Archive for March 26, 2024

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Canva Acquires Affinity/Serif

Jess Weatherbed (Hacker News, MacRumors, Mac Power Users):

Web-based design platform Canva has acquired the Affinity creative software suite, positioning itself as a challenger to Adobe’s grip over the digital design industry. Canva announced the deal on Tuesday, which gives the company ownership over Affinity Designer, Photo, and Publisher — three popular creative applications for Windows, Mac, and iPad that provide similar features to Adobe’s Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign software, respectively.

Official figures for the deal have not been revealed, but Bloomberg reports that it’s valued at “several hundred million [British] pounds.” Nevertheless, the acquisition makes sense as the Australian-based company tries to attract more creative professionals. As of January this year, Canva’s design platform attracted around 170 million monthly global users. That’s a lot of people who probably aren’t using equivalent Adobe software like Express, but unlike Adobe, Canva doesn’t have its own design applications that target creative professionals like illustrators, photographers, and video editors.

Olivia Poh (via Hacker News):

It’s the biggest outlay yet by Australia’s most valuable startup, priced at $26 billion in its latest share sale, and marks a milestone in the expansion of its range of professional tools.

Affinity (Mastodon, PR, forum, 2):

None of that changes today.

In Canva, we’ve found a kindred spirit who can help us take Affinity to new levels. Their extra resources will mean we can deliver much more, much faster. Beyond that, we can forge new horizons for Affinity products, opening up a world of possibilities which previously would never have been achievable.


There are no changes to our current pricing model planned at this time, with all our apps still available as a one-off purchase. Existing Affinity users will be able to continue to use your apps in perpetuity as they were originally purchased – with plenty of free updates to V2 still to look forward to!


Trusted by more than three million creative professionals across the globe, Affinity’s award-winning suite of professional design software has become a sought-after solution for everything from photo editing to complex graphic and vector design. Together, we’re setting our sights on empowering every kind of team and organization to achieve their goals.


While our last decade at Canva has focused heavily on the 99% of knowledge workers without design training, truly empowering the world to design includes empowering professional designers too. By joining forces with Affinity, we’re excited to unlock the full spectrum of designers at every level and stage of the design journey.

Nick Bonyhady:

Canva has made its largest acquisition to date, likely spending more than $1 billion to buy professional design software company Serif to compete directly with Adobe as its prepares a long run at going public.

Craig Grannell (Mastodon):

Although the press has in recent years often positioned Serif as a kind of scrappy underdog newcomer, the company has a long history. It was founded in 1987, which makes it only five years younger than Adobe. Most of its recent history has been tied up in becoming a direct competitor to Adobe – and also a direct competitor to Adobe’s business model. Through its Affinity suite, Serif offered an alternative: buy-once apps rather than subscriptions. And although I can’t imagine Serif makes anything other than a minority of its sales on iPad, the company’s superb Affinity apps for Apple’s tablet – compared to Adobe’s comparatively stumbling efforts – haven’t hurt the company’s reputation any.


Version 3 of the Affinity suite will probably be the moment we’ll know. You can already picture a press release stating that Canva has made the “difficult decision” to move Affinity apps to subscriptions, and a “hard choice” to move development from Nottingham to Canva HQ in Australia. I hope this won’t be the case, but we’ve seen this scenario play out so many times before.

Rui Carmo:

The Affinity suite is (for the moment) good quality native Mac software that does not rely on cloud features nor has a subscription model.

As much as their FAQ claims that will not change, I think we’ve all seen this before–in short, I don’t trust Canva one whit and fully expect to revisit this post in a year when Serif/Affinity breaks one of those three tenets above and forces me to move away from their software.

Christina Warren:

I’m selfishly sad to see Canva acquire Affinity b/c I know it will the end to our cheap perpetually-licensed design tools for Mac/Windows/iOS, however, this is a really smart move from Canva who makes an excellent web-based design tool for normies.


Affinity (2022, via John Gruber):

Ain’t nobody acquiring us 😎

Update (2024-03-27): See also: TidBITS-Talk.

Update (2024-03-28): Scharon Harding (via Craig Grannell):

“Perpetual licenses will always be offered, and we will always price Affinity fairly and affordably,” an announcement today from Canva and Affinity said.

If Canva ever decides to sell Affinity as a subscription, perpetual licensing will remain available, Canva said, adding: “This fits with enabling Canva users to start adopting Affinity. It could also allow us to offer Affinity users a way to scale their workflows using Canva as a platform to share and collaborate on their Affinity assets, if they choose to.”

