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Apple vs. Web3: Tearing Down the Wall(ed) Gardens
And what your emoji use may be saying about you to your Gen Z coworkers. Plus our first guest writer, ChatGPT.
1/ Apple’s Great Walled Garden May Be Vulnerable
There may not be a more apt example of deliberately constructed ‘walled gardens’ than the dreaded ‘green text’ that an iPhone user receives from an Android user. For the iPhone ‘maxi’, it is a symbol of shame. For some, it’s just cause to remove the green bubble from the group chat or from the dating pool:
The reason for this ‘green text’ and other functional limitations for Android to iPhone comms is of course not due to a technological shortcoming (we’re talking about Apple here), but a successful marketing play that relies on tribalism.
It’s just another ‘brick in the wall’ that separates the Apple ecosystem and experience from others.
This is a wall that has been under construction for decades…remember those old MAC vs. PC ads?
And it’s one that Apple is determined to preserve at all costs despite Google’s recent public callouts — including an entire campaign to combat green bubble shame called "Get the Message." Apple legal documents revealed in 2021 that the company had axed an Android version of iMessage that was in the works explicitly because it was afraid users would leave the Apple cult for “greener” pastures:
"The #1 most difficult [reason] to leave the Apple universe app is iMessage ... iMessage amounts to serious lock-in," said a former Apple employee in 2016.
Later in the exchange, Apple executive Phil Schiller replied. "Moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us," he said.
Within those walls, Apple makes its own rules. For the user, it comes with perks like security, privacy, and a curated ‘Apple’ experience. But it also comes with costs such as a 30% fee on any in-app transaction that makes Massachusetts look like a tax haven.
More than ever, ‘cross platform interoperability’ is becoming the norm. Applications are increasingly ‘platform agnostic.’ An entire generation is growing up on Fortnite where they can access their account and ‘drop-in’ on virtually any device, even playing with friends on different systems. But if the player wants to buy an in-game skin on their iPhone (Fortnite’s primary revenue generator), 30% of the $$ will go to Tim Cook (rather than Epic).
Walled gardens are a business model of Web2.0 — a relic that made sense for profit-driven companies of the recent past. Matthew Ball, author of The Metaverse: And How it Will Revolutionize Everything wrote about this phenomenon a year ago:
Technology companies, almost by definition, prefer that the market build on top of or through them than have new entrants build around or in competition with them. As a result, the same companies that emerged thanks to openness tend to reject these principles where they might undermine their strategic position.
The most important impediment (to the metaverse) today is Apple. Although no company has done more to propel the last 15 years of the internet, its policies are unlikely to produce the most prosperous overall ecosystem and do not lay a strong groundwork for the “next Internet.” Instead, Apple is inhibiting this future Internet. And it does so via tolls, controls, and technologies that not only deny what made and still makes the open web so powerful, but also prevents competition, and prioritize Apple’s own profits.
A year later, the writing is on the wall. Apple is receiving increasing pressure to drop what are claimed to be ‘monopolistic practices.’ One of the longest-running wars is between Epic’s Fortnite and Apple — which has included a variety of lawsuits and a remake of Apple’s iconic 1984 ad:
And while Epic has been fighting that fight for years, other fronts are opening. The Coinbase Wallet app was disabled on the iPhone last week because they are not down with Apple demanding 30% of gas fees required for sending crypto/NFTs to others — a move they compared to Apple wanting to take a cut for every email sent over the internet.
That same week, Elon Musk literally ‘declared war’ via meme + tweet over the 30% tax and claimed Apple threatened to remove Twitter from the App Store.
Tensions have cooled on that front after the two CEO’s met in-person to come to an understand and stop hostilities… almost like a peace talks between nation states.
Ofc, removing Twitter from the app store would have been mutually-assured destruction for all parties. Apple’s top executives would likely have been testifying on Capitol Hill for weeks following accusations of political bias. Which is to say nothing about the value of Twitter as a news source many Apple users rely on — one that keeps them scrolling.
Meanwhile, Twitter’s survival as a subscription service relies on staying in Apple and Google’s good graces. The App Store provides access to more than 1.5B devices, meaning it’s the #1 way for the world to get the Twitter app.
Other major players that have recently joined the ‘rebellion’ include Spotify and Meta who are having their profits cut into by the 30% fee (for audiobook and ad sales respectively) when apps are purchased on Apple’s platform.
The new internet is beginning to takes shape (metaverse anyone?) and will be defined by interoperability between platforms. This makes Apple’s 30% policy look indefensible. The walls set up 15 years ago are looking more and more like the Berlin Wall did in 1989, and both companies and consumers left out of the garden for too long are ready to take a hammer to it.
2/ Lost in Translation: Emoji Use Across Generations
Want to know the quickest way to expose yourself as a washed Millennial to your Gen Z co-workers? Drop any of the following into the group chat or company Slack:
From the transformation of ancient hieroglyphics into written text to the admittance of “gaslighting” into Merriam Webster, languages evolve alongside the cultures they represent, and it appears we’ve reached a fork in the road when it comes to inter-office emoji use. Watch out, because you could be accidentally triggering your younger colleagues:
'My last workplace had a WhatsApp chat for our team to send info to each other on and most of the people on there just replied with a thumbs up.
