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Bullshit (marco.org)
651 points by brianwillis on Dec 29, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 225 comments

With Apple, I'm the customer, not a marketer. This makes me comfortable with our relationship. I don't really care about Ping or app store approval policies, so, meh...

With Google, I can see their ability to become a shady company pretty easily, but it is just too damn easy to switch search engines. Bing isn't so bad you know.

But Facebook knows so much about me, and the network effects are so strong -- this is the company I feel most unpleasantly stuck to. Not "Comcast stuck" mind you, but still, more "stuck" than I'd like. It's like my friends keep having parties at a bar I'm not super fond of... and I keep going.

> but it is just too damn easy to switch search engines.

and personal email, and collaboration tools, and project mailing lists, and photo service, and maps service, and video hosting..

If you consider google as the search engine maybe not, but if you consider google the company the it's downright scary how hard it would be to get out of their grasp, IMO.

I don't think it would be that hard. You're one MX record change away from changing your mailhost without anyone ever knowing. You can continue using your gmail.com address without ever seeing ads by connecting with IMAP. You can get maps from anywhere, including Open Street Map. You can move your photos from Picassa to your own machine and to Flickr, if you desire. Google Chat is XMPP, so you can get a new "chat provider" and still talk to all your old contacts.

People use Google's services because they're excellent, not because they are locked in. Google makes it very easy to leave and take your data with you. Google contributes as much of their internal software to the Free Software community as they can. They do need to make money, but they're trying to do it the old fashioned way: make products people they like. And that's refreshing in a world where Microsoft makes their own email protocol and Apple sells computers that you can't hack.

This is not "downright scary". It's downright refreshing.

(Yes, advertising is an annoying business model, but I don't think it will last much longer for Google. People hate advertising and the feeling of being "told what to think". The good news is that Google's products will still work even if you have to pay a few bucks a month for them. Right now, that's not in Google's interests, because advertising money is the easiest money to make. But in a few years, I think we'll see less advertising and more customer focus, as advertisers realize that nobody wants their overpriced shit anymore.)

I believe you are arguing against something I didn't posit. Google certainly has a lecit business and has gained success because of good products, and it's easy to "liberate" a lot of data.

My point was that while changing search engine is easy:

* migrating all your data is way harder

* opting out of some google online services (e.g. maps) does not free me from third parties relying on them (e.g. android, iphone)

* I can't change the habits of the rest of the world, so I'm stuck with them if I want to join ai-class.org, read something on blogger or peruse a project mailing list on groups.

* the fact that the services are good _is_ a lockin, as it makes it harder to get off of them

Just this. Changing search engine is easy, opting out of google's products is, at least for me, much much harder.

I love google the company and their products, it just seems nearly impossible to get out of their reach without resorting to RMS-style "I email myself web pages I want to read" estremisms.

So your complaint is that other people use Blogger blogs, so you can't opt out of Google? That's interesting, but it seems like what you really want is to opt out of tracking in general. Google tracks you, sure, but so do a bunch of shade-ball sites you've never heard of. Why would you trust a company you've never heard of over a company that actively lets you opt out of tracking and migrate away from their services?

I don't think you need to email yourself web pages, but I do think you need to use Tor or some other anonymous HTTP proxy. If you are paranoid about the "paper trail" that browsing the web leavers, then you need to take measures to make that paper trail less useful. Complaining about "lock in" to services that other people uses, though, is just confusing the issue; the Internet has never let you choose what service providers other people use, and you will have to live with that.

The mail host is the least I'd worry about. Migrating the mail archive is much more important. Furthermore Gmail's user interface beats anything else hands down, it's too hard to say goodbye to it.

Nothing very hard about migrating all your mail off Gmail via the IMAP interface if you really want to.

Or via POP (getmail4's `getmail_fetch` is easy to use). I did this recently, exporting basically every Google service I use: https://plus.google.com/103530621949492999968/posts/WrCjcBXc...

Google makes it very easy to leave and take your data with you. Google contributes as much of their internal software to the Free Software community as they can. They do need to make money, but they're trying to do it the old fashioned way: make products people they like.

Interesting, since I would say pretty much the same thing about Apple (certainly with the Mac platform).

This. Unfortunately I don't entirely share your optimistic sentiment regarding Google's intentions and potential for misuse of trust. The big plus with Google is that, by and large, they make it pretty easy for your to take your ball and go. If I want to switch mail providers, it's pretty easy to get all my emails and contacts off of GMail.

But then Google has a very active engineering team, the Data Liberation Front, whose goal is: "[...] to make it easier to move data in and out."