Rui Carmo:

Wow, Affinity and canva are really trying to do damage control here, but the reality is nobody believes that existing customers won’t be coaxed into a subscription service or cloud features they don’t need. We can blame Adobe for poisoning the well, I guess.

Update (2024-04-02): Adam Engst:

The match is a good one. The Affinity suite provides significantly more layout power than Canva’s browser-based tools, but Canva offers cloud and collaboration capabilities that are missing from the Affinity apps. I have long maintained that collaboration tools will win out over other features in the mass market because most modern projects involve multiple people. That’s why I do all my writing in Google Docs instead of the more powerful Nisus Writer Pro or BBEdit.


With luck, Canva will make good on all these promises and provide designers of all levels with an even more compelling alternative to Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Perhaps that, in turn, will spur Adobe to develop innovative new features and offer solutions to those for whom Creative Cloud is overkill.


DMA Non-Compliance Investigations

European Commission (via Hacker News, MacRumors):

Today, the Commission has opened non-compliance investigations under the Digital Markets Act (DMA) into Alphabet’s rules on steering in Google Play and self-preferencing on Google Search, Apple’s rules on steering in the App Store and the choice screen for Safari and Meta’s “pay or consent model”.

The Commission suspects that the measures put in place by these gatekeepers fall short of effective compliance of their obligations under the DMA.


The Commission has opened proceedings against Apple regarding their measures to comply with obligations to (i) enable end users to easily uninstall any software applications on iOS, (ii) easily change default settings on iOS and (iii) prompt users with choice screens which must effectively and easily allow them to select an alternative default service, such as a browser or search engine on their iPhones.

The Commission is concerned that Apple’s measures, including the design of the web browser choice screen, may be preventing users from truly exercising their choice of services within the Apple ecosystem, in contravention of Article 6(3) of the DMA.


Apple’s new fee structure and other terms and conditions for alternative app stores and distribution of apps from the web (sideloading) may be defeating the purpose of its obligations under Article 6(4) of the DMA.

John Gruber:

You could have set your watch by this announcement dropping the week after the EC held compliance “workshops”. There was no way any of these companies weren’t going to be “investigated” and I doubt there’s any way they won’t eventually get fined. Whether any of them will ever need to pay those fines, that I wouldn’t bet on.


But most of the built-in apps in iOS can be removed from your iPhone the exact same way you delete apps from the App Store. There’s a handful that can’t, among them: Settings, Camera, Photos, App Store, Phone, Messages, and Safari. You can remove those apps from your Home Screen, but they remain in your App Library. If the EC is really going to investigate Apple over removing default apps, I presume they’re thinking that Safari, in particular, needs to be deletable, because making it un-deletable is a form of preferencing? It’s all guess work. I further suppose they might want the App Store app to be deletable, but that’s a problem because it’s through the App Store that a user can re-install built-in apps they’ve previously deleted.


There’s no mechanism for a new browser that was never in the App Store to be included in the choice screen until a year after it becomes popular enough — via sideloading or distribution through alternative app marketplaces — to make the list. But DMA article 6(3) doesn’t actually say that.

Ben Lovejoy:

If that investigation confirms that Apple failed to comply with the antitrust law, then the iPhone maker could be fined up to 10% of its worldwide turnover – increasing to 20% for repeat infringements …


Such investigations take time, but in this case the stated goal is to complete it in less than a year – which is lightning speed by the usual standard.

That won’t be the end of matters, however. If the EU does find Apple non-compliant, the Cupertino company will appeal the ruling, and we will then be set for literally years of court battles as the case works its way up the court hierarchy.

John Gruber:

A few readers have asked about my speculation that Apple, along with the other DMA-designated gatekeepers (none of which are European companies of course), might reasonably pull out of the relatively small EU market rather than risk facing disproportionately large fines from the European Commission.


So EU member states account for only 25–30 percent of Apple’s revenue from “Europe”, and just 7 percent globally. 7 percent is significant, to be sure, and in addition to users, there are of course many iOS and Mac developers in EU countries. I really don’t know what Apple pulling out of the EU would even look like, but it would be ugly.


