: Most of what we watch is controlled by a handful of US-based internet giants. Thanks to rigorous processes and quasi-religious conviction, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and a group of their partners or competitors have succeeded in creating, consolidating and exporting their power. They broke things on the way to their dominant position and, as a result, built a wide front of malcontents: large corporations (e.g. in Germany) who see their local dominion threatened by “those barbarians”; frustrated entrepreneurs unable to fuel the growth of their businesses; national politicians eager to find traction in the public opinion; public officials who manage to aggrandize business issues, transmuting them into great “causes”. Of course, American companies carry their share of responsibility in this process as their muscular confidence too often veered into arrogance. But it is nonetheless fascinating to watch how the narrative drifted away from facts and into fantasy.

First, the audience question. Here is the internet audience in raw, non-unduplicated millions “uniques” (visitors) per month for the French market:

audience mUV

When you look at such a picture, a sense of frustration is understandable. Almost everyone in France’s 50M internet population (and that’s likely to be similar in other European countries) deals with a Microsoft or a Google digital property. And half of that population visits Facebook — almost as much as all French news sites combined. When it comes to legacy flagship players such as Le Monde or Le Figaro (both see their desktop traffic going away), their audience share is 5x less…

A look through other metrics such as the time spent isn’t enthralling either:

time spent

In short, French internet users spend roughly as much time on Facebook as on the ten largest local media sites combined.

Despite good mobile penetration, excellent infrastructure and reasonable rates, France didn’t manage to catch up on mobile applications:

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In an ecosystem in which the winner (read: icons on the first screen) takes all, US companies have been able to capture an even greater audience share on mobile than on the web. In this, there is no reason other than product features and quality.

Take the weather forecast apps in the above ranking. In theory, Météo-France, with its near-monopoly on weather data, should have been able to grab the N°1 slot for mobile apps on French smartphones. It turns out AccuWeather did just that. With less than half Météo-France’s staff — but most likely a business culture built upon 180,000 customers across the world — the Pennsylvania company enjoys almost twice the mobile viewership of the French state-owned weather forecasting bureaucracy.

The same goes for the classifieds business captured by LeBonCoin – owned by Norway’s Schibsted and implementing an inherited Swedish concept. While French newspapers were ranting about their evaporating classifieds revenue, the Norwegian group quietly built an amazing click-machine that even managed to outpace eBay.

In both cases, no predatory practices, no abuse of dominant position, nothing to chew on for EU commissaires. We simply have two corporations, deeply imbued with customer-centric cultures, that took advantage of weak incumbents in markets that were up for grabs.

Those who stigmatize the dominance of internet giants forget to mention two key success factors badly lacking in France.

The first is the access to capital. The comparison between Europe and the United States is eye-opening:

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As Venture Beat noted in its yearly account of VC activity in Europe:

That big year in venture funding was somewhat muted because, after two big quarters, venture financing dropped 24 percent in Q4 compared to Q3.
And more bad news: The number of VC fund closings in 2014 fell 4 percent from 2013 to 76. The total amount raised dropped 18 percent in 2014 to €3.4 billion ($3.8 billion). The drop was especially steep in Q4, when the number of funds that had closings plummeted 51 percent from the same period a year ago.

Such performances bodes ill for Europe’s ability to fund a vibrant innovation ecosystem. (As explained in a previous Monday Note, French VC are doing even worse: With a GDP 6x smaller than the US, its VC pipe is 50x smaller, and the gap is worsening.)

The second success factor found wantings in Europe is higher education.  Again, an appalling picture emerges:

edu expenditure

Whatever the metric (secondary education, tertiary, with or without R&D programs), the United States educational system far outspends Europe. (French elite Ecole Polytechnique engineering school has only 7 computer science professors vs hundreds for Ivy League and Ivy League+ universities.)

America’s dominance of the European internet is indisputable, but it can’t be explained away with accusations of bullying and exclusionary practices. Agreed, US companies don’t pay enough taxes, but they often do so by taking advantage of tax arrangements concocted by European officials, including the former European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker himself when he was Prime minister of Luxembourg. And it should be noted that all European multinationals avail themselves of similar “tax optimization” practices. As a high ranking Google official once told me: “Our shareholders, the financial markets would crucify us for not taking advantage of the European tax system…”

Europe can be proud of many extraordinary industrial achievements: Airbus, Arianespace, the European network of high-speed trains, the French nuclear energy program that is second to none, Germany features a world-beating auto industry and is China’s lead supplier of complex industrial machinery. But when it comes to the digital revolution, European structures, mentality and inward-looking conservatism played against the innovation thrust.