These are the products you can easily export: AdWords, Alerts, Analytics, App Engine, Apps for Business, Blogger, Bookmarks, Calendar, Chrome Bookmarks, Docs, Finance, Gmail, Google Storage for Developers, Health, iGoogle, Latitude, Maps, Notebook, Orkut, Project Hosting, Reader, Sites, Voice, Web History, YouTube

And via "Google Takeout" you can export all of these products in one go: Buzz, Contacts, Google+ Stream, Picasa Web Albums, Profiles

I think there's plenty of competitors for all of those products if you wanted to move.

So? Google is "bad" because they provide a lot of really good services that are also well integrated? How dare they!

I love Google but they're at least dangerous. The "bad" may come later.

Dangerous because it's easy for you to use their services and be happy? Why does that make Google dangerous? Even if you tout "lock in", I don't see how that makes them dangerous; it makes your dependence dangerous. Especially given the volume of data liberation/exportation tools they provide.

Dangerous: "Able or likely to cause harm or injury" [1]

Google is exactly that. I think you're reading too much into whats being said. Are you suggesting we shouldn't keep a watchful eye on Google? They have a tremendous amount of power.

1: http://www.google.com/search?q=define:%20dangerous

Their power is derived from your use of their services. You can quote the dictionary at me, but I simply don't understand this attitude.

It's like handing over money to a drug dealer in the back alley and going "I just don't know about you, you seem dangerous" and then coming back week after week. Stop using Google and they lose all power over you and the "danger" evaporates.

I'm not trying to have an attitude. I said it once but I'll say it again: You're reading too much into whats being said.

I like your analogy. It perfectly exemplifies what I'm trying to say. Can I not use their services and be careful while doing it? Driving my car is dangerous but I do it every day. I'm not trying to say that they're bad. If you're distilling the word "dangerous" down to it's connotation then I can understand your disagreement. Please understand that I'm not doing that.

>You're reading too much into whats being said.

After reading this last reply, I think I am. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that everyone is thinking about it in the same way you and I are. There are a lot of people (often even on HN) that decry new Google products or features as some sort of "attack". Have no doubt, they want and live on data and ad-intel, but that's just part of the game, at least to me (an informed consumer).

I know this is a meta-comment but I thought this was a wonderful exchange - a misunderstanding was explained clearly and respectfully and then acknowledged accordingly. A great example of the maturity of the readership here, which is refreshing to see for someone relatively new to HN. Kudos to you both.

Ask yourself - why is Google actively trying to become a major provider of webfonts?

They are hiring type designers left and right and pouring money into creating a wide variety fonts - both original and knock-offs. Fonts that then they are offering for free. The only connection between the webfont and Google's core business is the fact that a Google-hosted version of former needs to be embedded in one's website in order to be used. So, they are doing this - at least in part - in order to expand their tracking capabilities.

It's one thing when one joins G+ and decides to share most of his/her online life with Google. And it's another thing to embed a piece of JS/CSS and to start tracking other people on Google's behalf. Google is effectively exploiting the greed and ignorance of the web designers to go after people who do not want to have anything with them. This is plain unethical, but nonetheless Google is very aggressively pursuing this direction.

The same incidentally goes for Gmail. I was buying a piece of real estate not long ago, and the realtor was using Gmail. We are both in Canada. I told him that exchanging documents over an email was like sending faxes back and forth, but not forgetting to send a copy of each to some random US company (because it would make sending faxes free). Only then he realized that he was in violation of whatever privacy requirements his RE association had. The level of ignorance when it comes to online freebies is absolutely STAGGERING. Google knows that what they do online would've never flown in the real life, but they still merrily peddle their free services and constantly seek ways to go after those who don't want them. That's certainly not evil or bad. It is all "well integrated", so it must be benign.


Google just doesn't behave like this. I've talked to many people that work there (and I will be one of them soon), and this is just not the culture. Google maintains webfonts because someone said, "hey, our products would be better if they didn't look like shit on certain machines". Someone else agreed and now they have their own fonts.

(Part of Android's look-and-feel is based on fonts, too, so it makes sense that if you're going to hire designers to make their phone OS look nice, some fonts are going to get designed along with that. Fonts, icons, backgrounds, and UI layout are all the same thing.)

Before this, Microsoft provided the standard web fonts. They made them very hard to install, and so Google stepped up to provide a standard set of fonts, free to use and modify. This isn't evil, it's just Google ensuring that people can use their products. Bad fonts means their sites look ugly, and ugly sites means users won't use them. That's the only motivation.

They have 393 fonts as of today. Don't you think it's a bit excessive for sprucing up their own products? Also, considering a milder version of "don't be evil" angle - they are effectively on a route to nuke paid online typeface services or render them economically unfeasible to a vast majority of foundries. A policy not very much unlike Microsoft's when they were undercutting superior products and pushing them off the market.

