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Why Do Websites Publish AMP Pages?

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Can someone explain to me why a website would publish AMP versions of their articles? They do load fast, which is a terrific user experience, but as far as I can see, sites that publish AMP pages are effecting ceding control over their content to Google.

Here’s an example I ran into today. I wanted to read Ron Amadeo’s review of the Google Pixel at Ars Technica. From my (new) Google Pixel, I searched for “ars pixel preview”. The first search result was the AMP version of his review. Same thing on my iPhone.

If I tap the result, I get the AMP version of the Ars article, served from Google’s domain. So far, I get it. But the kicker is that I don’t see any way to get from the AMP page Google is serving to the canonical version of the article on Ars’s website. Even if I share the article, what gets shared is the google.com URL (https://www.google.com/amp/arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/10/google-pixel-review-bland-pricey-but-still-best-android-phone/). On desktop browsers, these URLs do get redirected to Ars’s website. But on mobile they don’t. Share from one mobile device to another and nobody ever leaves google.com. Why would any website turn their entire mobile audience — a majority share of their total audience, for many sites today — over to Google?

It makes no sense to me.

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rafeco
47 days ago
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wreichard
44 days ago
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Use DuckDuckGo. Every search I do there, I consider a vote against Google's closed-internet vision. (Google of all companies should be better.)
Earth
leonick
45 days ago
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Guess this is something they locked to US or something? Never heard of or seen AMP. Searched for the term above and didn't get a link, not even with content blockers disabled.
Sweden
JayM
46 days ago
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Heh... no one remembers why AOL was horrible.
Atlanta, GA
DaftDoki
46 days ago
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Every time I get stuck on an AMP page it irritates me. This seems like a terrible idea for content publishers in the long run. Do we really want all content to be fenced through google or facebook? The correct answer is no.

AOL was terrible.
Seattle
MotherHydra
46 days ago
Agreed, the first couple of times I had no idea what was happening and then when it dawned on me, I became furious.
sirshannon
47 days ago
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Everybody wants to be AOL now that nobody remembers why AOL was terrible.
MotherHydra
46 days ago
I'm having flashbacks, nooooo.

iPhones can't receive SMS reliably

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I ran into an awkward problem in Europe; I couldn’t get SMS messages. It’s a design flaw in Apple’s handling of text messages, it’s favoring of iMessage over SMS. If you turn data roaming off on your phone when travelling, you may not be able to get text messages reliably.

If you have an iPhone suitably logged in to Apple’s cloud services, other iPhones (and Apple stuff in general) will prefer to deliver text messages via iMessage instead of SMS. You see this in the phone UI: the messages are blue, not green. In general iMessage is a good thing. It’s cheaper and has more features.

The problem is Apple’s iMessage delivery requires the receiving phone have an Internet connection via WiFi or cellular data. If you have no WiFi at the moment and have data roaming turned off, your phone is offline. And so Apple can’t deliver to you via iMessage. They seem to buffer sent messages for when you come back online. Which is too bad, because your phone could still receive the message via SMS. Unfortunately iMessage doesn’t have an SMS delivery fallback.

In practice this design flaw meant I had to leave data roaming turned on all the time because I needed to reliably get messages from another iPhone user. Which then cost me about $30 in uncontrollable data fees from “System Services”. Some $15 was spent by Google Photos spamming location lookups (a bug?), another $15 receiving some photo iMessages from a well-meaning friend. Admittedly the SMS fallback I’d prefer would also cost some money, but I think significantly less in my case.

There’s a broader problem with iMessage which is that once a phone number is registered with it, iPhones forever more will not send SMS to that number. Apple got sued over this, so now they have a way to deregister your number.

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rafeco
51 days ago
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This seems like a hard problem, I kind of want to write an interview question about it.
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E.W. Scripps Buys Podcast Company Stitcher

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Steven Perlberg, reporting for the WSJ:

Stitcher is a free app that streams more than 65,000 podcasts from publishers ranging from NPR to MSNBC to The Wall Street Journal. It will operate under Midroll Media, the podcast advertising company that Scripps acquired last year for $50 million, plus $10 million more over three years if the company hits certain milestones.

