Archive for February 10, 2021

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Is Apple Banning Free Analytics SDKs?

Allen Pike (tweet, Hacker News):

The most popular analytics SDKs are free because they’re owned by companies that sell ads, or share data with those companies: Google Analytics, Flurry, and Google’s Firebase. Paid competitors like Mixpanel and Amplitude can be really powerful, but often cost thousands of dollars a year or more.

Now, I can’t find this said explicitly anywhere. But it seems like, along with the incoming restrictions on IDFA and ad attribution, Apple is also enacting a de-facto ban on these free analytics SDKs.


Firebase, Google Analytics, and Facebook have been releasing updates and documentation to help developers navigate Apple’s questions, but conspiciously they don’t directly answer them. Instead they answer different, related questions that are maybe helpful but are certainly not decisive.

John Gruber:

What’s becoming obvious is that these coming changes in iOS 14.5 are about a lot more than just the IDFA tracking identifier.


Student’s Developer Account Mistakenly Terminated

Anne Drewa (also: MacRumors, tweet):

A free Indigenous language app developed by a first-year UBC student from Prince Rupert, B.C. is up and running again after Apple mistakenly accused the young developer of dishonest and fraudulent acts.


Eshom says he received an automated email from the tech giant telling him it was terminating his status as an Apple developer pursuant to the Apple Developer Agreement for dishonest and fraudulent acts related to that agreement.


He says he reached out to Apple multiple times for an explanation, but couldn’t get answers.

So, of course, he went to the press, and that worked.

Apple says more than a half-million developer accounts were terminated for fraudulent activity last year, which resulted in their apps being removed from sale. But Apple says Eshom’s developer account was regrettably included with the removals.

Via Jeff Johnson:

It’s impossible to intelligently “curate” at this scale. Nobody should have the power.

People claim that “at least App Store is better than the wild west”, but that’s false because App Store provides a platform and honeypot for malware.

Outside the App Store, it’s hard for a scammy app to get enough PageRank or traffic to go anywhere. Inside the App Store, instead of PageRank we have ratings and reviews, both of which can be easily faked. No opinions from trusted third parties show up when you search. So it’s actually easier for scams and malware to proliferate if they aren’t caught by App Review.


Apple Removes Apps for Pakistani Government

Megha Rajagopalan (Hacker News):

Over the last two years, the government of Pakistan has forced Google and Apple to take down apps in the country created by developers based in other nations who are part of a repressed religious minority.

The move is part of a crackdown led by the country’s telecommunications regulator targeting the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. Adherents, called Ahmadis, number about 4 million in Pakistan. Though Ahmadis identify as Muslim, Pakistan’s government views them as heretics, and a 1984 ordinance forbids them from “posing” as Muslims, adopting Islamic religious practices, and referring to their houses of worship as mosques. Pakistan is the only country to declare that Ahmadis are not Muslim.


At issue are seven religious apps created by the Ahmadi community in the United States, published under the name “Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.”


“EDR” Brings HDR to Non-HDR Displays

Stu Maschwitz (via Hacker News):

When I watched the announcement of this display, I was curious how Apple would handle an HDR video monitor that was also tasked with the mundane duty of displaying your email and a web browser. Was Apple planning on rendering the 255-255-255 “white” of Google’s home page at one brightness level, and the HDR overbrights from a video clip at a much brighter level, right next to each other, on the same display? […] The answer is a resounding “yes,” and the effect is both impressive and a bit unnerving.


So Apple has a method of showing HDR and SDR content together on the same screen. It works on every display Apple bills as “HDR,” even though the phones are performing the stunt using a different underlying technology than the 32″ Mac display. The XDR uses “local dimming” to light up an array of LEDs brighter behind the HDR pixels, as needed. The OLED displays drive each pixel to the desired brightness individually.

Apple groups all this under one umbrella they call EDR, or Extended Dynamic Range. And even as they tout EDR as a selling point of their professional display and flagship iPhones, Apple has also quietly extended it to older Macs that were never advertised as being HDR-capable.

Michel Fortin:

My observations support that the display brightness and color mappings change dynamically when some HDR content appears on screen. Those are reverted back to normal once the HDR image disappears. So no compromise on battery life until you put HDR content on your screen: the display is only made brighter while HDR content is visible.


On macOS Big Sur, when in dark mode, I noticed some white text labels are sensitive to EDR. (This looks like a bug.) When the video becomes visible on screen and EDR activates, those white text labels will slowly brighten at the same time as the video. I’ve located two of those labels for now: Safari’s active tab text (while the window is frontmost), and Gamma Control’s text label below the tabs (when the palette is set to translucent dark appearance). There’s also the checkmark for checked items in menus that appears affected. […] Another Big Sur issue: running an app that tweaks the gamma curve can break this EDR system temporarily.


The Battle Inside Signal

Casey Newton (The Verge, Hacker News):

But Signal’s rapid growth has also been a cause for concern. In the months leading up to and following the 2020 US presidential election, Signal employees raised questions about the development and addition of new features that they fear will lead the platform to be used in dangerous and even harmful ways. But those warnings have largely gone unheeded, they told me, as the company has pursued a goal to hit 100 million active users and generate enough donations to secure Signal’s long-term future.

Employees worry that, should Signal fail to build policies and enforcement mechanisms to identify and remove bad actors, the fallout could bring more negative attention to encryption technologies from regulators at a time when their existence is threatened around the world.


Employees have been told that for Signal to become self-sustaining, it will need to reach 100 million users. At that level, executives expect that donations will cover its costs and support the development of additional products that the company has considered, such as email or file storage.