With regards to the "just doesn't behave like this" - Google is not a charity. It might be a wealthy company, but even it needs a justification for spending hundreds of thousands if (not millions) on creating a font library. Do you seriously think "let's have fonts" is the justification enough for that? There has to be a bigger reason and a larger picture. The "culture" is a funny thing. It can be benign and ethical all the way through the organization with an exception of a single room where the lawful interception provisions are enforced.

> That's the only motivation.


Yes, this is bad for companies that sell fonts. But selling fonts never made sense for the Web; even if a designer buys a font, the end-user still needs to own the font the designer specified. Paying for fonts would mean that every web user would have to buy several fonts for every web page they visited, which is not something they would do.

It's good for the openness of the Web when fonts are available freely, and Google only makes money when the Web can be open. So they give away fonts.

(They also bought VP7 and open-source many of their internal projects for this reason. They want to send a message: compete on an open playing field or become irrelevant.)

This is my experience as well, a friend of mine worked with the web fonts team and this matches the motivations he expressed to me regarding the project.

I'm glad you ended it with rant, because this is the exact brand of FUD I was referring to.

>The only connection between the webfont and Google's core business is the fact that a Google-hosted version of former needs to be embedded in one's website in order to be used.

All of those fonts are freely downloadable. Nothing about them requires you to go through Google (and is in fact impossible due to how webfonts work).

Further, do you have ANY evidence that G+ is tracking non-loged in users?

Also, I'm pretty sure the privacy policy of... ANY webmail client (save for self or ISP hosted) is going to violate such a policy, and I still find it completely irrelevant in a discussion of Google being dangerous.

Now they're dangerous because you didn't read the TOS?

I heard Google breaks into people's houses at night and steals any spare change the occupants have lying around. This makes sense because Google must maximize shareholder value, and spare change is money for the shareholders. Therefore, this accusation must be true.

Next week: proof why Google enriches uranium and sells it to terrorists trying to build a dirty bomb. One reason: they would get money from doing so! Man that's evil!

> All of those fonts are freely downloadable

In exactly one format. And in order for them to be properly served to different browsers, they need to come in at least 3 other formats. Doing offline conversion yields fonts that look noticeably different from those served by Google, so for all practical intents and purposes having these fonts available for download is useless.

> Now they're dangerous because you didn't read the TOS?

They are dangerous because the other guy didn't read the TOS. I read them and declined.

The problem with Google is you get tracked even if you don't use any of their services. Almost every single web page has one of Google Adsense, Analytics, Maps, ... all of which can build up a profile about you. To a degree this same effect is happening with FB as more and more sites add like buttons, though they remain less common than Google's array of libraries.


It's a serious problem, though in this instance it's hardly Google's fault. I doubt Ghostery turns me into an internet specter, but at least I know I'm not pinging Facebook's, Google's, and God-knows-who-else's beacons whenever I open a web-page.

Does Google have a look at Google Analytics? I thought it was only for the webmasters who set it up and that Google did not touch it.

It is nearly their only service that I haven't blocked (with the libraries available on their CDN).

Here's what Google says about analytics:

Website owners that use Google Analytics have control over what data they allow Google to use. They can decide if they want Google to use this data or not by using the Google Analytics Data Sharing Options. When these options allow, the data is used to improve Google products and services. Website owners can change these options at anytime. http://www.google.com/intl/en/analytics/privacyoverview.html...

Since I have no control over it, I block Google analytics.

Am I supposed to install an opt-out plugin for every single tracking service in the world? There are hundereds of those, and asking each of them to voluntarily stop tracking me makes no sense.

At least, there's still an opt out =/

If you are really paranoid you could mirror their cdn libraries and rewrite the urls, as they could be used as fairly poor info too...

The issue is they have the potential to do it.

Once the potential is there and you have people motivated by performance targets, stock price, etc it's very difficult to permanently resist the temptation.

App Store policies restrict what I can put on my own device. I do care about that.

Switching search engines seems pointless as they all have the same business model (maybe duckduckgo is different), but blocking all the tracking and analytics stuff solves this problem.

Facebook isn't a huge problem for me either. I basically use it in read only mode, blocking them on all third party sites.

> App Store policies restrict what I can put on my own device. I do care about that.

IMHO I think that's a wrong affirmation. They restrict what developer can sell through their platform. Big different. You could then complain about not allowing not approved apps on the device, but it would be like saying that Playstation or Xbox limit your freedom by not allowing Super Mario Kart run on their consoles.