Midroll sells ads for about 230 programs like “WTF with Marc Maron,” “The Nerdist,” “StarTalk Radio” and “The Bill Simmons Podcast.” But podcast listeners these days have a handful of ways to actually tune into shows, through the likes of Apple’s podcast app or Google Play Music. Stitcher, one such service, has 8 million registered users and is installed in about 50 car models.

Midroll owning Stitcher is not good for the podcast ecosystem. Stitcher is popular, but my show is not on Stitcher because Stitcher re-hosts the audio, compresses it to hell, and unless you opt out, inserts their own ads. That’s not how podcasting is supposed to work. I firmly believe podcasting should be open, like the web. (This is also why I don’t have my show on Google Play — they insist upon hosting and re-compressing the audio as well.)

I worry that it’s toxic to combine advertising sales with an exclusive app for playback. Advertisers want tracking? You got it — in Stitcher. The end goal here is lock-in, and so I think it’s worth fighting right from the start, even at the expense of a few thousand additional listeners for my show. Maybe they’ll never become dominant. Maybe even if they do, they won’t do anything to promote lock-in. But now is the only time to resist the possibility that they’ll grow dominant and abuse their position. It’s too late once it happens.

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rafeco
184 days ago
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Glenn Fleishman: ‘The New Night Shift Feature Probably Won’t Help You Sleep Better’

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Glenn Fleishman, writing at Macworld:

The Night Shift feature in iOS 9.3 lets you adjust the color temperature of the display, shifting away from blue spectrums of light, in the putative interest of improving sleep. But Apple makes no promises. On its website, Apple notes, “Many studies have shown that exposure to bright blue light in the evening can affect your circadian rhythms and make it harder to fall asleep.” In iOS, the feature is explained with “This may help you get a better night’s sleep.”

In fact, this feature likely will have little or no effect on most people. Apple hasn’t misrepresented any of the science, but clinical work done to date doesn’t point a finger right at mobile devices or even larger displays. Night Shift also can’t remove enough blue to make a difference if that color is the culprit. And blue light may not be the trigger it’s been identified as. While researchers haven’t tested the new feature yet, several factors add up to at best a placebo effect and a reminder to power yourself down.

I know people who enjoy Night Shift (and its Mac progenitor, F.lux) because they find it easier on their eyes at night. I think the stuff about getting a better night’s sleep is bunk, though. (And personally, I find the effect hideous.)

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rafeco
254 days ago
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I used f.lux for awhile before admitting to myself that I hated it.
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Jake Tapper Asks Trump 7 Straight Horse Race Questions

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I began watching the Sunday talk shows again last weekend because of Antonin Scalia's death, which propelled the U.S. into an exceptional time in our history. We'll be living with the consequences of how the next Supreme Court appointment is made for a long time. I have no idea how it will turn out, though I believe strongly that a president should be allowed to fill a vacancy when there's nearly a year left in his term. A presidency is four years long, not three.

Watching one of the shows today reminded me of how terrible political reporting on television can be.

On CNN's State of the Union, host Jake Tapper asked Donald Trump 10 questions: questions:

