The Talk Show

344: ‘Devastation, Pessimism, and Rage’, With Glenn Fleishman


00:00:00   Breaking news. Now here's the danger of podcasting because we've got a 24-hour ideal turnaround on a

00:00:08   podcast and this Elon Musk Twitter thing is like, I just saw that Apple signed Idris Elba to do a,

00:00:21   did you see that? It's like a seven, it's going to be like a seven episode series about a

00:00:27   transcontinental flight or transatlantic flight that gets hijacked, but it takes place in real

00:00:32   time, you know, so like, so, so like, uh, I know that's not new, but it's still, you know, it's

00:00:38   Idris Elba. So I'm like, all right, that's great. Right. But it's, it's, it's like the old 24 gimmick

00:00:43   or I forgot, I just linked to it, but there was a Johnny Depp movie in 1996 or something like that.

00:00:48   There was, there were TV shows that did that too, like spy shows or something where it was supposed

00:00:52   to be unfolding practically in real time. I think not 24, but like in the sixties anyway. Yeah,

00:00:56   that's a, that's a great, that's a great idea because you know, you get the attention inherent

00:01:01   in the premise and then they have to just tell a really good story inside that. All right,

00:01:04   now I got to look it up. There was a Hitchcock movie that, that it took it even further. It was

00:01:10   the premise was that it was yeah, rope. Exactly. And so tell people what the, the, the gimmick with

00:01:18   rope wasn't just that it was real time, but continuous shots, but they couldn't load, you

00:01:24   know, they didn't have enough film in the cans in those days. So you'll notice throughout rope,

00:01:28   there's people, the camera pans across the jacket back and then back in. So they shot every lengthy

00:01:36   scene, continue or continuously. So I think it's like five or seven, someone's going to correct us,

00:01:42   separate shots, but all of them are continuous and they all pan across. You're like,

00:01:48   boy, that's not that interesting of a someone's jacket back, but it's a, it's a, and it's a

00:01:52   thrilling, terrifying, gripping movie because it brings that immediacy of something like theater

00:01:58   to the screen. I thought it was, it's amazing. Yeah. I, I there's one where it,

00:02:02   the camera pans across a lamp and it makes no sense at all, but it's it. Once you understand

00:02:08   that they could only put 10, it was like 10 minutes of film in a canister or nine minutes,

00:02:14   something, something like nine or 10 minutes of film at 24 frames per second was the most you

00:02:19   could put in a canister it, you know, and that's the gimmick is that it's, it doesn't just take

00:02:24   place in real time, but it simulates one 90 minute take. Anyway, I kind of feel like this Twitter,

00:02:32   Elon Musk story is unfolding at that pace. And so anything we can say about it as we record on

00:02:40   Monday morning is going to be hopelessly out of date by the time the podcast airs, who even knows,

00:02:47   but it's true. It could be sold. It could be backed off. It could be,

00:02:50   there's a tweet, I know this ironic, there's a tweet from Katie Mack, the astrophysicist,

00:02:56   is that terrific writer and terrific all round person. And she tweeted this morning. And I just

00:03:01   think this summarizes everyone's feelings, including mine is I won't pretend to know how

00:03:05   the Elon Musk acquisition of Twitter will turn out, but it's pretty striking that every comment

00:03:09   I've seen from anyone whose opinion I respect has been expressing nothing but devastation,

00:03:15   pessimism and rage. I thought Katie got it. Well, Dr. Mack has it on top there.

00:03:20   I have a bad feeling and I hope I'm wrong. I'll just toss this out there. I have a very bad

00:03:27   feeling that if this goes through and maybe even if it doesn't, that Twitter's going to have

00:03:34   significant layoffs this week. They're very big. A friend of mine who works there just wrote to me,

00:03:40   just like a sort of offhand, like, hey, this is how times change, but has a friend who used to work

00:03:47   at it. Well, it just started and more or less said that the onboarding process and getting up to speed

00:03:53   at the company was arduous compared to the rest of the places he'd worked in his career because it's

00:03:59   such a big company. And my friend was like, wait a minute, you used to work at Apple. And he was

00:04:04   like, yeah, when I started at Apple and I think this was like 2006 or 2004 or somewhere around

00:04:10   that era, he was like, Apple then was smaller than Twitter today. And it was just sort of a light bulb

00:04:18   moment of how big companies have gotten. Like, even if you don't think of, Twitter obviously

00:04:23   isn't a gigantic company because they're being targeted to go private and you can't do that with

00:04:29   a truly gigantic public company, but it is something and I just can't help but feel, and I do,

00:04:36   I feel, I'm sure there are numerous people who work at Twitter who listen to the show. My sympathy's

00:04:41   go out for the tumult that everybody there is going through. Yeah, and you know, the engineering

00:04:47   talent will leave and product managers, tons of, I mean, there's so much, what's the unemployment

00:04:51   rate in California and in tech? It's, you know, probably 2% right now. So everybody who disagrees

00:04:59   and there's been reports of some, you know, severe ideological disagreement, I am positive there are

00:05:04   plenty of people, and rightly so, this is not criticizing people who like Elon Musk or appreciate

00:05:10   the work he's done. I will be the first, I should be the first to acknowledge the work he has done

00:05:15   in advancing civilization at the same time as he's the world's, you know, the world's wealthiest

00:05:20   person and world's biggest shitposter all in one. He's an incredible set of contradictions and he's

00:05:26   both brilliant but hasn't invented anything himself. He's really good at finding people

00:05:31   and pushing them. He's kind of Steve Jobsian but worse in his treatment of people. So it's very

00:05:37   hard to defend how he gets to his goals, but on the other side, we wouldn't be anywhere near the

00:05:43   electric car revolution we're in today if it weren't for him because nobody else would be

00:05:47   that shameless and horrible and whatever to get to this point. Anyway, but that said,

00:05:53   I'm sure there's plenty of people inside Twitter who admire Musk and are like, "This is great.

00:05:57   There's a lot of stuff I don't like about Twitter. Twitter's really moribund, right?" Like Jack had

00:06:01   really vague goals and, you know, somebody, I mean, if you work there, you might be, "This is

00:06:06   great. Someone's going to come in. We're not going to be beholden to shareholders or the public

00:06:10   market. They're going to shake stuff up." And anyway, I just cashed out my options and I got,

00:06:14   you know, $5 million for working here for X years or whatever it might be, and they're going to be

00:06:19   delighted with it, right? But other people, there'll be an exodus of people who don't like

00:06:23   the change or who get cashed out in this deal and have no financial, you know, now they're like,

00:06:28   "Well, why would I work for a private company where I don't agree with the goals entirely?

00:06:32   I'm just going to go and start my foundation or go to work for another company where I'll probably

00:06:36   make as much or more working at Twitter." So I think you're right. There'll be a big exodus in

00:06:40   a couple. I bet, I mean, he's going to have a lot of debt to serve. His Twitter will and he personally,

00:06:45   so he's going to have to search for, as we say, efficiencies. I'm not even passing judgment. I

00:06:50   don't know if Twitter has a head count that large. Maybe it is too big. I don't know, but I can't

00:06:56   figure out their finances. If you look at them, at one point a few years ago, it said they were

00:06:59   spending $800 million a year in R&D. And I was like, "Well, that's insane." But I don't think,

00:07:04   I think it was how they characterized their work and they classified it that way, maybe for tax

00:07:09   reasons. But they spend an awful lot of money for a company that maintains a simple text-based

00:07:16   service with advertising and not to belittle the complexity of running something at scale.

00:07:21   But it does seem like they spend a lot of money doing something that is at its heart

00:07:26   requires a certain core efficiency. And maybe they're not efficient in that role. I don't know.

00:07:30   I don't know. Here's the thing I don't understand. And I hate to put you on the spot because if I

00:07:37   don't understand it, I have no expectation that you do, but maybe you do because you,

00:07:43   Glenn Fleischman, seem to have a brain that soaks up esoteric information, right?

00:07:51   This is right. Look, how did I win Jeopardy?

00:07:52   I know.

00:07:53   Because I could tell you the cop, you know, where I frustrated Lex Friedman on a game show

00:07:57   episode of the Incoprol of the Day because if you came in last in supplying your entries,

00:08:01   if you had to answer a trivia question, I was last almost every time and I got

00:08:04   almost 100% of the answers correct.

00:08:07   There you go.

00:08:08   So here's my question. Twitter is a publicly held company as we speak.

00:08:13   As we speak.

00:08:15   Can we check the clock? Yep, that's still true.

00:08:17   All right. So, and I realize that there are laws surrounding how that the articles of incorporation

00:08:25   and, you know, you make file, you know, you have to comply with, I'm sure, a phone book full of

00:08:32   regulations just for the basics of being a publicly held company. But the basic idea,

00:08:41   though, is that there are thousands or millions of people out there who are the owners of Twitter

00:08:48   because they own one or more shares. And so if you buy a share of Twitter for 50 bucks or

00:08:56   whatever the cost is right now, then you own one out of X shares of Twitter, where X is the number

00:09:04   of shares of the company. I don't quite understand how Elon Musk and the board of Twitter are

00:09:14   negotiating this sale. Like, so if the board says, okay, we'll do it, 52.40, what's the price? Or 54.20

00:09:26   because 4.20 is Elon's favorite number. 54.20, okay, we'll do it. How does the board get to

00:09:36   say that when all the other shareholders out there are like, I'm not selling my share. Like,

00:09:43   what if you're a shareholder of Twitter and you're just like, I would like to hold on to it?

00:09:48   Oh, you'd like the up scenario, right? Oh, no, I shouldn't say it's like, is it an up? Yeah,

00:09:52   it's where they're building all around the little house. And we had one of those actually in Seattle.

00:09:57   There literally was an up house. There was a development. They were putting this huge thing

00:10:00   and this little old lady refused to sell. And they built, it was the most wonderful thing. And then

00:10:06   one of the construction workers befriended her, helped her in the last days, brought her food,

00:10:10   like not to convince her to sell. And then I think she left the house to him. Anyway,

00:10:15   heartwarming story in the middle of SEC regulations, but it's not like that. You can

00:10:20   withhold your shares. Like you don't, so a lot of stuff happens by majority, super majority or other

00:10:26   voting rules. So you can't as an individual shareholder, unless you have a majority,

00:10:33   you can't prevent a sale like this from happening. I mean, essentially they just send you money.

00:10:37   They withdraw the shares from circulation in exchange for money. And that's kind of it. So

00:10:44   I don't think, again, you're right. There's tons of regulations about it, I'm sure.