They restrict what developers can distribute via the App Store, at the same time mandating that the App Store be the only distribution channel. That amounts to restricting what I can install on my device (short of jailbreaking).

I'm not sure I understand your Super Mario example. You seem to suggest that it's perfectly normal to face such restrictions. I can assure you it's not normal for me and I'm not going to put up with it.

They do. Game consoles were the beginning of this slippery slope. Now we are at phones. Personal computers seem to be next. This is worrisome and it was worrisome before the iPhone was even a twinkle in anybody's eye.

I'm deleting my facebook account tomorrow. I dumped all my data already and gave notice to my friends.

I'd rather be cut-off than have to pay their price; they've proven time and time again how little regard they have for your privacy. Every slight change facebook makes means re-evaluating all of the privacy settings and other configurations to re-assess what extra information is being leaked without warning or approval.

I understand your point. But it has never bothered me (so far) because I've never posted anything on Facebook that I want private. I do things there with the full expectation that someone will be able to see it if they really want to. I also treat Dropbox the same way.

That said, I've also been toying with the idea of removing my FB account - just because I'm bored with it.

With Apple, I'm the customer, not a marketer.

I believe the party line is "I'm not the product being sold".

but it is just too damn easy to switch search engines.

Or, you know, run an ad-blocker - much easier than jailbreaking a phone and Google Search/Gmail will continue to work well with an ad-blocker running, even if they upgrade the site.

"""Or, you know, run an ad-blocker - much easier than jailbreaking a phone and Google Search/Gmail will continue to work well with an ad-blocker running, even if they upgrade the site.""

Actually, no, Google would stop business if people used ad-blockers en masse. So that's just something that works because few people do it.

And it's not like Google is gonna decide where they want to go their services, changes, etc, with you and not the marketer's benefit in mind.

So, even if you use ad-block, you're still the product being sold (to be exact: you're just a lost sale).

You can't escape that, unless you actually pay the company whose services you use.

Well, that wasn't exactly the point I was trying to make.

My point: The downside of Google products is having to look at their ads. The downside of Apple products is getting locked-in to their restricted platform.

You can sidestep Google's downside with an ad-blocker. You can sidestep Apple's downside with a jail break.

It's easier to run that ad-blocker (heck, you can even get it from Google's own store) and keep it running than it is to perform a jail break and keep that updated.

As an aside - just like a lot of people aren't offended by the restrictions Apple places on its platform, a lot of people are not offended by Google's ads. In fact, I bet there's a very significant overlap in those two groups.

With Apple, I'm the customer, not a marketer.

Are you sure about that? Apple "sells you" as a user that will buy apps on the app store, and they take 30% of the developer's profit for that privilege. Whenever Apple can, they advertise how their users buy more apps than Android users, and bill this as a reason for developing for iOS and not some other mobile platform.

You are a product.

That's a stretch. It's simpler than that: follow the money. I pay Apple, so I'm the customer. Advertisers and marketers pay Google for access to me, so they're the customer.

Just because Apple touts their user numbers doesn't mean they're selling those users. In fact, as a developer, I can't pay Apple to guarantee installs, or even visibility. Apple won't sell me customers. I might like to give Apple money to get leads or users for my apps, but Apple will not do that.

With google i feel like a data funnel, that's true. But with apple i feel like a money funnel. Apple always manages to make me spend more than expected. Their products are deliberately engineered to make it painful to seek affordable alternatives when you need new parts.

Can you give any examples of this? You may be over-generalizing. Most of their products don't even have replaceable parts. Are you sure their reasons aren't legitimate?

RAM from Apple is certainly expensive enough that almost no one recommends it. They also tend to nickle-and-dime you on accessories like converter cables.

but the RAM is just plain old laptop RAM. You can buy it from anywhere.

Similar to the external hard drive market, anything labeled "apple compatible" costs extra, but is basically the same thing.

Find the RAM you machine needs, and search for that directly on Newegg or similar.

How to find what RAM you need: (on OSX Lion)

  1. Click the Apple (top left corner of your screen)  
  2. Click "About this Mac"  
  3. Click "More Info..."  
  4. Click the "Memory" tab
Note: there are memory upgrade instructions in this window as well :)

"Their products are deliberately engineered to make it painful to seek affordable alternatives when you need new parts."

Some of apples products have RAM directly soldered to the motherboard. This has legitimate engineering trade-offs. Of the ones that don't do this: Are there any that deliberately void compatibility with alternatives. It looks like most of their cables have alternatives too. Their stuff is expensive sure. But are they deliberately locking you into using their accessories?

Yes, sorry - I missed that part of the point. You can get usually get cheaper alternative accessories.

