Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Terraria on Stadia cancelled after developer's Google account gets locked (twitter.com/demilogic)
2023 points by benhurmarcel 22 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 1173 comments



Threads are paginated for performance reasons (yes we're working on it), so to see the rest of the comments you need to click More at the bottom of the page, or like this:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26061935&p=2

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26061935&p=3

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26061935&p=4

(If you've already seen a bunch of these, I apologize for the annoying repetition.)


I feel like Google is a case study in an engineering only company. Everything is reduced to a technical problem. Incentives are aligned to solve technical problems. No one wants to work on something unless it is technically interesting and new. There is no incentive at all for delivering an excellent user experience over the long term - which usually can't be done with tech only, and involves a lot of dredge work of continuous introspection and improvement.

We see this again and again. The cynic in me sees Stadia as yet another internal promotion scheme, masquerading as a product.

I doubt this will ever change. The internal momentum of the company culture will make it so. What does it mean for investors? Google has enough money they can just buy their way into markets indefinitely. It will probably keep them going, but I don't expect huge growth. I'd probably be putting my money into other stocks if I had to choose. I honestly don't think people would miss Google much if it was gone.


Stadia, from day one, has seemed like an engineering-oriented project. It's a cool tech that nobody asked for and not many people actually want (and has been atrociously packaged as an actual product). I can just hear the kickoff meeting:

"We have some of the best cloud engineers in the world, we have one of the biggest fleets of data centers. Not a lot of companies could reasonably implement cloud gaming, but I bet we could!"

That part is true! But then:

"Productization? Pricing? Market-fit? Customer service and messaging? Whatever, we've got good tech, it'll sell itself. We can figure all that other stuff out later, that's the easy part."

...cue the flop. It was always going to be this way.


Are you sure people don’t want it? I think it’s one of the biggest market potentials in gaming right now.

I’m quickly approaching 40, and I would like nothing more to not have to own the windows desktop that I only use for one thing. To play blood bowl 2 (and eventually 3) a few times a week. If I could do that from a browser on my MacBook, you can bet I’d never own another desktop in this life.

That’s anecdotal or course, but there’s quite a lot of us.


nvidia has a competing service that supports that title, and it honors your steam account instead of needing you to re-buy it

https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/geforce-now/games/


I used both. When time came to Play cyberpunk, I went for Stadia.

It runs a lot better (streaming quality, glitches, start-up times) are incredible. Using Stadia in general is a polished (yet basic) experience. In contrast Nvidia very much felt like a hack. Log-in in my steam account, seeing weird window glitches.

I see a lot of comments negative on stadia here,based on bias rather then actual experience. Stadia is nothing short of tech star even with its downsides compare to the rest of the market.


I can't speak about Nvidia, but we just hosted a ~25 person LAN party at work and decided to go with Stadia... never again. Some people couldn't even make an account because they didn't have a credit card (even though we planned to mostly play free titles). Literally every game needed 20-40 minutes before we finally got everyone in - we never pinpointed the root cause, but a combination of restarting Chrome (emptying cache), relogging into Stadia, rebooting PCs and re-hosting a match, we managed to play a few titles. In a couple cases, we just gave up trying to get more than a handful of people in the game. Some people couldn't ever get their keyboard or mouse working in some titles (myself included, one game in particular was fine for awhile, then suddenly my mouse stopped registering in-game - rebooting and having the host restart the server didn't help - googling my issue says I'm not alone).

Some of these titles I've played multiplayer via Steam without any of the related issues, granted Steam/Stadia is an apples/oranges comparison.

At the end I suggested we try Armagetron. 2.7MB download and runs on Mac/Win/Linux/Potatoes. I started up a private server and we were running a 16-player game without any issues in literally 5 minutes.


Yeah I don't see how nVidia doesn't dominate this market. Their product just makes way more sense.

To even get on Stadia you have to port to their custom Linux distribution, which is a pretty huge ask for most games.


Publishers specifically pulled out of Geforce Now because they didn't like the idea of people not having to buy the game again.


Unfortunately Stadia is the only one that supports 4K (I'm a casual user of Nvidia's service since it was in beta)


Does 4k matter? The way you state it makes it sound like it's a major issue (disclaimer: I've never seen a 4k game)

This is an honest question, since I don't game much (witcher 3, death stranding and a few point and click) , and regular 1080 doesn't bother me, so I'm genuinely curious.


Would describe Stadia 4k to be inline with native 1080p, at least when playing stadia in a browser. Stadia 4k may look better using a chromecast ultra, but I haven't tried that.

And It is weird how resolutions are the focus in streaming when the most important thing is bitrate, feel like we need some kind of standard, because bitrate means nothing to most people.


> It is weird how resolutions are the focus in streaming when the most important thing is bitrate

Yep. I see a good example of this when I watch gameplay videos on Youtube in the highest available 1080p bitrate, and regularly see results that look far worse than playing the game in 720p, maybe even 480p. For example, it's obviously very common to pan the camera through a high-detail scene, which is trivial for a GPU to do, but incredibly information dense for a video encoder. So anything with a lot of detail blurs (in a very ugly way, not like motion blur) when there's movement.

And Youtube has the advantage that the video has as much time to record as Youtube will allow it, it doesn't need to be done with low-latency settings as Stadia does.

Of course, cable TV is even worse, but ordinary consumers don't seem to have noticed or cared about that either.


YouTube's bitrates are atrocious. I don't understand why they can't at least offer a higher bitrate to their paying Premium customers.

> Of course, cable TV is even worse, but ordinary consumers don't seem to have noticed or cared about that either.

According to Wikipedia, a DVB-C stream can be between 6-65 Mb/s [1], certainly higher than YouTube's 3-9 Mb/s (assuming 1080p video). The situation for resolutions above 1080p seems to be a bit better [2].

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/DVB-C

[2] https://www.androidauthority.com/how-much-data-does-youtube-...


I'm not sure about Europe, but in the US it's very rare to see bitrates even a large fraction of that. (I don't see a minimum bitrate on the ATSC Wikipedia page, and it wouldn't surprise me to find out that it's often lower than 6 Mbps.) Worse still, in a bunch of places the cable companies still deliver MPEG-2 video, which is going to look pretty atrocious at anything other than an extremely high bitrate. It's a big disadvantage compared to Youtube. Plus a whole bunch of programs are in 60 fps, which need a higher bitrate anyway.

I plugged in my cable box for the first time in months to watch the Super Bowl, and was shocked at how terrible the video was. I could see obvious artifacts without glasses on, and I can't even tell 720p from 1080p at that distance. Some of my relatives have those MPEG-2 channels, and I remember them being significantly worse.

Not trying to say that cable TV can never be better than Youtube's quality, of course, just trying to give a general impression of my experience with various American cable companies.


Ah yes, I forgot that there are different standards depending on the country. To be quite honest, I haven't sat down and watched linear TV in years, but from what I can tell at relatives' homes the quality here is not bad.

Actually, out of curiosity I just looked up the bitrates for my local cable company. The quality seems to differ a lot: on average between 3 Mb/s MPEG-2 [1] and 12 Mb/s MPEG-4 [2]. So I guess my previous statement isn't really accurate and it depends on the channel.

That website appears to be quite interesting btw; it also tracks YouTube bitrates for live and non-live video and in different encodings! [3]

[1] https://www.digitalbitrate.com/dtv.php?mux=C049&pid=19126&li...

[2] https://www.digitalbitrate.com/dtv.php?mux=C049&pid=19130&li...

[3] https://www.digitalbitrate.com/dtv.php?lang=en&liste=2&live=...


Nice I'll check that out.

12 Mbps MPEG-4 should be quite good, for the stations that support it.


At least with game streaming services, I suspect advertising resolution serves the double purpose of being understandable to most consumers, while specifically obfuscating bitrate, which is the sacrificed statistic.


It depends on the game. Anything that has a lot of text or small icons - e.g. many strategies - benefits from high DPI in the same way desktop apps do.


It's also much more performant and user friendly than GeForce Now


The narrow "want to play games on my mac" problem could be solved if game developers chose to build the game cross-platform from the start and release a mac build. Many games are already cross-platform, as they run on both Windows and consoles. The fact that so many game companies don't even bother with a mac build shows they don't want to solve this for whatever reason (probably mac just not profitable enough).

If a developer is not willing to lift a finger to port to mac (a small market, but one with a known size), why would they port to Stadia or some other unknown market?


Because macs are terrible platforms for games. They have been very low end for a long time (m1 notwithstanding), and they have been killing off opengl, the only cross platform rendering API (before vulkan, which they don't support). Also their insistence on breaking changes means your back catalog needs constant maintenance. That's normal for app developers, but not gamedev. Oh, and if you do make the port, they will be about 1% of your users. Or less. So, to summarize, mac support is expensive, difficult, and not profitable. Should we still do it? I tend to think you're better of spending your time on linux support.


Maybe MacOS isn't a good push for gaming for either developers or Apple. I definitely think iOS is. The Apple Arcade Subscription plan seems to be part of that for gaming. I've seen a lot of people on the subway and even at work sometimes playing mobile games on their iOS device, from Call of Duty Mobile to racing games to tower defense.

I imagine when Apple expands their desktop and laptop lineup to M1 chips, it's going to include many of the games that are available from their mobile catalog.


Doing a Mac build from Unreal or Unity is generally easy (and most of the smaller games that use those engines do release Mac builds); doing a Mac build from an in-house engine may be a ton of work

But more importantly: Mac hardware usually isn't really equipped for high-end games. If you have a pro-tier machine you might do okay, but nobody buys Macs for gaming, at the very least. It's just too niche of a market to go through a lot of effort to support it


> Doing a Mac build from Unreal or Unity is generally easy

You'd think, but a lot of mainstream engine-based games that could "easily" have a mac port never get one, even an unofficial one offered as totally unsupported. Look at Among Us for example. Not by any stretch a high-end game. It runs on Windows, Android, iOS, a bunch of XBoxen, and probably other consoles. I bet the developer could spit out a working native macOS version with the push of a button, but so far hasn't.

Kerbal Space Program is another example. When last I checked, they did have a native mac version, but it was hamstrung in some way--I think it was limited to 32-bit or something.

I can't imagine these examples are actually a huge amount of effort to make happen. As a fan and programmer I'd be willing to do it for free.


KSP has been 64-bit on Mac from around the same time as Windows and is still fully supported.

A lot of games did drop off the Mac when it moved to 64-bit only though.


Still has a bigger market share than Linux, with people that actually pay for games, and all major engines support Metal.

Whereas GNU/Linux, even with the massive amount of games targeting Android, hardly gets to see them.

Same applies to Stadia, which is mostly GNU/Linux + Vulkan, with Google sponsoring Unity and Unreal as well.


Apple's moving to the M1 chip for desktop/laptop Macs. That's going to make the target look more like top-end Mac hardware… and the iPhone.

The latter isn't a niche market, it's a 'not high-end' market. But that could evolve, I think.


I don't think it's impossible that streamed games will find a market, but I think there are several hurdles that (unsurprisingly) weren't apparent to a company with no experience in the industry:

1) PC gamers tend to revel in owning (building, customizing, optimizing) their hardware; not just because it lets them play the games they want to play, but even for its own sake. RGB arrays, overclocking, custom case builds. Streaming can't compete with that.

2) "Casual" gamers already have powerful devices in their pockets with thousands and thousands of games available, including many free ones and many high-quality ones.

3) Console gamers are presumably the target (?) market. But an Xbox Series S costs $299. The (absolute minimum) Stadia starter kit costs $99; you're already a third of the way there. And then there's the subscription fee. And then you still have to buy the games. Something I don't think Google realized is that over a console generation, the dominant cost quickly becomes the games themselves, not the hardware. If Stadia users still have to buy them at full-price - $60 a pop - that $200 you saved at the beginning quickly becomes a diminishing fraction. You just aren't saving that much, and in exchange, you get the constant risk that your whole library will simply be killed at any moment, as well as...