  1. Mr. Trump, congratulations on your victory. What do you think this means for the race going forward? Are you unstoppable?
  2. Your campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said that you have not gotten the credit you deserve from the party for leading the race. Why do you think that is? Do you think some Republicans still don't take you seriously?
  3. Last week, Senator Rubio said he didn't think a brokered convention would necessarily be a bad thing. Are you concerned at all that party leaders might try to block your nomination at the convention?
  4. Senator Cruz says that you attack him every day because you know he's the only one who can beat you. Is that right?
  5. Governor Jeb Bush dropped out last night. He was once the front-runner, once expected to win the nomination. Many would point to you as the primary reason his campaign sputtered. Do you think, by labeling him low-energy and targeting him so quickly, do you think that's what did him in?
  6. You also took on Jeb's brother President George W. Bush in South Carolina, a state that he won in 2000. And then you won it handily, even though you took on George W. Bush. Do you see Jeb's loss and your victory in South Carolina as a vote on the entire Bush legacy, in a way?
  7. There's a lot of concern, as you know, among Republican Party leaders in Washington about, can you win a general election? Let's talk about demographics for a second. If the next Republican nominee wins the same share of the white vote that Mitt Romney did in 2012 -- that was 59 percent -- that nominee would need to win 30 percent of the non-white vote. Now, with all due respect, sir, a lot of Republican leaders in D.C. struggle to envision you accomplishing this, especially given the fact that there are white supremacist groups and individuals like that who support you, some of whom you have even retweeted.
  8. I want to get some clarification on comments you made this week at the CNN town hall about Obamacare. Take a listen. ... So, sir, what did you mean when you said, "I like the mandate"?
  9. But -- but, just to clarify, you're saying now that you would not support requiring every individual in America to have health insurance? You wouldn't support that?
  10. Last question, sir. We heard from your wife, Melania, last night, which doesn't happen a tremendous amount. Are we going to hear more from her going forward?

By my count that's seven straight horse-race questions that are solely about who's leading and who's trailing, one policy question with a follow-up and then a nice softball question that lets him say something nice about his wife.

Trump is the Republican front-runner and the favorite to win the GOP nomination. There's a great deal of importance in the media getting beyond his vague policy statements to pin him down on actual things he would do as president. Making America Yuge Again is not a concrete policy objective.

Tapper had an opportunity to do this, but he thought the bulk of his time with Trump was better spent with such queries as "Are you unstoppable?"

That's the kind of dumb-ass question a non-journalist would never ask. Political reporters ask them all day long.

The one time Tapper delved into Trump's actual policies on health care and the individual mandate, we got to see that Trump is completely out of his depth. After he took insurance away from millions of Americans by killing ObamaCare, the only things Trump could suggest are to let states compete and offer healthcare savings accounts.

The answer Trump gave was as floundering and repetitive as the Marco Rubio debate answer when he was accused of being robotic. Trump twice repeated that we're going to have great health care if he's president, and three times said people won't be dying in the streets.

Or the sidewalks: "They're not dying on the sidewalks, and they're not dying on the streets if I'm president," he said. "They're just not."

Unless he shoots them, I guess.

The Sunday show reporters should ask candidates I want reporters to ask Trump as many questions about policy as they do about winning and losing. If they did, it would be clear to millions that Trump's he's a bag of hair whose ideas never go beyond braggadocious posturing.

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rafeco
290 days ago
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Not journalism.
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sirshannon
290 days ago
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"I want reporters to ask Trump as many questions about policy as they do about winning and losing.
If they did, it would be clear to millions that he's a bag of hair whose ideas never go beyond braggadocious posturing."

★ On the San Bernardino Suspect’s Apple ID Password Reset

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The latest news in the Apple-FBI legal fight has resulted in much confusion. John Paczkowski, reporting for BuzzFeed:

The FBI has claimed that the password was changed by someone at the San Bernardino Health Department. Friday night, however, things took a further turn when the San Bernardino County’s official Twitter account stated, “The County was working cooperatively with the FBI when it reset the iCloud password at the FBI’s request.”

County spokesman David Wert told BuzzFeed News on Saturday afternoon the tweet was an authentic statement, but he had nothing further to add.

The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday; an Apple spokesperson said the company had no additional comment beyond prior statements.

Here is what the FBI wrote in its legal motion, in a footnote on the four ways Apple suggested they obtain the data they seek:

(3) to attempt an auto-backup of the SUBJECT DEVICE with the related iCloud account (which would not work in this case because neither the owner nor the government knew the password the iCloud account, and the owner, in an attempt to gain access to some information in the hours after the attack, was able to reset the password remotely, but that had the effect of eliminating the possibility of an auto-backup);

To unpack this, the “owner” is not Syed Farook, the shooter. The iPhone at the center of this was supplied by Farook’s employer, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. They are the “owner”. The “government” is the federal government: the FBI and the Department of Justice.