00:10:48   And, but a lot of it has to do with what the board thinks they're doing. That's in the best

00:10:52   interest of shareholders. So if the board thinks that Elon Musk's offer, which a lot of people

00:10:58   think is too low, by the way, because Twitter was trading high last year and maybe they'll come up

00:11:02   with an agreement for a higher amount, but I think he's maxing out his credit facilities and cash on

00:11:07   hand and all the rest of it. But if they accept his offer, then I don't think they have to put it

00:11:12   to a vote for the shareholders because they believe they're acting in the best interests

00:11:16   and they can allow him to tender for the entire amount and then, whether he doesn't own,

00:11:21   and then just say, this is the deal, we've approved it, and you're all going to get cash on this day

00:11:25   and it'll just be converted. Yeah. So anyway, I guess long story short, what you're saying

00:11:29   is that the way publicly held companies are structured is sort of an instance of

00:11:37   representative democracy, where the board is the, you know, officially, nobody really thinks that,

00:11:46   like when you buy stock, you don't really think like, now I get to vote for who's on the board,

00:11:51   you know, in a way that you vote for your congressperson or for a candidate for president

00:11:58   or the mayor of your town. You don't really think of that, but you do. You get to vote. There's an

00:12:05   annual shareholders meeting and they reassert the board. But effectively, you as a shareholder are

00:12:10   deferring your direct control over something like, should we allow billionaire Elon Musk to

00:12:19   buy the company and take it private? You're deferring that decision to the board.

00:12:25   Yeah, I think that's a really good way of thinking about it. It's a representative democracy,

00:12:29   is you have an opportunity as shareholders to vote board members in and out, to depending on the board

00:12:34   to make changes in policy, to, you know, control some of the direction of the company. But

00:12:39   traditionally, courts defer, if there's a lawsuit that arises, courts defer traditionally to a board

00:12:45   as long as it's making what seemed to be good decisions. So Matt Levine, who I'm sure we might

00:12:50   talk about again, who's great, his statement is everything is securities fraud because you can

00:12:55   always attempt a lawsuit as a shareholder, as an interested party, and say, "Oh, they didn't

00:13:02   disclose this or they did this action and therefore they reduced the value of the stock."

00:13:06   It's really hard when the stock value goes up or it's something that's considered widely a good

00:13:10   deal and everything's been negotiated perfectly well with all the documentation. But that aside,

00:13:16   it's, yeah, you have some, ostensibly, you know, the modern structure is that companies have two

00:13:22   more classes of shares. So when they go public, one class may be held by founders and early

00:13:28   insiders and early investors that has, you know, 10 times the voting rights per share as the other

00:13:34   shares. So they're all worth the same as a share of the company. But that's, you know, Zuckerberg

00:13:38   has, I think there's 60% insider control of Facebook, but there's also a voting share thing.

00:13:44   Twitter does not have different classes, so there's nobody who can kind of exercise extra

00:13:49   authority. But Tesla put in effect this rule as a two-third majority requirement for certain kinds

00:13:55   of changes, including removing the two-third majority. And it means that because of current

00:14:00   ownership, 90% of non-Elon Musk and other close insiders would have to vote to make a change for

00:14:09   that change to exceed, you know, a three-quarter or two-thirds majority to actually enact the change.

00:14:14   Anyway, so there's all these rules that prevent shareholders from necessarily exercising the kind

00:14:18   of direct relationship that they had, a one-person, one-vote kind of relationship

00:14:23   for majority response. But anyway, yeah, it's a funny thing. It's like somebody comes along and

00:14:27   says, "I want to give you this much money." And the board says, "Do you really have that much money?"

00:14:30   And they say, "Yeah, I have proven it." And the board says, "Yeah, it's a pretty good deal." And

00:14:34   they take it, and that's kind of the whole discussion. I mean, if the board—if he had come

00:14:38   along and offered $20 a share, the stock might have plunged because people thought maybe that

00:14:42   indicated Twitter was in a position of weakness. But instead, the stock is trending towards the

00:14:46   price that Musk offered, which means maybe that is the market price, and maybe this is the best

00:14:51   deal Twitter could get at the moment. Yeah, it's all very confusing to me.

00:14:57   It's amazing how much coverage there's been of it for something where it's like, guy has some amount

00:15:00   of money, right? He's the richest person in the world, but so much of his money is tied up in

00:15:05   stock. And then the aforementioned Matt Levine has had to write a lot about this. He has a free

00:15:10   newsletter at Bloomberg that I read. I think it's possibly the only thing, besides Daring Fireball,

00:15:15   that I read every day, and you don't update Daring Fireball every day. So I gotta go somewhere, John.

00:15:19   I gotta go somewhere. Matt Levine doesn't write every day either.

00:15:23   You're right. He takes vacations. He is extraordinarily prolific.

00:15:28   He is amazing. He is amazing. Former Goldman Sachs partner,

00:15:34   I don't know what you call people like that, but he stepped aside from actually being an investment

00:15:39   banker to write about the industry and is just a natural-born columnist. I don't know how else to

00:15:46   say it. Right, he just has an incredible—yeah, it's like those old-style—was it Herb Kane or

00:15:51   something like that? Yeah.

00:15:52   Those old-style newspaper columnists, except he's writing 100% about finance, and I laugh and laugh

00:15:57   as I read his columns because he has such a good sense of humor. And there's stuff—I have good

00:16:02   financial literacy, I think, and it is so much better having read his newsletter. And his point

00:16:08   with the Twitter deal, he broke apart Musk's offer last week where he—Musk had to put up what

00:16:13   specifically he was going to bring to the table, like which piles of cash. And Levine's response

00:16:20   was kind of like, "Well, Twitter has about a billion dollars in cash flow or free cash flow

00:16:25   right now, so a billion dollars would service all the debt that's going to be put on it as part of

00:16:30   this deal," because some of it is leveraged. It's going to be Twitter has to actually take on debt

00:16:35   for Musk to acquire it, and then Musk himself will probably have to pay about a billion dollars,

00:16:40   you know, roughly to service his own debt. So to buy Twitter, it's going to cost, you know,

00:16:44   $2 billion a year just to service that purchase. And Musk has said he wants to get rid of advertising

00:16:50   and change the service. He'll probably make it less desirable for advertisers based on all the

00:16:54   statements he's made. And then Musk is leveraging—I mean, this is the column he wrote last week,

00:17:00   Levine—he's leveraging stock he owns in Tesla. So he already had made personal guarantees against

00:17:06   a chunk of his stock ownership, and this will tie up a chunk more, and he hasn't exercised a bunch

00:17:11   of options. But essentially, Musk would have to use what sounds like all of his available cash

00:17:17   and a chunk of his remaining control of Tesla at its current price. So if something goes wrong

00:17:22   with Tesla, if there's a blip and the price goes down, he will have to sell more and sell stock or

00:17:27   exercise options. If there were a significant decline in Tesla shares, he could wind up losing

00:17:32   control of Tesla, and there could be other, you know, repercussions that would regard his private

00:17:36   ownership of Twitter and the bank's loans and so forth. So he's putting himself in what feels like

00:17:42   a very risky, highly leveraged position in order to shitpost freely. I don't think that's why he's

00:17:50   doing it, though. But who knows? Let's take a break, and we'll come back to it. I'm going to

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00:20:25   I don't know why he's buying Twitter, Glenn. I don't think, though, it's... I don't think...

00:20:31   Do you think it's because he's mad that he can't do everything he wants? I mean,

00:20:36   like everything he said publicly makes me think that he doesn't... You know, this is what a lot of

00:20:44   very entitled people, people who grew up extremely wealthy as he did, they... And I went to school

00:20:48   with a number of those people. Did he grow up wealthy? I actually don't know, like, his childhood.

00:20:53   His family owns Gemmines in South Africa. So he started... He is not a plucky,

00:20:58   started from nothing person. I mean, Steve Jobs, you know, grew up in a middle-class family. He

00:21:02   certainly wasn't deprived, but he wasn't... Family wasn't wealthy. Yeah, I mean, that's one of these

00:21:06   origin story things, like, where you're... You have to poke at how much money somebody's family did

00:21:11   when they said, "Well, I started with nothing. I had to go out and raise money." It's like,

00:21:13   "Well, you raised money from your family. They gave you a bunch of money." But Musk,

00:21:18   he seems to be somebody who doesn't want to have the word "no" sent to him. And his disputes with

00:21:22   the SEC have largely to do, in my opinion, with him wanting to be able to say anything

00:21:27   he wants, regardless of whether he can back it up with facts or belief or just invent them,

00:21:33   and not have the SEC have any regulatory oversight over that because he thinks everything he does is

00:21:40   good for his company. And the aforementioned Matt Levine, one of his arguments is that

00:21:45   maybe what Musk does has been good and the SEC is kind of wrong at some level, even though it's

00:21:50   right, but it's wrong because Tesla is an incredibly valuable company. And so what has

00:21:55   Musk done that has devalued any of the enterprises? The answer is kind of none. So you have to look at

00:22:01   it, is it like this school rules thing where it's like, "Well, we have to slap your hand because we

00:22:07   don't want other people getting ideas," or is it, you know, adherence to the rules? Now, I know I

00:22:11   think what he's done is sometimes could be construed under certain circumstances to be

00:22:16   misleading. The SEC has agreed with some of that, and sometimes he's even agreed to make changes to

00:22:21   his behavior and then not changed it. And I think that kind of, it's like not wanting to have to

00:22:27   stifle himself. It just seems like one of the big motivations. And maybe he thinks Twitter's

00:22:32   actually undervalued, but then he says, "I don't want to do business stuff with it."

00:22:36   I can't help but think, though, that he knows enough that it's too much money

00:22:44   and too much of his own worth that he's not—the problem is, I think we as a species are not hooked

00:22:54   up to deal with somebody who is both, who is consequential. He's a consequential person,

00:23:04   right? And he does things. But we're not hooked up to deal with somebody who is consequential,

00:23:10   who is a leader in some regards, right? He's obviously the leader of several companies,

00:23:16   whose words aren't necessarily what he's actually thinking. And I hesitated over how to phrase that,

00:23:27   because I'm not saying he's even a liar. It's just that there's a certain—and I think Elon

00:23:34   Musk personifies it. I think even more, I think it's one of those ways that he is sort of Steve

00:23:40   Jobs-like. I've mentioned it on my show before. I think I've mentioned it on Dithering with Ben

00:23:48   Thompson. You can definitely draw some connections. But at that level, everybody is so unique that

00:23:56   it's hard to—you could say, "Oh, they're also like Thomas Edison," and you can go back through history

00:24:00   and find other people. But basically, you can't necessarily take him at his word. But I don't mean

00:24:08   that he's a liar. It's that he says things to get a reaction, and that he thinks he's playing—and

00:24:15   maybe he is, right? He's obviously very, very smart, extremely smart. So maybe he is playing

00:24:22   two moves ahead of everybody else. So therefore, the things that he says, whatever his reasons are,

00:24:29   they're not what he says. Whereas me, and I think you, and I think most people, it's like, whatever

00:24:37   I'm actually thinking, that's the stupid words that are coming out of my mouth.

00:25:06   Tesla's going to go public at $420.69 a share or something, right? It was a joke. And he got the SEC trying to put enforcement action against him. I can't really what the exact outcome was of that. Again, he always gets his hand slapped. He's supposed to have his statements reviewed by lawyers at the company and blah, blah, blah. But what he claimed later is he said, "I believed when I tweeted that, that we were prepared to do that." And we had this investment lined up from the Saudis.

