The Bullshit Web

Nick Heer breaks down the problems with the Web today:

The average internet connection in the United States is about six times as fast as it was just ten years ago, but instead of making it faster to browse the same types of websites, we’re simply occupying that extra bandwidth with more stuff. Some of this stuff is amazing: in 2006, Apple added movies to the iTunes Store that were 640 × 480 pixels, but you can now stream movies in HD resolution and (pretend) 4K. These much higher speeds also allow us to see more detailed photos, and that’s very nice.

But a lot of the stuff we’re seeing is a pile-up of garbage on seemingly every major website that does nothing to make visitors happier — if anything, much of this stuff is deeply irritating and morally indefensible.

He draws a great analogy between widening highways and increasing internet bandwidth:

You know how building wider roads doesn’t improve commute times, as it simply encourages people to drive more? It’s that, but with bytes and bandwidth instead of cars and lanes.

Now, instead of encouraging companies to build more efficient websites, Google swoops in the save the day with AMP:

Launched in February 2016, AMP is a collection of standard HTML elements and AMP-specific elements on a special ostensibly-lightweight page that needs an 80 kilobyte JavaScript file to load correctly. Let me explain: HTML5 allows custom elements like AMP’s , but will render them as elements without any additional direction — provided, in AMP’s case, by its mandatory JavaScript file. This large script is also required by the AMP spec to be hotlinked from cdn.amp-project.org, which is a Google-owned domain. That makes an AMP website dependent on Google to display its basic markup, which is super weird for a platform as open as the web.

How kind of Google to create a copy of an entire website with all the extra bullshit stripped out. As Heer points out, this is not Google being altruistic. It’s all done in service of itself.

Resist the bloat. Trim down your website. Cut the fat. Kill the bullshit.

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internet, Technology

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Square Peg in a Round Hole

The Verge has a look at Google’s revamped Wear OS.

First off, ‘Wear OS?’ I know they replaced ‘Android Wear’ a while back, but when you update a product or service you’re supposed to make it better. Engineer-led companies are just the worst at product naming and branding (and Microsoft is still champ).

Secondly, Google wants their round watch interface to work so bad, but it just doesn’t:

The circle is a beautiful shape and in my 20 years of being a graphic designer I’ve seen many attempts made at round interfaces on everything from kiosks to websites, with varying degrees of success.

Screen real estate is extremely limited — therefor valuable — on a watch and by using a round screen Google is throwing away a lot of real estate. They’re also throwing away the whole history of written language.

Unless Google is presenting Mayan and Aztec calendars on their watches, circular screens are inferior to rectangular screens for presenting anything more than the time.

Categories:

Interface

Google Wants Everyone’s Milkshake

Ars Technica: Frontier teams with AT&T to block Google Fiber access to utility poles:

AT&T’s lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Western Kentucky, concerns the Louisville Metro Council’s “One Touch Make Ready” ordinance’s effect on AT&T-owned utility poles. This type of ordinance is designed to speed up construction of new networks by making it easier for companies to attach wires to poles.

The Louisville ordinance lets companies like Google Fiber install wires even if AT&T doesn’t respond to requests or rejects requests to attach lines. Companies could also move AT&T wires to make way for their own wires without notifying AT&T, as long as the work wouldn’t cause customer outages. This also limits the number of construction crews needed for pole work, since each provider wouldn’t have to send its own workers to move their equipment.

AT&T, which is building its own fiber network in Louisville, claims that the ordinance lets competitors “seize AT&T’s property.”

It seems if AT&T owns these poles, then they have the right to reject another company adding an additional cable to it. So does this mean if a new company wants to run their own wires through a county/city/state they should be required to construct their own telephone poles? That would get messy.

AT&T used to hold a government-authorized monopoly when they built out the first trans-continental telephone network in the United States in the early 20th century. If it weren’t for this approved monopoly the US wouldn’t have had as reliable a longline network as it does today—if you’ve ever used a “land line”, how many times has it dropped a call on you? The government eventually broke up this monopoly in 1982. Perhaps there shouldn’t be a monopoly around these poles either.

Google’s attitude towards these telephone poles reminds me of how Google used to use public bus stops here in San Francisco for free for their private company shuttles. In 2014 they had to start paying to use them. Maybe they should be required to share their poles with other countries, but charge them a fee for using them. Google can’t expect they can continue to use other people’s shit for free.

Categories:

Law, Technology

Google Wants All Websites To Be Encrypted

Google wants everything on the web to be travelling over a secure channel. That’s why in the future your Chrome browser will flag unencrypted websites as insecure, displaying a red “x” over a padlock in the URL bar.