4) The latency. The problem with latency is it's not a fully solvable issue, no matter how much hardware or money you throw at the problem. There's a physical lower bound on how long it takes electricity to get from your house to a data center and back. And then there's all the routing infrastructure run by your ISP, which a) is outside of Google or Microsoft or whoever's ability to improve, and b) is unlikely to be improved by the ISP because game streaming is basically the only usecase where bleeding-edge latency actually matters. And in terms of how much it matters: one frame at 60FPS translates to 16.7ms. Client-rendered multiplayer games don't have as much of an issue with higher latencies because of client-side prediction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Client-side_prediction

Here's the only way I could see game streaming being successful:

An all-you-can-eat, Netflix-style buffet of big-budget games. Like Apple Arcade, except it has games like Call of Duty and Borderlands that you could normally only play on a console or a gaming PC. You pay a monthly fee, and you never have to buy or even download a game. Dedicated thin-client hardware is a waste; anybody who wants to buy hardware will just buy a console. Your target customers don't want that. Instead this would only be playable on existing platforms, primarily desktop/web/mobile, though possibly existing consoles as well.

That would be a decent value-proposition for some people. Those playing really fast-paced games and/or sticklers for latency wouldn't go for it, some existing phone-gamers might, but mostly you would get people like your friend from college who just wants to play Borderlands with you but isn't really a "gamer" outside of that.

Microsoft is the most clearly-positioned company to succeed at this, as far as I can tell. They have two decades of experience in the industry, they have cloud chops and datacenters, and they carry clout with publishers and even have in-house studios (because a subscription-only game buffet it going to be a tough sell when it comes to license-holders).

And of course they've already started: Xbox Game Pass is a smallish version of the all-you-can-eat subscription, and they've been experimenting with cloud-hosted releases. You can even play Control on your Nintendo Switch via Microsoft's cloud. That's pretty cool.

But I don't think this will ever make gaming PCs or even consoles obsolete, mainly because of the unsolvability of the latency issue. It will be good enough for some people.

Oh and Stadia will die anyway, because Google doesn't understand any of the above


Yours is a thoughtful post and doesn't deserve a quick, dismissive response, so I want to hedge the following just by acknowledging that.

I'd say your problems 1-3 can be summarized by saying you don't think there's a market for it. I don't think I agree. The prospective market for it is probably console gamers who want to play PC games that aren't ported to their console.

Even CP2077 might be an example of this, because from what I've heard the performance is absolutely terrible on consoles, and if you haven't already spent heavily on an upgraded computer with a graphics card that's going to set you back $1K, you probably can't play it there either. So if you're the stereotypical console gamer, who doesn't care about perfect graphics and the lowest possible latencies, Stadia is going to sound like a pretty decent deal.

And that's before you get to exclusives.


- CP2077 could be viewed as a one time inter-generational fluke, where a project was designed with the ambition of PS5, then half-heartedly fitted into a PS4. Once people get their next gen consoles, this use case probably goes away. Can you imagine a lot more of these CP2077-like scenarios that justify being a Stadia user?

- Stadia will be just as vulnerable to "exclusive content fragmentation" as consoles. Now that they've shuttered their internal studio, they will in fact, be constantly on the defensive in the war of exclusive content.


Yeah, I was only using Cyberpunk as an example of how a console player might play a game on Stadia that was released on their console if it performed better. (Or even equivalently, since Stadia has other advantages like easy travel.) But I think the much bigger draw will be for games that are PC exclusives or PC/XBOX, for Playstation folks.

I suppose it remains to be seen how successful Stadia will be at pull these titles to its platform. I think you're right to worry about fragmentation. If developers view Stadia as "just another platform" that they can just choose not to support when creating exclusives, it'll fail. If Stadia can get them to view it as a kind of drop-in that lets a much larger number of people (with, say, underpowered hardware) play their game, they'll be more likely to view it as a win.

One other plausible market: people for whom the upfront cost of a platform is still too high. It's a lot easier for most parents to justify buying Cyberpunk for Stadia for their kid for Christmas than it is a brand new $500 console, or God forbid the several thousand dollar PC you'd need to play it.


I hate doing this, but I feel like I need to pick at each of your described hurdles, because I think each of them make assumptions or assertions that don't hold up.

1. You claim PC gamers do it for the hardware as much as the software. Let's assume the data backs that - it certainly seems like it's likely to be true. And I'm biased in wanting to believe it too, because I like to build and revel in the machines that run the games I own. What isn't true is that those same people, people like me, cannot also be attracted to things like Stadia.

2. Services like Stadia do not replace the many games that people play on the many devices that already exist. It's not a "one or the other" thing. They allow those devices to play more games.

The biggest flaw is in suggesting that casual gamers (a term which is flawed for many other reasons) wouldn't be a potential market for a thing like Stadi. Mobile game sales account for almost half of ALL game related sales. 48%, in fact. $76 billion in sales. A thing like Stadia means that people can play more games on their devices.

And let me say, games on Stadia play incredibly well on my iPad that's a few generations old. That's very attractive. Being able to play PC quality games on my iPad when I travel is worth every penny. I'd even argue it's easier to play games on Stadia than it is to play natively installed games. With Stadia, there's no downloading of the game, no installing, not time wasted waiting for updates. You just turn it on, and it works.

First, where you say "casual gamers", I think what you're trying to say is "people who play games on their mobile devices." You go on to describe the abilities that mobile devices have. While I won't dispute that, one thing I think you're missing is that services like Stadia make it even easier to play games on those devices that don't exist for those devices, or will at some future date, optimized to run on those mobile devices.

I'll probably beat this horse to death, but to compare: I was playing Cyberpunk 2077 on my iPad through Stadia minutes after it was available. It took nearly a day before I could run it on my PC, and after the first several patches I just stopped bothering. Granted, the game is a beautiful mess, but the point is: it was effortless on the iPad, and has been ever since. Not only that, but I can switch to my iPhone, or to my PC and pick up right where I left off. If I do it quick enough, the game just unpaused when I jump to the new device. And I can travel and still play. There's no way my PC, with its UV reactive liquid cooling is going to travel with me.

3. Stadia starter kit is optional. Stadia is free. Do you have a controller? Keyboard and mouse? A web browser? You're good. There is no required subscription fee. You buy the games, and they cost the same as console games. So yeah, if you have a device that can run modern browsers, you don't need to buy a console.

4. I assume when you mention latency, you mean "input latency" - meaning, the time it takes for the game to react to your button press or mouse movement. There are indeed hard limits to how low input latency can be. The game cannot update its entire model and render it in 0ms. It has to make calculations based on your inputs, then show you what changed. But that's not the only constraint. Consider the entire picture: a target on the screen moves, and you need to shoot it. If you're good, it'll take you about 100ms to react. Most people can't react in less than 150ms. It takes 5-10ms to transmit your reaction over USB. It takes the simulation any number of milliseconds to process and tell the monitor to redraw itself. Let's assume the processing time of the game engine is 0ms. The best monitors will add 2ms to the clock.

So, from your human reaction to the resulting frame, at best, it takes from 107ms to react to something on screen and see the results of your reaction.

And that's on your PC. No networking.

What does Stadia add? On a good connection, it'll add 20-30ms. To be fair, that's what I've seen on my pretty normal cable company internet connection over 5ghz Wifi. With most games, you'd never notice the extra time. Are you going to notice it as a pro gamer playing FPS competitively? Probably.

Your assertion that Stadia will die is about the most right thing you've said. Even with a market, Google tends to kill things seemingly at random. What will help it die quicker is if Nvidia's service is able to outperform Stadia in terms of simplicity and streaming speeds.

But saying streaming based gaming won't find a market reminds me a lot of what the cable companies and Blockbuster used to say about Netflix.


>So, from your human reaction to the resulting frame, at best, it takes from 107ms to react to something on screen and see the results of your reaction.

People can perceive delays smaller than their reaction window. For argument I'll say it's 50ms is the perceivability barrier, since we seem to throwing numbers around here. I can get 50 or 60 ms lag on my wifi often, and I would say that I have a pretty good connection. So therefore, the input lag potential with stadia is significant. 60 > 50.


I think the more important fact is that people can be affected by small amounts of latency, even if they can't react that quickly or perhaps even discern that latency is occurring.

The obvious example here is a precision platformer like Celeste, but you can say the same (with less and less applicability) to other games, starting with FPS.

In Celeste, there are a handful of frame-perfect inputs in the game. This means you have less than a 20 ms window to get your input in, or you're dead (the game's only failure state). How is this possible, if human reaction time is only ~100 ms at best? It's because there's a difference between reaction time and timing. Reaction time measures your time-to-react to an unpredictable stimulus. Timing is your reaction to a predictable stimulus. Most of the time in games you are reacting to a stimulus that is at least somewhat predictable.

So with a little training you can reliably make that frame perfect jump. But if Stadia adds 60 ms of latency, that means your character is over 3 frames ahead of where you think she is. You're going to miss that jump a lot until you can reprogram your brain to account for the latency, as much as possible. And even then you'll probably find it harder. Throw in a little variability to the latency, so you think the character is 3 frames behind but she's actually 4, and you're doomed.

Granted, not every game is a precision platformer, so there are diminishing returns for low latency in other types of game. But if you, say, enable cross-play between Stadia and non-Stadia in a shooter, the local players are probably going to have a huge advantage. Even making it work against an AI opponent would require some significant work to make the AI's reaction time keyed to Stadia's measurement of latency, not whatever you originally hard-coded into the game.


You reacting to something is not the same as reacting + seeing the rendered frame.

There's an entire chain of things that contribute to latency, and network latency is only one part of that chain.

From what I've experienced on a pretty normal, non-optimized wifi connection (meaning I just plugged a cheap TP Link router in and did nothing to its default settings), I don't notice the latency that Stadia contributes making any difference compared to whatever amount of latency I get on my capable PC.

That's not to say network latency doesn't matter. It matters a lot to pro CS:GO players, for example, (who have reaction times in the 130-300ms range, for what it's worth). Those players are will to pay for high poll rate mice to shave off a few milliseconds from input latency, or build $5k+ machines stuff with insanely fast CPUs and GPUs, with $2k+ monitors with 1ms latency.

But Stadia isn't for that kind of game play.

Like I said in another comment, the talk around streaming games is almost identical to people who scoffed at services like Netflix when they first started streaming. You had Laserdisc nerds freaking out about how the streaming would produce compression artifacts, and people like Mark Cuban saying that people were crazy to think streaming video was the way to go, (all while pitching his HD satellite service).

Having used Stadia as a "normal" person might, I'm certain that in the not too distant future, streaming based gaming services will be as mainstream as Netflix is today. Despite whatever compromises it has to make.


> What does Stadia add? On a good connection, it'll add 20-30ms

I can’t ping my router and get consistent latency that low.

Latency on speed tests varies between 15 (off peak no load) and 100ms (normal).

There is no way that by the time that all adds up, stadia is going to be a better experience than local.

My internet is also shared with other people, in a country with notoriously subpar internet (yay Australia), the closer we get to reality, the less appealing stadia becomes. The kind of game streaming I could get behind is the rainway/local streaming approach where I run the game on local hardware (pc/PS5) and stream to convenient device.


> I can’t ping my router and get consistent latency that low.

OT, but I'm curious, what kind of router do you have? That seems really bad. I tested this on my laptop (over WiFi, in a very heavy traffic apartment building) and see the following:

    50 packets transmitted, 50 received, 0% packet loss, time 49115ms
    rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 0.751/1.436/5.000/0.812 ms
I don't say that to brag, I really think that's definitely expected for any LAN device.


I’m on my phone at the moments, so I’ll paste proper numbers when I’m back, but when I tried it last week it was like 18/370/60/1478/etc ms. Bear in mind, this was In the same room as the router.


Finally got a chance to test:

    63 packets transmitted, 63 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
    round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 1.659/110.684/1805.961/305.145 ms


That's really dreadful, I'm sorry you even have to deal with that. Can you replace the router? Even the cheapest bottom of the barrel router from your local big box store should be able to get a response to you in under 5 ms pretty reliably. (I'm assuming your WiFi / access point is built in to your router.)

What model of router is it? This really feels like a situation where something has to be broken, I can't imagine any router, no matter how cheap, has an expected ping rtt maxing out at around 2 seconds. Notably, your minimum rtt is under 2 ms, so it's definitely capable of getting a response to you faster than that, maybe it's just overloaded or something?


I never said Stadia would be better than local when it comes to latency, though I wouldn't blame you for assuming that's what I meant. Latency will be increased.

An argument I was trying to make is that for other reasons, and for a lot of games, Stadia is better than local when you take the entire experience into account. Cyberpunk 2077 is a great example of where the overall experience is subjectively better. My RTX 3070 based system renders the game and its bugs beautifully, far better than Stadia does. But is that $4500-worth of eye candy worth it compared to the $0.00-worth of totally acceptable Stadia? Lag-wise, I don't notice a difference.