00:25:34   And, you know, apparently the deal was the Saudis said, "Yeah, we might do something with you." Not, you know, no, nothing in writing, nothing specific, no dollar amounts discussed. So Musk's argument about that is, I mean, or I think, let's say his internal thinking, if I can be so bold, is by stating it, he probably made the deal much more likely. So by saying, "I have an offer, we're going to go private, this is the thing," the Saudis might have said, "Oh, he's really serious about it. Yep, let's throw up the term sheet and figure out financing. And he's got to do this. And how much can we push him now that he set a price?"

00:26:03   And it might've just happened. So some people want to cause reality to change reality by making statements that they believe they can bring into reality by having put them forward, right? The trial balloon that becomes reality. And I think he is, he believes he is a master at that. And I think he is much more like a little boy who thinks he's clever about things like that.

00:26:25   Yeah, but isn't that a little Steve Jobs-like, right? You know, and it was sort of like, I mean, the biggest failure of Jobs's career clearly was Next, while it was a standalone company. It never really took off. And it was a long bet that eventually did pay off famously when Apple acquired the company and, you know, and let their executives come in and become the new executives of Apple and use their

00:26:55   technology as the foundation for macOS 10, which became the foundation for iOS. And here we are today. But like, you listen to what Steve Jobs said about Next, you know, like back in the era when Steve Jobs was wearing a suit. You know, like he was sort of lost, right? He wasn't himself. And he was saying things and trying to bring it into reality just by saying it. And I see that with Elon Musk.

00:27:22   And that to me, maybe I'm being an optimist here, you know, in terms of what would Twitter, how would Twitter under Elon Musk's ownership and leadership be different than Twitter as it is today? I tend to think it won't be as different as some people fear, you know, because I think he keeps emphasizing this free speech angle that it's the town square of the whole world.

00:27:51   And it hasn't been run in a way that he deems sufficiently pro free speech. And people hear that and they, let's face it, they immediately think of Donald Trump, who got kicked off the platform while he was president.

00:28:11   And Trump-like people, I mean, people are worried about racists and people who are hate-filled, people who are trying to antagonize and demean and hurt people who, across the political spectrum, right? You name it, what you're worried about. You're worried, and people are worried that under Elon Musk, Twitter is going to open up to that.

00:28:38   But I don't really see how that's all that feasible, right? Like, even if he started making some dictums in that direction, it would go so bad so quickly that I'm not quite sure how it would maintain, right?

00:28:55   Like, and if it really turns into a hellscape of right-wing hate, or whatever people are worried about where it could go, it would sink the platform, right? I mean, that's sort of the reason that all of these Twitter wannabe sites that keep popping up, right? There's, I mean, how many are there?

00:29:18   Carler, Gab, Truth Social. Getter, right? Which is really weird, right? Like, it's like, where did you get that name? 2007?

00:29:27   They didn't put a second E in it. I think you're, I think, right, so the problem is we can't imagine what Elon Musk would do with Twitter because he's floated so many proposals, many of them inane and absolutely would cause harm to the service and people on it.

00:29:42   So if he were the king of Twitter tomorrow, does he just say, "Look at my old tweets and do all that stuff," or does he take a more measured look? And, you know, I just had to look up the market cap of Tesla just for reference, right? And it's a trillion-dollar company.

00:29:58   So for everybody who thought, you know, I really thought Tesla was going to crash and burn because I thought they'd taken too many risks or overleveraged, they couldn't produce the cars. And there's plenty of people who have complaints about, like, build quality and software, like, there's a lot of things you can say about it.

00:30:12   But it's still, they're selling a whole bunch of cars, they've led the industry on it, and they're worth a trillion dollars. So there's a market belief in two senses, like the market willing to buy those products and invest in the company based on what it thinks the future value will be.

00:30:28   Same with SpaceX, say. SpaceX seemed like a little bit of a pipe dream, and then they've done incredible things. And I'm not going to say Musk is in there, you know, doodling equations on a big chalkboard.

00:30:40   But he certainly has, without his leadership, I don't know what would have happened because of his particular, you know, the jobs, like the demanding style and other things he does that may have made it happen.

00:30:51   So you can't believe, if you go in thinking, I mean, part of me says, "John, we have to expect the worst and it's going to become a hole."

00:30:59   It's already a hellhole because Twitter doesn't know what's bad about their service and what's good. They absolutely do not understand the current management. Jack Dorsey, they don't understand what is good about Twitter.

00:31:09   What they think is good about Twitter is engagement and getting an amplification, where I think what's good about Twitter is a sort of community and trust. And so, you know, you trust circles of people you know on Twitter, and Twitter has never really done much to help with that besides the blue checkmark, which isn't really a help.

00:31:29   But they, you know, they measure it by—so the other newsletter I read every day is Ryan Broderick's Garbage Day, which is kind of like a concierge to all the churn that's happening.

00:31:39   So I don't know what's going on with TikTok and Tumblr. Tumblr's kind of back. There's a lot of interesting stuff going on there.

00:31:45   How YouTube algorithms work, and Ryan was a Beatrice to Dante, right? He takes you into the hell of social media and kind of shows you what's going on.

00:31:53   Actually, I'm sorry, Beatrice took you to heaven, but whatever.

00:31:55   Sorry, I don't want to make my wrong classical references.

00:31:57   But so Ryan Broderick has made the argument that Twitter is fundamentally a broken service like previous ones have because it's unable to prevent Internet main figures of the day, like main characters.

00:32:09   And the fact that somebody can become—can make, you know, an innocuous, maybe hairless, maybe irritating comment or threat of tweets, and then suddenly 10 million people are talking about that person for 24 hours straight.

00:32:25   Is there anything good or useful about that?

00:32:29   And so he says, like previous services that broke, you can kind of tell that Twitter broke when the Internet main character of the day thing started to become quite routine, because it showed that the service was unable to prevent kind of targeting, harassment, amplification of things that didn't need to be amplified.

00:32:47   And so could—so my question is in that, does Musk come in and make that worse? Does he say everyone who was banned for a particular reason, as opposed to spam or scam or pornography or whatever, we're going to unban all those people on day one.

00:33:01   So Trump is back and all these people on the right are back, but also all the trans activists who got banned because they said, "I wish people who were not, you know, who were opposing us would die in a fire," which is a lot of people like that.

00:33:12   So there are people who have been what seemed like illegitimately banned who might be restored as well, although one believes that's a smaller number, but still.

00:33:20   So is that what's going to happen? Are they all unbanned?

00:33:23   And then does he start saying, "Well, we're not putting any restrictions on it, so you can't, you know, you can't—we're not going to use trust and safety to prevent certain categories of tweets.

00:33:32   We're removing the report tweet feature except for spam and, you know, child pornography/CSAM," things like that, right?

00:33:39   And if that happened, I think, you know, I think you're right. If he did that very quickly, it would descend into a morass of complete unusability.

00:33:48   Like, forget whether you like the tone or not. I think it would just simply be unusable.

00:33:52   And would he do that to Twitter? I don't think so, because I don't think that's his end goal.

00:33:57   Right, because he's not buying it for a song, right? It's not like Twitter—

00:34:02   Collaborating his own future.

00:34:03   Yeah, it's really—it's a lot of money, right? And Twitter is in this—and has been for most of its lifetime in, like, this weird no-person's land between massive success like Facebook, right?

00:34:18   Which has been the comparison, because the eras have overlapped almost so completely.

00:34:25   And in the same way that Apple in the '90s suffered very poorly in comparison to Microsoft—more so than Intel, but even, you know, the two halves of the Wintel duopoly, Microsoft and Intel—

00:34:42   Microsoft was the one that the investor world would look at and say, "My God, they're printing money, and they're doing it by licensing software. Therefore, what Apple should do is license software."

00:34:57   Absolutely.

00:34:58   And it was like, eventually they gave in, in a moment of weakness, they were like, "Fine, we'll do a clone thing, we'll license the Mac OS," and it turned out every bit as poorly as anybody could have, you know, predicted.

00:35:14   But it was all because of that comparison, and I think what Microsoft in the '90s was to Twitter—or was to Apple—Facebook for the last 15 years or so has been to Twitter, which is sort of like, the investors look at Facebook.

00:35:30   And maybe this comparison stopped about two years ago, when the whole world sort of woke up to Facebook being a problematic company, and people are no longer saying, "This company should be like Facebook."

00:35:46   Like, there's sort of a consensus that, "Hey, nobody should be like Facebook, this company is sort of sketchy."

00:35:51   But for about a 15-year stretch, or a 10-plus year stretch, there was this, you know, Twitter should be more like Facebook, and monetize like Facebook, and track people like Facebook, and grow like Facebook, and try to literally get every single person on the planet who could feasibly have access to a device that could access the service to be on the service, right?

00:36:17   Which is the scale. That's literally—I mean, I know it sounds ridiculous, but that's the scale Facebook operates on, is that almost every person on the planet who could be using Facebook is using one or more Facebook services.

00:36:33   Including me, right? I've never signed up for Facebook proper, but I do use Instagram, I use WhatsApp now.

00:36:40   It's, you know, it's diminishingly small how many people could be using it who aren't, and Twitter isn't like that. Twitter doesn't have that kind of reach.

00:36:49   Except, they kind of do, because people who watch TV, like you watch TV news, and things people tweet—I'm sure as we're podcasting right now on CNBC, people are talking about what Elon Musk tweeted over the weekend about Twitter and about Bill Gates, which is bizarre.

00:37:09   You know what? Twitter, for a lot of people, Twitter is the old Times Square little reader board thing, right? The little LEDs, or lights marching around.

00:37:18   Twitter is, you know, Donald Trump puts out telegrams—not telegrams on the service—there is no other way to get—I mean, I think the unfettered access even to official statements sometimes was amazing.

00:37:32   And then you have the weird examples of like Chinese authorities ridiculing people directly, countries and people on Twitter, and Trump, you know, acting like a baby on Twitter, which was, you know, nothing would ever have allowed that to be seen before.

00:37:46   So yeah, Twitter becomes a news story, and there's, you know, the constant narrative is that people spend—media people spend too much time on Twitter, talking to people on Twitter, and listening to people on Twitter, and they miss the story of all the people who don't engage on Twitter.

00:38:01   And I suspect, as with all everything, there's always the Clay Shirky's old Power Law Curve essay, which is now 20-plus years old, which was about blogs and other stuff, you know, popularity, and kind of the big head and the long tail and the kind of middle part, and where there's people get some engagement or some involvement, but they are not enough to make a big move.

00:38:23   And you look at Twitter, and I think, I don't know, I've seen the numbers before, however many hundreds of millions of people have actively used it or have registered accounts, and it's a very tiny number of people tweet at all.

00:38:35   And of those people, a very tiny number get any real engagement, and then a very, very tiny number get substantial engagement.

00:38:41   So it's kind of a weird set of nested thought and thought, megaphones.

00:38:46   And so some people have megaphones inside megaphones inside megaphones, and they sound really loud, and others are like, "Hey, I'm talking here!" and nobody hears them, you know, kind of like old LiveJournal blogs versus a blog that was something like, I don't know, Boing Boing, its day or...

00:38:59   So I feel, I think you're totally right, is that Twitter's capability of being different than Facebook while still being a microblogging service has really not been exploited.

00:39:11   I feel like nothing creative has happened to Twitter in a long time.