Next week, we’ll look at the ideology built upon European technological frustrations. It even comes with its own grammar.

frederic.filloux@mondaynote.com

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A Salute To Solo Programmers

Photo: Dominic Alves, Flickr

Photo: Dominic Alves, Flickr

by Jean-Louis Gassée

Parkinson’s Law tells us that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Applied to software, this means that applications tend to bloatware, obese programs whose complexity makes them nearly impossible to debug and maintain. Today, we look at happier counterexamples, past and current, of ambitious products created by “hermit programmers”.

Once upon a time, we were awestruck by the “solo climber”, the programmer who could single-handedly write a magnum opus on a barebones machine such as the Apple ][ with its 64 kilobytes of memory (yes, kilo — not mega, let alone gigabytes), and 8-bit processor running at 1MHz (again, mega not giga).

Once such giant was Paul Lutus. By his own admission, he fit the stereotype of the hermit programmer:

“In the computer business I’m known as the Oregon Hermit. According to rumor, I write personal computer programs in solitude, shunning food and sleep in endless fugues of work. I hang up on important callers in order to keep the next few programming ideas from evaporating, and I live on the end of a dirt road in the wilderness. I’m here to tell you these vicious rumors are true.”

When I first visited Apple’s Cupertino offices in early 1981, Lutus had already won a place next to Jobs and Wozniak in the Bandley Drive Hall of Fame for his Apple Writer word processor. Admirers told how he would fly his own plane to come and collect his royalty check and then immediately fly back to his woodsy Oregon retreat.

Fresh from the word-processing industry (Exxon Office Systems and its Vydec “professional” workstation), I looked with disdain upon Lutus’ tiny, feature-deprived toy. Then I visited an Apple warehouse where I saw a forklift loading palettes of Apple Writer boxes. Palettes of software! A quick count, a couple of questions, and I experienced an epiphany: Apple Writer easily beat the number of word processor workstations shipped by all the “pros” combined.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was witnessing a one-man disruption.

(For the true geek, Lutus’ arachnoid.com website is filled with delightful “single climber” anecdotes and attitudes:

• He used GraForth, his graphics and sound extension of the Forth programming language to convince a certain individual to come and visit:

I once used the GraFORTH graphics language I had written to create a “computer letter” in the form of a diskette that displayed images and messages. In one of the sequences a cabin appeared on a hilltop, the door opened, then music played. It was designed to persuade a certain someone to visit me in Oregon, and it worked.

• At NASA, he wrote programs for the HP-25 and HP-67 hand-held calculators to compute space flight trajectories and “planetary ephemerides”:

Instead of dealing with the computer department and a 24-hour delay, one could get reasonably accurate results in seconds, using a device that sat on one’s desk. In the context of the times, this bordered on the miraculous.

Stay for the surprising digression about Wikipedia at the end of the “Programming Handheld Calculators” post.)

Bill Budge is another noted solo programmer. In 1981, Budge wrote a pinball game called Raster Blaster for the Apple ][, a remarkable feat considering that the 1MHz 8-bit processor was “clearly” unable to support the fast graphics, collision detection, and fun sound effects required for such a game.

The next stage in his ascent — and his ultimate claim to fame — was Pinball Construction Set, a set of modules that klutzes like me could combine into a custom pinball layout. At the time, 1983, this was (rightly) viewed as yet another astonishing achievement, a consummate way to use every 6502 cycle to delight users. (This was before marketeers hijacked the word and pimped it as Surprise and Delight™, using the phrase in feeble attempts to mask a product void.)

As an unnamed computer sage once put it, the programmer’s job is to slide under the user’s feet as s/he walks on water – and to make sure those feet never get wet. Pinball Construction Set did just that.

That same year, I happened upon Bill Budge while in line at an Apple event. After conveying my admiration for his superhuman programming skills, I expressed concern that he had disclosed the graphics algorithms inside Pinball Construction Set in a SoftTalk magazine article. Wouldn’t this unveiling undermine his business? The young sage’s unforgettable answer: A cookbook doesn’t a Chef make.

I can’t leave this part of my story without mentioning Bob Frankston and Dan Bricklin, the duo authors of the epoch-making VisiCalc. VisiCalc begat Excel, which is to say VisiCalc’s influence is felt every day in every corner of businesses large and small.

Those were the days… Computers and their operating systems were simple and the P in Personal Computers applied to the programmer. He or she (mostly he at the time) could make a dent in the universe while sitting alone in a cabin in the woods.

Enough nostalgia. Today, such singular achievements appear to be no longer possible.

As I write this, I’m downloading the latest version Xcode, Apple’s programming environment and toolkit, onto my iMac. It needs 7.77 gigabytes of disk space.
The “obsolete” word processor I use to write this (Pages 2009) weighs in at 388  megabytes; the newer and dumber Pages version 5.5.3 takes up 478 Mbytes.