I prefer playing the game on Stadia now because it's just so simple. I can use a controller or mouse and keyboard with my iPad and play from anywhere in my house. And not just my house - I've played it over a LTE connections several times without issue.

As far as latency goes - people tend to get hung up network latency when it's only a small part of the latency story. Granted, at 100ms, it becomes a bigger part of the story, but people either don't know about, or forget, that there's more:

There's peripheral latency, "system" latency (which includes CPU, render queue, and GPU), then display latency for single player games.

Stadia, or any streaming service, adds network latency. For me, with a pretty normal American internet connection provided by a craptastic provider (because it's the only choice I have), it works great.

For what it's worth, I've also played with some of the "local" streaming tech. No joke, Stadia performs better than streaming using Steam's local streaming app, by a long shot. There's the iPad app (the name escapes me at the moment) that lets me stream my XBox to the iPad, and it's better, but still way worst than Stadia.


One quick nitpick: The latency in streaming isn't as bad as you'd think

Most AAA games already have 200+ ms delays between pressing a button and anything happening on-screen. So there's plenty of room to redesign things to work around that latency in a lot of games

(This obviously doesn't apply to high-end play on twitch shooters or fighting games though, those are pretty much screwed when it comes to streaming)


>> Most AAA games already have 200+ ms delays between pressing a button and anything happening on-screen. So there's plenty of room to redesign things to work around that latency in a lot of games

Source please?

I have produced / designed / managed a few AAA games in my life and none of them had a 200ms latency between when you pressed a button and something happened on screen. That delay would be horrible for a fighting game or a driving game. How are you even defining "something happening on screen"?

Let's suppose you are right, that there is a longish latency between when your input is polled and when the game systems fully react. That happens to some extent in RTSs, because changes in the game state are synchronized. But in that case the delay isn't going to hide the network latency, it is going to be added on top of the network latency.


Here's one site that attempts to catalog this: https://displaylag.com/video-game-input-lag-database/

Found an article from a few years ago: https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3725/measuring_respon...

Not all games are that bad, especially these days. And your overall point is correct: adding even a little bit on top of that already horrendous latency is going to be noticeable by players.


Worst out of the 23 games listed in the first link has 8 frames of latency at 120 fps, which is about 66ms. Monitor input lag included.

200ms, while possible, is far from "most AAA+ games", as OP stated.

Sure, there's people that play on lowest-end consoles, on a crappy LCD TV with game mode disabled, but let's not consider that the norm for all players/all AAA+ games, and I'm going to need hard sources showing whether those worst case environments get even close to triple digit latencies.


They might be talking about engine delay (ie. frame times/framerate) but i've moreso seen delays of 100-150 milliseconds deemed acceptable by people playing console games on an old flat screen TV that doesn't have a low-latency mode available, and I haven't really experienced this on anything other than consoles since even cheap PC monitors tend to have <10ms display lag[0].

0: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B015WCV70W


You probably know this 100ms = 10 FPS. What kind of display shows video at less than 10fps? Game engines aren't always synced to frame rates, particularly simulations. But a simulation that updates every 0.1s isn't great for fidelity.

A 30 fps game could go through a complete loop, updating everything: object positions, inputs in 33ms. At 60 fps assuming everything is synced to frame rate that would 16 ms.

I was asking for the commenter's source of information so I didn't have to guess what he or she meant. It's possible to make a game that doesn't respond a user's input in less than 200ms, but why would you? You don't need to be making a technical tour de force to respond in 16-33ms.


I was commenting on how the TV can add latency/'display lag', not that it only shows a frame every 100ms. TVs have gotten much better[0] but input lag can be high with cheap TVs sold 5-10 years ago.

0: https://displaylag.com/best-low-input-lag-tvs-gaming-by-game...


That makes more sense. I am sorry I misunderstood and thank you for explaining.


[flagged]


Thank you for the example. You said most games had a 200 ms latency. I wasn't trying to attack you, I just doubted that figure, admitting I wasn't sure. You found one example of a game with 160ms latency, listed among a bunch that are much lower.

RDR 2 isn’t a racing game or a fighter. You could argue it isn’t really an action game.

Also, why do you believe the latency of a display or a controller isn't sequential to the delay on Stadia?


Yeah, sorry for getting tilted, man. It's just annoying when you try to give out some helpful info, and then you get dogpiled by people who have no idea what they're talking about spewing nonsense. Particularly the dude who doesn't understand the difference between latency and framerate, man oh man..

You can see right in the half-assedly-found top YouTube result 11 frames at 16.6ms delay each, so that's 180+ ms of delay, before ANYTHING happens AT ALL on the screen. Much less something noticeable. It'd be very straightforward to shave 100ms off the buffer bloat in one of these games, so Red Dead Redemption 5 the Stadia Exclusive could have the exact same responsiveness controller-to-screen as Red Dead Redemption 2 on a fast internet connection.

I said AAA games, I meant the super big-budget action RPGs that dominate the industry. Obviously well-tuned shooters, racers, and fighters aren't going to play well with an extra 100ms of lag. That said, even super well-implemented games in those genres have a few frames between a button press and the screen unless you're talking VR or something from the CRT era.

Anyway, I have better things to do than try to explain to the Dunning-Kruger Boys how latency works, especially since I hate Stadia anyway and your ignorance will help speed it toward its inevitable doom.


> Most AAA games already have 200+ ms delays between pressing a button and anything happening on-screen

Absolutely false, and I don't know where you got that from.

If there was a game that had that kind of latency between input and reaction, people would notice and the reviews would be horrible.


Wow, I didn't realize it was that high. I stand corrected.

I think most of the above still applies, but maybe expand "it'll be good enough for some people" to include some portion of average console-gamers (assuming the rest of the productization is done right, and assuming those console-gamers have fairly good internet)

The thing is that, even there, if you're putting it on a TV you're likely not going to want to plug in your Macbook or whatever. Which means, if you don't already have a console, you're going to be buying dedicated hardware regardless. Which significantly cuts into the "savings"/"no-purchase" angle, and steepens the question of "what's the point of this?"

One thought though: Microsoft could use this as a way to keep last-gen console owners engaged. At some future date when the Xbox Series Y or Z or whatever comes out, people with a Series S might still be able to play the latest games by streaming them. They're using dedicated hardware that plugs into a TV, but it's hardware they already bought which is essentially being repurposed.

Edit: Another thing is that the subscription model and the streaming model don't have to go hand-in-hand. I think game subscriptions are absolutely the future, but I think there will always be a market for devices that download and run those subscribed games locally.


At 30 fps a 200ms lag would be over 6 frames of delay between input and the action happening on screen. Can you point to any examples of AAA games that actually have this much input lag?



> So there's plenty of room to redesign things to work around that latency in a lot of games

This is one of the worst parts of game Streaming - games potentially being designed around it, making them worse for everyone else.


You don't need to buy a Stadia controller to play Stadia.

It's free with an optional subscription for games and 4k.


The confusing messaging around that question has been a big part of the problem

Regardless though, I think buying full-priced games that you don't actually own is the real non-starter. These aren't $0.99 songs on iTunes; these are $60 investments.


i'd like to think even a middling engineer would be able to recognize an intractable infrastructure problem that is entirely out of their hands. stadia can have perfect tech and the best customer service in the world and it simply will not matter until you effectively create your own nationwide isp as well. space age technology does not mean shit if your customers are still in the age of horse and buggy.

terraria also highlights the utter absurdity of game streaming. it can and has been ported to practically every relevant device and costs less than a big mac. google invented a billion dollar laser to cook microwave popcorn.


>stadia can have perfect tech and the best customer service in the world and it simply will not matter until you effectively create your own nationwide isp as well

To add a layer of situational irony here: Google already tried to solve the last-mile delivery infrastructure problem and unsurprisingly appears to have found it intractable


> Google already tried to solve the last-mile delivery infrastructure problem and unsurprisingly appears to have found it intractable

This failure was more political in nature though, the technical solution is there


And we arrive at the premise. They can build the tech, but they can't be bothered to navigate the social dynamics that make up the rest of the world.


While the local politics are certainly an issue, their quirky micro-trenching methodology was also clearly a failure


The problem with Stadia is that it's a platform geared for AAA games, but doesn't provide much value for them. It can provide good value for more casual games/gamers, but Google's ego means the service isn't geared for casuals.

When I write Stadia doesn't provide much value for AAA games, we need to look at it from both the gamer and the dev side. For gamers, if money was no object, one is better off with either a decked-out PC (better performance) or a console (wider variety). Stadia's main advantage is potentially being cheaper - which is precisely the gaming crowd which doesn't attract AAA gamedev companies.

For AAA developers, they need to port their game to a different API, then pay the Google tax, in order to appear on a small platform whose users are often drawn in by being cheap and are less likely to pay for your product.

There's no technical advantage for AAA - now that Google has closed their studios, nobody will try to make features that are only possible in cloud gaming in Stadia. If Google couldn't, can you? What happens when you ran into a problem, can you handle Google "support"?

Stadia could be good for casuals. Except it doesn't have any good discoverability features or even a search bar. Cyberpunk 2077 doesn't need discoverability, but indies or anyone searching for them really do. Its payment model (direct 'purchase', no gamepass) is OK for AAA, but not as a good for casuals. And of course, one still needs to port the game which can be difficult and relatively expensive for indies (Luna is just a VM by comparison).

Google could make Stadia better for casuals, but that means doing something less prestigious, no Google engineer will go for that, and they obviously don't understand the business model.

So Stadia is geared for AAA games/gamers, but doesn't provide good features for AAA, and even Google itself couldn't manage to make cloud-gaming-only features. Stadia can be useful for casual gaming, but the platform just isn't geared for that, and Google is unlikely to change that. Likely result is cancellation within a few years.


> Google could make Stadia better for casuals, but that means doing something less prestigious, no Google engineer will go for that, and they obviously don't understand the business model.

There are also many prestigious and lucrative engineering goals at Google that are totally untouchably intractable because money is involved. The Google Play store offers countless examples where graph algorithms and ML could identify the worst behavior for human review. If an established app is deluged by negative reviews, take a look at what’s happening. It’s either become a Trojan horse or a victim of 3rd world scamware competition. The average review for an app does not go from 4.5 stars to 1.5 stars overnight without cause!

Attempting to address this glaring deficiency leads to the following problem: the other engineers who rallied to solve it, in the past, are no longer with Google. Do you like your job? Find a technical problem with no downside, in that case!!!!!!


>The Google Play store offers countless examples where graph algorithms and ML could identify the worst behavior for human review.

The last sentence is key: 'for human review'. Google feels humans are damage to be routed around. If there was a way to everything in ML they'd go for it, but if your solution requires human review it's a no-go.


my friend at Google reported almost exactly that: it's an amazing technical achievement, really pushes the cutting edge of what's possible. And the sales and marketing have no idea how to do anything with it.


Stadia works amazingly well which was actually surprising. Playing Cyberpunk 2077 in 4k with just a controller and Chromecast stick is frankly amazing.

Consoles are great if you play enough, but I found that every time I could squeeze an hour here or there to play, the Xbox needed to update yet again for 20 minutes, and by then something else has come up and I am out.

Stadia lets you jump in and out, no updates as far as I have seen, and just magically works.

Disclaimer: I don't work for Google or any of the game studios and was actually skeptical they could solve the latency challenge.


Slightly OT but you deal with the updates issue by leaving it running in rest mode all the time. When something needs updating the console will get a ping, download + install, and go back to sleep. Makes things much easier.


they need an experience that sells the actual upsides of game streaming in the same way that mario 64 sold 3d movement and the analog stick. 'here's popular game except worse' will never be a winnable pitch. even casual users who don't know what latency means will instinctively recognize that all the games just feel kind of shitty to play. you need a tailor made experience where latency is a much more negligible factor.


Check out the stadia subreddit. It seems they've managed to connect with a pretty passionate group of innovators/early adopters.

https://www.reddit.com/r/Stadia/


To be fair, that described Google Glass as well and look where that product went.


How do you know not many people actually want it?


This is not just Google. All other tech companies including Facebook are using the same system to promote workers. As a result:

* Nobody is held accountable for the long term success of the product. Making little things work nice is not rewarded. Maintaining UX is defiantly not rewarded.