00:39:14   They keep messing with threads, they changed the character count a while ago.

00:39:18   I signed up for Twitter Blue, which is what, three bucks a month?

00:39:20   Yep.

00:39:21   Because I thought I wanted to see what it was like, and I wanted to encourage them in the experiment.

00:39:25   And I will say, I think the primary feature I use is that you have 30 seconds to undo a tweet before it's sent.

00:39:32   And that's where I find my typos.

00:39:34   So I'll do, "Oh no, I'd made a typo!"

00:39:36   Undo it, fix it, and resend it.

00:39:38   So, you know, even something as basic as an edit button, which requires a lot of philosophical thought, that hasn't been rolled out.

00:39:44   You know, I've had this example.

00:39:46   John, I think this is the best example you could have.

00:39:48   Your cat's gone missing.

00:39:50   Do you post it on Twitter?

00:39:51   No.

00:39:52   Because it's going to reach everybody in the world.

00:39:54   So why isn't there geographical, you know, geobounding on Twitter?

00:39:58   Why aren't there ways to set up discussion groups on Twitter that use the Twitter interface?

00:40:02   Why can't you have something that's almost Slack-like, like a private Twitter inside Twitter that you paid for as a company or as a small organization?

00:40:10   You can—and why do it there?

00:40:13   Because you're building on the identity system that they have, which is tremendous.

00:40:17   Yeah, exactly.

00:40:18   I mean, why is sign in with Twitter, sign in with Facebook, sign in with Apple?

00:40:21   Why are those useful?

00:40:22   It's because—and Google, too, obviously—it's because a federated identity is an extremely useful thing to leverage.

00:40:28   And so Slack and all the other systems have single sign-on and federated identity tools as well.

00:40:34   And Twitter could be the place we go to—I mean, like, here, I'm writing their marketing for them.

00:40:39   Twitter could be the place you go to to have all the kinds of casual discussions you need, because Slack is often overkill.

00:40:46   Discord can kind of—it's a great tool.

00:40:49   I'm in, like—I pay for—I'm a podcast supporter of two podcasts.

00:40:54   I pay them monthly because I like them so much.

00:40:56   And I'm in discords for both of them.

00:40:58   And neither podcast is super popular.

00:41:01   I mean, they're listened to by a reasonable number of people, but they're not, you know, not talk show audience, I will be very frank.

00:41:07   Much smaller than that.

00:41:08   And the discords are so busy, I would have to devote myself full time to each of those to keep up.

00:41:14   So there's all these communities.

00:41:16   Twitter could have figured out a way not to build Discord, not to rebuild Slack, but to create a sense where you could have micro communities that are controlled.

00:41:25   I mean, this is what—I'm blanking on his name—micro.blog.

00:41:28   That's what—

00:41:29   And Manton Reese.

00:41:29   Yeah, he's great.

00:41:31   And that's a great service, you know, and our good friend, Gene McDonald, is involved in that, too.

00:41:35   A long time Mac world person.

00:41:37   World of Mac, rather.

00:41:38   It gets to Kevin Kelly's 1000 True Fans thesis, you know, that if you can build whatever it is you're doing, if you can get 1000 true fans and get them to pay you some reasonable amount because they just love your work.

00:41:55   A thousand fans who just love the thing that you do could be something you could build an artistic life upon.

00:42:03   Right.

00:42:04   So why not be able to build that on top of Twitter?

00:42:06   Why not have Patreon or Kickstarter?

00:42:08   Again, not all the features, but there's aspects of it.

00:42:11   And Twitter talked about doing like a way you could pay people for tweets, but that's not the right model.

00:42:17   Then they bought Revu, that mailing list software, which they're allowing you to use for free now.

00:42:21   And I guess it was kind of in competition with Tiny Letter.

00:42:24   It's a little, it's sub-stack like in some ways, but it isn't integrated in the sense, like I feel like, you know, we could pitch business models for Twitter all day and Elan won't listen to us.

00:42:35   But, you know, just the fact that you and I can riff for five minutes and come up with business ideas that would make, or function ideas that make perfect sense, don't change Twitter's fundamental nature and would extend it and improve it, makes me feel that there is an incredible, again, given the staff size, the amount of money they spend on development.

00:42:54   It feels like there's a dearth of imagination there, or there's a fear of management and maybe it does need a change.

00:43:01   And one of the arguments that came out after Musk made his initial vague offer was that maybe another bigger company will come along, not Facebook, but somebody else and buy them and kind of, you know, help the management transition out with golden parachutes and put in people who are really gonna, you know, make this a bigger service that's more useful and less horrible.

00:43:22   Yeah, but I think that that's part of the current political moment we're in, where who is that company, right? Like, you even backtracked right there and said, "Not Facebook," right?

00:43:35   Well, I think antitrust, they couldn't do it, but still, I don't want Facebook.

00:43:38   Right, but they, yeah, so you could look at it two ways in terms of, "Oh my god, I don't even want to contemplate the idea," right, as like a human being, but then as a detached observer, there's no way it would pass regulatory muster.

00:43:54   Honestly, it probably wouldn't even if Trump were in office. Like, even a Trump administration might not be able to muster the will to say, "Sure, sure, Facebook can buy them."

00:44:09   Oh yeah, the EU would never allow it, you know, they would fight tooth and nail.

00:44:12   But then that raises the question, who would it be? Apple? Apple certainly has the money, but definitely is off-brand. There's no, there's no, no, really.

00:44:22   Apple's working on Ping behind the, come on, Ping's going to make a comeback.

00:44:26   Let me just toss this out there. Maybe, maybe the only reasonable answer is Microsoft? Because Microsoft does acquire seemingly, you know, they bought LinkedIn, which is sort of under the radar in terms of, you know, how wide, how widely it's used, and it's just not contro, nobody posts controversial stuff on LinkedIn.

00:44:50   Did you see the crazy thing Elon Musk posted on LinkedIn? No, nobody has ever said those words before.

00:44:56   John, I'm going to ask you, here's a pop quiz. How much do you think Microsoft is worth today in like, order of magnitude?

00:45:04   Like what's their market cap? They gotta be like what, like close to 2 trillion?

00:45:09   Yeah, good. Wow. I thought they were a trillion dollar company. And I looked the other day, I'm like, Oh my God, they execute. So I think Microsoft is the answer, right? Because nobody else is big enough to absorb Twitter and have infrastructure.

00:45:22   And I think Microsoft has not ruined a lot of companies lately. The last numbers of acquisitions it's done have not seemed to been, you know, in the past Microsoft, it felt like they were almost doing it punitively.

00:45:33   They would acquire a company within a few years, they would write down the value and nothing would be left of it. Like there was an ad company, it was Avenue something here in Seattle, I can't remember the name of it, Avenue A in Seattle, and they bought for $7 billion.

00:45:45   They just would buy companies and then they disappear. And now you have things like, I don't know what, like GitHub and LinkedIn and other, they've bought a bunch of stuff that I forget is even owned by Microsoft because it continues to be run in what seems to be an effective and ongoing way.

00:45:59   And the Blizzard Activision thing makes you think that they know how to step in when a company is troubled.

00:46:07   Distressed asset.

00:46:08   Distressed asset, for lack of a better term.

00:46:10   Well, an asset in distress. Yeah, no, I think you're right. Because Amazon, it does not align with Amazon's interest to do it. It's a distraction. But for Microsoft, it could be an extension.

00:46:21   It's like, well, we have Teams and we have Twitter and we have business Twitter. Now, I mean, a lot of people don't like what Microsoft did with Skype, but I think Skype needed to change also.

00:46:30   So, you know, there's somewhere, there's some universe of that that could work, even though, you know, how many would help promote Bing? I'm not sure.

00:46:37   There's something weird about Twitter before we leave the topic. There is something weird that I don't think we're going to be able to put our finger on it because I think it's sort of ineffable.

00:46:47   But there's something weird about the fact that Twitter is conceptually so simple that you could, in theory, you know, like if you got a time traveler from 1990 and tried to explain to this person who's been gone for 30 years, you know, what Twitter is.

00:47:09   You could explain it to them fairly quickly in a way that you wouldn't be able to explain Facebook quickly.

00:47:15   Yeah, I mean, even to somebody like me who's not a time traveler, it's hard to explain what Facebook itself is, right? It's actually very conceptually broad and has dozens and dozens of features.

00:47:26   But the idea that you get to make a post, you have an identity and you pick a name and the namespace is controlled by the company and that's important.

00:47:36   So there's only one Glen F. There's only one Gruber on Twitter. That's it. And you get a box, you can type characters, you get up to 280 characters, and then you hit a button and it goes out as a microblog post, right?

00:47:53   You can explain that. It's very hard for me, though, to really try to understand why Twitter is uniquely successful and none of the would-be Twitter clones have ever gained any traction whatsoever.

00:48:12   It's sort of like some kind of forcing function, I don't even know what you call it, where once you get a certain gravity of users, that's it.

00:48:25   It's all over and nobody else can possibly compete, even though as a concept, it's actually one of the easiest things to clone in tech that I've ever seen.

00:48:36   Yeah, I think here's what you'd tell somebody in the 1980s. You'd say, "It's a giant BBS." Right? And then in the 1990s, it'd be, "It's a giant IRC."

00:48:46   And everybody would be like, "Oh, well, how do you manage it?" It's like, "Well, you can do some filtering and blah blah blah."

00:48:52   And they'd be like, "Oh, okay, all right. There's a graph and you don't have to see every message." So that's the entire explanation.

00:48:59   And it's kind of like Slack started, Slack was like a sophisticated IRC also and Twitter's like one step further.

00:49:06   I totally agree with you. It just feels like something is broken fundamentally in how Twitter envisions what its purpose is and that gets reflected in code because I don't feel like it's ever reached its potential.

00:49:19   And part of that is good in that they've exercised restraint. So they didn't become Facebook. They didn't become a different service. They're true to their origins, a short message service that you post and people can see it.

00:49:30   But I think they never, I think they didn't step up to, it took them a long time to believe that trust and safety meant anything beyond keeping child sexualized images of so forth.

00:49:43   C-SAM.

00:49:44   C-SAM, right, is the abbreviation. It used to be called child pornography.

00:49:46   The most obvious stuff that you have.

00:49:48   C-SAM.

00:49:49   Like, legal requirement. You have to do something about that.

00:49:50   C-SAM.

00:49:51   Well, but also common sense, right? Like even if there weren't a legal requirement, even if they were incorporated in some countries.

00:49:58   C-SAM.

00:49:59   Basic decency.

00:49:59   C-SAM.

00:50:00   Right, just basic human decency.

00:50:00   C-SAM.

00:50:01   But they were started at a time when there was no, there wasn't a perception that you had to start with dealing with abuse from day one.

00:50:08   And I think that was always naive because anyone who'd run any kind of moderated anything in the past or unfettered anything knows that if you don't deal with abuse from day one, the service becomes unusable.

00:50:18   And that's the fear that people have that Musk will do is he'll turn off some of the trust and safety features and then it will become very quickly unusable like old Friendster or something.

