SitePoint Podcast #57: Not Negative
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Here are the topics covered in this episode:
- The DiggBar is Dead
- Comparative Browser Release Uptake Graphs
- WebKit 2
- Opera Mini Approved
- Twitter Advertising Platform
- Apple iPhone SDK 4.0 Terms
Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at http://delicious.com/sitepointpodcast/57.
- Patrick: Facebook Album of Kevin, a Man of Many Faces
- Brad: WordPress 3.0 Beta 1
- Kevin: SitePoint Blogs redesign
Kevin: April 16th, 2010: Adobe’s CS5 thunder is stolen; Apple makes a few “business decisions”, and Twitter finally makes some money. I’m Kevin Yank and this is the SitePoint Podcast #57: Not Negative.
Holy crap, we’ve got a lot of stories this week! Patrick, Brad are with me. Hi, guys.
Patrick: Hey, Kevin.
Kevin: Hey. Stephan is away this week and I don’t know, like I miss Stephan but I think the fewer people we have possibly our better chances of getting through everything. It has been a crazy two weeks since our last news show. We’ve got a few stories here that have nothing to do with Apple and the iPhone but wow, web developers are— It’s all about the iPhone right now. I have to try and take a step back and think if I didn’t own an iPhone, would all of this stuff be as all encompassing as it seems to me to be. Patrick, you don’t have an iPhone.
Patrick: Yeah, I don’t and it’s funny because it’s not. I mean, really, the only thing – and this is TMI that I really don’t try to keep tabs on tech news for the most part, I see links in Twitter, that’s kind of how I find out about big stories, Twitter.
And the main part I heard about it was when the guy who writes the Flashblog.com, Lee Brimelow, I guess is his name, he’s a platform evangelist and I found a link to his post.
Kevin: And he blew his top, didn’t he?
Patrick: Right, but beyond that, any of the links that we had in the show notes that we talked about, I hadn’t read any of them before preparing for the show.
Kevin: We’ll come back to that one later in the show but just to get some variety here; let’s start with some stories that have nothing to do with the iPhone. The first one is something we’ve talked about before and that’s the DiggBar. Speaking of people blowing their tops, I had a bit of a rant on a previous SitePoint podcast about the DiggBar and how it was a terrible thing for the web and Brad, did you agree with me?
Patrick: I’m sure he did.
Brad: I wasn’t a huge fun of the— I always agree with Kevin except for any iPad talk. (laugh) Yeah, I mean I wasn’t a big fan of the DiggBar. I’m not really a big fan of any of those bars. I really feel like you kind of lose control when you visit a website—
Kevin: There’s been a few more of them pop up since the DiggBar, eh?
Brad: Yeah, there has and it feels like a trend at this point but the issue I have is a lot of times you don’t realize it because you’re clicking on a shortened URL through Twitter or whatever other site, Facebook, and then all of a sudden it pops up the DiggBar at the top or the HootSuite Bar, whatever it may be and a lot of times it’s a challenge just to get out of that bar so you can actually view the site in the way it’s supposed to be viewed. So that was always kinda my complaint.
Kevin: So in the end we gave the DiggBar a pass because they took a step back and they removed it from the display of people who are not Digg users so you know where you just go alright, if you don’t like the DiggBar don’t use Digg and that solves the problem. But they’ve actually announced that they’re going to throw it away entirely
Patrick: Yeah, and this follows the, I guess, the resignation of their CEO, Jay Adelson and Kevin Rose being installed in that position. Basically, the next day after Adelson left he said we’re making two changes, no more DiggBar and all the domains that were previously banned are now unbanned. So I don’t know if those were important issues or not. You wouldn’t think the DiggBar would be that important of an issue internally but it did cause them a lot of negative press.
Kevin: Mmm. Yeah.
Brad: Doing research on this story, there wasn’t a lot of details that I found on why. Just really said yeah, you know we’re kind of just getting rid of it and that’s that but I couldn’t really find an answer why are they getting rid of it. I don’t know if you guys have had any luck figuring that out.
Patrick: Well, Kevin Rose on the Digg blog says that “framing content with an iFrame is bad for the Internet. It causes confusion when bookmarking breaks with the iFrame busters and has no ability to communicate with the lower frame, i.e. if you browse away from the story, the old Digg count still persists. It’s an inconsistent and wonky user experience and I’m happy to say we are killing it when we launch the new Digg.” So that’s I guess the reasoning.
Kevin: Kevin Rose is one of us. Kevin Rose cares about the Web being done the right way.
Brad: Where was this voice of reason when they launched the DiggBar you know? I mean he’s the founder of the website. Did he have no say?
Kevin: I kind of get the sense he was gritting his teeth through that whole process.
Patrick: Yeah, I mean that’s one way or the other way is that it’s a nice PR move to draw people away from the CEO just left. I mean I don’t know that’s just a tech sites that report on this sort of stuff throwing the DiggBar out there. It’s maybe a way to draw attention away. That’s devil’s advocate stuff. It’s probably all innocent.
Kevin: Yeah. I feel like the DiggBar, the benefit that it had for Digg only existed while they were showing it to non-Digg users. It was there to promote Digg and when they were forced to roll it back, okay, it may have kind of been a nice feature for their users but it was no longer really benefiting Digg as a business. So it’s something they can afford to cut loose at this point.
Brad: Bye-bye DiggBar. Join the ranks of Pownce.
Kevin: Bye-bye DiggBar and hello, Kevin Rose.
Kevin: They slipped something else in with this announcement though. Patrick, you said you were talking about they’re unbanning domains.
Patrick: Right. So previously Digg had banned the domains that had circumvented their ToS in some way, spammers, malware, whatever and now, apparently, all previously unbanned domains are going to be cleared so you can submit them to Digg once again and he does say that they will apply some automatic filters to prevent malware, virus and ToS violations but no other restrictions will be placed on the content. So it sounds like maybe a similar end result. You’ll be filtered out one way or another if you do something but unbanning domains is the headline.
Kevin: But it’s like – what’s the word when all is forgiven?