* Rewarding process over product. That's why you see so many Google products shut down. It takes a few people from L7 to L8 to build it and rewards someone from L6 to L7 to wind it down. Every annual performance review in the process is all roses and rainbows!


> I feel like Google is a case study in an engineering only company. Everything is reduced to a technical problem. Incentives are aligned to solve technical problems. No one wants to work on something unless it is technically interesting and new. There is no incentive at all for delivering an excellent user experience over the long term - which usually can't be done with tech only, and involves a lot of dredge work of continuous introspection and improvement.

This goes well beyond Stadia - Google has an air of institutional contempt for humans, especially humans who aren't inside Google. Dealing with humans who are struggling with getting bounced by "the algorithm" is something they simply aren't interested in.


I think that their higher tier promotion system is partly to blame, and could be easily fixed. As I understand it, at a certain management level, the most effective way to pad out your promotion packet is to launch a new product. These packets are judged by an anonymous review board. This board could change the culture overnight by updating the criteria to reward managers that grow products or retain paid customers. Heck, if they just updated the definition of a successful launch to include a year+ of operation & growth or even just a proper roadmap, we might start to see and end to the usual pattern.


I wonder if it's the lack of a single founder?

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk - founders at the top who owned it.

More directly, Gabe Newell and Valve.

It might be that google started with Page/Brin and co-ownership might have weakened that a bit, and now they are not to be found.

Not that a single founder is a surefire recipe.


Paul Allen, Steve Wozniak, "Paypal Mafia", For valve Mike Harrington would like to have a word with you.

Bill, Steve, Elon, Gabe, were never alone masterminds and definitely not single founders because in companies they created there always was someone else who had shares.


Sort of, but it's really a goog HR problem.

That you can only be promoted by creating new things (even if entirely useless) and not by maintaining and supporting existing things (that customers actually want) is an HR problem.


> I feel like Google is a case study in an engineering only company. Everything is reduced to a technical problem.

I can recommend reading In The Plex. Quite literally the founders wanted to invert the usual model and put engineers first. There were some anecdotes from those in roles like marketing and so on that they felt like second class citizens.


Quite ironic that it's an engineering company and stuff doesn't work how it's supposed to so often. I'm looking at you, Google Cloud :P


Brilliant comment


It's painfully clear at this point that we need a consumer "bill of rights" to protect us from these giant tech companies. At the very least, companies must be legally required to present you in writing with the so-called violation of terms they're accusing you of, evidence of the violation, and a phone # or other immediate contact so that you can dispute the accusations. It's insane that these basic legal rights don't even exist.

You could of course sue Google, but that's an extremely expensive and time-consuming option, rarely worth it for a mere consumer. Going to court certainly won't make your suspended account become unsuspended any quicker.


You know it’s funny that lots of the basic functions of business with consumers (eg, ability to return items) were set and codified in the US as the Uniform Commercial Code [0] that was established in 1952. Before then it was wild and variable.

What’s really interesting is that it seems like of hacker-like in how it was implemented. It was published as a guide and then states passed laws to implement.

Reminds me of a de facto standard that is then implemented by vendors.

I suppose we could start up some form of Uniform Consumer Commercial Code (UC3) that set up practices that are good that could then be passed by states.

I shudder to think through all the arguments about how it would specify some “don’t be evil on social cause X” that it almost smarts my conspiracy brain that the “corporations” started this trend to bikeshed/scissor statement society so they can’t make meaningful economic and commercial policy.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Commercial_Code


The problem with this sort of thing is that because it's interstate commerce, states usually do not have standing to regulate effectively.

The Federal government struggles to implement new regulatory authority because of political challenges. Various groups of stakeholders will declare any such regulation an infringement on free speech (ie. "The constitution gives me the right to sell fake penis pills to fund my radical political agenda!"), biased against marginalized minority or cultural groups ("My marginalized constituency of blind, alcoholic yak herders have a religious prohibition against reading contracts"), or a unfair mandate restraint of trade ("The Chamber of Meme Commerce believes that this rule will cost 10,000,000 jobs in the meme industry and kill puppies."), etc.


This was addressed in the UCC and is pretty simple actually as each state implements laws to saw who has jurisdiction and how to handle.

It also bypasses the federal government in that the code is established by some big council and implemented in (most) states.

That’s why when I live in Missouri and buy something from a vendor in New York, they still have to accept returns, issue refunds, provide for basic warranties, etc. and if I have problems I can easily get remediation in state courts.

There’s 50+ years of where this works ok. Not perfect and lots of room for improvement. But better than the current shitshow that exists like this article describes. If we had the minimum level of legal structure, it would be so helpful.

Because of UCC, if I give away a product for free, I have to support it through its commercial life. So if I hand out knives, for free, and they explode after 20 years, I must still support it. Even if they come with a form that users have to click that says “I will not sue PrependCo if these free knives explode.”

Google’s free (and even non-free) services are causing harm to people and aren’t being supported.


> Because of UCC, if I give away a product for free, I have to support it through its commercial life. So if I hand out knives, for free, and they explode after 20 years, I must still support it. Even if they come with a form that users have to click that says “I will not sue PrependCo if these free knives explode.”

Why does the UCC covers free knives, but not paid Google services?


Because Google One, for example, is a service governed by a contract which details performance expectations.


So the UCC is only the default, which covers goods/services without their own custom contracts?


All products have a warranty of merchantability defined by UCC. Basically goods need to be average/expected quality.

With services it’s a little different because there is no average unless the contract is missing performance terms. If you agree to a term of performance, then that is the obligation.


If it was sold to a resident in some state online currently that resident can sue in the local courts. The business is considered to operate in all states.

The alternative is all suits under ~$75k(?) don't get heard because they don't meet the requirements for federal court, which obviously can't be right.


I suspect that the major tech providers are so pervasive that the impacts of account-locking span all party lines.


> Various groups of stakeholders will declare any such regulation an infringement on free speech (ie. "The constitution gives me the right to sell fake penis pills to fund my radical political agenda!")

This is just an awful example. There is not a free speech right to pay for your own speech by committing crimes, and nobody claims or would claim that there is. Similarly, you don't see the argument made that vendors enjoy the constitutional right to sell fake pills. What spammers want to do, and what anti-spammers want to stop them from doing, is to advertise real pills, and yes, there are extensive free speech implications there.


The EU recently proposed The Digital Services Act, which is a DCMA like legislation (with both copyright infringement and other illegal content like CP as targets).

Part of that draft law pretty clearly states that companies must have a proper appeal process for banned accounts. This would apply to "decisions taken by the online platform on the ground that the information provided by the recipients is illegal content or incompatible with its terms and conditions", which in practice covers basically all bans except for Age restriction or non-payment based bans.

They must provide details of what part of the Terms of Service they claim you violated: "where the decision is based on the alleged incompatibility of the information with the terms and conditions of the provider, a reference to the contractual ground relied on and explanations as to why the information is considered to be incompatible with that ground".

If the internal appeals process fails, the consumer can take the company to online binding arbitration (with the consumer's choice of accredited arbitrators certified by the member state). The company always pays its own costs in the process, and must reimburse the user's costs if the company loses.


> which in practice covers basically all bans except for Age restriction or non-payment based bans.

Google avoid this EU restriction by suspending accounts/app indefinitely instead of banning them.

You can see a Google employee explaining this here : https://github.com/moneytoo/Player/issues/37#issuecomment-76...


Claiming that "an indefinite suspension" is just a type of temporary suspension and different from a ban will have you laughed out of any actual court.


Agreed. We generally allow companies to refuse service for nearly any reason, and in most cases this is a good policy. However, there are exceptions to that rule. One extreme are utilities which as both monopolies and essential services are required to do business with nearly any paying customer, and have strict rules processes about shutting of service for lack of payment. Residential rentals are another example. They don't hold a monopoly, but are an essential service, and as such they can generally choose who to do business with (although not quite as freely as your average business), but have strict legal processes they have to follow regarding evictions.

I think there are online business who are essential enough that some consumer protections are applicable. Very few reach the level of monopoly that utilities have in my mind, and even those it isn't clear to me that they are "natural" monopoly like utilities, and as such other antitrust approaches may be more beneficial.

However, I think there are a number of competitive, yet essential services online that deserve a legal protections regarding service termination. Identity providers absolutely fall in that category IMO - it is unacceptable for example for Facebook to lock your account in a manner that prevents you from not only using their services but every other third-party service which you authenticate using "Logon with Facebook". I think email is another that rises to this level. At a minimum email providers should be required to forward mail for a fixed period of time after choosing to stop doing business with a customer.


I think there also needs to be a law that, once you have accepted responsibility for storing someone else's data, that you can't delete it "on a whim" without offering some minimum retention period ok your data. As an example: a storage facility is allowed to stop doing business with me, but they legally can't just destroy all my stuff on a moment's notice... we have laws for minimum retention periods.


Also if you violate the storage facilities rules and they cancel the lease, they can't turn off the electricity at your house just because they happen to have the same parent company.


The Kafka solution to this will be our terms of service prohibit single spacing after periods and you are in violation. Therefore we can terminate your account at any time of our choosing.

Alternately we could prohibit posting in any language other than Latin and Klingon, or using the letter e, or accessing our services using any unapproved operating system (and our only approved OS is windows 3.11 with winsock drivers).

Anyway the point is now the company can ban you for any reason at all. Being the wrong religion, voting for the wrong candidate, being the wrong race, etc.


Not just "can", but "will". And given how effectively these companies are using their size and power (and m-word) to crush the competition, it's long past time for some anti-trust action.


> It's painfully clear at this point that we need a consumer "bill of rights" to protect us from these giant tech companies

I get where you're going, but I think far more costly to them and advantageous for us is to simply show them that they are unnecessary.

If we can drop them so easily, they can't pull stuff like this anymore. It is possible to drop Google and Facebook.

They do this stuff because people _need_ them and they know that people won't just drop them en mass.


> It is possible to drop Google and Facebook.

Its also possible to live without electricity and running water. This disproportionate power model doesn't work there because some people implemented regulations on them. I am beginning to suspect we need similar laws for this.


If you are equating a world without Facebook to a world without running water, you need to spend a week camping, where you leave your phone at home.

You'll very quickly discover why they are not at all alike.


Oh if you think running water is important, try growing up in a desert. You will quickly realize still water is enough. WTF is this line of logic?


1. I'm not sure you understand what running water means. It's not water that flows down a river, it's water that comes from a tap. The whole point of running water is that a utility delivers it to your home, regardless of whether or not your town is in a rain forest, or the middle of a desert.

2. You'll die in three days without water. You'll probably be healthier if you spent three days without Facebook.

3. I can't collect water for myself where I live. I suppose I could walk down to the lake, and manually bring up a few buckets of water, but it won't be safe for me to drink. I suppose I can also go buy bottled water, at a ~million-percent markup. There is no economic alternative for me to get water, other than through the water pipes laid to my apartment, by my water utility. I am a completely captive customer for my utility. My water utility has monopoly control of special-purpose one-of-a-kind infrastructure that is used to deliver water to my apartment. That is why my utility is regulated.

4. Unlike with my tap water, there are plenty of functioning alternatives to... Whatever it is that Facebook does for me. If Facebook shut down tomorrow, my life would be mildly disrupted for a week or two, and then would go on with little change.

On the hierarchy of needs, we have air at the top, followed closely by water, shelter, and food, followed at some distance by electricity, and way down the street, that we can barely make out, by grabbing a pair of binoculars, we will see 'Facebook'.

It's just not that important.


Yes, but Google and Facebook are not public utilities, nor should they be.


Why not? The qualification being for public utility should be "is this basic infrastructure humans need to live now?". And the answer is yes. Facebook controls most of the big public speaking forums and google controls so much and in so many spaces that it would be foolish for me to even try listing.

I hope in america public utilities are not only controlled by the government. Because where I am from public utilities can be publicly or privately controlled. As long as they are all playing by the same rules many private companies have made lots of money providing public utilities.

I don't see the impediment here.


> I hope in america public utilities are not only controlled by the government. Because where I am from public utilities can be publicly or privately controlled. As long as they are all playing by the same rules many private companies have made lots of money providing public utilities.

Water/Sewage and Trash are typically run by the city/county government, although it is common for the actual work to be handled by a contracted company.

Power, natural gas, phone, and most others is almost always a private company.


