I’ve just been interviewed by CCTV (China state media) for a series on the history and future of the Internet. The questions were about Silicon Valley’s 1990s Internet bubble, media developments, and where things may be going. I’m a lot better informed about the first two than the last of those…
This is a WordPress blog — created and maintained using the great open-source team at WordPress.org. I’m a huge fan both of the software and the people behind it.
In my latest Guardian column, pegging off the Yahoo buyout of Tumblr, I explain why WordPress matters so much, and why I hope its founders never sell out. Key quote (from Matt Mullenweg, a WordPress founder):
“We still need this platform for longer forms of self expression, and a place that people can have their own domain on the web, that really belongs to them, that they have complete control of it, all the way down to the software, the actual code executing on the server someplace in the cloud. You should be able to control every single line of that. And that’s the beauty of open source.”
First, this is a Facebook issue, since Facebook owns Instagram. The coverage of this has tended to ignore or downplay that fact.
Second, Facebook has a long record of treating users’ rights and privacy in unfortunate ways. It doesn’t surprise me that they’re doing it again. I would expect, in the next few days, to see Facebook/Instagram follow the standard FB playbook: Take one step back, having taken three steps forward, and call it “listening to our users”.
Third, a user of the Instagram app should not have to make a choice of either accepting such sweeping terms or quitting the service altogether. (I use neither Facebook nor Instagram at this point.)
Fourth, this is a clear example of why we should be willing to pay for some software and services. I want to be a customer, not a product, and I’m willing to pay for that — but increasingly I’m not given that opportunity.
Finally, this is a great opportunity for Flickr or other photo services to create a more user-friendly ToS, and lure people away from the sites that don’t.
The Mac I’m using today — without question the best computer I’ve ever owned — is almost certainly my last Mac.
This machine is a Macbook Air, a 13-inch model that came out last year. It is a stunningly fine combination of size, style and power. And Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” is a terrific operating system. I’ve customized it for my needs, and have truly enjoyed using it.
Because so much of my work depends on having a reliable and up-to-date computer, I buy a new one each year, using the older one as a backup in case of trouble with the newer machine. In recent years, that has meant owning two roughly equivalent Macs.
The latest Macbook Air went on sale this week. As is always the case with technology, it’s even more powerful than the one I have. I crave it. I won’t buy it.
Here’s the key issue: Not only does the new model come with OS X Lion installed, it will not run Snow Leopard at all.
Lion is far too new for me to trust as my primary OS. And it is a radical departure — so radical in key ways that I can’t imagine _ever_ trusting it.
The hardware issue is entirely Apple’s choice. On these new Macbook Airs, using Parallels or VMWare Fusion, I could install any version of Windows or Linux on the new Air, and they’d run, provided there was support for the hardware. The only gotcha, for the moment, would be the Thunderbolt port. I assume Windows and popular Linux distributions, even older versions, will add support (if they haven’t already). But Apple’s policy is to make it impossible to run earlier Mac OS versions on its new machines, period. If there turns out to be a way to install Snow Lion in a partition, that might help, but I see no sign of that in the research I’ve done.
Still other changes, however, are plainly designed to push Mac users into a more iPad/iPhone-like ecosystem, where Apple gives you permission to use the computers you buy in only the ways Apple considers appropriate. The writing has been on Apple’s wall for some time. It’s aiming for absolute authority over the ecosystem in which all its devices operate. Given the well-chronicled consequences of the company’s control-freakery in the iOS ecosystem, which is being merged with the Mac, that’s unacceptable — to me, at any rate, even if it’s just fine with everyone else.
For the past year, I’d been slowly working to move my desktop/laptop computing over to Linux in any case. It’s slow going for a lot of reasons, not least of which is my inability to replace several must-have tools, notably sparse disk image bundles and several superb applications I use for my blogging and other media creation.
In most ways, Ubuntu runs nicely on the new ThinkPad 220, a computer that is probably the best in its class. Yet I often feel about the experience the way I used to feel about the Windows-Mac comparison that’s held true for so many years: It tends to get in your way, while the Mac tends to get out of your way.
By rejecting its past so thoroughly — a proud history of creating devices that we users could modify for our own purposes with no one’s permission but our own — Apple is forcing me to move on.
In a Tweet today, Mitch Kapor said, “It’s true. Today is my 60th birthday. It’s a long way from being 16.”
Mitch has been a friend for some years now. My admiration stems only in part for his amazing achievements in technology and related fields. He and his wife, Freada Kapor Klein, are involved in causes that are improving many lives.
Mitch was an investor in a small project of mine that failed, in part because I didn’t take his advice on a key issue. Of all the parts of that failure that bothered me, none was more difficult than letting him down. He advised: Get over it and move on.
Happy birthday, Mitch.
From “a source” — “We’ve heard” that it’s “supposedly” best to treat everything we read TechCrunch as pure gossip…
In two weeks it’ll be 10 years since Andy Grove’s on-stage conversation at an annual meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, in which he warned the industry of its impending financial meltdown. He wasn’t the first to warn, and hardly the last. But the degree to which he was ignored remains instructive, and sad.
Anyway, here’s what he said (excerpted from the transcript):
You’re where Intel was three years before the roof fell in on us. You’re heading toward a strategic inflection point, and three years from now, maybe, it’s going to be obvious. Things like newsprint giving you a little bit of a lift, a little bit of a hand, are going to run their course. You’re going to be in a profit squeeze, and it’s going to be a very, very difficult time, more difficult to adjust later. All of this sets up what to do. You have to ask what your microprocessor is in the Intel analogy. What is it that you can do for me as a reader that the Web pages or online coverage can’t do? I indicated what my preference is. I’m looking for depth. I’m looking for interpretation, and please don’t give me length instead of depth. A lot of magazine coverage does that. They think they’re deep when they give you a six-page article, and they’re just long.
From a publisher’s standpoint, there’s going to be huge push and pull. This requires more money at a time when margins are going to be under attack. Interpretation requires time and requires research and requires feet on the street, people on the phones calling, studying, going to the library, probably at a time when you’re financially being pulled in the other direction. And my history of the technology industry is you cannot save yourself out of a strategic inflection point. You can save yourself deeper into the morass that you’re heading to, but you can only invest your way out of it, and I really wonder how many people who are in charge of the business processes of journalism understand that.
1. ASNE asked Google CEO Eric Schmidt to keynote this year’s meeting.
2. I don’t know if he accepted, but the meeting was canceled.
Google is pointing from its home page today to a page about World Tuberculosis Day and that, in turn, points to the Stop TB Partnership, a nonprofit organization. A worthy cause, and good for Google for pointing to it.
Consider the power of this endorsement. I suspect that with this single link, Google is channeling more money to the organizations that want to end TB than the sum of all their previous campaigns. This is power of a breathtaking kind.
To help understand why Yahoo has been in such trouble, read Kara Swisher’s latest about the board’s search for a new CEO and especially the last line, which sums things up perfectly:
Said one person close to the situation: “A lot of what has been going on is the board trying to figure out what kind of company does Yahoo aspire to be. That determines the type of person they bring in.”
Seems to me that Yahoo should have known the answer to this a long, long time ago.
At the Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference last year, then-CEO Jerry Yang and Sue Decker, the company’s president were asked for a simple explanation of what Yahoo does. They rambled dismayingly for several minutes.
I had my own answer: “Yahoo is a collection of consumer-Internet services, and first or second in a whole bunch of them, and we make a lot of money.” I still think it’s a decent answer.