Brad: A pass.
Patrick: Yeah, immunity, I don’t know.
Kevin: You can all bring in— yeah, yeah, yeah, you get to have one more chance. Everyone gets one more chance.
Alright. So that’s the DiggBar, nothing to do with the iPhone. Next is a bunch of graphs. I love graphs. Brad…
Patrick: You’re a graph guy, huh?
Brad: Graphs are good.
Kevin: …I love it whenever you find graphs for me.
Brad: I like to find graphs.
Kevin: Tell me about the graphs.
Brad: So Pingdom.com, which is uptime and performance monitoring website, they made a really kind of interesting blog post that does have a lot of graphs and basically what they are kind of displaying here or graphing out are the upgrade patterns of the top browsers out there. So you can kind of see how they compare between Chrome and Firefox and Internet Explorer and Safari, how their users are upgrading, how quickly they’re upgrading when the new version comes out. And it’s really an interesting article because I guess I never realized the different methods that each browser uses to alert their users to an upgrade. In fact, Chrome and Firefox and Internet Explorer are all different. They don’t act the same way which I never really put together.
The difference are Chrome actually has automatic upgrades. It doesn’t ask the user when a new version comes out, it upgrades it and applies it and the user is none the wiser. So a new version would just show up the next day. Now I’m sure some people aren’t a huge fan of that but that’s how Chrome does it.
IE’s at the opposite end of the spectrum and they really don’t nag users too much about upgrading and it pops up as a critical update but if you don’t do it, it’ll just sit there and keep asking you to do it every time you run Windows updates.
Firefox takes a different approach. Now they actually force minor updates automatically. For example like from 3.6.1 to 3.6.2 would happen automatically. You wouldn’t know that it happened, it would just upgrade. However, for major releases they don’t force those on the user. So a user would have to actually accept the upgrade and allow Firefox to do it.
But it’s really interesting. I’m looking at these graphs and obviously, since Chrome forces the upgrade, you can see within a matter of three months Chrome 3.0 is, as far as the graph is concerned, at the 0% mark and 4.0 is up to 7% or 8% which is their market share whereas IE has that blue IE 6 line that’s still kind of dipping down around the 10% mark and IE 8’s up around 25% or so. So it’s definitely kind of interesting to see the different approach that each browser takes.
Kevin: The Google Chrome graph is beautiful. This is the envy of all of the other browser upgrade graphs I’d say like the lines, the new release comes out, that line dances up and the other line dances down to nothing, almost instantly and the Internet Explorer one, it’s almost unrecognizable. It is the same pattern essentially but it’s stretched out over so much time that it just looks lazy lines not really responding to any kind of meaningful events.
Patrick: It’s easy to be pretty when you force the users to download your browser and also copy the credit card information.
Kevin: (laugh) I didn’t see that in the graphs.
Patrick: That’s in the fine print.
Brad: You know I kind of like Chrome and Google’s approach. I mean I really think in this day and age since web apps are really supposed to be independent of the browser, whereas 10 years ago web apps were built for a specific browser and that’s one of the reasons IE 6 is still around that it should be independent. So if you’re forced to upgrade to the latest version, it’s only going to keep you more secure, give you more features, going to support newer standards like HTML 5, CSS 3, whatever it may be and there shouldn’t be issues with websites as long as they are following those standards and those methods.
Kevin: Chrome has at least one unfair advantage in this race at the moment and that’s that so far, every operating system they supported on day one is still supported today and what plays havoc with things like the upgrade patterns of Internet Explorer or even Safari to some extent is that these browsers have limited support in older operating systems. And as soon as Google has to say alright, this latest release no longer works on Windows XP, for example, you’re going to see this beautiful graph that they have here have a little messiness in it I think as they are forced to leave those users behind. You agree?
Brad: Yeah, I mean it’s definitely a valid point. It’s hard to say when that’s going to happen or how it’s going to happen but if it does happen and you’re right, you hate to leave users behind but if that’s what – you know if 5 or 10 years from now, they have to say look, we’re no longer supporting XP or obviously, probably not that long but at some point you’re right. They might have to do that so.
Kevin: Yeah, so many of these lagging IE 6 users I would say are Windows, really Windows 98 and people like that that they’ve been forced to leave behind and who refuse to upgrade to a new operating system or simply can’t justify it. So that’s story number 2, nothing to do with the iPhone.
The next one is getting perilously close to an iPhone story and Apple has quietly announced on the WebKit development list that they’re coming up with WebKit 2. WebKit is – it’s kind of one of those names that you can apply at different levels but WebKit certainly is the rendering engine that is at the heart of browsers like Safari and Google Chrome and also Safari Mobile for the iPhone but let’s just pretend that’s not the case for a second. What they’re announcing here is the toolkit Apple uses to embed that rendering engine into Safari. So in order to put the WebKit rendering engine into Chrome, Google came up with their own way of doing it so that they can have like separate processes for each tab that one of those big technology advances that they were very proud of when they launched Chrome and they said at the time they are only making their own browser because they want to show these techniques to other browser vendors and hope they catch on.
Well, it seems to be catching on because WebKit 2 is an open source framework for doing that same thing, an open source framework for building the WebKit rendering engine into your browser with separate processes for each of the tabs or whatever you happen to have in your user interface. Developers, I would say would be pretty excited by this. Certainly, if you’re Nokia and you’ve decided to use WebKit for some of your mobile phone browsers as they have, assuming this toolkit will run on that limited hardware platform, this is a great new feature. A tab in a mobile phone browser now will be able to crash just like a tab can crash in Chrome and not take down the rest of the browser or even the rest of the phone. So this is a good thing.
Brad: I think it’s great. I mean that’s one of the features in Chrome that I’ve really loved ever since they implemented it and not only is it – at least in Chrome, not only is it by tab but it’s also extensions have their own process as well. So if you have an extension running and it crashes, it won’t bring down your whole browser. So it would be great to see that kind of expand into Safari and some of the other devices that are using it.
Kevin: You said that you liked this feature in Chrome, how often do you get to see crashed tabs.