'I don't know why but it seemed a little bit hostile to me,'
Emoji use may have exploded in the 2010s, but in the their incorporation into Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Gchat, this pictorial language has become a part of workplace communication. Much like language itself, however, emojis have different meanings depending on context and the intent of the person using them. See: the passive-aggressive read of the simple: 👍 (to some, it reads closer to 🖕).
A 24-year-old on Reddit summed up the Gen Z argument, saying it is best “never used in any situation” as it is “hurtful.”
“No one my age in the office does it, but the Gen X people always do it. Took me a bit to adjust and get [it] out of my head that it means they're mad at me,' he added.
Case in point: that damning interview SBF gave to his “friend at Vox” Kelsey Piper.
These lost-in-translation moments represent the challenge (and learning opportunity) we all face communicating effectively in an age of hybrid and remote work. Is 😂. now painfully uncool? Was that 👍 meant to be passive aggressive? Or more a simple: “copy that.” Is this more of a 🙏 moment, a ✋, or a 🙌? Does that 🤧 mean: “That’s sick!” or is someone actually out with the flu?
A recent survey from Duolingo and Slack found that 74% of respondents have experienced a misunderstanding with an emoji. 25% still use the crying emoji to express tears of joy, while another 25% use it to express they were upset. There’s also the standard issue smiley:
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At the same time, not using emojis at all can also be triggering. Have you ever gotten just an: “Okay” — sans period, exclamation point, or (even a corporate) smiley?
I’m thinking, ‘Are they mad at me? What’s going on? Are they having a bad day?’ Then I’ll see them and they’ll be like, ‘Hi Jonathan’ in the most upbeat tone. I feel like Gen Z and younger millennials have kind of adapted that just to make sure that they’re articulating everything they want [to] in the same tone that they would speak in.
Learning your coworkers emoji voice has become like learning their donut preference on Free Donut Fridays — a shortcut to understanding their personalities. But regardless of whether your a thumbs-up truther or a proudly washed Millennial determined to continue responding with the laughing crying face, the number one rule of emoji etiquette is: read the room. A considered response is always appreciated. And please just don’t be one of those monsters that simply drops a: “k.”
3/ The “Stock Photography” Equivalent of Words
Introducing our first guest writer, ChatGPT. The latest and most impressive AI chat/writing assistant to enter the field. The internet is abuzz with different uses for the tool…some more practical than others:
We invited ChatGPT to take a crack at explaining itself — excerpted below, with our translations/ reactions:
The impact of ChatGPT on society could be significant. In the near future, it is likely that we will see the widespread adoption of chatbots and other forms of AI that are able to carry on natural, human-like conversations with users. This could revolutionize customer service and support, allowing businesses to provide more personalized and efficient service to their customers.
On a more personal level, it could also provide you with a million handy excuses for turning down an invitation you’ve been dreading:
In addition, ChatGPT could have broader applications in fields such as education and healthcare, where the ability to carry on natural conversations with AI could make it easier for people to access information and support.
In other words, it’s offering a slightly less infuriating experience than the one we’ve all become accustomed to when we are forced to battle the unsophisticated voice assistant that stands between us and the actual human being that could actually answer our question:
Perfect timing considering Amazon just announced that its voice assistant has been deemed a “colossal failure of imagination” and a “wasted opportunity” by insiders at the company. One that’s apparently cost Bezos $10B just this year.
Are we really blown away by ChatGPT’s defense of its own existence? Customer service robots, writers of bland social copy, and other form letter pencil pushers should be at least a little scared. As Ribbonfarm Studios Venkatesh Rao explains:
OpenAI’s ChatGPT, released as a research beta two days ago, has done to the standard high-school essay what cameras did to photorealistic painting and pocket calculators did to basic arithmetic.
The correct standard for judging an AI on writing is not beating the “best” humans … but achieving indistinguishability from mediocre humans.
To put it another way, we’ve gone from devising AI that can beat the best humans in the world at Go and Chess to something far more difficult: devising a more general use AI that can emulate us at our most mediocre. One that can churn out the same tired takes and half-baked thoughts you see everyday. What could be more human than that?
Richard Hughes Gibson, an associate professor of English at Wheaton College, is less concerned about robots coming for the jobs of writers and journalists and more concerned about AI’s effect “on short-circuiting the development of human writers.”
If high school students lean on tools like ChatGPT to draft their essays, how will they learn critical thinking and historical consciousness? Educators are now administering the Turing test in reverse: What are questions that only humans can answer well? What new kinds of thinking does this new style of writing make possible for us?
“Only one who writes lines can think logically, calculate, criticize, pursue knowledge, philosophize.” — Vilém Flusser
More likely than not, we’ll all need to adapt or risk being only as good as the most mediocre among us. Our high school teachers railed against Wikipedia and using the internet as a resource, but the savviest among us simply learned new media literacy — fact-checking, deep-Googling, and cross-referencing digital receipts all became legitimate forms of research. In our lifetime. Meanwhile, the laziest among us fell victim to fake news, social media echo chambers, and clickbait. It’s up to each of us to continue to be skeptical, thoughtful, and keep our heads on a swivel.
(To experiment with ChatGPT, visit chat.openai.com)
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