Archive for July 31, 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Apple Pulls VPN Apps From China App Store

ExpressVPN:

We received notification from Apple today, July 29, 2017, at roughly 04:00 GMT, that the ExpressVPN iOS app was removed from the China App Store. Our preliminary research indicates that all major VPN apps for iOS have been removed.

[…]

Users in China can continue to stay connected to the open internet with ExpressVPN’s apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and other platforms.

Paul Mozur (Hacker News, MacRumors):

China appears to have received help on Saturday from an unlikely source in its fight against tools that help users evade its Great Firewall of internet censorship: Apple.

Software made by foreign companies to help users skirt the country’s system of internet filters has vanished from Apple’s app store on the mainland.

[…]

In response, Apple has made a number of moves to ensure that it stays on Beijing’s good side. Last year, the company complied with what it said was a request from the Chinese authorities to remove from its China app store news apps created by The New York Times.

As I said then, this is a weakness of centralizing distribution in the App Store. If iOS supported sideloading apps, it would be possible for users to download a VPN or NYT app from a third party. You can still get Android VPN apps. But because Apple has inserted itself as the gatekeeper, the platform is vulnerable to restrictions like this.

It’s also interesting to see where Apple draws the line here. It apparently would not give user data to the Chinese government. But it is willing to remove security features that prevent the government from itself collecting data.

See also: Tim Culpan (via John Gruber).

Reddit Raises $200M, Rewrites Code

Kurt Wagner (via Hacker News):

Reddit has raised $200 million in new venture funding and is now valued at $1.8 billion, according to CEO Steve Huffman.

[…]

Huffman’s plan for the new funding includes a redesign of reddit.com — the company is literally re-writing all of its code, some of which is more than a decade old. An early version of the new design, which we saw during our interview, looks similar to Facebook’s News Feed or Twitter’s Timeline: A never-ending feed of content broken up into “cards” with more visuals to lure people into the conversations hidden underneath.

[…]

Reddit is also beefing up its video efforts, and recently launched a beta feature that lets users upload videos directly to the site for the first time.

Supporting video could potentially be very interesting. Making the design more like Facebook would probably make it less appealing to me, though.

Reddit.

We’re making some changes to our Privacy Policy. Specifically, we’re phasing out Do Not Track, which isn’t supported by all browsers, doesn’t work on mobile, and is implemented by few—if any—advertisers, and replacing it with our own privacy controls.

Why Apple Should Make a Cheaper, Streamlined Apple TV

Dan Moren:

Meanwhile, even some of the major improvements promised by Apple during last year’s September event have yet to come to fruition: single sign-on, for example, continues to lack support from the major cable companies.

As the fourth-generation Apple TV approaches the two-year mark, perhaps it’s time for Apple to take another look at its set-top box.

[…]

But that assumption that apps would be a big thing on Apple TV also led Apple to make some other miscalculations. For example, the company continues to offer the Apple TV in two models: a 32GB model for $149 and a 64GB model for $199.

[…]

So, where to go from here? I’m skeptical we’ll see any major changes to the Apple TV line this fall, but what I’m hoping for is this: a return to a lower cost Apple TV, somewhere in the $70-$99 range, with a modicum of storage, and perhaps a traditional remote with buttons.

I wonder what Apple thinks the purpose of Apple TV is. The 4th incarnation raised the bar, but not enough to really compete in gaming. It seems like a cheaper version would be better for both their content and iOS businesses. Don’t they want playing their content to be as easy as possible? Don’t they want AirPlay-equipped TVs to be ubiquitous, making every iOS device (and Mac) more useful?

If Amazon can sell a Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote for $40, why can’t Apple sell an Apple TV for $50 instead of $150?

Given that I don’t see any compelling tvOS apps, and have been having problems with my Apple TV 3, I’m tempted to simply exit Apple’s video ecosystem. The main draw at this point, aside from the content I’ve already purchased, is probably the built-in Flickr app.

Previously: The Businesses Apple Has Left Behind, What Happened With the Apple TV 4, Amazon Fire TV Stick 2.