Operating systems have become so sophisticated, so tentacular that a single human being can’t possibly internalize their workings and write application code that keeps us users walking on water. There’s no place for a 2015 Paul Lutus.

But are things really that dire?

As it turns out, the size and complexity of operating systems and development tools do not pose completely insurmountable obstacles; we still find programs of hefty import authored by one person. One such example is Preview, Mac’s all-in-one file viewing and editing program. While the Wikipedia article is out of date and tepid, the two-part Macworld article titled The many superpowers of Apple’s Preview (here and here) does justice to the app’s power and flexibility. Read it and join me in my appreciation for this labor of love from a solo, unnamed programmer who, I’m told, has been at it since the NeXT days.

Preview will even render CAD files that have a .DAE extension, a.k.a. Collada files, an interchange format for CAD programs. This lets you play with the 3D image without the need for the original CAD program. Impressive —  and leading us to dark thoughts about the sorry state of iTunes (wags call it Apple’s Windows Vista), Pages, and even Mail, apps that are still buggy and crashing after all these years. Too many cooks?

Newer than Preview but no less ambitious, we have Gus Mueller’s Acorn, an “Image Editor for Humans”, now in version 5 at the Mac App Store. To get an idea of the breadth and depth of the app, scan the documentation on the company’s web site. In addition to “straight” tech doc, there’s an FAQ, pointers to the Acorn communities, and a wealth of video tutorials for beginners, intermediate, and advanced users. (Mueller calls his Everett, WA company a mom and pop shop because his spouse Kristin does the documentation when she isn’t working as a Physical Therapist.)

On my iMac, Acorn 5 is a mere 24.6 Mbytes. Compare this, fairly or not, to apps that weigh in at 1.5 Gbytes or more (Microsoft Word, Excel…), or Pages at 478 Mbytes.

There is bloat, and there is hope.

JLG@mondaynote.com

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Google Car Challenges

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by Jean-Louis Gassée

Self-driving cars make an immensely attractive fantasy. But how far are we from seeing these hoped for vehicles become real products?

The sun has barely risen as we set out on the Hana Highway, headed to Maui’s “wet” side. It’s a long magical drive punctuated by sea vistas, waterfalls, Lindbergh’s grave, and, finally, the Seven Sacred Pools.

Mid-afternoon, we pack up for the drive back to Kaanapali. We can turn around and risk an unpleasant ride on the now congested Hana Highway, or we can forge ahead along the “dry” side of the island via the Piilani Highway:

 “[A] must drive road…a twisty, up and down roller coaster of a ride…in some places only wide enough for one vehicle, and in many places bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters over the sea, unprotected by guardrails.” (dangerousroads.org)

Piillani it is.

Midway, we turn a slow corner and face a gravel truck coming towards us. As advertised, there’s no room to pass. Remembering the advice from a local waiter, I dismount, walk up to the truck with an embarrassed smile and ask the driver for help: ‘Sorry about being in your way. A friend said you’d know what to do…
The gent chuckles, ‘There’s more room than you think. Back up twenty feet, fold in your side mirror, I’ll guide you so you hug the hillside real tight.

A few minutes of slow motion terror as the massive vehicle inches past… and then a honk and a wave. The truck disappears around the corner.

Let’s revisit the scene aboard a fully autonomous Google Car, one that doesn’t have a steering wheel. [We’ll see if the Google Car moniker sticks, or if the Alphabet holding company gives it another name.]:

Google Car
What happens when we meet the gravel truck? How do we tell the car to squeeze within a breath of the hillside rock? Will its sensors even allow the maneuver?

This may be a fanciful example, but let’s consider a quotidian analog that I recently experienced when I came face to face with a Lexus on a narrow Mountain View street turned single lane road because of the curb parking.  We were both holding up a line of cars, but we negotiated the bottleneck through a combination of patience and courteous hand signals — this is California, not Paris.

A Google Car would have been checkmated. It can’t move forward, it can’t go back:

 

Narrow Strret

The autonomous car’s passenger has to get out with an embarrassed smile and ask the conventional car drivers to help him out, to clear the road so as not to confuse his vehicle. That’s not what I think of as self-driving.

In an ideal future world where all cars are autonomous, this checkmate situation wouldn’t arise. Our cars will “talk” to each other and get a “god’s view” of traffic all around. When and how we get to this world, how long we tolerate the transition, isn’t clear.

