A New Australian Law Is the Wrong Answer to Big Tech

Google’s AMP technology, for example, gave publishers that use the company’s proprietary format an advantage in search results with enhanced previews and a prominent position. That is where this law could be used to provide a level playing field. The news carousel made search more useful, but it also allowed Google to exert control over an entire industry to give itself an advantage by forcing publishers to use its technologies, and ultimately keep users on their own platforms, using their own algorithms to determine what news users see.

I’ve been on the other side of this myself. As an independent publisher with my own site, the only way I could get any advantage was to play every game Facebook and Google threw at me, spending hours implementing the Google AMP format and Facebook Instant Pages to try and show up on the platforms in a meaningful way, rather than being treated equally regardless of whether I implemented a proprietary technology.

Charging platforms for their users sharing links, or the act of having them indexed in search, however, misunderstands the value of allowing people to share links on social media and the open web. I genuinely can’t believe I’m defending Facebook, but when an individual shares a link on their news feed, it’s “paid for” through all of their friends clicking on it, rather than that news outlet needing to reach each of them individually. It’s free advertising for the media outlet, not a monetizable event.

Free linking is both one of the web’s superpowers, and a fundamental principle of the modern internet, as Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, pointed out when made a statement against the law last month. Yes, Google and Facebook are far too powerful and we should examine how they use news content to keep users on their platforms, but trying to monetize the act of posting a link would fundamentally change how the web is built, and make it far less useful for all of us.

Even if this made any actual sense, it’d still be too messy to be taken seriously. I too believe that journalism (of the actual kind not the one that produces content for search engines first and people second) must be propped up. Maybe some outside the box thinking is indeed the solution. But this kind of plan only makes it harder for budding media outlets to stand on their feet and doesn’t deal at all with the the algorithmic reality of the web, instead choosing to force tech companies to disclose changes earlier so those can be gamed more promptly by media big enough to handle this sort of thing. That this law is picking up steam both in the EU and the US as a model of propping up the media feels like enthusiastic proliferation of another political cop-out.

Microsoft CEO’s Take on Tech’s Clout: ‘Big by Itself Is Not Bad’

“Unilateral action by individual companies in democracies like ours is just not long-term stable—we do need to be able to have a framework of laws and norms,” Nadella said in a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg Television’s Emily Chang. “Depending on any one individual CEO in any one of these companies to make calls that are going to really help us maintain something as sacred and as important as our democracy in the long run is just no way that at least I, as a citizen, would advocate for.”

Another big tech company cries for proper regulation to take responsibility and liability off of the industry’s hands. Is this a trend? Yes, it is. And then some. Maybe more even. If you’re a regular of my Reading List, you must have realised by now.

“Big by itself is not bad, but competition is good,” he said. “And more importantly, you need to have a business model that really is aligned with the world doing well. There are certain categories of products where the unintended consequences of the growth on that category or lack of competition creates issues.”

After Tim Cook, Satya Nadella comes to also note that some business models in tech have, by nature, a detrimental effect on privacy and more. Are these models successful? You bet they are. Does this mean that’s all one needs to know? Of course not.

“There is no God-given right for U.S. tech companies to take for granted that there cannot be other tech powers,” he said. “All of us in the West Coast of the United States need to be more grounded, because sometimes I think we celebrate our own advances far too much.” Instead, companies should look at what’s happening in the world and how relevant their technology is, he said.

This is a quite high level public acknowledgment of my long standing theory that he biggest reality distortion field thrives in Silicon Valley where brilliant software engineers sometimes can’t handle being both engineers and, you know, humans at the same time.

Facebook Is Said to Be Building a Product to Compete With Clubhouse

Facebook is also known in Silicon Valley for being willing to clone its competitors. Instagram in 2016 copied one of the marquee features of rival Snapchat, “Stories,” which allow users to share ephemeral videos and photos. Last year, Instagram debuted “Reels,” a TikTok-like video product. When the teleconferencing service Zoom became popular last year, Facebook quickly created Rooms, a group video chat service. And this year, Facebook has been working on a competing product to Substack, the popular newsletter service.