No traditional utility company does what Google has routinely shown to do as in the original post though. There's still a bill to pay and expectations of reasonable service (I assume if I just left my tap on and drew as just electricity as I could I'd eventually get some phone calls and massive bills) that allows these companies to be profitable.

Google isn't at the point it needs to be nationalized, but something needs to be done to limit the fallout that occurs when users are kicked off essential services with no recourse.


In reality, there is no impediment to designating Google as a public utility other than the elected representatives making it so.


What's stopping the next Google from doing the same? Providing poor justification for bans and removal from platforms is by no means limited to the big companies - it's endemic throughout tech - we just hear about Google and Facebook more because they're higher visibility and are considered more essential.


Antitrust regulation.

Seriously, the only reason Google is unaccountable is its scale. Otherwise "Google but with customer support" would be an obvious market opportunity. And the only reason losing your Google account is so impactful is that it controls everything from access to apps on your phone to your email to your calendar to being able to chat with friends. It's theoretically possible to vote with your wallet against Google, but far harder than against, say, Chick-fil-A, which means no boycott gets further than an HN comment.

No startup can compete with Google for those services because Google can artificially offer them for free, and for very high quality, because it's all funded by their advertising business. (Not to mention that a startup would have to "do things that don't scale" and offer real customer support... which also costs money.)

It's not a fair market at that point - you can't say Google is surviving because they offer the best value to customers, simply because the value is so disconnected from the service being offered. And in the other direction, potential customers like me who mostly avoid Google are still "paying" for it in that we're still seeing (and being tracked by) Google ads.

Every incentive mechanism behind the underlying assumptions of a market-based economy - that companies that provide more value are more likely to succeed in the market - is completely broken when you allow trusts like Alphabet to exist.


Dropping Google / Facebook is not just signing up with another service. You could self host your own email and just quit Facebook entirely.


> You could self host your own email

You can. I might be able to (there’s a lot of crap around spam filtering and SPF that I’d have to fight with).

My mother, father, sister, cousins, nieces and nephews? Not a chance in hell.


The only people who recommend self-hosting email are ones that haven't tried it.

We have an admin who spends a good 40% of his workweek doing just our email servers. They are a massive PITA.


I have self-hosted E-mail for myself and my family for years, probably close to a decade now--I lost count. It's a learning curve at first but once it's dialed in and working, there's really nothing to touch. Occasionally, like once every two years or so, I find my spam filter process crashed and failed to relaunch or something, causing delivery delays.


"...but once it's dialed in and working, there's really nothing to touch"

...until your upstream changes something.


Or an opaque third party (i.e. a spam list) puts you on their lists.


No, also people who host themselves and enjoy the hobby time and don't understand how the general public lives.


I'm one of those people, generally, but even I'm not signing up to host an email server. Screw that.


That is a very, very limited scope for Google/Facebook. Almost to the point of me suspecting you are strawmanning it. In fact, google/facebook is so endemic to our infrastructure that you can literally delete you google account. Get it scrubbed from the internet, they will still track you. Identify you. And show you ads. If you try to block their services, some pages stop functioning. It is on the verge of impossible to escape them


OK, you can lead your "resistance" to big tech your way.

Meanwhile, I'll be pushing my representative for regulatory action.


The OP is about a personal Google account, with access to mail, etc. at stake, but it's also about a developer who was going to create content for their platform. Granted, Stadia is not exactly a make-or-break gatekeeper for publishing games, but that same dev account could well be used for Google Play Store, which controls about half of the mobile market. We've certainly seen plenty of those stories here -- app developer gets locked out, only recovers account / gets app un-banned by making enough noise to get attention.

IOW, it's "possible" for you or me to drop Google or Facebook, but for some lines of business, you're basically stuck working with them.


> drop them en mass

The libertarian in me wants to believe that reputation is enough to make business act in the interests of the consumers and that personal responsibility would prevent customers from acting in their best interests: but we all know this is not true.

And, I know enough to know that any public policy that essentially says “Everything will be fine if everyone just does [X]” is bad policy, regardless of what ‘X’ is.


> The libertarian in me wants to believe that reputation is enough to make business act in the interests of the consumers and that personal responsibility would prevent customers from acting in their best interests: but we all know this is not true.

And that's also why monopolies and giant corporations can and will always form in the current economic system. Crony capitalism is not a bug, it's a feature.


Oh yeah, far more easy than the government taking regulatory action is coordinating a massive consumer choice boycott.

Sometimes, it is so abundantly clear to me that this site is full of former teenage libertarians who grew up and still haven't shed all of those ideals.


If all of the latest Facebook news can get my family to start questioning their usage/dependency on Facebook—I think it's fairly possible.

There have been a number of really great projects coming through HN and other sites recently that are aimed at solving some problem that people on Facebook have: photo sharing, event planning, etc.

Discoverability is really the only problem left.


You are on a site called hacker news. “Former teenage libertarian” is practically in the name.


You're not seeing the other side of the coin - the huge amount of spam and abuse that such systems correctly identify and remove. If every abuser requests those explanations (which they will) there will be far more spam going around the Internet.

Just think about the army of "Facebook content moderators" who were a popular topic on HN recently due to the concerns over their mental health.

(I am offering no solutions here, for I know none)


I think this is a convenient narrative for an abusive pattern of behavior by Google. The company is infamous for having non-existent customer service. It's not a matter of their AI having too many false positives, it's that when there is a false positive you have literally no recourse even if you're a well known business partner.

Are we really going to believe that Google, one of the highest grossing companies in the world, doesn't have the money to provide even basic level customer service? If it were really a matter of not being able to afford it, certainly they could offer it for a fee. No, they're stubbornly refusing to address the issues, relying on this lie, and using their market dominance to avoid having to answer for it.


Technically they do offer customer service if you pay them with their Google One product. I have phone numbers and human access very quickly, because I pay for it.

Although obviously if they banned me, I wouldn't have access to my direct support line anymore.


> Although obviously if they banned me, I wouldn't have access to my direct support line anymore.

Which they will do literally on a whim. Who are you going to call then?


Ghost busters


I know HN doesn't like these types of comments, but I genuinely laughed.


[flagged]


> on a whim: because of a sudden decision

How was them banning Terraria's accounts not a sudden decision? How about any of the other stories posted in this thread? They literally ban accounts on a whim, usually with no warnings issued.


You're being downvoted for unintentionally agreeing with the main point: Even if you are paying for support, you have no recourse if they decide to arbitrarily lock your account.


I think you’re being downvoted because you’re rejecting reality, ie. The literal topic being talked about that literally happened to a person.


Literal topic?


People are talking a bit past each other here, but inexplicable arbitrary machine learning false positives are anthropomorphized as whims of the algorithm. Without any explanation as to why the false positive occurred, the effect is indistinguishable from the whims of a person pulling a lever behind a curtain.


> I reject that they ban "literally on a whim".

They reject based on complex statistical models of behavior with so many variables that no individual understands how the whole thing fits together.

And as a developer, you're constantly doing all sorts of unusual things that might be perfectly reasonable but still trigger a warning.

And then - no recourse. I'm backed up pretty recently with Google but what about this week's email? What about all the people who have that address?


> If every abuser requests those explanations (which they will)

It's not a request, it's a requirement. If your account is suspended, you deserve an explanation. You should get one without having to request it.

I'm not saying that companies shouldn't be able to suspend accounts temporarily. I'm simply saying that there needs to be a way to get your account unsuspended if you're innocent. The way it "works" now is that innocent consumers are without any recourse whatsoever.


I heard on a podcast recently that a trading system needs to keep logs of why a particular trade was executed for several years just in case the authority wants it. So it isn't too much effort to build a similar report or log of behaviour to explain why someone was banned.

Obviously this will also help the spammers who will use this information to get around the filters.


Complete speculation because I don't actually know how this works, but I wonder if the explanation would be something like this:

"You've been banned because our black box ML algorithm says your usage patterns share similar traits to those of known spammers."


Some government decisions are indirectly forbidden from using black box "algorithms" because they are obligated by law to explain (on demand) the steps that the algorithm took to reach its decision. Maybe something like this should also apply to some private companies ?


Thats kinda what the PayPal support told me when I asked why half of my in-store payments via Google Pay get rejected.

Most were payments of about 2€ in the same store next to work.

Whatever I dont use it anymore


Podcast link: https://www.twoscomplement.org/, I think it was the latest episode.


For the record, they don't give away these explanations because such explanation would hint the spammer to what they should _not_ do next time, to avoid getting caught. Same as with anticheat software.


> they don't give away these explanations because such explanation would hint the spammer to what they should _not_ do next time

We've heard this excuse countless times, but it's simply not acceptable. The foundation of our legal system is that it's better to let a criminal go than to punish an innocent person. How many innocents have to get caught in the crossfire before we start protecting them?


This isnt criminal law. This is the right a private property owner (say the owner of a bar) has to kick you out. There are some limits on that (e.g. a restaurant can't kick black people out) but for the most part a business that doesnt want your business doesnt have to serve you, right or wrong.


> This isnt criminal law.

Not yet, but that's my whole point, it needs to be: It's painfully clear at this point that we need a consumer "bill of rights" to protect us from these giant tech companies.

You can't really compare getting kicked out of a bar with losing access to your gmail. There are no "algorithms" automatically kicking innocent people out of bars. Getting kicked out of a bar is a direct human interaction, which is exactly what I'm demanding.


The reason people are incensed about FAANGMP doing so is because, in their respective markets, they're monopolies.

No one would care if Google banning a developer meant they could list their app through a non-Play app store with decent exposure, or a non-App Store at all.

But that's not the reality we live in.

So it's more like if Walmart moved into my podunk town, put all the local shops out of business, and then banned me.


Hmmmm. I thought it was Apple that banned sideloading.

Maybe Google kicked this guy out for the same reason they fired off their own Stadia devs.


There is speculation that Google will ban sideloading in the near future, too. That is, it will extend its Advanced Protection model to mass-market Android. Then, sideloading will only be possible for that tiny minority of nerds like us who know how to use ADB and install an .apk over the command line.


Well, and Huawei users.


I don't think the "but you can" rounding error alternate Android app stores and side-loading constitute a viable developer alternative. *

* Except in China, in which case it's only true for their domestic Android market


It's different for Huawei's app store ?


>>e.g. a restaurant can't kick black people out

Well they can, just not for the sole reason of being black...

>>This isnt criminal law.

No it is Civil Tort law, but that does not mean your rights are completely removed, nor that principle does not apply

>>This is the right a private property owner (say the owner of a bar) has to kick you out. There are some limits on that

Absolutely, and those limits are normally set either by over riding civil / businessl law passed the government, or a contract entered into by 2 parties

The problem with Google and many other online platforms is their ToS (their contract) is sooooooo one side that IMO it should be considered an unconscionable contract thus void and unenforeable.

Also we have things like Truth in Advertising laws, many times these platforms Public messaging, and advertisement in no way match their terms of service

I am fully in support of the right of a private business to choose who they want to do business with. I am not however in favor of allowing business to use marketing manipulation, false advertisement, and unconscionable contracts in the form of ClickWrapped Terms of Service to abuse the public

the "mah private business" defense is a weak one, very weak, and it is telling that people defending the large companies with this defense often times do not support it in other contexts.

Google has every right to choose who it does business with, but it need to make those choices in transparent, and public manner.


> This is the right a private property owner (say the owner of a bar) has to kick you out.

Not exactly?

It's certainly not criminal law. Proof beyond reasonable doubt has no place here.

But it's also not exactly the relationship between a host and guest, where the guest has no rights save what the host grants. Website terms of service purport to be contracts, so there is a contractual rather than ex gratia basis for the relationship.

So, begin interpreting website terms of service as contracts of adhesion, and read in a duty for website operators to enforce those terms fairly, with a reasonable basis (on the balance of probabilities) for harmful decisions.

This isn't the current law, of course, but it's not hard to imagine the law reaching that place from here.


But then they should be required to refund your purchases, fx in the app store or their movie store.


the legal system deals with a finite number of people; the internet enables that finite number of people to act as a potentially infinite number of entities, without a great way of disaggregating them into people.

E.g. if a spammer can pretend they're 10 million different people, and each of those "people" requests an explanation, the whole system grinds to a halt.

This is the reason behind a push for more KYC-like verification on these platforms (e.g. asking for IDs). But this comes at a huge privacy cost for legitimate users. So one way or another people who are real, legitimate and with good intentions somehow pay the cost of the harm that is being done on the internet. This is a hard problem.