Brad: Not often. On occasion, a site will hang or you run a process, endless loop or something like that that might try to lock up your browser. It has happened before though and that’s actually how I first discovered the task manager. It wasn’t, at least a little while ago, maybe even a year ago or half a year ago I should say, it wasn’t really that well known and that’s how I kind of discovered it but playing around with it the other day I also realized how extensions are separate processes. So I mean I think that’s genius. It’ll be nice when it’s kind of all independent of each other so you’re not having these constant browser crashes. You can kind of determine what’s the problem, kill it, and move along.
Kevin: Yeah, in Google Chrome I know Alex Walker, our designer for sitepoint.com, he switched to Google Chrome awhile ago and it took a couple of months before he ran into a crashed tab and just one day he went “What the heck is this?” And I came over and just like Google showed off in their technology demo when they launched the browser, his tab had turned to dark grey and had sort of a frowning computer in the tab and nothing else. And he said I was just looking at a web page and it turned into this and I said yeah, that’s a crashed tab in Google Chrome and he goes “Well, that’s not very obvious.” If it was something that was happening all the time and it happened the very first day that you installed Google Chrome, I think people would get used to it but as something that only happens once every few months, I would suggest they need a little text in that tab to explain what happened.
And so that is it. Well, actually, we’ve got one more story that has nothing to do with the iPhone but I think we should save it. Let’s save it. Let’s set that aside for a second and dive right in here.
Opera Mini on the iPhone. We talked about it two weeks ago in our last news podcast and I can’t remember but I think we were all kind of hedging our bets as to whether it would be allowed on to the iPhone. Opera made a big song and dance about saying we have submitted our mobile browser to the Apple App Store and it’s now all in Apple’s hands. If it doesn’t get allowed in, that’s all Apple’s fault and then they started doing the tours showing off their browser at conferences and they posted a video of the user interface and it was really like they were campaigning against the anticipated denial from Apple of this app and what’s happened, it’s been allowed and depending on who you ask, either it was always going to be allowed and Opera was getting themselves worked up over nothing or all of the campaigning that Opera did paid off and they’ve been allowed in only because they made such a big noise about it.
Which do you think, Brad?
Brad: It’s hard to say, maybe a little of both. Maybe they’re just trying to get the spotlight off of them because one of the other topics we’re going to talk about later. It’s hard to say exactly but I mean I was one of the ones that was surprised and I think on the last show where we talked about it, I was fairly certain it would not be accepted. So I’m just as surprised as everybody else that it actually was accepted but you know hats off to Apple I guess.
Kevin: They had their counter that was counting up and it is now stopped. It says Opera Mini was approved after 20 days, 8 hours, 31 minutes and 0 seconds which listening to other iPhone app developers, they’ve been saying that Apple’s been getting really quick and in some cases has been approving at least updates to existing apps within the day. But 20 days for a new app, that feels to me like Apple had to stop and think about it but not for very long.
Patrick: At the end of the day I don’t think matters for Apple whether it was their campaign or whether Apple was always going to allow it. The bottom line is they’re in. So whatever they were hoping to accomplish through the app they can now go after.
Kevin: Yeah, definitely. Yesterday I was out of the office doing a training and between the breaks I was checking Twitter and noticed that this had happened and literally, it took about 15 minutes from the time that the first person in my Twitter feed noticed that Opera Mini was available in the App Store, within 15 minutes that person was griping about the terrible user interface of this browser. It is amazing how fickle we are as iPhone users. How quickly we go from “must be allowed in! Must be allowed in to!” “Oh my god, it’s a piece of crap!”
It was astonishing but listening to Opera, they admit that this user interface is not the ideal and what they really did is they took their Opera Mini browser that they have for all the different mobile phones out there that’s written in Java and they did a direct port as much as possible as they could. They just copied the lines of code over and translated them from Java into Objective-C and did the minimum amount of work necessary to create an iPhone app. And the reason they had to do that and not invest more time in making it pretty is because they had no guarantees that this app was ever going to make it onto the phone. So why do that extra work to make it pretty?
I don’t know if, listener, you’ve had any experience developing Java apps for mobile phones but I’ve actually done some of that and the user interface features of those phones are pathetic and if you’re a professional developer, the correct way to do it is to ignore all the user interface features of these phones and draw your own user interface from scratch. And so that’s exactly what Opera Mini is doing now on the iPhone. It’s ignoring the toolbars and the buttons and even the scrolling and zooming behaviors that are provided by the device and it’s emulating its own which is slower and not as smooth and just doesn’t respond in the way that iPhone users are used to and that’s why they’re reacting negatively here. What I wonder is, is Apple at fault here? Is their uncertain approval process preventing serious developers like those at Opera from investing real time into creating polished apps at least for the first release?
Brad: I definitely don’t blame Opera for not investing too much in it. It’s obviously functional and it works and I’ve played with it and I think it definitely has potential but I can’t blame them for not investing tens of thousands of dollars in this app not knowing whether it will be accepted or not and assuming it probably wouldn’t be accepted. I think they probably played their cards correctly.
Now that they know it’s in, there’s going to be a lot of pressure to push out an update that is going to fix a lot of these issues that people have pointed out.
Kevin: Yeah, I read several Opera people on Twitter sort of saying yeah, yeah, we know it’s not very nice; we’re going to get right on that. We really didn’t expect this to be approved. And I would suggest that some of them sound a bit embarrassed. They’re like oh, we kind of did this to make a point; we didn’t actually want people to be using this version of the browser. Yeah, umm, sorry about that.
We interviewed Jon Hicks on this show several months back while he was still working at Opera. He has since left Opera to chase freelance projects again because he is an addict for variety I think as a designer but he wrote on Twitter now that that app has been approved he is disappointed that he’s not going to get to be the one to design its native user interface. So you know that sort of stuff tells me that we’re very quickly going to see an Opera Mini 2 for the iPhone. But this is an example of a Twitter post, a Twitter reaction I saw: “Opera Mini like VNC-ing from your iPhone to a Motorola Razr with a really fast connection.”