00:50:29   And I don't think Twitter ever figured out that, so a lot of times they keep, whenever they announce a new feature, and sometimes it's a good one, people will say, "That's great. Now do something about the Nazis."

00:50:38   And when your service, when your best users, the people who are most engaged with it, call the service a hellhole and say you need to take care of your Nazi problem, it feels like you haven't done your job.

00:50:49   Even though your job is very hard and it doesn't just mean you hire 5,000 trust and safety people.

00:50:54   It feels like there is, as I go back to the amplification problem, I feel like Instagram, the reason I stay on Instagram, and maybe this is yours as well, is Instagram solved the social graph problem for me.

00:51:06   So it shows me a reasonable number of things. It's enough to keep me interested and it's from people I want to see them from.

00:51:13   And they've been trying to add in certain ways for people to push stuff at you and they put in more ads and so forth.

00:51:20   But Instagram remains mostly useful to me for the purpose, which is I want to see pictures of babies, dogs, cats, art, letterpress, and my friends.

00:51:29   And so it is great in a way that Facebook is not and in a way that Twitter is not.

00:51:35   So, but they had to exercise incredible restraint in Instagram to not try to constantly blow up the social graph and bring in other crap.

00:51:42   And even the non-chronological reordering, it's been years and people are really mad about that and they're apparently going to bring back chronological ordering.

00:51:50   So what did Instagram do right that Twitter did wrong?

00:51:53   And I think it's Instagram got this, didn't feel they needed to scale for engagement, that they could actually make enough advertising money and have enough features that would keep people coming to use it without having to throw a lot of stuff at people they didn't want to see, especially from people they didn't want to hear from.

00:52:08   I kind of feel like you're making a backdoor argument that maybe Facebook should have bought Twitter 15 years ago.

00:52:15   Yeah, but then they would have, you know what they would have done though, is they would have, I mean, it's kind of, Facebook is insidious at needing to, I mean, it is weird to me how many changes they've made to Instagram and yet have not ruined it.

00:52:26   And I think that is, there's probably been a lot of resistance to keeping it, you know, if the people at Instagram were as wholeheartedly for the same kinds of things the management of Facebook was, I don't think Instagram would be useful anymore.

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00:54:53   Glenn, you wrote a book. Again. Again.

00:54:58   I've got 10 active books that take control right now. I can't help it. It's a disease. Yeah, so people really hate USB-C, John. I think that's the fundamental thing.

00:55:12   And so over at Macworld, I write the Mac911 column, and the most popular question I get just about, the first one is about photos and why it doesn't work right, usually. Something to do with photos. And the second one is often about cables.

00:55:24   Like, why can't I plug these two things in? Or I have this cable and it looks right and I plug it in and either nothing happens or I'm getting, you know, like incredibly low data rates.

00:55:35   Or I have this old monitor and I can't figure out what to plug it in and I don't want to throw away my beautiful Apple Cinema display. It has a dual DVI connector. Can I plug it into Thunderbolt 3 or 4?

00:55:46   So I wrote a book. I wrote a book. Take Control of Untangling Connections. And it's basically the answers. It's like the explanation to answers for everything to do with cables and ports.

00:55:56   And it's the book that you wish you didn't have to write because it's not, I try not to make it all like technical standards, but it's just, it's a lot of the stuff where things should just work.

00:56:06   And they do in the right circumstances. When they don't, you're left with almost no information about what to do next.

00:56:13   It's sort of like the way that the computer industry has gone. I know you and I have joked about this on, at least on Twitter, but it always comes back to Scuzzy, right?

00:56:22   We were just, we had a great conversation recently and I found old photos and then John Moltz, friend of the show, friend of your show, John Moltz has an excellent Terminator t-shirt that you can buy that's really beautiful.

00:56:34   But yeah, I hadn't thought about it for years. And then I can't remember where it came up. Maybe you were talking about it. I was like, oh yeah, Scuzzy.

00:56:39   And I'm like, oh yeah, I remember the numbers. You had to put the number in. And then do you remember, I don't, did you use a 2FX? I can't remember.

00:56:47   No, I never did.

00:56:49   So the 2FX, I think it was Jean-Louis Gasset's brainchild. I have to believe, maybe I'm wrong, but every, I had to run a hundred of them when I was running the tactical side of the Codex Center for Creative Imaging in the early nineties.

00:57:01   They had about a hundred 2FXs because John Scully was involved and it was a whole thing. And so we had a building full of them to teach classes and the 2FX, everything was different.

00:57:12   It had different parity memory. It had different, gosh, a different card. The card slot standards were the same. There was something to do with that, but it was more powerful.

00:57:19   But it also had a variant Scuzzy version. So you had to use, you'll remember this, there was a gray Scuzzy Terminator for regular backs.

00:57:27   Oh no.

00:57:28   Black Scuzzy Terminator for 2FXs. And if you didn't put the black one on the end or have a compatible chain, it just wouldn't terminate correctly.

00:57:35   So yeah, I mean, it's, you know, this stuff isn't new, but that was particularly hilarious.

00:57:39   For those who don't, for those who are too young or just have faulty memories, the 2FX I think came out in 1989, maybe 1990.

00:57:47   That sounds right. Very close, yeah.

00:57:49   But it was Apple's foray into the, what we used to call workstations, where it was, it was not consumer priced at all. I think in like today's dollars, 2FX was like $20,000 or more than 20.

00:58:03   I think we paid really without memory, like $6,000 in 1991 each, something like that. So yeah, without the memory and without drive storage.

00:58:15   Right. It was a veritable fortune. And you know, there was a market for stuff like that.

00:58:21   And in hindsight, it makes sense because you look at how fast an actual 2FX was by today's standards, and it's, you know, less powerful than your watch as a computer.

00:58:31   And you could see, well, yeah, so obviously somebody needed all that power, right? Like you'd be using a 2FX and you'd run like a Gaussian blur in Photoshop, and you'd be like, this is amazing. It only took a minute.

00:58:44   You know.

00:58:46   Yeah. It was, well, it was like the difference if 2FX versus like some of the previous Macintosh II models had the same kind of effect of like the M1 versus the previous Intel.

00:58:55   Right.

00:58:55   And so, you know, you'd be like, holy cow, could that really be that fast? And the M1 is ridiculous. But in those days, you would have exactly the thing, well, this took five minutes.

00:59:04   Oh, I ran it on the 2FX. I had my graphics accelerator card in or whatever, a coprocessor card, and one of the six cards allowed, something like that.

00:59:12   And it was one minute, and you'd be like, this is going to shave days off my year of work.

00:59:17   But basically, the way I think that the industry has gone in broad strokes is that in the old days, in the '80s, when the PC era was new, there were all sorts of different ports on the back of, whether you had a Mac or a PC, all sorts of different ports.

00:59:32   And if a cable plugged into the port, it probably was fine, right?

00:59:39   That's really good. I like that.

00:59:41   And that is sort of why we remember SCSI, because SCSI wasn't like that. It's like, well, no, you'd still need a terminator.

00:59:52   Because the idea with SCSI, again, people don't remember, but you'd have one SCSI port on the back of your Mac, and then you could plug a SCSI device into it.

01:00:01   But then you could also daisy chain another device and plug that into, you know, like, so if you had like two hard drives, you could plug hard drive A into your Mac and plug hard drive B into hard drive A.

01:00:17   And if it all worked, it was, you know, you didn't lose performance. It was just as fast as if they were plugged in directly, but you could.

01:00:26   But then at the end of the chain, you had to have a terminator.

01:00:30   Unless you had a fancy, later there were those fancy devices that could self terminate.

01:00:34   Yep, I remember that.

01:00:35   That was so exciting. You'd have to find your terminator.

01:00:38   Yeah. And then, you know, then you got into the compatibility issue is I think SCSI, I want to say SCSI 1 was that standard connector, but then SCSI 2, SCSI 3 was really different.

01:00:48   It was smaller. It was kind of vicious and had these really sharp little points on it.

01:00:52   And the cables were really expensive.

01:00:54   But yeah, there would be like, I think there are probably seven different ports on the back of the Mac. You'd have like ADB and you'd have serial for local talk eventually.

01:01:03   SCSI.

01:01:04   Which looked a lot like ADB, serial and ADB kind of look the same and you'd have to like kind of double check the cable.

01:01:11   Oh, you didn't break the pins. If you pushed in, you might bend some pins and the round cable.

01:01:15   Yeah. And so, I mean, that's, it was funny. I was, I thought in the book, I was like, I'll go back 20 years because people have generations of equipment.

01:01:23   And I'll say, what are the major standards? And what's interesting is, excuse me, what's interesting is that, that by, if you go back to say 2001, 2002, you really have USB and then FireWire and then Thunderbolt.

01:01:36   And then Thunderbolt totally, you know, it's almost erases FireWire fairly quickly.

01:01:40   But it's, I didn't realize that it went back that far. I was thinking we had a lot of different standards still in play.

01:01:47   And on the PC side, there were definitely more, but even a DisplayPort and HDMI start to emerge in the, you know, less than 20 years ago, but not by much.

01:01:55   So all of our modern standards, as much as we may feel like there are too many, definitely have long roots and a lot of it's still compatible.

01:02:03   So you can, you know, when I, when the first USB-C equipped Mac, the 2015 12 inch MacBook, which was the only one that lacked Thunderbolt.

01:02:13   Thunderbolt 3 came out the next year with the new MacBook Pros, but the, I owned a 12 inch MacBook. I really liked it actually.

01:02:19   It's the one with the, the first one with the keyboard everyone hated. And I don't know, mine always worked and I kind of liked it, but it only did USB 3 over USB-C, but it could do a DisplayPort, alt mode and some other things.

01:02:30   And that model, you know, you would be searching like crazy to find adapters because it was, you know, companies in China were making them.

01:02:39   There were a few major firms making them and I get email from people saying, I have, you know, for example, I have a dual DVI display that works perfectly fine and I'd like to plug it into this.

01:02:49   Can I? And then readers would say, Oh, I figured a way to do it. I got a dual DVI adapter that goes into a DisplayPort and then a DisplayPort this into that, and then a DisplayPort mini to USB-C.

01:03:02   And they'd have three or sometimes I think four cables and they could run their monitor. And I thought, what a testament to the tunneling capability of DisplayPort, which is amazing that it was going, I got to say, I thought one case literally was four adapters and it would pass through and work fine.

01:03:18   No flickers, no weirdness. Maybe they had to plug it in after booting their Mac or something.

01:03:22   And that was it.

01:03:23   At this point, you're as a user, you're, you're effectively writing a little miniature computer program using hardware dongles.

01:03:31   Oh, that is great. Yeah, that's exactly it.

01:03:33   Right.

01:03:34   You're, it's like those old, I mean, you can buy those today, those electronics kits that you fit pieces together to make a circuit.

01:03:39   It's like if you plug this into that and you buy this one adapter that only this one company makes, but they're a great company that's been around forever and you'd buy this thing and then you plug that into that, then you can plug it in and you can use your old display.

01:03:53   And it's, yeah.

01:03:54   And most of the displays that are still functioning and worth using use Mini DisplayLink, I'm sorry, Mini DisplayPort, or, which there are many adapters now, so that's good.

01:04:04   You can take it, and there's docks that have Mini DisplayPort.

01:04:06   Those have seemingly faded out, the Thunderbolt 3 docks with Mini DisplayPort and USB-C3, or sorry, USB-3 only USB-C docks because there's just, you know, no one's making Mini DisplayPort-based monitors anymore that have, especially ones with hardwired cables like Apple did.

01:04:23   But you could get, you know, you can get docks and plug those in and do it directly instead of having to use the three adapters.

01:04:29   And so, but that was kind of the generation that remained, and then everything newer, if you've got a DisplayPort, like a regular full-size DisplayPort or HDMI port on the back of your monitor, then you can plug it in either directly or with an adapter, and that just became easy.

01:04:44   I mean, I think the real reason, there's actually this big issue, which I found in researching the book, is that DisplayPort is up to 2.1, version 2.1, but USB-C and Thunderbolt both incorporate, or USB, I should say, yeah, USB-C as a standard, even though it's a connector, it incorporates alt modes that include one for HDMI and DisplayPort.

01:05:04   And then Thunderbolt 3 and 4 also include that as kind of an alt mode that you can run, or I think it's more of a standard part of the spec, not as an alt mode.

01:05:14   Anyway, when you're using an adapter for a device that doesn't have direct support, like the new, or the new from last year, MacBook Pros with HDMI connectors built in or a Mac Mini with the latest of those,

01:05:26   when you're using an adapter for USB-C, then the latest standard it can use is DisplayPort, I think it's either 1.4 or 1.4A, and that limits maximum display size.

01:05:35   So it supports 4K, and Apple's done some interesting tricks, so you can get up to 6K over USB-C or Thunderbolt, but that is a big limitation, because those standards, the Thunderbolt 4 is out and USB 4 is out,

01:05:48   and neither, and USB-C is kind of, you know, it's constantly evolving but standard with very minor changes, and those don't offer direct 8K support, which some people want.

01:05:59   So that becomes an issue of, do you buy a video card, there's not that many 8K displays out yet, how many people want an 8K display, but it's a limiting factor because of kind of this mismatch in embedded display standards in our most popular communications formats.

01:06:15   It's sort of like complaining, isn't it sort of like complaining that, ah, politicians, I hate them, right, I hate Congress.

01:06:24   Like, it's sort of always been that way, right? That's one thing about being in middle age now, where I've gained some wisdom, and it's like, oh, it wasn't like a new thing,

01:06:39   like everybody acts like it's a new thing, and you hate today's Congress in unique ways because of today's Congress, and the reason you're not going to like Congress 15 years from now will be entirely different.

01:06:51   It might be a different party in control, there'll be different issues of the day, different personalities, but it's like, fundamentally, politics is hard and ugly, and there's no way around it, and it's, you know, famously, democracy is the worst system of government except for all the other ones that have been tried.

01:07:08   And that's sort of like when you're connecting devices from one to another. It always sucked, it always has sucked. Today is not uniquely sucky, and there are all sorts of nice things about the USB-C port world that are better than the old days.

01:07:29   You know, certainly the fact that you just plug things in, you don't have to screw clamps in and stuff like that, and there's no pins to be bent, you know, ports have gotten better.

01:07:40   But I'll just tell you, like, I'll just remember the one real eye-opener, and it was only, I don't know, like two or three years ago, but it was probably like at the tail end of the Intel Mac era, and I got, Apple came out with a new MacBook whatever, and I got one to review,

01:07:55   and I was like, "Well, let me set this one up as a clone of my daily use MacBook Pro so that I'll have all my software on it," and I thought I hooked it up correctly and ran migration assistant, and everything was plugged into power, and I was like, "I'll just let this go for a bit,"

01:08:12   and came back like two hours later, and it was like 1% finished. I was like, "What? This is bananas! What's going on?" And it was because I used the wrong cable.

01:08:22   Yeah, yeah, I'll say, I don't know if Apple added this, but I was helping my wife migrate from a 2014, I'm losing track, 2018 MacBook Pro that she'd bought after her previous computer died abruptly, so it was just before the M1s were out she wanted,

01:08:37   so within a year with a 16-inch, she has a little bit of low vision, so when the 16-inch MacBook Pro came out, she's like, "She's the early rejector in the household, I'm the early adopter," she's like, "I don't need that, we'll get that later, no, don't install that," and she's always right, I'm sure.

01:08:51   But she likes the 16 because she can make everything bigger.

01:08:54   She loves it. It makes everything bigger, and it's an incredible machine, so when it came out, she said, "Get me that, I want that now," and I said, "Done, I'm gonna buy it!"

01:09:00   So she and my 14-year-old, or 15-year-old now, has a 14-inch MacBook Pro. I have the oldest technology in the house, do you know how embarrassing that is?

01:09:09   Yeah, yep.

01:09:10   So, they let me look at them occasionally. So I was migrating my wife's machine from an Intel model a few years old, I think we'd already upgraded it to Monterey, to her new computer, or maybe it hadn't been updated.

01:09:21   Anyway, so migration system comes up, and I carefully, because I've learned this lesson like you have, I find a Thunderbolt 3 cable I have, I'm like, "All right, so it's three on both ends, there's lightning bolts, it's from, I don't know, Otherworlds Computing or some, or somebody I trust."

01:09:36   It feels slightly too thick.

01:09:39   Yeah, yeah, the head ends are maybe too long, because it might be an active cable, I don't know. So I plugged the two in, and I don't remember seeing this in migration assistant before, maybe it was a "more info" button, and I clicked it, and I took a screen caption of "used it in articles since," and it's like, "Here are your three things we've tested," and it was like, Wi-Fi, or it was like, I don't know, Bluetooth, I don't know what the third one was, like this method, or Ethernet, you can get, you know, one megabyte per second or whatever units it was using.

01:10:04   Wi-Fi, you can get three, and it's like, you're connected by Thunderbolt, and it's like, a hundred. I was like, "Oh, okay, I'll just, I'll use the one," so I think it literally took, whatever the data rate was, I think it took like 35 minutes to transfer 300 gigabytes.

01:10:16   Which is crazy.

01:10:17   Yeah, and I was like, well, this is, but it told me, so it would have taken 10 times as long and the second best method, and I thought maybe they should expose that, and actually walking through it, it was kind of like, you should probably use, I think they more strongly emphasized, like connect your computer to another computer with the appropriate cable for best performance or something, but they don't, you know, that's the frustrating part.

01:10:40   I got email from someone to the Macworld address last year sometime who said, "Look, I'm sitting here with a pile of cables, and they're all USB-C, and I don't know which did which," and you know, when you buy a cable, do you buy it and then get out your, I don't know, your marking pen or your label?

01:10:55   Like, some people do. I think Adam Inks is now flagging his cables because it became too ridiculous, and I should be, but you look at the cable ends, and you're thinking, "Well, I live in a modern, sane world. The cable ends will tell me what's going on, and I have Thunderbolt 3 cables that are totally unmarked."

01:11:09   They only have the manufacturer's name stamped into them, and John, I have this, like, it's not a Letterman thing, but it's like the top three worst USB-C, like the most untrustworthy USB-C cables, which is, so the worst, I think, is Apple's USB-C charging cable.

01:11:27   Okay.

01:11:28   You've encountered this, right? So it only passes data at USB 3, or sorry, USB 2 speeds. It does not do Thunderbolt, it does not do USB 3. It's a 480 megabit per second cable, but it has up to 100 watts worth of charging capability.

01:11:44   But it's super thin.

01:11:45   It's super thin, yeah.

01:11:46   Right, isn't it?

01:11:47   Yeah, it's super thin.

01:11:48   Because it doesn't have, I don't think they had to leave out wires, but I think the spec they were able to use, so that's the one that shipped with the 12-inch MacBook that I had in 2015.

01:11:58   Apple still ships with some models. They're gradually shifting to a Thunderbolt 4 USB 4-style cable, though. So the modern ones, if you get one that doesn't have MagSafe 3 to USB-C, I believe it has most of the, most models, I think the other MacBook Pro has a better cable.

01:12:16   So that's one, and it's almost unidentifiable because the ends are, I don't think Apple marks the ends on it.

01:12:22   Of course, the second is the US, if you have a Thunderbolt 3 cable that's an active cable, so it has this big plug-in, it has extra circuitry to go over about a half a meter, or what is that, like 20 inches or something.

01:12:35   If you have a long, active Thunderbolt 3 cable, if you plug it in on one end or both ends to a USB 3 only device or controller, it only passes data at USB 2 speeds.

01:12:47   And so I get, I hear people all the time, like I plugged in my cable, and I'm not getting, you know, 5 gigabits per second or 20 or 10 or whatever they expect from it.

01:12:56   And I'm like, look at the cable carefully, you know, is there a 3 or is there a lightning bolt and it's unmarked? And that's almost always the thing.

01:13:02   It's an active Thunderbolt 3 cable, and I think it was 3 or 4 years ago, MacRumors or somebody, 9to5Mac, wrote a piece about it saying that they had discovered this problem, and it's in the spec, sort of.

01:13:13   Like, it's not illegitimate, but it's incredibly frustrating, and you could wind up with all these cables around like that.

01:13:20   So, I don't know.

01:13:21   We've documented it, so it's not a bug.

01:13:26   Yeah, exactly. It's you have to know that you have the right cable.

01:13:29   And there's one other, since this is the most I've written about this, there's one other, which is there's a cable that it's USB 3.1 or 3.2 only.

01:13:40   So if you plug it between, so it has USB-C connectors on both ends, but if you plug it between two Thunderbolt devices, you don't get 40 gigabits per second.

01:13:52   You only get 10 or 5.

01:13:54   The other thing is, if you're in that scenario, so the cable you might have used, it might have been a USB 3 only cable.

01:14:01   I think that's...

01:14:02   Yeah, if you plug it between two Macs, it won't connect at all, because Thunderbolt has a special peer-to-peer mode that allows 10 gigabit per second communication.

01:14:13   I didn't even know about this before researching the book.

01:14:15   It's a specific mode, and you can daisy chain it, so you could plug Mac into Mac into Mac, using your, if you have free Thunderbolt ports on it.

01:14:23   So a USB 3 only cable will not be able to invoke that mode because the Thunderbolt devices can't handshake over it.

01:14:31   So you're like, you can have any of these three cables, and some of them might be marked like the USB 3 only one might have USB-C symbols or USB symbols on the ends, but the others might have nothing or a lightning bolt, and you're expected to sort it out.

01:14:45   I think those three wind up being the ones that people encounter, you know, a lot.

01:14:50   Those are the ones I hear about the most.

01:14:51   One of those is what I ran into, for sure.

01:14:53   And I guess it raises a philosophical question, which is, is it better that it will still fall back to a 20 times slower speed?

01:15:06   Like, I think like 10 gigabit compared to 480 megabit is about a factor of 20, and you really could, you know, that's not like theoretical, like you really would get 20 times the speed if you had the right cable.

01:15:20   Is it better that it falls back to 120th the speed or would it be better if it didn't work at all?

01:15:27   Like in my case, when I was trying to transfer the old Mac to a new Mac to review it, it would have been better if it had just barked at me right away and just said, hey, this is not the right cable.

01:15:39   You know, you should actually, if you need to, you should actually go to the Apple store and spend 100 bucks on a new cable because it would be well worth it if you don't, if you can't find it in your jumble of cables, you should just go buy one.

01:15:53   It's that much slower.

01:15:54   I wish I would have gotten the notice because I had to wait.

01:15:57   It was like, oh, sure, this will work, and we'll give an estimate and the initial estimate.

01:16:02   I never trust it, right?

01:16:03   Those estimates.

01:16:04   Yeah, yeah.

01:16:05   They always, you know, if like when I, you know, sanity checked by just looking at the screen and saw that the migration assistant was proceeding and it was like, oh, this is going to take two days.

01:16:17   I was like, oh, I'm sure it'll catch up soon, you know, and no, literally, it meant it was going to take two days.

01:16:23   This is a complaint people have.

01:16:25   I got a lot of, I wrote a piece last year for Tidbits called US befuddled, which I know you like too, and got a lot, we got a lot of comments and feedback on a lot of good insight from people who are a little more technical than I am, who, who gave me some nuance about a few of the issues to do with like power over USB-C and some of the standards issues.

01:16:43   So I feel like I developed a better understanding of some of the stuff that doesn't work and why.

01:16:49   But the, one of the things that came out of that is everybody felt like they're, they felt like everybody was asking, why can't you just get a cable tester?

01:16:56   And you could, they're expensive and they're used in the industry.

01:16:59   But you know, when you plug in both ends into something that says this, you know, does this kind of e-tagging and this kind of whatever, and it's a, it can run at these standards.

01:17:08   But really there's a problem, like there's a, you know, you can plug it into a Mac and into another device and then you system information and it will tell you what connection was negotiated, but it won't tell you what connection it can't negotiate.

01:17:22   So in your case, it can't say, Hey, I can't negotiate.

01:17:25   Or what it could do, what Apple could do though, I think is it could offer you an interesting pop-up and maybe you'd be able to disable it when you plugged in to any USB-C port, if you plugged into a peripheral that wasn't a, a keyboard or a scanner or something that doesn't need.

01:17:40   I have a weirdly, I have my first scanner that I've owned in like 20 years because we live in the future.

01:17:45   I need a flatbed scanner again.

01:17:46   And so if you had something that didn't require a gigabits per second, and Apple could recognize that it could even have, you know, there's, there's tags that come across even with older equipment and say, Hey, this connection is only operating at USB 2.0 or 480 megabits per second.

01:18:00   The device is capable, it's likely capable of faster rates.

01:18:03   You may need a Thunderbolt three or four cable or USB four cable or whatever it wants to say to obtain the fastest speed.

01:18:10   Okay.

01:18:11   And I don't think that would be unwelcome because it's very rare that you want a four, you know, if you plug in USB 2.0 or you're only getting USB 2.0 speeds, what are the circumstances in which you want that?

01:18:23   It's, it's really going to be input devices, like limited input devices.

01:18:27   Yeah. And Apple's made this worse a little bit. I guess with USB-C connectors, they're too small. You can't see it. But like when the USB-A connector was the, the female port of, of choice on PCs, USB-C or USB three went to these blue ones.

01:18:46   You know, they'd use blue plastic.

01:18:48   Yes.

01:18:49   And it was like, okay, this is how you can tell which of your ports is a USB three if it's blue, and then you could use a faster peripheral and blah, blah.

01:18:58   And Apple of course did not go along with that because they don't want blue. You know, it's, it was too ugly.

01:19:04   But the industry gave up on it, by the way.

01:19:06   And I don't blame Apple for this. I, you know, I, I'm sympathetic to their point of view that they don't want to, you know, that the, the sanctity of the design actually is worth that much.

01:19:17   But it only made things more confusing.

01:19:20   Yeah. It's, yeah. I mean, color coding would be great in a certain way, but it's also like, you almost want a light, you almost want a little LED on the cable.

01:19:28   And you could do that with modern, I mean, you're saying that the two effects, like our watch is more powerful now.

01:19:33   I think some of cable ends on Thunderbolt might be more powerful than computers from the 1990s.

01:19:38   Because some of them have to have, I mean, the active Thunderbolt cables particularly have to have a lot of little signaling stuff in there.

01:19:43   And they could conceivably light up with an LED that indicates, you know, it could be yellow for 480 or whatever they want.

01:19:50   There could be a little bit of a light and a little multi-color LED or a couple elements.

01:19:56   And that would be incredible.

01:19:58   I would guess that most people don't need that.

01:20:00   And, you know, really where this comes into play is if you're attaching an SSD and you're, you know, you're sort of figuring out how to get the best performance.

01:20:09   And like recently, I actually had an iMac that died last year, unfortunately, suddenly, and was out of warranty.

01:20:15   And the motherboard replacement was going to be $800 for a 2017 iMac.

01:20:19   And I said, no, thank you. And this is with an independent repair spot. Like no one's selling used that board.

01:20:23   So I'm like, I'll get my M1 Mac Mini.

01:20:27   And I had already transitioned to using an external one terabyte, it was an NVMe style Thunderbolt 3 enclosure SSD.

01:20:36   And so that had dramatically improved my iMac from its Fusion drive.

01:20:39   And I was able to move that over to the Mac, the M1 Mac Mini with some effort because the drive formatting, the file system changes between the M1 and the Intel issues.

01:20:49   But that worked great. And now that's what I use my Mac Mini.

01:20:51   I bought a 250 gigabyte drive for the Mac Mini.

01:20:55   I got the cheapest 16 gigabyte Mac Mini because I'm like, I already have a terabyte drive, but it doesn't store my photos library.

01:21:02   So several months ago, I thought, you know, I'll get a SATA based SSD.

01:21:07   They don't run super fast. It only has a USB 3 interface, but I don't need, you know, I don't know, what is it?

01:21:14   3000 megabits per second or for my, I'm forgetting the number, I think it's like three or three gigabytes per second data transfer for my photos library.

01:21:23   Like 500 megabytes per second is fine. And it costs a third as much.

01:21:28   So, you know, I was doing that interface arbitrage. I was like, oh, I can get an SSD that's a terabyte, but I don't have to spend another, you know, X hundreds of dollars.

01:21:36   I'll spend a hundred something dollars. And it was great. But it had that whole, I had like our witch cable. Do I have enough ports?

01:21:41   I've got an OWC Thunderbolt 3/4 hub so I can plug in more.

01:21:48   You know, like I've got so many things. I've got a USB 2 hub over on one side with 10 things plugged into it. It's kind of a spaghetti here.

01:21:55   This is why you wrote the book. I wrote the book. I wrote the book Pain Point. Take control. Take control of untangling connections.

01:22:03   It is a take control books dot com slash untangling guaranteed. 100% guaranteed. It will be in the show notes.

01:22:11   So you're a tap away. But I'm telling you, if you're listening to this and you're like, yeah, this is confusing.

01:22:17   I don't even understand. I forget half the stuff they've mentioned in the last 20 minutes. Get the book.

01:22:22   It's a people really. Yeah, it's, you know, my goal in life, I don't, I can't cure cancer. I cannot prevent war.

01:22:29   But I can write how to books that I hope prevent some frustration. That's my goal.

01:22:34   You can explain things. Let me take one final break here and thank our third sponsor. I love this company.

01:22:40   I my whole business is runs on Linode. You can go to Linode dot com slash the talk show and see for yourself why Linode has been voted the top infrastructure as a service provider by both G2 and Trust Radius.

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01:24:20   My thanks to Linode for sponsoring the show and for hosting during Fireball.

01:24:24   Can I pipe in on Linode for just one second? Yeah, they host everything. All my servers are on Linode.

01:24:30   They've saved me vast amounts of money and they've been so reliable, such good communicators.

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01:24:39   As long as you're saying good things about them, you can pipe right in.

01:24:43   They're really great. Home stretch. I don't want to spend a lot of time on this because I feel like it could be a whole show into itself.

01:24:49   But last week, Tim Cook gave a speech to I think he was in Washington, D.C., and it was more or less an anti sideloading speech.

01:25:00   And not just this is why we don't have sideloading on iOS, but sort of let's face it, I mean, he's addressing it, you know, that there are regulatory rumblings in the U.S.

01:25:10   and the EU that are heading towards mandating sideloading in some form for iOS.

01:25:20   And it's clearly all about iOS because Android already has it. It's mobile phones that people are talking about.

01:25:27   I mean, the PC platforms of Mac and Windows and certainly Linux, you can install anything you want.

01:25:33   And what struck me is a sort of little boy who cried wolf effect of the response to Cook's speech.

01:25:44   I saw a couple of comments, but here's one, Sam Biddle, who's currently at The Intercept, I think he used to be at Gizmodo for years.

01:25:53   He tweeted—just read his tweet—a link to Tim Cook's speech or like an article about his speech, and his whole tweet said,

01:26:00   "I, too, believe that anything that will cost me money is a dire national security threat."

01:26:08   Right? Because Cook, you know, because part of the sideloading argument is, you know, if users are able to install software from anyone,

01:26:20   some users will do it and some of that software will be written for nefarious purposes.

01:26:26   And again, I don't want to argue about the merits of whether iOS should allow sideloading voluntarily,

01:26:32   sort of like Android where you go through a couple of serious, you know, like, or like the way that you have to do it on Mac to boot without safe mode on,

01:26:41   so that you can do things, something like that.

01:26:44   But I—

01:26:45   Or even you can still invoke, I mean, I know this is becoming an increasingly hidden feature, but the Gatekeeper feature in macOS,

01:26:52   which, by the way, I love, Apple has never labeled it Gatekeeper, it discusses it by certain terms in its documentation.

01:26:58   If you go to look for that feature in macOS, it doesn't exist.

01:27:01   But in the privacy and security preference pane, you know, there's the option only load—only install apps from the Mac App Store or the App Store,

01:27:09   or allow apps from, you know, was it certified or whatever developers.

01:27:13   And they used to have a third option was allow any app to allow unsold—unsigned or whatever apps.

01:27:19   And they removed the third option, but you can still right-click an app in the Finder, select open, it's the only way,

01:27:27   then it will prompt you, and I think you get—I was documenting this for another Take Control book—

01:27:30   I think you get an extra prompt now, I think there's two prompts to run unsigned software.

01:27:36   And there's still some software I use that's unsigned, which is ridiculous, but, you know, I do—

01:27:40   I try to vet it and make sure signatures haven't changed and so forth.

01:27:44   I mean, ridiculous that it feels like there's some developers who are—they don't even want to spend the $100 a year,

01:27:50   which they could easily raise even for free software, someone would pay for it.

01:27:53   They don't have to pay for it, or they're already raising money for development.

01:27:56   And I feel like the trustworthiness angle there should be important enough to do it.

01:28:01   But so you have those three options, right, in the Mac App Store or other apps, and it, you know, that's a user-selected choice slightly hidden.

01:28:10   Yeah. If you—I'm going to backtrack a little—if you search for "gatekeeper" in System Preferences, it does highlight the security and privacy—

01:28:19   Oh, it doesn't! But it doesn't—it's not named that.

01:28:22   No, but it's—somebody tagged it, you know, with the keyword.

01:28:25   Oh, that's funny.

01:28:26   But it's funny—

01:28:27   Yeah, it's also—it's like XProtect, which does not exist except in Apple's documentation.

01:28:31   You can't do anything with it, so they don't mention it anyway, but it's a good piece of technology.

01:28:34   But I think—long story short, I think that what Apple is saying, if you—and I think this is one of those cases where you can take—

01:28:44   they're sort of the opposite of Elon Musk, where what they say, you can take them at their word.

01:28:51   They are fighting mandatory sideloading tooth and nail with all of their rhetorical vigor.

01:28:59   You know, they sent Craig Federighi over to, I think it was Portugal a couple months ago, and now Tim Cook is in Washington, D.C.

01:29:08   They're—most senior executives are talking about this in straightforward terms.

01:29:15   They're not fighting regulatory changes on app store pricing as hard.

01:29:23   Obviously, they would like to just be—they would like to just leave things the way they are, where it's—

01:29:29   there's no laws in place that say, you know, if 30 percent of the app store fees go to the platform owner, you know, there's no laws saying that that's illegal.

01:29:40   And they would like to keep that in place, and I think they very much enjoy the money they make from it.

01:29:46   It has grown to a significant sum of money over the life of the app store.

01:29:51   And whenever it comes to money, you know, it's—there's a, you know, it's, duh, it's about the money, right?

01:29:59   The money argument is about the money.

01:30:01   But I feel like what they're running into is they feel much stronger.

01:30:07   They would like to have the control that the app store brings them.

01:30:12   Even if a law were passed at the snap of a finger to say all app store revenue from anything vaguely resembling an app store worldwide is taxed at 100 percent.

01:30:28   So if you charge 30 percent, the government takes the 30 percent.

01:30:31   If you drop the fee to 80/20, they'll take the 20.

01:30:34   And you—so you cannot profit from app stores.

01:30:37   Just for the sake of argument.

01:30:39   Sure, sure.

01:30:40   I think Apple would still be fighting sideloading with the exact same vim and vigor that they are, because they want that control.

01:30:49   It's not just about the money.

01:30:51   But because the money is there, and most people and most companies, it would be about the money, that there's a sort of a natural cynicism.

01:31:03   But I think it's incorrect that Apple is only fighting sideloading regulations because of the money.

01:31:11   And I think that they have no one to blame but themselves.

01:31:15   I am in full agreement with you.

01:31:18   I think you have to tease apart Apple's motivations.

01:31:20   But I think that's exactly right.

01:31:23   I think if money weren't an issue, they would still be fighting this on principle.

01:31:27   But money is an issue, and so you could say 100 percent of the reason is privacy and security.

01:31:33   But also 30 percent of the reason—let's make it 130 percent, just make it turn it up to 11—is there's a money aspect to it.

01:31:40   Because I think if Apple hadn't fought so hard for its 30 percent, and if it hadn't played—I don't want to say so many games—if it hadn't been so rigid, and at some point they could have said,

01:31:51   "You know, 30 percent, it turns out, we can run this efficiently and make a good business for everybody, and we've learned so much, and now it's 22 percent.

01:31:58   And if you've been a developer below this level and you blah blah blah, it's going to be 13 percent or something."

01:32:04   I mean, if they'd done that three years ago, I think they would have avoided a world of pain, and it would have cost them some money.

01:32:10   But I think it also would have produced more developer interest, because we know there are developers who don't like the deal, and they don't put as much effort in.

01:32:20   Or they take their apps out of the App Store and they reserve the income, even if it means potentially lower income for themselves, that 30 percent is a big hit.

01:32:28   And there's plenty of developers who now qualify for the—was it $1 million or less annual—who are benefiting from that at the lower rate, although there's a lot of complexities about that.

01:32:37   But I think if Apple hadn't taken a hard line on that and just pushed back so hard, if it had been doing a better job in app review, if it had been listening to developers better for many years,

01:32:49   and really not been doing this arbitrary stuff—I mean, we saw the latest one just came out this last few days where if your app is more than a couple years old and hasn't been updated, Apple has sent out notifications.

01:32:58   It might be to 70 percent of the apps in the App Store. And some people who have perfectly good apps that are still working and have not needed functionality changes are very upset about that.

01:33:07   So you have these communications that occur without cooperation. So they have poisoned the pool a little bit, or they've made that pool murky by not engaging in the kind of cooperative financial exchange that might have given people the desire to assume goodwill on their part.

01:33:29   So, and, you know, absolutely, I'm sure some small component of this—and I think I agree with you, I mean, I definitely agree with you that I 100 percent am concerned about the privacy and security issue of sideloading.

01:33:42   I don't believe in Apple—I mean, Apple released that white paper last year that I found very tendentious. It had a lot of arguments that didn't make sense when inspected.

01:33:51   It felt like it was a marketing document as opposed to one that was informed enough by technical reasons.

01:33:58   I think Apple is clever enough to create a sideloading process that requires enough hoops to go through that it would dramatically reduce the interest in most people in using it.

01:34:08   And the people who did use it would be protected to a fairly large extent, and only a small number of people would wind up disabling safeguards and installing malware that would overcome Apple's internal safeguards.

01:34:22   So I think they overstate the problem. I think they have to make it an existential issue. If we allow sideloading, then it's going to be entirely unfettered and everything will suck and our platform will be destroyed.

01:34:34   Instead of saying, "We could produce a mediated version of this that is vastly more secure than Android's," and they could phase it in.

01:34:41   They could phase it in with requiring developer certification like they do with the Mac apps, so we're not allowing anything.

01:34:47   And also, again, they can safeguard the users by introducing additional sandboxing that's required.

01:34:55   Maybe there's multiple layers of plastic baggies you have to nest to run this app or something, or the app can't access all sorts of entitlements that apps that have been signed and certified are.

01:35:06   I really do think that it's not all about the money.

01:35:09   No, definitely. The money is a factor, right?

01:35:13   But the fact that if you're only looking at the money and how much of the money that goes through the app store Apple has sought to take since its inception, you're not unreasonable at thinking, "Well, it is all about the money."

01:35:29   I do think that's incorrect, but I don't think it's an unreasonable assumption.

01:35:34   And it's because Apple has never done anything. And I know, I say they haven't done anything. They have the small developer program for $1 million and they switch to $85.15 for subscription revenue after a year.

01:35:49   And so they've made some small concessions, but not as much as they... They haven't invested as much of their potential app store revenue into fostering goodwill as is necessary.

01:36:07   That's the investment. The investment is give up more of the share of the money that flows through apps that go through the app store and consider it an investment in both developer goodwill and user goodwill and goodwill worldwide, even amongst people who aren't even Apple customers, but might be influential politicians or government regulators and can say, "This company is not just keeping a stranglehold on the platform software solely to its own good will."

01:36:36   It's solely to extract the maximum amount of revenue as they keep.

01:36:40   There's so many things they could have done. And so it's reasonable for some people to say, "I'm not giving Apple any benefit of the doubt, so I assume it's entirely about money because I don't trust them on these other topics because they haven't exercised enough discretion in what they could do."

01:37:07   I mean, we're a normal person who's not like us. Not us people. We're weirdo geeks, and we have studied this stuff and we have some concern. And we get, even if we're not system-level programmers, kernel-level programmers, we get the issues.

01:37:18   We've read a thousand exploit reports. The Ronan Farrow piece I wanted to highlight from The New Yorker last week in which he talks about... I mean, my God, NSO group let him hang out in their offices for, my God, insane, these people.

01:37:32   But what comes out of that is he did an extremely good job of explaining some very deep exploits and how that works.

01:37:41   Where do you get the foot in the door? Where do you get that lever that allows you to put the crowbar in and crack open messages and bypass Blastor, Apple's sandboxing thing?

01:37:52   So I think if you don't dig at that level, you'd say, "Look, Android exists. It's the most popular platform in the world. It's widely adopted. There's all this diversity and sideloading about."

01:38:01   So what's the problem? What case is Apple making? Okay, maybe they have a privacy case, you might say, in that circumstance.

01:38:08   I don't buy their security argument. I think that's a smokescreen, this punitive person might say.

01:38:13   The privacy thing, well, they already have all these privacy rules. They can protect all the data. They won't let apps gain it. So it has to be all about money.

01:38:20   People, I think, can discount the incredible level of vulnerability that Android is at. There's probably a billion vulnerable Android devices in the world.

01:38:31   And the vulnerability of iOS and iPadOS is only these brief windows in which there are zero days out there, and only for very small numbers of people, typically.

01:38:42   And I don't think people fully understand that. I think we're going to need some kind of hack that, like, somebody produces one that disables 50% of Android phones.

01:38:51   And it's not infeasible that could happen based on the age and lack of updatability of so many Android devices on the market.

01:38:58   Right, except that the people who are talented enough to do it don't do pranks like that.

01:39:03   No, you're right.

01:39:04   They exploit it for nefarious purposes, which is to keep these things as under wraps as possible for as long as possible.

01:39:12   Oh, yeah, this is something—I had this discussion with someone last year—

01:39:14   We'd be better off with smarter teenagers who just want to prank the world and brick a billion iPhones, or Android phones, whatever.

01:39:21   This is the thing, like, the NSO group and these other groups that are, you know, alleged to, well, they even claim they can break into all these different devices and kind of hijack them for what they claim are legitimate government purposes.

01:39:31   But the thing that I think is at one level, we are the safest as users who are not being targeted by governments.

01:39:39   There's a small number of people in relative terms who governments want to—and other, you know, criminals and so forth—want to actively surveil.

01:39:47   And those people are at high risk.

01:39:51   But it's weird because the value of those exploits is so high in the, you know, you could sell them for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars or they're being developed by these private companies.

01:40:00   The rest of us are generally fairly secure because nobody wants to hack us. They want to make a million dollars. They don't need to hack a billion phones.

01:40:08   Right, it's so true, right? They're never going to do—well, I say never, but it's very unlikely that they're going to do, like, unleash a mass attack against the entire billion-person iOS user base when—

01:40:19   Russia might do it, but not a kid in their bedroom.

01:40:23   Well, anyway, thank you, Glenn. It's always a pleasure to have you on the show.

01:40:27   I want to thank our sponsors today. Linode, linode.com/thetalkshow. HelloFresh, hellofresh.com/talkshow16.

01:40:36   And Mac Weldon at macweldon.com/thetalkshowpod.

01:40:44   And, of course, one more reminder that Glenn's new book, Take Control of Untangling Connections, is at takecontrolbooks.com/untangling.

01:40:55   I don't know who's going to own Twitter by the time this show comes out.

01:40:58   But you can find me—I've just registered a new domain that is easy to speak over podcasts.

01:41:04   Okay.

01:41:05   You can find me at glenn.fun. That's G-L-E-N-N dot fun.

01:41:09   There you go. Go to glenn.fun and you'll find a link to his Twitter account.

01:41:14   And whoever owns Twitter by the time the show airs, Glenn will still be tweeting. My thanks to Glenn.

01:41:20   Thanks.