Source: am thinking/working on this sort of stuff; not representing my employer, my opinions are my own etc. etc.


> This is the reason behind a push for more KYC-like verification on these platforms (e.g. asking for IDs). But this comes at a huge privacy cost for legitimate users.

A way to square this circle is to have rights engage at the point of payment.

A truly pseudonymous account with no monetization (going either way) has little intrinsic value, and less need for KYC-like identification.

On the other hand, an account with some sort of payment history (either giving money in the case of purchases or receiving money in the case of developers/website hosts placing advertising) faces a higher standard. There's a reasonable probability of real economic harm if the account is nuked arbitrarily, and at the same time any money flow is open to theft or money laundering concerns, triggering moral if not legal KYC obligations.

The latter should also help prevent the proliferation of straw bad actors, since providing payment imposes a direct cost, while the KYC rules open up the possibility of more direct action for flagrant breaches of contract / use of the platform for other abuses.

The "spammer" can only pretend to be 10 million different people because e-mail is free. Paying a tenth of a penny per e-mail has been one of those long-standing impossible anti-spam measures, but walled gardens can implement something like this at their whim.


> The "spammer" can only pretend to be 10 million different people because e-mail is free. Paying a tenth of a penny per e-mail has been one of those long-standing impossible anti-spam measures, but walled gardens can implement something like this at their whim.

Maybe. A few problems here:

1. payments come with privacy concerns, unless maybe you're talking about zero-knowledge-based blockchains, but we're a LONG way from such functionality being widespread

2. $0.001/email is actually very reasonable for an attacker; they'd probably gladly pay even up to $1 or more, depending on their exact needs, especially if that comes with an elevated privileges account

3. all of this is easily defeated by fanouts. E.g. if they sign up with bob@gmail.com and then are able to use bob+1@gmail.com, bob+2@gmail.com etc. to sign up for a different service, this defeats the purpose


> E.g. if a spammer can pretend they're 10 million different people, and each of those "people" requests an explanation, the whole system grinds to a halt.

Again, it's not a "request".

If spam detection and account suspension can be automated, then suspension notifications can also be automated.

I'm not sure I understand where the 10 million number is coming from. Are you suggesting that 1 spammer can create 10 million accounts on your system (which appears to be Facebook)?

Regardless, no spammer has the time to get on the phone and personally dispute 10 million account suspensions — disputes which are unlikely to succeed if there is good evidence — so I'm not sure how the system grinds to a halt.


> How many innocents have to get caught in the crossfire before we start protecting them?

> Again, it's not a "request" [..] suspension notifications can also be automated.

Can you clarify what you mean by "protecting" them? I'm not sure suspension notifications qualify as meaningful protection


This was specified in my original comment: "At the very least, companies must be legally required to present you in writing with the so-called violation of terms they're accusing you of, evidence of the violation, and a phone # or other immediate contact so that you can dispute the accusations." https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26063313

Except for the part where someone has to answer phone calls, it could be automated if the account suspension itself is automated.

I'll also point out my later comment: "I'm not saying that companies shouldn't be able to suspend accounts temporarily. I'm simply saying that there needs to be a way to get your account unsuspended if you're innocent. The way it "works" now is that innocent consumers are without any recourse whatsoever." https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26063399

And to forestall any replies that providing information to suspended accounts would help the spammers, I've already responded to that point: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26063660

Temporary account suspensions that you can quickly reverse on appeal are annoying but could be justified to fight abuse, as long as they don't happen too often. On the other hand, indefinite account suspensions that are impossible to reverse, such as the case of Andrew Spinks of Terraria, are simply indefensible, there's no justification whatsoever for that.


> I'm not saying that companies shouldn't be able to suspend accounts temporarily. I'm simply saying that there needs to be a way to get your account unsuspended if you're innocent. The way it "works" now is that innocent consumers are without any recourse whatsoever.

This is absolutely spot on, with the caveat that you do need to disaggregate from accounts to people, which is the hard problem. Having people call a phone number is definitely not going to work as a way of achieving this disaggregation. I'm pretty sure I could create a system to bring that call center to a halt with fairly minimal cost in less than a week of coding.

As an attacker, you can also hire people in call centers to make phone calls at scale for you.


> As an attacker, you can also hire people in call centers to make phone calls at scale for you.

I think we may be talking about different things? I was just talking about a scaling problem of providing legal notifications of account suspensions and providing a means on getting them unsuspended. I wasn't talking about DoS attacks.

Lots of companies have call centers, so I'm not sure what you're envisioning here, or what financial gain there would be for spammers to DoS the call center. After all, their accounts are already getting suspended by the algorithms, regardless of whether innocent consumers have any appeal to this, and DoSing the call center won't help spammers get their accounts unsuspended.


Out of curiosity, what's current thinking (broad strokes) on methods to address this?

My first guess would be third-party attestation of identity, with stored credential disposal on a short schedule? Essentially normal-user-verification-as-a-service?


Self-sovereign identities (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-sovereign_identity) are one attempt to address this issue.


privacy, online safety, no false positives

Pick two.

Different companies do different trade-offs. The optimal solution depends on how the internet community weighs each individual axis


Two would be amazing. One would be nice. Currently we get zero.


When someone is in court on charges of child abuse, maybe we don't want them to know in case they (After serving their sentence) or their friends go for reprisals. Maybe the next child abuser might know their likely avenue of getting caught. Yet still we tell them the charges and evidence and give them a chance to defend themselves. Often in my country, given the damage such allegations could cause to both the victim and alleged (but not yet proven) perpetrator, we don't even reveal the identities of culprits until there's a guilty verdict.

If we can extend that courtesy to people accused of child abuse, surely we should extend it to people accused of internet spam?


I imagine if that happen in real courts. And You got jail without any info on why on how to evade - or You will behave properly on not go in jail


Well it would still be better, because it's at least documented what kind of activity will lead into that.


You don't have to tell them how you detected them but you can tell them what they did wrong. A lot of times when these cases come up there is nothing in the reason you got banned that would help you avoid the ban. It's purely to avoid any kind of accountability (if they say you got banned for a reason that is plainly not true because their algorithms suck)


It would also give non-spammers a better understanding of why they were banned and teach them to be better humans. It’s this lack of empathy that’s leading to more and more anger online.


Relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/810/


I think we give up on that when we agree to the rule

Google has the right to suspend, remove your account without prior notice

I'm sure there should be a clause like that in their TOS


This is an age old problem in the criminal justice system. A solved problem.

After a lot of trials with various approaches, we settled on letting some criminals go free over convicting someone on weak evidence. Second we decided that trials should be open and evidence viewable by default.

Finally you generally have the option to give some security to stay out of jail during trial.

Closing a google account is a punishment worse than many criminal convictions. And will only get more important as we progress to an all digital existence.


> Just think about the army of "Facebook content moderators" who were a popular topic on HN recently due to the concerns over their mental health.

Hire them directly instead of via labor farms, pay them an actual living wage, give them full health benefits, and hire enough of them to prevent overload.


Perhaps the process should cost $100 or $500, so that actual spammers can’t use it

Maybe they really just need to offer a paid account option with real support, since that has much better incentives


Yes, refundable if the company ban proved in the wrong. Sounds like a great solution IMO


No need in charges. Strong person identification via Passport or Bank. Limit those request per identified person or throttle them.


There is a paid option: for $6/month you can use gmail with your own domain name. It's targeted at businesses but you can use it as an individual.

https://workspace.google.com/pricing.html

It includes support, but I'm not sure if that helps in cases where google thinks you have abused the service. I just use it because I like having my own domain, and so that I don't lose access to my email if google locks me out. The idea is that I can update my domain's MTX records and use another email service.


Support does not include if your account gets suspended or if you lose access.

We had a paid Google App account. One of our workers would only login from their computer. It died, and she tried to login from the new computer. It gave a unrecognized machine error, and we had to hire someone to resuscitate the old computer for her.

I know of a company that had the entire companies' accounts suspended without warning because one user did something that violated their terms, but they could not figure out what. The company lost three months of revenue from it and I am not sure if it caused bankruptcy. No help at all from G.


About a year ago, I started migrating to a vanity domain, currently hosted at Google, for this reason. If I get locked out of Google, I lose my history, but at least I can move to another provider and avoid being locked out of my life for the indefinite future.


Friendly reminder to anybody reading this with a Google account: it's not a perfect solution, but head over to Google Takeout and grab a dump of your account data while you're thinking of it. I did one last year, and at the same time reconfigured my phone camera roll to back up somewhere outside the Google ecosystem, so now all I'm missing is an up to date email mirror.


Meta: my comment above is being downvoted significantly. I'm not sure what I did to offend. There was a remark about the need for a paid option, and I pointed out that it already exists. I have no agenda here and was just sharing what I know.


I suspect it might be because the OP is about getting your account locked out, and several commenters have said that even paid accounts lose access to human support when they're locked out, so it's not actually a solution.


> the huge amount of spam and abuse that such systems correctly identify and remove.

Maybe allowing single service providers to capture several billions of users is the problem here.


Ding Ding Ding!!!


But surely it’s possible to use methods other than what currently seems to be the first and only solution: “your account has been banned, bye”.

For example, if an automated system thinks an account is sending spam, enforcing a (very low) outgoing email rate limit would be a much more reasonable first step.


So just start charging for service, and keep a non-refundable deposit for spam/abuse.

Let every abuser requests those explanations, if the decision doesn't change, the money is still kept, which funds that service.


So what is the proper Blackstone's ratio for you in these situation?

Is 1000 innocents ok to punish as long as 1 spam message is stopped?


no if the AI can be used to automate the banning it can be used to provide the electronic news email of the rule violated.


Well their main argument against it is that if you don't tell scammers which rule exactly they are breaking they can't improve until the app is approved. But of course that hits normal customers too. It's the equivalent of arresting random people on the street and not telling them why - surely, innocent people will just get their lawyer to free them.


aka due process


> It's painfully clear at this point that we need a consumer "bill of rights" to protect us from these giant tech companies.

It isn't the only solution to this problem. Not using their products is another one. However, in some sectors (e.g. smartphones) it is next to impossible to not use their products, especially because they are build on centralized schemes. But regulating those things is probably harder than a consumer rights bill. But the downside is probably, that a consumer rights bill would not just affect the few large corporations, but many smaller ones too.


>You could of course sue Google

Unless you've waived that right when you agreed to the Terms of Service.


> Unless you've waived that right when you agreed to the Terms of Service.

Which would be meaningless in the EU (I think. Possibly just Germany) as you can’t waive that right.


It's the same in France and I think most of EU as the highest french court ruled that forced arbitration was against EU law.


> It's the same in France and I think most of EU as the highest french court ruled that forced arbitration was against EU law.

For consumers or businesses? Not being nitpicky here: I am not familiar with the French ruling, so I would genuinely want to know - as regulations tend to differ (businesses, even single sole trader ones, do not enjoy consumer protections). Not really relevant for the Terraria dev as it is his personal account that is banned, from the sound of it - but important.


As a consumer, every time the clause is not specifically negotiated, it is considered "abusive" and void (for businesses it may be different). If as a consumer you negotiate a contract with an arbitration clause it will be enforceable however if it is a generic clause in the terms& condition it will not.


> For consumers or businesses?

For consumers. Businesses are considered to have both more (legal) resources to conduct deals as well as a need for more flexibility. However in this case this sounds like the account was personal, so even if it was used for business purposes, the deal was personal. In Europe (France here) typically the distinction is not in the use but in the contracting party.

A business is registered with tax authorities and has an identifying number, if you contract a service without such a number you're doing so personally so for such purposes you're a consumer and bound by consumer laws. Indeed, all registration forms for services ask you for that number and business address. Services that don't want to / can't be subject to consumer protection laws or are not allowed to sell to private individuals require that number and verify it. Services that allow both individuals and businesses ask for it and may treat you differently based on it.


Forced arbitration is against French law. Google cannot force you to go to a specific company for arbitration (that, conveniently enough, happens to always rule in their favor). It has to be explicitly negotiated between the two parties. This also holds true for companies. It has to be explicitly negotatied.


I think in Germany it would be legal for businesses. B2B contracts allow most things that are illegal in a B2C context.


I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that U.S. courts have found that suing is a right that can't be waived by contract. Certainly an agreement to enter arbitration can be introduced as evidence against you in a a lawsuit, but any decent lawyer should be able to prevent an arbitration agreement from getting your lawsuit thrown out.


