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Apple saw the future and it was magnets

Image: Apple / Protocol
iPhone 12 and MagSafe

Good morning! This Wednesday, there was a surprise show-stealer at the Apple event, Twitter's dealing with more verification issues, and there's a new idea for content on the internet.

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The Big Story

Apple's got a brand new ecosystem

There's a new iPhone! Four of them, actually! With 5G! The blue one looks great! But that's not what I want to talk about. (Here's a good overview if you need a refresher.)

I want to talk about magnets. More specifically, the magnetic, wireless charging thing on the back of the new iPhone 12 models. Apple's dusting off an old and beloved charging brand and naming it MagSafe. In the process, it's starting what could turn into the most interesting new Apple ecosystem in a while.

  • Apple showed off its own magnetic case and chargers, plus a wallet attachment. Belkin's working on a charger and a car mount, too.
  • There are other sensors in the MagSafe stack, too, like NFC and a magnetometer, which accessory makers can use for all sorts of things. New kinds of cases; tap-to-do-something tags; snap-on Popsockets!

This one's going to be really interesting to watch. The mobile accessory business is worth tens of billions of dollars every year, and the 12 will definitely be a win for charger manufacturers. It doesn't come with a plug, so buyers will have to spend extra for something if they want to use the MagSafe feature.

  • Not all of Apple's attempts at ecosystem creation have worked out, though. The Smart Connector on the iPad is still mostly used by a couple of keyboards, most third-party Apple Watch bands you'll find aren't very good, and HomeKit decidedly did not win the smart-home race.

For now, MagSafe is only on Apple's newest phones, and the accessories aren't even available yet. But you don't have to squint that hard to imagine an iPhone 13 or 14 that has no Lightning port at all, with MagSafe being the only way to connect to your iPhone. That's going to be big business.

Read this: Janko Roettgers on where the HomePod Mini fits into the smart-speaker landscape.

Social

Chasing the elusive blue check

Anna Kramer writes: Some prominent (and unverified) women and non-binary people in tech are calling out Twitter's opaque verification process. While Twitter has verified thousands of users over the last few years, it says the process is currently on hold — but some quiet verifications last week set off this latest uproar.

While of course this is about status — everyone wants to look like they've made it — it's also a question of respect and self-protection. Many of the women I spoke with said that the coveted check makes it easier to deal with trolls.

  • "I'm not a snob. It's another form of recognition," explained Claire Novotny, the transgender executive director of the .NET foundation and a PM at Microsoft, about why she's frustrated with the verification process. "I speak for the foundation. I'm paid for this. I don't know what else Twitter might be looking for here."
  • Lots of verified men in the industry are backing up the complaints. Kent Beck offered to give up his verification status for a long list of women: "Nobody is trying to harass and impersonate me, so they need it more than I do."
  • "We hear the feedback, and are using it to inform the work we are currently doing to develop a better process," Nick Pacilio, a Twitter spokesperson, said about the latest round of complaints.

The question of respect and self-protection for women in the industry extends way beyond verification, though. Emily Kager, a senior Mozilla engineer known for her viral TikToks satirizing tech (I particularly like this one), told me:

  • "People have called my work to try to get me fired because I posted a picture of me in a bikini once. People have DM'd me how they want to assault me. These things that just make you not want to be on the internet."

Kager is hoping that more men will get behind the push for respectful online communities, but she's not holding her breath. And Novotny's quest for verification? "I'm happy to talk about it, but I don't think anything will ever come of it," she told me.

Web

A new old proposal for the web

Most of the internet feels like it's held together by duct tape and Band-Aids (and that one person in Nebraska). To make things work better on their platforms, some of the biggest tech companies have taken to creating their own systems and formats, so at least what you read on, say, Google will work … on Google. That's how we got AMP, Instant Articles, Apple's News format, and so many others.

Robin Berjon is trying to spearhead a better way. He's the VP of data governance at The New York Times and is leading a project known as Content Aggregation Technology (CAT for short), which aims to build a better content standard for the internet. Actually, scratch that. To build the first content standard for the internet.

  • Berjon's working with folks from other big publishers, and together they just published their first draft of a document Berjon told me he hoped would "state the problem before we propose the solutions."
  • What the CAT team wants is simple, he said: a single content format and style that works everywhere, while respecting users' privacy and the needs of both publishers and aggregators. Publishers get to control their own stuff, aggregators get more stuff that looks great on their platforms.