Brad: It’s not a huge concern for me. I guess my main concern with that isn’t so much privacy, it’s more of if I was to get attached to this app and really fall in love with it, who’s to say Opera’s going to be around in a few years from now. We never know what’s going to happen. So if this app relies on Opera servers or something an Opera site to function, that might worry me a little bit but as far as privacy, you know I’m not kind of – well, other people may be but I wouldn’t login to like my bank account via the mobile browser. I would use apps specifically created for that or do it on my computer. Other people might do that. That’s not something I would do. So I wouldn’t really be doing super sensitive stuff through my mobile browser anyways, at least not right now.
Patrick: So in the farfetched alternate reality that would allow me to afford it, to afford an iPhone first and foremost, the privacy question is an interesting one because that’s not one I’ve thought about and the Opera, I think its Turbo, isn’t that right, that’s what this is called this feature, Opera Turbo?
Kevin: I think Turbo is what they called it when they put this feature into the desktop browser.
Patrick: Right. So the desktop browser has the same ability to do this if you want it to, to pass it through their server. So the same privacy concern would exist there and I hadn’t thought about that. I don’t know, it might sit in the back of my head but then all the instant messengers always say that they can view your chats anyway. So I don’t know how private we really are. I probably wouldn’t think of it. I would probably say if I really needed to use this, I would go ahead and do it. That’s the trade off for the speed you’ll hopefully get from using it versus just the standard browser.
Kevin: And that’s the killer feature of this browser. If you use it it’s all about the speed and that’s what made it such a killer application on these simpler phones that came before the iPhone because these phones didn’t have a lot of grunt and if you tried to load full web pages into them, they really struggled and it wasn’t your connection speed that caused you to wait, it was the phone sort of doing its best to struggle through all that HTML and CSS and make sense of it and cram it into that small display. For me, the iPhone does a very decent job of that and I don’t know, Brad, is speed something you’ve craved more of in your iPhone browsing to this point?
Brad: I wouldn’t say it’s something I’ve thought about too much. I mean I feel like if I’m on 3G I expect it to be slow you know. If I’m on Wi-Fi I expect it to be a little bit quicker. So I really haven’t felt limited by Safari as far as speed. I mean it’s certainly something I want I mean if I want if I can. That’s the main reason I switched to Chrome was because of speed. So if Opera really gets it together and gets the UI together and comes out with version 2 and it’s twice as fast as Safari, I would definitely consider switching to it.
Kevin: We have a lot more to say about what Apple will and won’t approve but let’s take a step away and we kept aside that last story that has nothing to do with the iPhone.
Patrick, tell us about Twitter’s advertising platform.
Patrick: Well, for a long time people have talked about how Twitter would monetize and advertising has kind of always been a part of that conversation and now they’ve finally, or the news finally broke about what the platform will look like. It’ll look like, I guess, a sponsored tweet. They’re calling it a promoted tweet and right now it’s going to be in their search results. So when you search on Twitter and the sidebar, that little Twitter search thing, at the top of a given keyword, if there’s a advertiser for it, you’ll be shown a promoted tweet and the example they show here in this post at TechCrunch, which is actually from Advertising Age I believe, they show a screenshot of a tweet from Starbucks from the actual Starbucks account. It’s an actual tweet and it’s just paid to be promoted to the top of the search result for the word Starbucks. One of the uses for this as noted in the article is for a company dealing with a lot of negative press, they could put a Tweet at the top that was not so negative or that was their statement about the situation and hopefully get some attention to it in that way. Some of their initial ad partners are Best Buy, Virgin America, Starbucks, as I said, and as well as Bravo, the TV network. There’s another part of this for developers especially third party Twitter client developers because they’ll be able to integrate promoted tweets into their apps and get a cut of the revenue.
Kevin: So it’s like a paid last word feature. You can pay to get the last word in any conversation about your brand.
Patrick: Probably the first word. I would say the first word, right? Because it’s at the top and it’s like the Google.
Think of it as Google search ads at the top of Google but there’ll be just one ad shown at any given time so there won’t be like four links like it is in Google. It’s just going to be one link and its going to be paid I guess on a CPM basis for the beginning of it but they’re going to adjust the model as they can, I guess, better gauge how people are dealing with those tweets. And also one other note that’s interesting is that a promoted tweet isn’t guaranteed to stay at the top apparently. If the tweet isn’t meeting some metrics that Twitter sets like replies, clicks and something they call ”resonance”, then it could be pulled and the advertiser won’t pay.
Kevin: I wonder if it’s going to end up working like Google AdSense where Google measures how good your ad is and then if you still want it to appear even though it’s not a good ad, you can pay more.
Patrick: That’s interesting. I think they’re definitely going to play with it. It’s a work in progress. Apparently, the next phase of it is to actually have promoted tweets in the actual stream based upon what is being talked about. So obviously, that’ll be a little more controversial probably.
Kevin: Yeah. Well, and you know because I haven’t used the Twitter website in awhile now, how is this going to affect people who are using desktop client?
Patrick: Well, that’s why they’re offering, I guess, the incentive to developers, right? I think if the app or the app developers or the desktop client developers, they build these ads into their app, obviously, they have to balance the users but also, it can be an opportunity to monetize a little bit and get a cut—but not being told what the cut is—but get a cut of the ad revenue.
Brad: Does this seem kind of boring to either one of you? I mean with Twitter, I kind of expected some kind of revolutionary ad plat— You know they’ve been talking about this for years, everybody’s speculate and they come out and do this which just seems very kind of standard. I mean it doesn’t seem that revolutionary.
Kevin: It feels right to me. It feels this is what they should do. It feels right but you’re right, there’s a “it took you this long to come up with this?”
Brad: Yeah, I expected a little more creative than that.
Kevin: I don’t know if they’ve been sitting around for, what is it, two years going “we got to have a better idea than this.”