With this upcoming change in Chrome, Google makes it clear that the web of the future should all be encrypted, and all sites should be served over HTTPS, which is essentially a secure layer on top of the usual HTTP web protocol. Several companies and organizations have been pushing for more encrypted sites as part of a campaign to “Encrypt All The Things,” which consists of promoting more websites to abandon the traditional, less secure HTTP protocol and adopt HTTPS.

Why, you ask?

The rationale is that on every website served over HTTP the data exchanged between the site’s server and the user is in the clear, meaning anyone with the ability to snoop on the connection, be it a hacker at a coffee shop or a repressive government, could steal passwords, private messages, or other sensitive information.

But HTTPS doesn’t just protect user data, it also ensures that the user is really connecting to the right site and not an imposter one. This is important because setting up a fake version of a website users normally trust is a favorite tactic of hackers and malicious actors. HTTPS also ensures that a malicious third party can’t hijack the connection and insert malware or censor information.

It’ll be interesting how quickly HTTPS gets adopted. I wonder if it will be like the migration from standard definition to high definition in TV broadcasting.

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Technology

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Ads for Itself

Vlad Savov on Google’s new Nexus phones:

I’ve spent the past couple of days desperately trying to puzzle out the purpose behind Google’s newly announced Nexus 5X and 6P smartphones. Unlike predecessors such as the Nexus One and Nexus 5, these phones don’t have a clear reason for being, and are not in themselves terribly unique. That’s led me (and others) to question Google’s overall aim with the Nexus line of pure Android smartphones, and I think I’ve finally arrived at an answer. The Nexus program is not so much about carrier independence or purity of Android design as it is about presenting Google in an overwhelmingly positive light. In other words, Google, the ultimate ad seller, sells Nexus phones as ads for itself.

Think about how different Apple and Google are. Google knows there’s no chance in hell they’ll ever have a blockbuster hit with their own phones and Apple sells their phones to pull in 92% of all smartphone profits.

I also love this MarketWatch headline (via Daring Fireball):

Google unveils everything Apple launched, only cheaper

Sounds about right.

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Product

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Solving the Same Problems

Vlad Savov on Apple, Google, and Microsoft all solving the same problems:

Consider all the overlaps that have developed in recent times between the strategies of America’s three foremost tech corporations. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are getting into the connected car business that Microsoft has been in for years, while the latter’s Cortana personal assistant echoes the voice-activated Google Now and Siri software of its competitors. Where Apple has Continuity to keep people working across various devices, Microsoft has Continuum, and Google has the universality of the Chrome browser and its range of web apps. Besides the connected car and the connected you, all three are also connecting the TV — through AirPlay, Chromecast, and the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter — and developing app and gaming platforms such as the Xbox One, Android consoles, and the new Apple TV.

Savov is right, but what’s the alternative? Not built a product or service your competitor has and risk ceding ground to them now or in the future?

It seems better for the three top dogs to build redundant solutions to the same problems than not build them.

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Technology

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Cocaine Falling From the Sky

Armin Vit on Google’s new logo:

So… THE logo. If the plan is to signal revolution instead of evolution, where do you go from a serif logo? A sans serif, of course. This is not revolutionary on its own and even less so in these last two years when every other major company is switching to some interpretation of the same style of sans serif. There is nothing special about the new logo. Even the tilted “e” is a tried and true mechanism. In essence, yes, the new logo is boring but it’s not like the old logo was a party with cocaine falling from the sky and male and female strippers grinding on everyone’s groin while Jay Z performed a secret concert. What’s important is that the new logo is exactly right and perfectly calibrated for what it needs to do. It retains the color system that has far too much equity, it keeps a sense of quirkiness through the “e”, and it reads perfectly clear at every single size — perhaps to a fault. As I was working last night on a couple of Google Sheets I couldn’t help but be distracted by the highly visible new logo.

Any other solution to the logo — anything more effusive, more visible, more different, more visually explosive — would have been met with terrible anger. This “boring” solution is safe and almost expected but it’s extremely appropriate.

I appreciate the the thought that went into the overall system—workmark, animation, lettermark—more than I dislike the new workmark.

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Identity

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“Buy” buttons on mobile ads

Now, Google is set to launch perhaps its most critical commerce-related experiment ever: “Buy” buttons on mobile ads, according to multiple sources, which will turn Google into a cross between a search engine and Amazon. (The Wall Street Journal first reported the move.) It’s the latest attempt by Google to remake its search business for a world increasingly spent on mobile devices and dominated by apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Amazon — none of which Google owns.

—Jason Del Rey, Re/code

The always-hungry Google tries to consume more of the Internet.

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Business