The iPhone had been configured to back up to iCloud. However, at the time of the attack, it had not been backed up to iCloud for six weeks. Under warrant, Apple supplied the FBI with the data from that six-week-old backup. The FBI (for obvious reasons) would like the most recent six weeks of data from the phone, too.1

iCloud backups are triggered automatically when the phone is (a) on a known Wi-Fi network, and (b) plugged-in to power. Apple’s suggestion to the FBI was that if they took the iPhone to Farook’s office and plugged it in, it might trigger a backup. If that had worked, Apple could supply the FBI with the contents of that new backup, including the most recent six weeks of data.

It is not clear to me from any of the reports I have read why the iPhone had not been backed up in six weeks. It’s possible that Farook had disabled iCloud backups, in which case this whole thing is moot. 2 But it’s also possible the only reason the phone hadn’t been backed up in six weeks is that it had not been plugged-in while on a known Wi-Fi network in six weeks. The I think the phone would have to be unlocked to determine this, and the whole point of this fight is that the phone can’t be unlocked.

The FBI screwed this up by directing the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health to reset Farook’s Apple ID password. They did not, and apparently could not, change anything on the phone itself. But once they reset the Apple ID password, the phone could not back up to iCloud, because the phone needed to be updated with the newly-reset Apple ID password to do so — and they could not do that because they can’t unlock the phone.

The key point is that you do not have to unlock an iPhone to have it back up to iCloud. But a locked iPhone can’t back up to iCloud if the associated Apple ID password has been changed.

Again, there are two password-type things at play here. The Apple ID (iCloud) password, and the four-digit device passcode locking the iPhone. The county, at the behest of the FBI, reset the Apple ID password. This did not allow them to unlock the iPhone, and, worse, it prevented the iPhone from initiating a new backup to iCloud.

How did the county reset Farook’s Apple ID password? We don’t know for sure, but the most likely answer is that if his Apple ID was his work-issued email account, then the IT department at the county could go to iforgot.apple.com, enter Farook’s work email address, and then access his email account to click the confirmation URL to reset the password.

In short:

  • The data the FBI claims to want is on Farook’s iPhone.
  • They already have access to his iCloud account.
  • They might have been able to transfer the data on his iPhone to his iCloud account via an automated backup, but they can’t because they reset his Apple ID (iCloud) password.

The only possible explanations for this are incompetence or dishonesty on the part of the FBI. Incompetence, if they didn’t realize that resetting the Apple ID password could prevent the iPhone from backing up to iCloud. Dishonesty, if they directed the county to do this knowing the repercussions, with the goal of setting up this fight to force Apple to create a back door for them in iOS. I’m not sure which to believe at this point. I’d like to know exactly when this directive to reset the Apple ID password was given — ” in the hours after the attack” leaves a lot of wiggle room.


  1. Much (or all?) of the data stored on Apple’s iCloud backup servers is not encrypted. Or, if it is encrypted, it is encrypted in a way that Apple can decrypt. Apple has a PDF that describes the information available to U.S. law enforcement from iCloud, but to me it’s not To my knowledge, Apple has never made clear exactly what information is available under warrant. search warrant from an iCloud backup. They should publish this in detail. And, I would bet a large sum of money that Apple is hard at work on an iCloud backup system that does store data encrypted in a way that Apple cannot read it without the user’s Apple ID password. ↩︎

  2. Another possibility: Farook’s iCloud storage was full. If this were the case, presumably Apple could have granted his account additional storage to allow a fresh backup to occur. But again, this became moot as soon as the county reset the Apple ID password at the behest of the FBI. ↩︎︎

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rafeco
290 days ago
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Nice explanation of the iCloud password change aspect.
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bronzehedwick
289 days ago
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Interesting development
Brooklyn NY
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