Update (2024-03-28): John Gruber:

Kara Swisher Interviews Margrethe Vestager

Update (2024-04-01): John Gruber (Mastodon):

The word absolute was a transcription error, however. Listen to the published recording of the call, and it’s clear that what Maestri actually said was specifically in answer to the question: “Just to keep it in context, the changes apply to the EU market, which represents roughly 7% of our global App Store revenue.”


I struggle to come up with any explanation for why the EU might account for only 7 percent of App Store revenue but significantly more (or less) of Apple’s overall revenue.

Movie Piracy App Tops App Store Charts

Joshua Long:

On Tuesday, [March] 12, a researcher named Kedsayahm noticed that an app that featured pirated TV shows and movies was quickly climbing the charts in the App Store. The app was already #1 in the Entertainment category in Egypt at the time, and in the top 10 for Entertainment in at least three other countries: Saudi Arabia, Italy, and Germany. It was also #21 in the Entertainment category in the United States, and #170 in the Top Free in the U.S. as well.


By [March] 14, the app had reached astounding highs: #2 in the Entertainment category in the U.S., and #18 in the overall Top Free list in the U.S., in the iOS App Store. This is especially surprising considering that the app’s name, tagline, icon, and screenshots were all in Arabic—even in the English-language U.S. App Store.


But another concerning aspect of the story is that the app included in-app purchases: $5.99 to supposedly remove ads (no ads were visible in the researcher’s screen recording), and 99¢ to “tip” the developer.


Also last week, there was yet another fake cryptocurrency app in the App Store. It seems to have first been reported on publicly on May 11, a day before the piracy app was called out. This app used the logo and name of PancakeSwap, a decentralized finance (DeFi) site that doesn’t have an official app.

Luc Vandal:

In today’s “App Review is Clearly Fucked Up” news, it is now considered manipulating reviews to ask for them in the What’s new section? 🤦‍♂️

And no, Screens doesn’t manipulate reviews; it follows the approved method of requesting reviews from users.

I also don’t like that they imply that we manipulate reviews. Please concentrate on actual scammers, Apple, not legit developers that have been on the App Store since its inception.


Got a notice two weeks ago that my app would be removed due to some screenshots that weren’t in compliance with the guidelines. Have since then uploaded a new version with screenshots that are in compliance with the guidelines, but the reviewer still decided to reject based on the same guideline.

Wrote a reply to the reviewer 24 hours ago (10 min after the rejection), explaining that the screenshots are in compliance, but still has not gotten a reply. And today the app was removed from sale. How long should one have to wait for a reply from the reviewer?

Have filed an appeal. but that usually takes days, and even weeks. So my app will lose all momentum on the charts!


Update (2024-03-29): BenedictC:

I recently had a free app rejected for falling foul of clause 5.1.1. 5.1.1 has 10 subclauses. There was a lot of back and forth and a trip to the review panel. I plead numerous times for them to give more details and every time they just restated it was a problem with clause 5.1.1. Utter waste of my time and shows the lack of respect Apple have towards developers.

Khaos Tian:

The reviewer is insisting something is not allowed when the prior submission was explicitly approved by review board 🫠 There is really no punishment for reviewer rejecting for the wrong reason I guess…

How to Recover macOS Recovery

Howard Oakley:

Rarely, the Recovery volume becomes deleted, or the secure disk image it should contain gets removed. Unfortunately the only means of restoring it is to perform a macOS update, and even then some Macs seem unable to recover Recovery without the boot volume group being deleted and installed from scratch, best performed when booted from an external disk. Unfortunately, on Intel Macs with T2 chips, you might need to enable that using Startup Security Utility, which is, of course, only available in Recovery. You may now scream if you like.


When the Paired Recovery system on an Apple silicon Mac is updated in a macOS update, the Recovery system from that should be copied to the Recovery volume on one of its two hidden containers, named Apple_APFS_Recovery. In the past, that process has been unreliable, but Apple has improved that, and your Mac should now have a good chance that Fallback Recovery is available. Apart from Fallback Recovery being older than your current version of macOS, it also doesn’t offer the Startup Security Utility, so can’t be used to change Secure Boot settings, its major disadvantage.


If neither Paired nor Fallback Recovery are available, the best way to restore them for an Apple silicon Mac is to put that Mac into DFU mode, connect it to another recent Mac using a USB-C charging cable (not a Thunderbolt cable, which won’t work), then run Apple Configurator 2 on the other Mac. In that, download the current IPSW image and use that to refresh the ailing Mac’s firmware.