Patrick: (laugh) Yeah, they might have been. I think it does. Like you said it makes sense. See, the funny thing about the advertising model is that there’s always people, whether they’d be users or business people, who will say ”oh, you know, we gotta revolutionize this, we’ve got to do something totally different that is a great tie-in and is…” But at the end of the day advertising is still advertising and what makes sense is what they’re going to do and this makes a lot of sense. Obviously, they couldn’t come up with some revolutionary idea because advertising, it takes a certain form and this is their platform and how it fits in is for it to be an actual tweet. So I’m sure there’ll be some people disappointed that they didn’t create something that, I don’t know, has never been done before.
Kevin: Part of the disappointment I suspect would come from the fact that people are, maybe I’m just speaking for myself here, but I’m a little tired of admitting over and over again that the only way to make money off the web appears to be to plaster it with ads and maybe we all had our hopes pinned on Twitter showing us a better way or a different way at least to make money that you can make money by building an amazingly popular web service, giving it away for free and doing something other than covering it with ads.
Maybe they just got our hopes up.
Patrick: You know you get money from two ways, you get money from the people who use the service or you get money from the people who want to reach the people who use the service.
So you know how – I don’t know. They have to find a way that’s communicable to major companies, Fortune 500 companies like a Starbucks or a Best Buy sometimes that their marketing people can get, can latch on so you can say “Oh my gosh, look, it’s a sponsored tweet at the top of the page. I can communicate this to my boss very easily.” You know to be revolutionary, I don’t know, they have to come up with something different and just to speak to the model question, you know what, I always tell people who complain about models the same thing: whether it be in the music industry models, whether it be advertising models because a lot of people complain about that. I say give me the new model because the moment you have the great idea, the model that’s going to make people tons of money, everyone is lining up to make that change and to remove advertising so whoever has a great idea, leave it in the comments then.
Brad: I’ve got an idea.
Kevin: Oh yeah?
Brad: If you have over, let’s say, 50,000 followers you have to pay a monthly fee to use Twitter so that way we can get all these celebrities who we know have a lot of money they can go ahead kind of fund Twitter for us. For the people like us, we don’t have nearly as many. We’ll get a pass.
Kevin: This is taxing the rich… the rich in followers.
Patrick: Yeah… I don’t know.
Brad: Hey, it’s a thought. It will be interesting once this kind of phase two happens and these ads start showing up kind of in our normal streams. I wonder if Twitter will come out with a premium paid because I would probably consider paying if it was minimal, you know paying an annual fee to not see those ads. So it would be interesting to see if they come across with that.
Kevin: I’d consider paying that fee if the ads that I was seeing weren’t relevant but if, as they say, these ads are going to be keyed to the keywords in the stuff that either I’m searching for or that I’m already reading about in my stream, it may turn out that these ads aren’t so bad after all. The one common pattern I see at the moment in the evolution of making money through advertising on the Web is that we’ve always been told that successful ads look a lot like the content on your site. The more the ad can look like a piece of content just like any other on the site the more successful it’s going to be. The counter argument to that its that’s kind of – if you go take that too far it can be deceiving to the user but that does seem to be the way these platforms is going.
We see Digg, its new advertising model is to have these sponsored Digg stories that people – that look exactly the same except they have that little sponsored tag on them and people can Digg them up and Digg them down just like they can with other Digg stories and Twitter’s doing the exact same thing here. They’re not releasing an advertising platform that lets advertisers put banner ads in your feed or have big paragraphs of text. Advertisers have to fit their messages into 140-character tweets too and all you see is their user avatar and their tweet and it’s just tagged with that sponsored thing. So we’ve now seen advertising move to the complete extreme where not only does it look like content on the site, it actually is a piece of content just like any other on the site. It’s just someone’s paying for it to have preferential treatment at least upfront.
Patrick: I mean the third evolution of this might be interesting to consider as well to look that far into the future where if you look at like AdSense, they definitely don’t want to be compared to AdSense, but if you see what AdSense did with YouTube with the YouTube partner program where they can make money, have Google ad sales people sell on the videos, you know it may not be far off from them making partner deals with popular Twitter users to have the top ad on their page and to get a cut out of that. So maybe look for that down the line.
Kevin: Well, if nothing else, it’s good to see Twitter actually making some money or about to make some money because I, for one, use it a lot and I’d hate to see it go away.
Brad: The issue I have with Apple and it’s not so much their policies but it’s more about how they go about announcing them and by announcing them I mean saying nothing and waiting for the backlash from the community. John Gruber has a great article kind of explaining why Apple did this. And after reading it I almost kind of agree with them and I felt like if Apple had just come out and stated this up front rather than hide it deep it in their ToS that it may have not been a big of the deal as it is now and now it’s blown up in those huge thing that everybody is talking about when I really feel like Apple could of kind headed this off at the start but they didn’t and they never do. They always just wait for somebody to find it and start blogging about it.
Kevin: I think people expect this document, this terms, this development agreement to contain technical limitations. These are all the technical restrictions that you must conform to in order for your app to run well on our phone and therefore we will approve it. But really, this is as much of as a technical document, this is a set of business rules. This document assures that Apple will be able to make as much money as possible off the iPhone OS platform from the applications that are developed and approved for it.
So yeah, reading John Gruber’s story about it, you know it does read very sensibly but what it really says at the heart of it for me is this is a business decision. Apple isn’t going to hide it, they’re not doing this for any good reason, depending on what your definition of good reason is, they’re not doing it for any technical reason anyway, they’re doing it as a business decision in order to make more money. This is a quote from that document. John Gruber says, “I’m not arguing that it’s anything other than ruthless competitiveness,” and he goes on to say, “I’m just arguing that it makes sense from Apple’s perspective and it was Apple’s decision to make.”
One upset developer actually emailed Steve Jobs after this story broke and said, “Steve, if you take a look at sites like Reddit.com, all the stories on the front page are talking about how you’ve gone insane. Are you sure about this? People aren’t happy.” And Steve Jobs actually replied to him by email and we’ve got the link to that reply and that conversation that ensued and all Steve Jobs kind of said is, “Go read John Gruber’s story because we like what he said.” So John Gruber is out there saying Apple’s not trying to do the right thing, Apple is not trying to be noble here, Apple is a business that’s trying to make money and this is a sensible decision from that standpoint. So if you didn’t agree with this because you thought Apple was a money-grubbing take-no-prisoners company, this isn’t going to change your mind. It’s just going you know what, Apple is a business, Apple does try to make money, they’re not trying to be friends with everyone and save the world, they’re trying to create a successful and profitable platform.
Patrick: And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Brad: My argument to that point would be if you look at, say, pick a very popular Flash application, let’s say Farmville on Facebook. Farmville’s hugely popular. Now imagine if Farmville was ported over to the iPhone using Flash CS5, how many more people would be tempted to go out and buy an iPhone because they can now do their Farmville on their iPhone because of that. So I mean to say they might lose business by doing that, I don’t think it’s a very valid point because I almost think it would bring in more business because it would bring in more apps to the iPhone and a lot of these Flash apps that people live and die by on a daily basis are using these things as much as they’re using Facebook.
Kevin: So taking that specific example, the other thing that John Gruber talks about in his article is that Apple’s making a play for control here as well and that if the developers of Farmville can write Farmville once in Flash and have it output very quickly as an iPhone app, then when Apple comes along and announces iPhone OS 5.0 and it has some fancy new feature that could make Farmville a lot better, the developers of Farmville aren’t going to use it right away because that feature has not yet been supported in Flash. And so it would create this delay and this one step removed level of control for Apple and it would turn the mobile device development landscape into what we have with browsers right now where a new browser can come out with a new CSS feature, we all say we’re impressed and we like the technology demos but it’s going to be five, six years before we actually see that on the Web because we have to wait for all the other browsers to catch up as well. It becomes a lowest common denominator situation and Apple doesn’t want to build a device that gives you the lowest common denominator experience. They want to stay ahead by giving you a device that gives you a better experience.
Kevin: But that, again, is a business decision.
Brad: Yeah. I mean I think that’s a really good point. In fact, I read a lot of articles and this is really the first article that kind of broke it down and what I felt like a non biased way and John Gruber, I think he made some great point, said before this I was fuming thinking Apple as the devil and now after reading his post, I’m kind of on the fence. You know maybe they have a point. It might be a good thing that they’re doing.
Kevin: Is anyone else picturing like the mob boss going, “I’m a businessman you know.”
Kevin: “I’m not a bad man, I’m just a businessman.”
Patrick: We need more voices from Kevin I think. Kevin, off topic but on topic, John Gruber, was he the gentleman that I was talking about a few episodes back where we talked about people cursing in their writing because I think it was him. Was that him? I don’t know because…
Kevin: I don’t know. I don’t remember that.
Patrick: Because there was so. We were talking about how people’s points get lost because they curse sometimes and they say things in a certain way and if it was, this writing is totally reversed from that. I don’t know if it was him. Maybe it wasn’t. It rings a bell.
Kevin: No, no, I don’t think so but yeah, definitely.
Patrick: But okay if – and it wasn’t. But this is a good piece and I think I appreciated reading it is a non Apple person and I have no problem with Apple making a business decision like this, they are a business and I think that that’s cool and that has to apply to everyone. Everyone should be able to make a business decision like Microsoft or Adobe that is best for their business. Now Apple will face a criticism that they face in some circles because Apple is a little more of a darling let’s say but they all have to play by those same business rules.
Brad: He makes great points. So that’s kind of like, you know, my first point was why didn’t Apple just come out and state this? This is exactly why they’re doing it. They might have a lot more people on their side had they just come out and said this is what we changed, this is why we changed it and this is why we think it’s right but they didn’t’ do that. They just changed it and waited to see what everybody else said about it.
Patrick: Does Apple want to come out and say “hello, we’re doing this because we want to make more money” or they want to let somebody else say that?
Brad: Well, they could it a little more PC way than that—
Patrick: Oh, a little more PC, no. It’s Mac or PC. I’m a Mac, I’m a PC.
Brad: I think they should have headed this off at the start.
Brad: Did you read it? Did you read the whole thing?
Brad: Dun dun dunnn…
Kevin: This feels a lot like that and do you think they’ve changed the rules to my benefit? No. They’re now going to charge me interest on my interest. Thank you very much.
Patrick: I have to give Gruber credit as well to changing his tagline to “insightful and not negative” that made me laugh because that’s what Steve Jobs said in his email to that developer who was displeased. He said “we think John Gruber’s post is very insightful and not negative” and now John Gruber’s tagline is “insightful and not negative”.
Kevin: Beautiful, beautiful.
Patrick: That’s hilarious.
Kevin: But let’s bring this back to the Web because we are, after all, a web podcast, not an iPhone app podcast, how does this affect Flash? The one thing we haven’t talked about in this podcast and honestly, there isn’t room for it and the reason we haven’t talked about it is that all these other stories are bigger and more interesting. Brad, do you know what I’m talking about?
Patrick: You win, Brad.
Kevin: I feel really bad for Adobe. They’ve announced, something they only do every 18 months or so, a whole new version of their suite and this is 10 or more applications. Buying all of them will cost you two grand or whatever. Be fair, I think it’s somewhere between one and two grand if you want the Master Collection. But my goodness, all that work and what are people talking about? This one feature in Flash CS5 that it appears Apple isn’t going to let anyone use.
Brad: I wonder if, and I haven’t looked, but I wonder if they have – Adobe has actually built apps on this feature and actually submitted them yet. I’m assuming not but it would be – you would think they’re in the trial…
Kevin: They’ve demoed a couple. Yeah, I think they had some partner developers who use the Beta version and submitted apps and they did get approved. So the question is are those apps going to be removed now or is it just they’re not allowing anyone new in.
And looking at the Adobe blogs on this stuff, you mentioned The Flash Blog which is one of the platform evangelists at Adobe, Lee Brimelow, man, he came out firing. He wrote a post called Apple Slaps Developers in the Face and by the time I got to reading this it had already been plastered with disclaimers saying “My employer, Adobe, wishes me to let you know that this is my opinion and not theirs” and then another place, “Sentence regarding Apple’s intentions redacted at the request from Adobe”. So I can only assume here that this said something like Apple is trying to kill Adobe by any means necessary or something like that. But even after these edits, there are sentences like “Go screw yourself Apple” and “Comments disabled as I’m not interested in hearing from the Cupertino comment spam bots”.
Patrick: There’s hostility on both sides I think.
Kevin: You’re Adobe and the people you’re paying to evangelize your platform are writing this stuff. I would be feeling the exact same way in their place but you contrast this with the post several days later by Kevin Lynch, the CTO of Adobe and this post was supposed to be previewing the announcement of CS5 that was coming a couple of days later. He was like oh, ”we’re counting down to our big announcement and it’s going to be a social computing innovation. We’ve added social features through all our apps so that people who are using Photoshop can work together collaboratively on a project, it’s going to be amazing, and oh, everyone keeps asking me about this SDK thing, please let’s all keep this in context, it’s just one feature of Flash, we’re still going to release it and we’ll let Apple worry about whether they approve apps that are created using this feature or not.”
Gosh, it really hurts to give the last word to Apple in an announcement like that.
Patrick: Of course it does. I mean I don’t know. What else they can do though right now with the situation as it is?
Brad: Pull CS5 for Apple off the shelves.
Patrick: Yeah. Well, even on the evangelist’s blog he says that they would never consider doing that because they’re not trying to hurt their loyal users and I also wanted to point out that even though the guy is an evangelist, it says on his blog that it’s his personal blog. So they can separate the man from the company necessarily but just wanted to throw that out there.
Kevin: Yes. I think what is useful to do is to take a step aside go alright, Adobe has a war on their hands if they’re going to try and get Flash onto the iPhone and it looks like Apple is willing to change the rules, do anything necessary to block that. And so it seems clear that Adobe’s going to be forced to take a step back and refocus their efforts on stuff that they can succeed on, battles they can win and if you look at the whole rest of the suite, there’s a whole lot of exciting stuff in there and I’m looking forward to talking about it on a future podcast. I wish we could talk about it this week but this week, unfortunately, that’s not the story, much as Adobe wishes it were.
But you look at other stuff Adobe is doing with Apple. They’ve just released an application for Apple’s new iPad device called Adobe Ideas and this app is like a simple sketch program for sketching out some rough ideas. You’re on the subway, if you’ve got an idea for a new company logo that you want to design when you get to work, this is the app you pull out to distraction free sketch that idea up and then afterwards you can export it and put it in the Photoshop and actually start working on it properly when you get to the office.
So Adobe still has stuff to contribute here and the stuff that they’re building that isn’t being blocked by Apple is still really interesting and I think will have a promising future on Apple devices. It just can’t be Flash I don’t think.
At least according to Apple. Flash still does have some friends here and Google seems to be one of them because – and this came just the day after our last news podcast. For those who have heard about this, this might seem like old news but I think it’s especially relevant in this discussion and, Brad, you spotted this, right?
Brad: Um, sure. So basically, Google’s going to build Flash into the Chrome browsers rather than being a separate install that you need to go do after you install Chrome, it will actually be a part of the installer which is the first browser to do so I believe.
Kevin: So is it actually still going to be the Flash plugin that Adobe writes? It’s just going to be bundled into the installer?
Brad: As far as I know, yes.
Kevin: Because yeah, this is where it gets interesting. If Apple is blocking Flash from its devices but Google comes in and goes we’re going to embrace Flash wholeheartedly and the places where it’s slow we’re going to work to make our browser better for that. Because they made this weird vague announcement last year that they were going to build this Google native API thing, this Chrome native API thing and people have theorized that this is for their Chrome OS but they’re going to allow developers to build high performance native applications that run as parts of the browser. And if they do this for Flash and this is how I’m interpreting this announcement, they may not have come right out and said it but I think Google is actually going to rebuild the parts of Flash that are slow and show off just how good Flash can be if they have the support of the browser that it’s running in rather than having to fight them tooth and nail. And it could become – like Flash could be amazing if Google does a good job of this. It’s really going to polarize the argument.
Patrick: Well, also, Google owns like 99% of web video and their sites run on Flash. So I don’t know if that’s a part of this or not but YouTube, Google Video, obviously, big Flash sites, YouTube, one of the top sites in the world of course so I don’t know if there’s something to that as well but obviously, it’s not all bad news for Flash.
Kevin: CNET that wrote up this story says that one of the interesting details that’s related to this is that Google is working on overhauling, they’ve previously announced this, overhauling the API that is used for building browser plugins and this is called NPAPI for Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface and the last announcement on that is that both Adobe and Firefox, Mozilla have announced support for this new effort as well. So if Google does all this work based on this new API, this turbo charged Flash plugin could drop right into Firefox too.
You know much as Apple would like to put the final nail in the coffin to Flash, it looks like it’s still got a lot of life left in it at least in other browsers. Imagine if Safari on the desktop decided to support this new API too and wow, Apple was supporting Flash with one hand and smacking them with the other. It’s a really confusing landscape at the moment and if you’re a developer trying to decide whether to invest in Flash as a technology for the next five years or not, man, that’s a hard decision to make right now.
It’s really early days to say, Brad, but does this open a new door?
Brad: Yeah, that’s possible. I don’t have an iPad and I haven’t actually seen a video of how this works so I’ve only kind of read the description of it but it definitely sounds pretty interesting. It could kind of close that gap between websites and web apps.
Anyway, just a little tidbit, people haven’t even figured out if this is something Apple’s going to document or release yet but I thought it played in to the story there. So that’s it, guys. iPhone story closed. We can’t talk about iPhone for another six months, deal?
Brad: We’ll see how long that lasts.
Kevin: Yeah, so we better not have any iPhone things in our host spotlights guys. Patrick, what have you got for us?