You are 99.5% wrong. See Federal Arbitration Act and ATT v Concepcion.


Thanks. I stand corrected.


That's not an accurate description of current consumer arbitration precedent in the US.


Its not fair when you have to get attention on twitter before getting issues like this resolved. Some of us don't use twitter for one thing


This is in part what the GDPR mandates - that companies provide reasoning for how an automatic process works and also that there is a means to dispute that (Section 4 / Article 22) https://www.varonis.com/blog/gdpr-requirements-list-in-plain...



I think we’re in a post consumer lawsuit era. Almost every terms of service on earth requires arbitration, or else absolves the vendor of any liability whatsoever


Arbitration isn't so bad. It still costs the company every time they have to deal with a case. Mass/automated arbitration claims can turn the tables, and lawsuits can be filled to challenge the neutrality of arbitrators.


> It's painfully clear at this point that we need a consumer "bill of rights" to protect us from these giant tech companies.

Nope. That gives players like Google a platform to negotiate from now and in the future, and it won't curb abuses long term. These abuses are a symptom of economic concentration and a lack of competitive markets. The only resolution guaranteed to work is to break up these companies down to smaller parts until they no longer act like quasi-governments.


> The only resolution guaranteed to work is to break up these companies down to smaller parts until they no longer act like quasi-governments.

Why not both?

A consumer bill of rights and breaking up Google are not mutually exclusive. Consumer protection laws protect consumers from all companies big and small, present and future. Breaking up Google won't do anything about the "next Google".

It's a bit strange to think that antitrust is a long-term solution when the successful antitrust case against Microsoft didn't prevent Google, Facebook, and Apple from arising.


It's a bit strange to think a nebulous "consumer bill of rights" is going to protect you when the actual Bill of Rights is routinely violated. We have utility designations for instances where it makes sense, and even then you see customer abuses. Forcing companies to focus on competition and survival is the best way to make sure they treat their customers well. Abuses pop up when customers don't have the choice to take their business elsewhere.

> Breaking up Google won't do anything about the "next Google".

The same regulator that has the power to break them up also has the power to prevent the next Google. Good pricing regulations have the power to prevent the next Google. These are solved problems, we just don't enforce the laws on the books or modernize them appropriately.

> It's a bit strange to think that antitrust is a long-term solution when the successful antitrust case against Microsoft didn't prevent Google, Facebook, and Apple from arising.

That's probably because it wasn't successful in the classical sense. Geroge Bush won the 2000 election and settled the case before it went to judgment. If it had, and Microsoft had been forced to break up, we may not be in the current situation.


> It's a bit strange to think a nebulous "consumer bill of rights" is going to protect you when the actual Bill of Rights is routinely violated.

The Bill of Rights were written over 200 years ago and could really use a rewrite for modern times, but passing constitutional amendments is much more difficult than passing laws. Moreover, the issues involved in the Bill of Rights are much more contentious, whereas pretty much everyone is annoyed by Google's complete lack of customer service.

I also find this statement to be somewhat at odds with your later statement: "These are solved problems, we just don't enforce the laws on the books or modernize them appropriately." How does your Bill of Rights analogy not also apply to your own argument about antitrust?

I would say that consumer protection laws that can be applied in an ongoing, daily basis are better than antitrust laws, because antitrust enforcement is a monumental task that at best can take years to achieve, only comes into play when problems have already gotten out of hand, and may not have the desired results, as you mentioned. Better to try to prevent some of the problems from occurring in the first place, with laws that apply to all companies without exception, instead of trying to just go after a few of the current biggest troublemakers.

And Google is far from the only company who pulls this crap, so at the very least we would need multiple successful antitrust actions.

Right to repair is a similar issue. So, breaking up Google and Facebook might help somewhat with the account suspension issue, but then we also have to break up Apple. And John Deere! And other companies. Or... we could pass right to repair laws. Antitrust feels a lot like Whac-A-Mole to me. Not that antitrust is bad, but you knock down one BigCo, and another arises. Why not more directly address the abuses caused by the BigCos?


The abuse is economic concentration, everything else is treating symptoms. Antitrust, price regulations, fair competition laws and the like are the remedy to that abuse. Obviously we would need to do more than one action - I'm talking about restructuring the economy. It's only whack-a-mole if you go one at a time. Knock-off a few big ones and the rest will settle to get the best deal possible.

I don't believe we are as impotent as your response would imply, and we are certainly capable of putting a stop to these abuses and enforcing laws that create fair, competitive markets. I agree it's a longer term project, but it's the only one that will actually solve the issues. It's a losing proposition to focus our energy on short term fixes.


> I don't believe we are as impotent as your response would imply

I don't believe we're impotent, which is why I'm suggesting new laws such as a consumer bill of rights and right to repair. I think that antitrust is actually too little too late in addressing problems. After all, you can't take anti-trust action against a company until it's already a trust. ;-)

> It's a losing proposition to focus our energy on short term fixes.

I think we disagree about which is the long term fix and which is the short term fix. I personally consider antitrust action against individual companies to be a short term fix, whereas permanent universal consumer protection laws are a long term fix.


> After all, you can't take anti-trust action against a company until it's already a trust. ;-)

That's not what the laws on the books say. It's a colloquial term, and nobody like a pedant.

> I personally consider antitrust action against individual companies to be a short term fix, whereas permanent universal consumer protection laws are a long term fix.

Ralph Nader said the same thing in the 60s and 70s. Consumer protection laws have been used to encourage economic concentration and the abuses of labor and society that always come with it. The American government has never succeeded at compliance regulation — it gets weakened and corrupted, and we always wind up getting the worst version of laissez-faire economics as a result.

Further, how would you make it "permanent"? Constitutional amendments are a non-starter right now, and Congress can't pass laws that have 80%+ popular support. You know what is permanent? Court-ordered break-ups under the Clayton Act.


> That's not what the laws on the books say. It's a colloquial term, and nobody like a pedant.

It was merely a play on words, but the point was that antitrust only kicks in when significant market power is involved, some kind of restraint on competition, whereas other laws protect consumers from abuses by companies of all sizes, even the smallest "mom and pop shop" companies.

> Ralph Nader said the same thing in the 60s and 70s. Consumer protection laws have been used to encourage economic concentration and the abuses of labor and society that always come with it. The American government has never succeeded at compliance regulation — it gets weakened and corrupted, and we always wind up getting the worst version of laissez-faire economics as a result.

Again, I find it strange how you think one set of laws can't possibly be intelligently and usefully applied by the government, while at the same time thinking another set of laws can, i.e., antitrust.

> Further, how would you make it "permanent"?

What do you mean? Laws are permanent by default, unless the legislators write an expiration date into the law.

> You know what is permanent? Court-ordered break-ups under the Clayton Act.

Tell that to AT&T. ;-)


> Again, I find it strange how you think one set of laws can't possibly be intelligently and usefully applied by the government, while at the same time thinking another set of laws can, i.e., antitrust.

It's not strange if you look at historical priors. The US Government has frequently succeeded at regulation that involves rulemaking, investigation, and prosecuting abuses. The same government has failed to achieve its' goals any time it tried compliance based regulation. Sure, both are subject to regulatory capture, but I've only seen the one model succeed.

I'm generally against these types of "consumer protection" movements explicitly because they target the smallest "mom and pop shop" companies. Consumer protection costs wind up driving those smaller businesses out and promote corporate concentration. Once you have that, the corporations are writing the rules, and the laws stop protecting customers (see: Boeing 737MAX).

> Tell that to AT&T.

ATT, Verizon or T-Sprint? If they don't answer I can leave a messaging on their answering machine using free long distance, or send an email using a modem. Just a few things that resulted from that breakup...

And we're only back down to three because of a (going on) five decade streak of executives that favor laissez-faire economics, which kind of proves my point that it's a good solution. Look at how much effort it took to undo that breakup, and they still haven't gotten back to the Ma Bell days.


> we're only back down to three because of a (going on) five decade streak of executives that favor laissez-faire economics, which kind of proves my point that it's a good solution

I think that kind of disproves your point, but maybe we should just stop there. :-)


>It's painfully clear at this point that we need a consumer "bill of rights"...

Maybe? But I worry that politicians will use that as a tool. Look what DeSantis is trying down here in Florida. He wants to fine "Big Tech" for banning politicians during an election. Personally, I'm tired of the lies and provocations and hate speech of some politicians and I don't think any company should be compelled to share those messages.


So those evil politicians will do what? Force corporations to indiscriminately ban arbitrary people without possibility of appeal? Oh, wait a minute...


> It's painfully clear at this point that we need a consumer "bill of rights" to protect us from these giant tech companies.

Google is a private company who offers free internet services in exchange for your privacy being violated. They have no customer service because you are not a customer as customers pay. You have no rights on their platform because again, you are not a paying customer. And you agreed to their terms of service when you signed up. They don't owe you anything at that pont.

So stop expecting "paying customer" treatment from a shady adware dealer who gives you "free" "integrated platform" stuff to get you hooked. That's an old drug dealer tactic anyway.

Want to be treated like a person? You have to pay for that. Otherwise stop whining about the tyranny of "free" platforms such as google, twitter, facebook, etc.

The only thing the government should do is fund PSA's to warn people of the rights and privacy hazards of free internet platforms.


> Want to be treated like a person? You have to pay for that.

Andrew Spinks, the author of the linked tweet, was a business partner of Google's. That didn't save him.


Partner is not a customer. They don't care about any human on their platform because their platform is not designed to care about humans, only exploit them.


> The only thing the government should do is fund PSA's ...

Should governments allow caller ID spoofing, spam bordering on harassment, or lazy oligopolies to be negligent?

Governments should do whatever we agree they should. Both governments and companies serve the humans.


To be fair, even as a paying customer, you don't get much more "customer service".

The same also applies for Google Play Store where without a doubt you paid at least once and continue for every in-app purchase.


If you've got an automated vetting process with a 99.999% success rate, but are dealing with billions of accounts, that's still tens of thousands of false positives.

At that level, "percentage" is an insufficient measure. You want "permillionage", or maybe more colloquially "DPM" for "Defects Per Million" or even "DPB".

You'll still get false positives though, so you provide an appeal process. But what's to prevent the bad actors from abusing the appeal process while leaving your more clueless legitimate users lost in the dust?

(As the joke goes: "There is considerable overlap between the intelligence of the smartest bears and the dumbest tourists" [1])

Can you build any vetting process, and associated appeal process, that successfully keeps all the bad actors out, and doesn't exclude your good users? What about those on the edge? Or those that switch? Or those who are busy, or wary?

There's a lot of money riding on that.

[1] https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/08/security_is_a...


I think this is a balancing act of risks, and I wanted to bring up what I believe to be a success story when it comes to handling suspensions: Microsoft.

One thing I believe Microsoft gets right is that suspensions are isolated to the service whose TOS was violated. I.e. violating the hotmail TOS doesn't suspend you from their other services. I think this makes the impact of a false positive less catastrophic, while still removing actual problematic users from the service. This may be an artifact of how teams work together at Microsoft.


Yup, I agree this is the better solution. The monolithic "one account rules everything" approach just increases the user's vulnerability.

It's largely what made Facebook's forcing usage of their account for Oculus users so ass-backwards.


> This may be an artifact of how teams work together at Microsoft.

It may be an artifact of Microsoft actually being regulated for monopolistic practices.


There's nothing at all in the old DOJ settlement that imposes anything like this.


That isn’t what they’re asserting.

I worked there for more than a decade. The settlement changed behavior - you thought about how to avoid future trust-like behavior.


If we did that at Microsoft when we were bringing Hotmail under the MS umbrella, DOJ would have ripped the company into 10 pieces


If you're implying that there's just no way to support their users then I'm going to disagree.

At Google's scale and profitability, saying you can't build an appeals process that supports your paying users is just ridiculous. And at this point the collateral damage to Stadia's already tenuous reputation is going to be a lot more than paying someone to vet him manually.


Honestly, the answer is to charge people a fee, in order to appeal a ban. A fee that covers the cost of investigating the incident, making it revenue-neutral. This way, Google would have every incentive to investigate thoroughly all appeals, including repeated appeals by the same person.

From the user's perspective, it's still a pretty good deal. There's a 99.999% chance that you get to use gmail/youtube/etc for free. And a 0.001% chance that you'll end up a statistic, and need to pay a nominal fee for an appeal.

