Before every episode of The Vergecast I sit down, read through a bunch of news, and take a bunch of notes. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my week, and I started thinking it might be fun to do every day on the site. So, every day this week I’m sitting down and writing some notes on the news as though I’ll be talking about it later. Are you into this? Am I into this? I don’t know. But it’s fun to do! Give me some feedback and we’ll keep mutating this into something good.
I got sick at SXSW last week so Show Notes fell off a bit... but I’m back! And only slightly loaded up on cough syrup! Lots to talk about today, and some stuff from the end of last week I want to touch on as well. Let’s get to it.
THE ENTIRE ARGUMENT FOR NET NEUTRALITY TO EXIST
- Lauren Goode spent two days with Netflix leading up to the launch of Iron Fist. (Which appears to be just terrible.) But she learned a lot about Netflix’s future plans, including recutting shows specifically for mobile and replacing the five-star rating system with thumbs-up and thumbs-down.
- Lauren was also the only journalist to press Reed Hastings on net neutrality during the event — Netflix was an aggressively vocal champion of net neutrality through 2015, when the FCC passed the Open Internet Order. How aggressive? In 2014, the company threatened to have its subscribers protest ISPs if it didn’t get its way.
- But in 2017, with new FCC chairman Ajit Pai clearly indicating that he plans to dismantle net neutrality and let ISPs go crazy, Hastings told Lauren that “he’s not too worried... even if the formal framework gets weakened, because consumers know they’re entitled to getting all of the web services.” Translation: Netflix will be fine, because no ISP is stupid enough to screw with Netflix and its 50 million passionate subscribers
- Jake Kastrenakes charted Netflix’s positions on net neutrality over the years; you can clearly see the company walk back from its early position as it gets bigger and gains more leverage with ISPs.
- So basically: now that Netflix was able to use the open internet to grow a huge audience, it’s mostly fine with net neutrality going away because it has the leverage to demand favorable treatment.
- And being able to cut favorable deals means that upstart rivals to Netflix won’t be able to compete on a level playing field. Which is very smart business for Netflix.
- But very sad for the internet economy and startup culture: how can a new rival compete with a prioritized or zero-rated Netflix if its service is delivered more slowly or costs more in data charges?
BIXBY GOES DOWN
- Samsung’s big Galaxy S8 event is next week on the 29th, and we’ll have full blowout coverage. But the news started today: Dan Seifert wrote up Bixby, Samsung’s new voice assistant. The twist is that Bixby isn’t designed to go out and answers questions from the cloud, like Google Assistant or Siri or whatever — it’s designed to actually operate your phone for you.
- It sounds like Samsung is trying to merge touch and voice — you can tap on the screen and then ask for help to keep going or to complete the task you started. It’s very clever conceptually — and it patches a hole that other voice assistants have left open, but of course you have to use “Bixby-enabled” apps for it all to work. And you just know that means you’ll be locked into Samsung’s apps, because Android developers don’t typically race to support new APIs, let alone weird APIs for one phone.
- Dan, fire emoji:
Bixby exists to solve one of the most difficult challenges in all of tech: make Samsung’s own poorly designed software and interfaces easier to use.
A TRAIN OF THOUGHT ABOUT APPLE AND AR
- Apple is working on several AR features for the next iPhone, according to Bloomberg scoop-machine Mark Gurman. There are two ways to read the rumored list of features: either Apple is working on super wild new AR ideas, or it’s doing a lot of work to deliver what sounds like slightly better riffs on Snapchat filters.
- Apple has riffed on Instagram filters in the past — they’re right there in the camera app — but they didn’t exactly set the world on fire. The value of these things isn’t their quality, it’s the social distribution networks to which they’re attached, and Apple hasn’t historically done a great job of building social tools.
- Except for iMessage. Maybe this is part of iMessage? That would be super interesting.
- A full-on iMessage reboot with filters and stories is exactly the sort of nightmare 2017 seems poised to deliver.
- But Apple doesn’t need to do that, because iMessage doesn’t have to make any money on its own, as Snapchat and Instagram and Whatsapp have to do. It just has to lock you into never leaving iOS and always buying a new iPhone, and it is spectacular at doing that.
- Apple figuring out how to walk the line between distributing cool new AR photo features and not screwing too much with iMessage is going to be really interesting to see come together, if this is indeed all happening with this next iPhone.