The best answer would look something like HTML, only better, Berjon said. What does better look like? Better content previews in search engines and social feeds, better preloading in apps, and better data privacy for users who might not want their news browsing happening inside Facebook's walls. He hopes to get a Big Tech partner or two — "if this is only publishers, it doesn't work," he said — and start building a solution that actually works for everyone.

A MESSAGE FROM PHILIPS

Philips

Stronger care … from more efficient operations

In a defining moment for healthcare, it's even more crucial to deliver patient-centered care efficiently. At Philips, we are committed to providing intelligent, automated workflows that seek to improve patient care. More efficient healthcare means stronger, more resilient healthcare.

Learn more.

People Are Talking

On Protocol: Clarence Thomas wants to argue your Section 230 case in the Supreme Court:

  • "Adopting the too-common practice of reading extra immunity into statutes where it does not belong, courts have relied on policy and purpose arguments to grant sweeping protection to internet platforms."

Dropbox is switching to virtual-first work, and changing its whole idea of a workday:

  • "We're embracing what we call 'non-linear workdays.' We're setting core collaboration hours with overlap between time zones, and encouraging employees to design their own schedules beyond that."

Eli Pariser proposed a new way of thinking about social space online:

  • "History offers a proven template for how to build healthier public spaces. As wild as it sounds, part of the solution is no further than your nearest public park."

Former European Commission deputy director-general Cecilio Madero Villarejo said regulating tech is about more than money:

  • "The number doesn't matter — what they care about, these companies, is that you declared them as having violated the law … What they hate [are] remedies we impose."

Number of the Day

2.1 million

That's how many old Usenet posts Jozef Jarosciak recently uploaded, going back as far as 1981. Jarosciak is building the Usenet Archives, which already has 349 million posts inside it, and the new posts are some of the oldest ones from the forum. He told Vice he expects that number to triple. This is about as good an artifact of the early internet as you're ever going to find.

In Other News

  • The first rule of antitrust: Don't talk about antitrust. The New York Times reports that Google has strict rules on discussing antitrust in emails and a culture of never bringing it up in meetings. When a job candidate emailed Sundar about antitrust, "it was seen as a negative for the person's job prospects."
  • Facebook said it will ban anti-vax ads. Anything that "explicitly discourages someone from getting a vaccine" is now forbidden. Elsewhere in the Zuck Atonement Tour, he and Priscilla Chan announced they'd give an additional $100 million to election administrators, bringing their total donation to $400 million.
  • Uber and Lyft were in court again yesterday, arguing that making their drivers employees would cause problems. Uber's lawyer said enforcement could "turn [it] into a different company." The case could become moot if Prop 22 passes next month, though.
  • There's a huge backlog of educational laptops, and it's preventing kids from attending virtual school. The New York Times reports that a shortage of Chromebooks for poorer schools is making the digital divide even worse.
  • Don't miss this great piece on how Airbnb saved itself, from The Wall Street Journal. A rapid redesign helped the company benefit from staycations and remote work, setting the stage for its IPO.
  • Jeff Bezos launched a rocket. Yesterday was Blue Origin's first launch in 10 months, with a 10-minute suborbital flight.
  • Huawei is in talks to sell parts of its Honor business, with Digital China reportedly the frontrunner. It's one way for the company to deal with U.S. sanctions and would provide some much needed cash.
  • Biometric identification is taking off in South East Asia. Singapore is integrating its digital identity program with facial verification, letting people access tax returns with just their face. And the Philippines just started rolling out its national ID system, which will store photos and iris scans.

One More Thing

C'mon, no one likes Imagine Dragons

Can we talk about Tim Cook's Event Day playlist? It's a little bit top 40 (Panic! At the Disco), a little bit Dad-tries-to-be-hip (the Fleetwood Mac song from that TikTok everybody saw), a little bit newsy (RIP Eddie Van Halen), and a lot like the soundtrack to a movie about a young whippersnapper making her way in the big city. There's some great music on here! But Tim, maybe call Zane Lowe for some recommendations next time.

A MESSAGE FROM PHILIPS

Philips

Stronger care … from more efficient operations

In a defining moment for healthcare, it's even more crucial to deliver patient-centered care efficiently. At Philips, we are committed to providing intelligent, automated workflows that seek to improve patient care. More efficient healthcare means stronger, more resilient healthcare.

Learn more.

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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