Unfortunately, I don't think the above will ever happen, because it would be a PR nightmare. "Google wants to charge you money, just to appeal a ban!" It's still better than the status quo, where people have almost no recourse when they are banned. But it still sounds way better in the media, if you just pretend as though these things never happen. Hence the status quo - use automated systems to cheaply get to a 99.999% success rate, and spend as little money as possible on the remaining 0.001%


So now banning people incorrectly is a revenue generator?

The answer is to force google to be open and more transparent through regulations and have to scale up to deal with it and eat into their profits.

The assumption up front should not be that we need to care about protecting their profits.


Absurd but not new. Equifax was charging people to freeze their credit for a while after the breach, until public pressure mounted.

They probably made a TON of money off of that, and off the credit protection services they offer directly or through subsidiaries.


> So now banning people incorrectly is a revenue generator?

It need not be, as long as the fee is less than the cost. It could be symbolic (say $1). But the problem is that it would be seen as a revenue generator whether it is or not.


They don't even have to keep the fee of the query is legitimate. They can reimburse it or keep it in the user's wallet when they consider that this was either a false positive or a honest mistake. The cost would be minimal but would deter a lot of people trying to game the system.


I completely agree.

And if companies don't want to do it, that should be easy to regulate though. Requiring a human centric appeal process even if it has a fee, and prohibiting blanket account bans (if you get banned on gmail it doesn't affect your android and play store accounts, for example)

There are other provisions that I consider important like not being able to reuse email addresses and requiring the forwarding of email for at least 6 months after any account termination (getting banned from your email address can have disastrous consequences)


Google One, which costs 2$ a month, as far as I can tell provides you with some level of support, which is definitely more than zero.


Do you even have access to your Google One support if your Google account is banned?


The problem with unjustified bans due to some algorithm is also: These cases might not even be a close calls like: “oh yeah this person did something that is in the grey area of what our policies state. I will ban him but he might interpret things differently.”

No if you enforce your policies strictly by (machine learning) algorithms it could just be a matter of misinterpreting a different language, slang, irony or something else. Which makes these bans even more infuriating.


The lesson here is: you are too big. If you were smaller, you could manage these issues. But you choose to be big instead.


Counter-example - Amazon. You can reach someone at Amazon and they are ginormous too.


Counter-counter example, even if you do reach someone at Amazon they're not necessarily going to do anything useful.

I've had a problem with my Amazon account for years now, after Amazon billed me (on my seller account) for something they shouldn't have.

After I complained, they agreed to refund it. Except the refund never arrived.

Asked many times over the years "WTF?", and someone always promises to look into it after agreeing they can see the problem.

Never to be heard from again. Same pattern has happened every single time (many times). Obviously, something about it puts it in the "too hard" basket... :/

Needless to say, I don't use Amazon's services much at all any more unless required for job purposes. And I steer people away from AWS for the same reason too.


Have you ever tried escalating? You can do that at Amazon, but not with Google.


Not sure. Last time I tried was prob 2-3 years ago, and I've effectively given up now.


Is this really true? If Gmail was replaced with a dozen competing services each with "only" 100M users each, would the total number of moderators be lower? How does the number of required human moderators per million users scale, and why?


I agree: not true. The advantage of automation is you can do more for less which extends the reach in wealth and services available to the human race. Automation is a beautiful thing and gmail being too big to service with human support is not understanding that we'll never have enough intelligence power to police every square inch of existence + the net if we rely solely on human intelligence.

Problem is: can we cultivate machine learning intelligence to be as good as some of the best human arbiters?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91TRVubKcEM


Automation is a form of capital. In an economic system that has conditions for a runaway positive feedback loop of accumulation of capital, in the long term, it benefits primarily those who own the capital. Specifically, it allows them to collect more economic rent from it, and share less with the rest.

Taken to its logical conclusion, when everything is automated, the people who own the automation don't actually need the rest of the population at all - it becomes redundant. Of course, the "redundant" population might have different ideas about itself...


I don't think anyone is proposing that moderation rely solely on humans. The question is about machine learning with human backup/appeals vs. Google's approach of machine learning with no appeals.


Depends on how much of that wealth is captured and how it is distributed after it is captured.

If a huge amount of wealth is created and 90% of it is captured and the vast majority of it is distributed in share price/dividends then increasing inequality can really fuck up society even while GPD rises.


But you'll have the option of switching to one of those other companies.


You can't choose to stay small unless you're someone like clubhouse which still has a long waitlist for sign-ups, and even then they're trying to build their infrastructure wide enough to accompany everyone. Not offering service to all/99.9% of potential customers is effectively lost value and goes against shareholders' expectations.


That's like saying a restaurant can't choose not to serve a billion people even though it only has enough capacity to seat and make food for 20: if you can't provide legitimate service for everyone, you need to not allow more people. The core problem here is that users keep signing up for Google services without being informed correctly ahead of time why that's idiotic, and the only fix for this is going to be regulatory: either Google needs to change how they handle banning people (there should be some law that if they accepted responsibility to store someone else's data that they have some minimum retention time for it letting you access it or something), come up with a working appeals process (and ensure that they have enough employees to handle the expected appeal load before either signing up new accounts or banning old ones), or they need to be forced to have a giant sticker on the box with a skull and crossbones on it which says that the moral equivalent of the surgeon general needs you to be informed of the serious risks that are associated with using this ridiculous service offering.


Then lets regulate size if the market is going to push companies towards inhumane choices.


>If you've got an automated vetting process with a 99.999% success rate, but are dealing with billions of accounts, that's still tens of thousands of false positives.

Doesn't matter. If you're dealing with billions of accounts then you're earning billions of dollars. Just hire more people. Scale must never be an excuse for poor customer service.


It depends on the unit economics.

Google has billions of accounts because it is FREE create them. Which could mean the cost of providing human support is actually too expensive on a per unit basis. The only way to rectify these economics is to charge for the account.

I pay for Google One to store more photos...however I have no clue if this improves my situation. Does the algorithm give me more slack for being a long, paid user? Do I get real customer support in the event I do get flagged? No clue.


> You can't even trust phone companies to do their job right and ensure the secure verification code is sent to the right phone! You provided some more secure ways for users to authenticate themselves,

For those that don't know, phone companies are easily susceptible to sim-swapping attacks which can make it easy for an attacker to intercept SMS 2fa: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22016212

Edit: looks like OP changed their entire comment while I was replying.


You can totally trust phone companies to "do their job right". You need to understand what their job is though.

The Telcos never signed up to being a "secure verification code provider". Almost a decade ago, the local Telco industry group told us all:

"SMS is not designed to be a secure communications channel and should not be used by banks for electronic funds transfer authentication,"

https://www.itnews.com.au/news/telcos-declare-sms-unsafe-for...

Any company that uses SMS for 2FA is offloading risk and security to an industry that never expected it, and explicitly seeks to not provide it.

A Telco _desperately_ wants to be able to get you back up and running (making calls and spending money) on a new phone using your existing number before you walk out of the shop. And even more, they want to be able to transfer you across as a customer from a competitor - and have your existing number work on their network.

"Sim Swapping" is a valuable feature for Telcos. They have significant negative incentives to make it difficult. They don't want to secure your PayPal account, and nobody (least of all PayPal) should expect them to do a good job of it, certainly not for free...


Yeah sorry, I thought the original version was overly flowery, and the same point could be made more succintly.


> Can you build any vetting process,

Yes, it's pretty simple. Create and enforce some consumer protection laws which require, for example, that any company larger than a certain size is required to establish support offices staffed by humans in every major town. And required to resolve every issue within X days either by fixing the problem or clearly documenting why not. If not, no arbitration allowed, so they are subject to lawsuits if the reason doesn't hold scrutiny.

Problem solved. Companies like goog, facebook et.al. can easily afford this and it'll stop this ridiculous behavior.

It also to some extent protects the companies. Spambots who create a million accounts can't replicate a million humans to show up at the support office, so it establishes a human:human relationship that's completely missing today.


This would all be perfectly okay and understandable if the AI were the first line of defense and there was any meaningful way at all to contact support and escalate things after that filter. (I mean besides making headlines in all the gaming-news articles.)


> But 0.001% of billions or users is still millions of accounts...

Not that I disagree with your point, but even if we assume 50 billion accounts (6+ for every human on earth), 0.001% of that would still be 'just' 100k, not millions.


Oops, quite right. I multiplied by 0.001 when it should've been 0.00001 (because percent) >_<

Fixed


Yes there is a lot of money riding on that, but that is the cost of doing business.

Why banks have heavy compliance costs? Doing proper AML and KYC costs money and society decided that it was critical enough to bear that cost even in light regulation countries.

A lot of the financial success of those companies is in part the result of not fully taking responsibility for the consequences of their business activity. Eventually they will, under social pressure that this post success represent, or by laws.


At some point percentage is insufficient, but it's because it's a rate. Permillionage/DPM doesn't fix it. It's the number of people affected that matters, so if you have it at 99.9% and grow 10x, you ought to improve it to 99.99% to not become eviler. If you just stay at 99.9% when you grow 10x, you're harming 10x the people.

I'd use the total number of false positives as the proper measure.


If a company has so many users that it can't hire enough employees to manually handle the false positives properly, it's too big to exist, and should be broken up.


Why broken up vs users migrating to a competitive service? Seems like a very simple facet to compete on.


It's hard for users to migrate to a competitive service when there's some form of lock-in, which is usually what happens in practice (often through other services offered by the same company).


This is by far the most ridiculous reasoning I’ve seen for a company being too big. Because too many users get restricted from the service unintentionally then the provider is too big?


Some regions floated right to explanation and right to human review for automated processes. I don't know if any passed, but if they did, it would definitely mean the service has to take it into account.


You have summed it up quite nicely, but I don't see why it's so ridiculous? If the social costs incurred by corporations past a certain size become unacceptable, why shouldn't we, as a society, limit their size? There's no natural right to form an LLC.


Can you please elaborate on bad actors absuing the appeals process? Is your point about how everyone will automatically appeal, making it difficult for genuine queries to receive the human attention they need? Or is there another vector of abuse you were thinking of?


That's basically it.

If every action taken against an account by automation is appealed, then the automation becomes worthless.

In gaming forums that are run by the developer, such as the World of Warcraft or League of Legends forums, I have very frequently seen people whining and complaining that their accounts were banned for no reason until a GM or moderator finally pipes in and posts chat logs of the user spamming racial slurs or some other blatant violation of ToS.


We see that on HN too, where people who have been banned/hellbanned with ample warning are often complaining that it's because "hackernews groupthink" but when you look back at their comment history they call someone some redpilly insult in every comment they've ever made on the website.


It’s even better when they claim shady moderator censorship for user flags.


It’s even worse than that because the bad actors are doing this at scale and will have automation to auto-appeal while normal people will sometimes shrug and decide it’s not worth it. So your appeals queue likely contains a higher flow of bad actors than the distribution of FPs.


Yes; decentralization


that's not a solution to a problem.

end users don't want to run their own spam and moderation filters, and they definitely do want them.


It's interesting to me how Bloom Filters avoid the uncanny valley between probably correct and definitely correct. I don't know if this is a technological difference between problem domains or a purely ideology/mindset.

Dividing a problem by 10 should get notice. By 100 (eg, Bloom Filters) respect. By 1000, accolades. Dividing a problem by infinity should be recognized for what it is: a logic error, not an accomplishment.

Most times when I'm trying to learn someone else's process instead of dictating my own, I'm creating lists of situations where the outcomes are not good. When I have a 'class', I run it up the chain, with a counter-proposal of a different solution, which hopefully becomes the new policy. Usually, that new policy has a probationary period, and then it sticks. Unless it's unpopular, and then it gets stuck in permanent probation. I may have to formally justify my recommendation, repeatedly. In the meantime I have a lot of information queued up waiting for a tweak to the decision tree. We don't seem to be mimicking that model with automated systems, which I think is a huge mistake that is now verging on self-inflicted wound.

Perhaps stated another way, classifying a piece of data should result in many more actions than are visible to the customer, and only a few classifications should result in a fully automated action. The rest should be organizing the data in a way to expedite a human intervention, either by priority or bucket. I could have someone spend tuesday afternoons granting final dispensations on credit card fraud, and every morning looking at threats of legal action (priority and bucket).


Applications are open for YC Summer 2021

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: