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Technology

  • The (currently) invite-only social network has a new logo! It has other new features as well, such as lists and custom feeds. Ok, the custom feeds have been around for awhile. But, it’s new-ish.

    The new logo is basically the 🦋 (butterfly emoji). It’s simple and less non-representational than the nebulous sky/clouds photo or blue cube it was previously. This one seems fitting and easier to grasp (and meme).

    Update: the creator of the identity and logo direction is @fonsmans:

    Post by @fonsmans
    View on Threads
  • Jess Weatherbed reporting at The Verge writes:

    Following mounting pressure from regulators in the UK and EU, Adobe and Figma announced on Monday that both companies are mutually terminating their merger agreement, which would have seen Adobe acquire the Figma product design platform for $20 billion.

    As a result of the termination, Adobe will be required to pay Figma a reverse termination fee of $1 billion in cash.

    It’s a Christmas miracle! The competition in the field of creative/graphic design software is horrendous, so this is definitely good news if you’re a creative. The last time I wrote about this merger, I had a feeling the deal was going to be torn apart. Theoretically, this news means lower prices and more innovation down the road as Adobe and Figma compete for customers. This is also yet another sign that the United States has largely abdicated its regulatory authority to the European Commission.

  • Caiwaei Chen writing for rest of world:

    Often described as a cross between Pinterest and Instagram, Lemon8 features two side-by-side vertical feeds where users can post images and videos, and adorn them with in-app templates and stickers. Content is sorted across seven categories: food, wellness, beauty, fashion, travel, home, and productivity. Popular post titles include “The time I realized skinny privilege is real,” “That Christian girl in 40 days,” and “Hot Girl Lunch Ideas.”

    […]

    But just as users have complained that Xiaohongshu creates unrealistic expectations, especially for women, Lemon8 has drawn criticism for presenting idealized lifestyles. “Every time I refresh the ‘For You’ section, everything is so well-curated and pretty. It’s already exhausting,” a user named Dreamlikediana posted on the app.

    Sounds like ByteDance is trying to speed run this social media app into its Instagram-era and forgeo any entertaining of a Tumblr-era crowd. Social networks need a flywheel to create content, and it sounds like Lemon8’s flywheel is Pinterest-esque templates users are passing around. My gut feeling is this won’t last very long. If users want to explore unrealistic expectations in content, they may as well go to where everyone else is suffering this predicament already, on Instagram.

  • From the u/venkman01 on Reddit’s Product Team:

    TL;DR: We are reworking how great content and contributions are rewarded on Reddit. As part of this, we made a decision to sunset coins (including Community coins for moderators) and awards (including Medals, Premium Awards, and Community Awards), which also impacts some existing Reddit Premium perks. Starting today, you will no longer be able to purchase new coins, but all awards and existing coins will continue to be available until September 12, 2023.

    Many eons ago, Reddit introduced something called Reddit Gold. Gold then evolved, and we introduced new awards including Reddit Silver, Platinum, Ternium, and Argentium. And the evolution continued from there. While we saw many of the awards used as a fun way to recognize contributions from your fellow redditors, looking back at those eons, we also saw consistent feedback on awards as a whole. First, many don’t appreciate the clutter from awards (50+ awards right now, but who’s counting?) and all the steps that go into actually awarding content. Second, redditors want awarded content to be more valuable to the recipient.

    While I never fully understood Reddit Gold as a product (and neither did Reddit it seems), it was much beloved by the community. Gilding fellow redditors comments felt good and was honestly pretty novel at the time. It was also an awesome indicator of high-quality content. Seems like Reddit is likely killing off this feature because gilded content would otherwise identify high-quality content to would-be web crawlers, and Reddit wants a piece of the pie.

    I think coins and micro-transcations certainly can be a successful model for creators (see Twitch). But Reddit, has historically never understood their general userbase and has historically never leaned into empowering creators/powerusers. Each year, they shed more and more classic nostalgic features while product inherits tech debt. Coins and Rewards were certainly more useful than RPAN (yikes). Honestly, some of the best features are user-generated, maybe Reddit is making a grave mistake here.

  • Umar Shakir for The Verge writes:

    If you’re using the new macOS Sonoma beta, you might want to know about a glorious new bridge between ecosystems that lets Mac Chrome users connect with their iCloud passwords. Apple has updated its iCloud Passwords Chrome extension with a new feature that lets you directly pull passwords from iCloud, keeping you from needing to open Safari or migrate your iCloud passwords to another password manager.

    This is kinda huge. For too long has the ecosystem of saved website passwords been segmented. Choosing between Chrome’s Password vault and the iCloud Keychain was basically forcing me to ask myself, “do I want to use Chrome right now, or do I need to do this in Safari?” Having to remember which one had my updated credentials was dizzying. Excited for the future!

    Note if you try to install this extension without installing the macOS Beta you’ll see this:

  • In 2019, Instagram and Facebook launched a standalone messaging app called Threads. It was originally designed to be a sort-of Snapchat group-messaging clone. This was all before Facebook’s big name change and pivot to Meta. Ergo, before Zuckerberg decided to invest in building out the Metaverse. Despite having millions in daily active users, Facebook decided to ultimately shut down Threads:

    The app today is ranked No. 214 in the Photo & Video category on the U.S. App Store — an indication of its continued failure to catch on with a broader audience. It’s also rated a middling 3.1 stars across 2,500 reviews as users complain about its usability, layout, missing features and glitches. To date, Threads has seen approximately 13.7 million global installs from across the App Store and Google Play, according to estimates from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower.

    This is what it looked like. Half-messenger app. Half-Snapchat clone:

    Once Threads disappeared, it was presumed to never return. I figured it was destined for the Silicon Valley graveyard of failed startups/projects (RIP Google Reader). But then, something wild happened. In October of 2022, Elon Musk decided to buy Twitter. This was meaningful because, ever since Twitter has been under Musk’s ownership, he’s basically nosedived the company into oblivion. This has left Twitter extremely vulnerable to competing social networking apps. There have been many cycles of users leaving for these Twitter-clones.

    Every decision he’s made has been a kiss of death: marketing, engineering, public relations, human resources, and so on. It’s been a nightmare for former employees, and a horror show contractors. To be blunt, Musk is devoid of compassion, and the first 90 days alone were not good for anyone. Ex-employees are currently in a arbitration lawsuit against Twitter and Musk and many having never received their severance. Lastly, the latest micro-managing efforts from Musk, have essentially broken Twitter.

    Instagram’s Threads app has been under development for some time now. At least the public has known about it since early March. Internally, it was understood to be called Project 92. It has an unmistakable design language. It’s very Instagram-esque

    From The Verge earlier this month:

    One of Meta’s top executives showed employees a preview of the company’s upcoming Twitter competitor during a companywide meeting today that was watched by The Verge.

    While Musk has been squandering cash and resources, Zuckerberg has been building. In what appears to be a stroke of serendipity, Meta & Instagram (aka the new Facebook) is launching the new Threads app this week amidst Twitter’s latest troubles.

    Threads’ (re)debut is happening just as users flock from Twitter (again) to competitors. But this time, it feels different. It feels more permanent this time around. A lot of users are very done with Twitter. Thousands of people are leaving Twitter behind for Mastodon in part because of Musk’s questionable rate-limiting nonsense. Both Threads and Mastodon are powered by an open-source protocol called ActivityPub. Which essentially makes them interoperable social networks. This interoperability, is not universally celebrated on the fediverse. Personally, I believe this will be good and healthy for the web. But that remains to be proven. This could all go sideways next week. According to reports, your Instagram handle will be your Threads username: @example@threads.net.

    This is a huge blow against Twitter. The headwinds are strong for Threads. Twitter has been on a losing streak, and chances are Musk will only make this worse. Instagram even put together a countdown on its site.

    It also was briefly on the Google Play Store earlier this week on July 1. It’s gone now, but will presumably be back on the Play Store later this week. Apple’s App Store on the other hand has it listed as a pre-order right now:

    What started as one kind of social network clone has become another kind of clone altogether! Who would have thunk. The drama, the suspense! It’s heating up, and I suspect this battle for the new “town square app” is just getting started. I’ll be sitting over here with the popcorn 🍿

  • Turns one of the side-effects of blocking traffic from reading tweets, is it will tank your SEO and search appearance. Twitter is forcing all unregistered traffic to login or register. If your content is not indexable, it will hurt your SEO scores. This mechanic is well understood by web and software engineers. My best guess is all the pandering and feet-kissing people in his orbit neglected to tell him the consequences of this to keep Elon’s temper tantrums at bay. Making tweets visible to registered users only and installing rate-limits is a terrible product choice that affects growth strategies negatively. Don’t take my word for it, the numbers speak for themselves.

    Barry Schwartz for SEO Roundtable writes:

    On Friday, June 30th at about 1pm ET, Twitter had 471 million URLs indexed in Google Search according to this site command.

    Then yesterday, July 2nd, I snapped another screenshot and Google had 34% fewer URLs indexed, 309 million, that is 162 million fewer URLs indexed

    Then this morning, I grabbed another screenshot, and it was down now to 227 million URLs indexed, that is about 52% less than what was indexed on Friday

    […]

    Twitter URLs indexed by Friday to today went from about 471 million URLs to 227 million, a drop of about 52%. I wonder what type of impact this has on its traffic from Google Search, if any.

    Musk is an idiot.

  • Elon decided to break Twitter today. Now, this is not the first time he’s danced with breaking features of Twitter. I would link to all the other times but instead I’ll just link to The Verge’s excellent story stream of the entire saga since the buyout. Apparently he decided to “rate-limit” tweet reads for logged-in users, and to paywall the rest of the public.

    The real story here is Twitter is trying to cut costs and run away from cloud providers. In all likelihood, these recent changes from Musk are mitigation efforts to prevent their cloud costs from exploding. I mean, what did Musk think was going to happen? Allowing two hour video content uploads has ginormous cost implications. Regardless, they have decided to walk away from huge data contracts and aren’t paying their cloud bills.

    Twitter hosts some services on its server and houses others on the cloud platforms of Amazon (AMZN.O) and Google, Platformer said.

    In March, Amazon warned Twitter that it would withhold advertising payments because of the company’s outstanding bills to Amazon Web Services for cloud computing services, according to the Information.

    Since Musk’s acquisition, Twitter has cut costs dramatically and laid off thousands of employees. Musk ordered the company to cut infrastructure costs, such as spending on cloud services, by $1 billion, a source had told Reuters in November.

    Totally normal operations for a properly functioning company. Nothing to see here folks. Move along.

  • Oli Welsh at Polygon writes:

    As explained in Team Ricochet’s latest blog, these hallucinations are decoy characters that can only be detected by cheaters, but are undetectable by legitimate players. To the cheaters, though, they look and behave like real players on the opposing team; they’re not AI characters, but clones of another active user in the match, mimicking that player’s movement. They also appear genuine to the cheat hardware and software being used, supplying the cheating player with all the illicit information they would expect.

    Not only do these hallucinations make the game unplayable for cheaters, but it also marks them with a Scarlet Letter. Richochet’s systems can then either ban these players or keep them in lobbies to test other anti-cheat measures on these unsuspecting losers.

    Even more deliciously, the hallucinations can be used to detect and verify cheaters. If Team Ricochet suspects a player of cheating, they can place a hallucination near them that’s only visible to their cheat tools. If the player then interacts with the cloned hallucination in any way, they’ve just “self-identified” as a cheater, in a poetic self-own.

  • Jacob Siegal for BGR writes:

    Unless YouTube has a killer app, I cannot see the reasoning behind even testing games, much less launching them to the public. Netflix has a selection of great mobile games that anyone with a subscription can download for free, and yet hardly anyone does.

    If Netflix is having a hard time with their mobile game adoption, I think the writing is on the wall for this one. YouTube is going to have a difficult time competing with basically the entire web and App Store’s gigantic selection of free games.

    I wonder if YouTube will make certain titles available to Premium subscribers only. Perhaps the maximum saturation of premium subscribers has been met, and product is thinking up new features for YouTube Premium.