Patrick: Well, my spotlight actually isn’t new. I think it’s a couple of months old but I was just turned on to it by the SitePoint Facebook page where they share images, a picture of our co-host, Kevin Yank during the forum upgrade at sitepoint.com/forums/holding.php. We’ll link that in the show notes but basically, the forums were upgraded the last couple of months and there’s a camera here that purports to be live that has some awesome pictures of Kevin randomly displaying through it. But really, the better part is the photo gallery on Facebook, and we’ll throw a link to that in as well, where they posted of all the stills that Kevin took purportedly during the upgrade but I think we all know the real process to distract people. So yeah, that’s a lot of fun there. I think we need more voices and more faces from Kevin.
Kevin: Patrick was a little cagey about what his spotlight was going to be before we recorded this and now I understand why. Brad?
Brad: iPhone OS— no, I’m kidding.
Patrick: iPhone for WordPress.
Brad: My host spotlight is most people who listen probably know I’m a WordPress junkie, so WordPress 3.0 beta 1 has been released and there’s a lot of really cool new features in version 3.0 such as there’s a new default theme and yeah, it’s called 2010 and they’ve actually removed the original or the current default Kubrick and Classic. So when you download 3.0, those will not be included anymore.
WordPress MU is now merged into the WordPress code base. So just by hitting a couple of switches, you can basically turn on the MU functionality which is now called multisite so it’s all one codebase. There’s a completely new menu management system which makes it extremely easy to make different types of menus with pages and categories and external links and then there’s custom post type enhancements which are basically a way to create different types of content within WordPress. So rather than just posting pages, you could create maybe a bars post type or a cars post type or whatever it may be. So you can kind of turns it more into a CMS type of a system. So now is the best time, if you’ve ever thought about getting involved in WordPress development or testing. You know testing out the beta is one of the quickest and easiest ways to really dive in and help find bugs. So we’ll post a link on the show notes to the beta and the final release date for WordPress 3.0 is scheduled for May 1st as long as there’s no more delays. So definitely check that out.
Kevin: That post type thing is really interesting because on the SitePoint blog, for example, we use it for blog posts most of the time but every once in a while we have a post for our podcast show of the week and yeah, having a different post type for the podcast so that it displayed entirely differently in our blog list, for example, would make a whole lot of sense.
Brad: Yeah, I mean between that and custom taxonomies. It really is kind of a game changer for WordPress and it’s going to be able to compete on the platform of things like Drupal and some other real CMS type systems. So it’s really, really exciting in WordPress land at the moment.
Kevin: Yeah. My host spotlight, I’ve actually been head down working on some projects internally at SitePoint so I haven’t had a chance to pick my head up and look around a lot this week and I don’t want to spotlight something like Opera Mini for the iPhone that we’ve already talked about especially since we’re not meant to be covering iPhone in these spotlights. So what I’d like to show is one of the things that the team at SitePoint has been working on for the past week and if you go to sitepoint.com/blogs, we’ve launched a whole new redesign of the blog section of sitepoint.com and a lot of you probably read through RSS readers and aren’t even accustomed to coming to the site to see our blog design but I think it’s worth at least one visit to take a look at all the work we’ve done.
For those who might be asking, yes, this is a WordPress blog under the hood and yeah, we just basically built a whole new theme and added a whole bunch of features and we’re really proud of the work that was done here. So check it out, the new redesigned SitePoint blogs. It’s a kind of a peek at what’s coming design-wise for all of SitePoint over the coming weeks and months.
Patrick: I actually saw it I think right before it was announced. I probably got lucky and caught it like the day of launch and I thought it was really, really nice so look forward to seeing how that is rolled out across the rest of the site.
Kevin: Yup. Alright, so that brings us to the end of the show but just before we go, Patrick has some exciting news about a very special show coming up.
Patrick: Right. So in about a month, May 21st and 22nd I believe in Raleigh, North Carolina, Brad and I will be – it’s actually May 22nd and 23rd in Raleigh, North Carolina, me and Brad will be speaking at WordCamp Raleigh. WordCamp is a conference focused on WordPress. So all topics to do with customizing WordPress, making it do whatever you want and also related topics on blogging and so on and also, Stephan, our usual co-host, Stephan Segraves, will be attending as well.
So it will be the first time that three of the four SitePoint podcast hosts will be in the same place at the same time. Obviously, Kevin being in Australia can’t make it all the way out here and we’re sorry not to have him. We don’t have the budget…
Brad: We’ll think of you.
Patrick: We don’t have the budget but because three of us are going to be in the same spot for the same time, we’re going to do a special live show of the SitePoint Podcast as part of WordCamp Raleigh. It’s going to be a two-hour live show. We’re going to broadcast it on a SitePoint’s USTREAM channel. Link to that coming soon but we’re going to have a live audience there. If you are in the area of Raleigh, North Carolina, maybe a few hours within, you should definitely come and check it out and hang out with us. We’re going to have a live audience and we’re going to give away probably over a thousand dollars worth of books, premium plugins and theme licenses, we have some good guests lined up, WordPress, book authors, podcast hosts and speakers at the conference and it should be a lot of fun to be able to do a live show. We’ll obviously be thinking of Kevin and we’ll be doing some book promotion for Kevin too while we’re there. But it will be a lot of fun and if you are interested in attending, there’s a special coupon code you can use on wordcampraleigh.com. It’s sitepoint15, for 15% off the ticket price which is already a pretty low amount of $35.
Kevin: Wow. Yeah, and of course we will be releasing at least parts of that live show on the regular podcast feed but if you want to get the whole thing live and uncut and see Patrick and Brad and Stephan in their unedited glory, be sure to tune in live.
Patrick: Maybe we can have an editor come down with us.
Brad: It sure to be interesting.
Kevin: I know all this thing up late to watch guys so I’ll be in there in spirit if not in person.
Patrick: Well, we have to get that together, maybe South by Southwest.
Kevin: You can visit the SitePoint Podcast at sitepoint.com/podcast, which has that same blog redesign I mentioned before, to leave comments on this show and to subscribe to receive every show automatically. The SitePoint podcast this week is produced by Karn Broad and I’m Kevin Yank.
Thanks for listening. Bye-bye.
Theme music by Mike Mella.
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