(The difficult intermediate period reminds me of an old joke. A European country considers changing their traffic from right- to left-side driving. After much back and forth and no resolution, a politician comes up with a genius idea: ‘Let’s take it a step at a time. We’ll start with just the trucks…’)

In a Slate article subtitled The Autonomous Google car may never actually happen, Lee Gomes describes some of the obstacles that stand between us and our dreamed-of autonomous cars:

“…before the company’s vision for ubiquitous self-driving cars can be realized, all 4 million miles of U.S. public roads will be need to be mapped, plus driveways, off-road trails, and everywhere else you’d ever want to take the car…The Google car can’t consistently handle coned-off road construction sites, and its video cameras can sometimes be blinded by the sun when trying to detect the color of a traffic signal…”

Gomes ends up surmising that the Google Car will someday be an exhibit in the Museum of the Future That Never Was.

Even if Sergey Brin’s prediction that self-driving cars will be a reality by 2017 isn’t about to come true, it’s a splendid PR exercise. The putative Google Car is consonant with the company’s achievements in Machine Learning and its preeminent position in computerized mapping. Google: Technically ahead for your well-being.

The exercise also validates the value of partial solutions, of computerized driver assistance solutions. One feature at a time, our cars are becoming semi-autonomous, performing safety and comfort tasks under the control of a driver sitting behind the steering wheel. This isn’t some hazy future, it’s a present we can buy today. No magic required, no science, no infrastructure changes, just applied technology that the marketplace will sort out.

For example, a Prius I once drove in France featured a smarter cruise control and collision avoidance system. As I came upon a slow moving truck in front of me, the Prius automatically decelerated from programmed speed to keep me at a safe distance. When I turned the wheel left to get into a passing lane, the car re-accelerated back to cruising speed. Nice, especially when looking at chain collisions on foggy freeways.

Newer high-end cars offer traffic sign recognition that notifies drivers of the traffic restrictions that are in effect. Other cars offer lane-departure warnings that, in the example of my spouse’s car, send a rumble through the steering wheel if you stray too far. (I’m a bit skeptical about this one because it cries wolf each time you switch lanes, voluntarily or not, thus diminishing the alert’s value.)

My next car offers autonomous driving in start-stop, bumper-to-bumper traffic and is loaded with a bevy of other driver assistance goodies such as infrared night vision enhancement and a 360º view and warnings. This will be a big jump from my five-year-old car from the same maker, and while I’m a bit concerned about the bugs that are sure to lurk in the massive increase in on-board electronics, it seems there’s no going back.

As luck would have it, a Guardian story titled Documents confirm Apple is building self-driving car just came out. According to the article, the Cupertino company appears to be in negotiations for access to a high-security testing facility near San Francisco, a fact that would give additional substance to past rumors of an Apple Car development project.

A few thoughts come to mind.

First: Bravo Google! Minds are now bent and any car development shrouded in some sort of secrecy must be a self-driving vehicle.

Second: The GoMentum station mentioned in the Guardian article is affiliated with a public agency, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority. Besides an Autonomous Vehicle activity, the agency promotes a number of connected vehicles programs, some of which might be of interest to Apple’s Car Play developments:

Connnected Vehicle Programs
While many, yours truly included, would like to see an Apple Car, these rumors don’t mean that the company will actually ship a car. The experiment could be just that: An opportunity to learn what not to do, a chance to fail to great advantage.

If Apple is developing a production electric vehicle, the project will certainly include driver assistance functions — but it will definitely not be an autonomous, self-driving car. The company likes to ship products, not concepts.

JLG@mondaynote.com

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Better Than The Apple MVNO Fantasy

by Jean-Louis Gassée

An Apple cellular network is a nice but unrealistic fantasy. Today we explore better ways of achieving the carrier-independence we dream of. More

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What The Ad Blocker Debate Reveals

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by Jean-Louis Gassée

iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 (“El Capitan”) carry ad-blocking technology that delivers an experience that stands in stark contrast to current advertising and tracking practices. Users are beginning to notice…and advertisers aren’t happy about it.

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Why Nikkei Paid Top Money For The FT

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by Frederic Filloux

The Financial Times is a rare media property: a global, long-established brand combined with a successful — although unfinished — digital transformation. Such uniqueness explains why Nikkei paid £844m ($1.3bn, €1.18m) for it.  

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20 Home Pages, 500 Trackers Loaded: 
Media Succumbs to Monitoring Frenzy

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by Frederic Filloux 

News sites use trackers more indiscriminately than ever. A random sample of twenty digital properties yields stunning results. Last week, we looked at how long web sites take to load, today, we see how messy their user data collection is. 

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Home Automation Out of The Closet

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by Jean-Louis Gassée

The Smart Home has been just around the corner for more than three decades. Now, an uneasy, not entirely frank move from one of the industry’s grandees signals a shift towards credible consumer-grade solutions. More

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News Sites Are Fatter and Slower Than Ever

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by Frédéric Filloux

An analysis of download times highlights how poorly designed news sites are. That’s more evidence of poor implementation of ads… and a strong case for ad blockers. More

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