Let’s copy Stories. Let’s buy Instagram so that we don’t even need to copy much. Let’s create Reels to emulate TikTok. And now let’s also emulate Clubhouse as early and as fast as possible. Sure, it’s not against the law or anything (at least most of the time) but if it’s your default approach to things, you can stay legal but also be dishonorable.

WHO team rejects lab origin of coronavirus, focuses on animals, frozen food

“Our initial findings suggest that the introduction [to humans] through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway,” Peter Ben Embarek, WHO international team lead, said in a 3-hour press conference on the team’s findings, livestreamed from Wuhan on February 9. Though researchers in China have already surveyed 11,000 animals around the country in search of that host, all have tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 so far, the team noted. Identifying the intermediary host “will require more studies and more specific targeted research,” Embarek added.

At long last, a proper investigation has started. Don’t forget though. It only took 13 months or so for an investigation on the causes of a pandemic really begin. This is not how we’re supposed to go about such things.

But wait.

China refused to hand over key data to WHO team probing pandemic’s origin

“That’s why we’ve persisted to ask for that,” Dwyer said. “Why that doesn’t happen, I couldn’t comment. Whether it’s political or time or it’s difficult … But whether there are any other reasons why the data isn’t available, I don’t know. One would only speculate.”

Don’t you love this?

Twitter’s Jack Dorsey wants to build an app store for social media algorithms

Dorsey said Twitter is “excited to build” features that will give people more choice over what they see. “You can imagine an app-store-like view of ranking algorithms that give people ultimate flexibility in terms of” what posts are put in front of them, Dorsey said on the call.

I only need one algorithm. One that doesn’t do anything. A dumb one. When I decide something is of interest, it’s 100% sure to be of interest. No matter how accurate an algorithm is, it’s prone to be creating bubbles for me and when it miscategorizes something as interesting to me, I’m 100% annoyed. When I make a mistake, it’s mistake I can move past quite quickly. When the mistake is made for me, the obstacles I need to get through multiply.

Dorsey also sees decentralization as a way to “address some of the problems” around Section 230, the law that gives platforms protection from user-created content. The law has recently been a popular target for some legislators, and a decentralized network might offer Twitter a way to avoid issues if stricter rules were to be put in place, whether those rules require more moderation or for Twitter to apply a more neutral approach to what content is surfaced.

Just as I said a couple of weeks back, this is also to deal with legal liabilities. It’s better that this is so in the open.

Nintendo discusses Switch growth plans as console enters “middle of its lifecycle”

The Switch’s back catalogue of million-selling titles will also continue to be key in growing Switch, with Nintendo revealing that 80% of games sold in major regions from April to December 2020 were ones released in the previous financial year, or earlier.

That includes Animal Crossing: New Horizons, of course, which released in March — the tail end of the fiscal year. However, even without this title, back catalogue games accounted for 60% of Nintendo’s software sales in the first nine months of its current financial year.

Catalog.

“In a context of increasing engagement and very supportive industry trends, the first nine months of the year confirmed that we are continuing to move towards an increasingly pronounced recurrence of our revenues,” Guillemot said. “Therefore, we expect our highly profitable back-catalog to account for an even larger share of our business going forward.”

Catalog.

While new releases may not have brought in as much this quarter, Take-Two’s catalog of hits offset a large part of the shortfall. Despite the dip in overall bookings, catalog bookings were up 39% to $500 million. Overall, the largest contributors were NBA 2K21, NBA 2K20, Grand Theft Auto Online/Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead Redemption 2/Red Dead Redemption Online, and Social Point’s mobile games.

Catalog.

Is this a trend? Yes it is. Is this why we see so many remasters and remakes? You bet. What’s more, it’s easier for narrative based games to keep selling you a good story, than sports/live/multiplayer games to keep selling their past iterations. The only story they can tell is how much we have progressed in gameplay systems. This is something you read, not buy to have fun.