So basically, you are griping because Apple hasn't chosen to be a mass seller of RAM upgrades who keeps large stocks and is willing to sell it for very small profit margins.

Heard of damning with faint praise? I'd say this amounts to praising with faint damn.

Whatever. I was just pointing out that Apple sells things that are much more expensive than what you get elsewhere. If you choose to read more into it than that, then go ahead and knock yourself out.

They also sell things, like the Macbook Air or iPad, that are much less expensive than what you get elsewhere (when you try to get an equivalently spec'd device).

Given that their devices cost less, I can forgive them the convenience cost of an in-store RAM upgrade when they're helping my Mom upgrade RAM or HDD in her beloved 15" Macbook from years ago that still works a treat. Most customers are not really the NewEgg type.

To grandparent's point about costs of low turnover stock, these parts cost more for much better reasons than Jiffy Lube oil costs more, yet most people prefer Jiffy Lube except mechanics or DIYers.

They also sell things, like the Macbook Air or iPad, that are much less expensive than what you get elsewhere (when you try to get an equivalently spec'd device).

Perhaps this is true in America but I'm pretty sure it's not in many other places. I recently looked around for a laptop to put Windows7 on and while it was discouraging to see the quality of the laptops that were available (compared, not just to a MacBook but to other laptops that existed 3 years ago) they were significantly cheaper and higher spec'd than a MacBook.

this will all change very soon. I think the product is almost done: http://mankabros.com/blogs/chairman/2011/03/26/manka-bros-to...

Marco, Gruber, MG have their own BS :

  *Android is NOT open
It gets stated as absolute fact only by Apple and its hardcore followers (Steve Jobs said Windows is open not Android first, DF, MG and MA have been religiously snarking out on any chance to declare Android not open.)

It is BS because all 3 of them do this only to promote what they subscribe to - i.e. they have no consequence from Android not being open (they use and promote iOS which is epitome of closed which in turn means they don't really care about open - they only care about pointing it out in an attempt to nullify the claimed Android advantage against iOS - hey it's not really open anyways, so get in on our team. Which to me is a obnoxious or even a little evil, cotradictory and self-promoting reason to complain about not being open.)

In all seriousness. What does "open" even mean? I've noticed that no one is saying "open source". Not that I know what that really means either. Android isn't developed in the open they just release the source code. That's the only real difference from Windows 7. So is this all just relative to the phone market? It's "open" as far as phones go?

I get the feeling "open" is not something you can be. It's a continuum. Things can be more or less "open" but nothing can actually be "open".

Android is Open Source[1], which has a real definition[2] that means something. You can fork it, and create your own distribution (as Amazon has shown).

It is open in other ways, too - Android phones can load applications from sources other than the Market (unless that feature has been disabled by your carrier - which goes back to the first point).

Most Android phones have a sdcard slot, too, which allows you to get your photos (and other files) off the phone easily. For many people that's what they mean when they say it is more open.

Others like the multiple form factors, or the different sizes. These aren't just theoretical things - I've heard people use them as examples of "openness".

Of course "open" is a continuum, but there are ways that Android is "open" that really matter.

[1] Android 3.x wasn't open source. As noted elsewhere, that is a legitimate complaint that applied between February and November 2011. It is worth noting that Android 3.x was a tablet only release, though - Android 2.3 (which is Open Source) remained the OS for phones until Android 4.0 was released, which unified the tablet & phone streams.

[2] http://www.opensource.org/osd.html

What personally bothers me about "Android is open" is that while the OS may be open, the hardware is a moving target. Android phones aren't like desktop PCs, which allow you to mix & match operating systems and hardware components as you like.

I'd rather have an open handset that allowed me to install whatever operating system I like and use with whatever carrier I would like. I want to be able to choose.

As it stands, buying an Android phone because of "Android is open" is only a show of support for the concept of "open", it doesn't actually help me in the here and now.

I realize this has less to do with Android than it does with handset manufacturers, but it's a ridiculous that it's possible to brick your phone when making non-standard software changes to it. Would you buy a laptop that had the same risks when installing linux/windows/mac osx?

I'd rather have an open handset that allowed me to install whatever operating system I like and use with whatever carrier I would like. I want to be able to choose.

Nobody is stopping you from porting OpenMoko. The problem is that nobody else wants to do this, and so the work hasn't been done. But it's quite possible to do, should you be interested.

Out of curiosity, would you call OS X "open"? You can find enough of the source for OS X to create a booting OS here: http://opensource.apple.com/ . Obviously, this isn't all of OS X, but then not all of the Android OS is "open" either.

I'm not trying to be contrarian, but I think the people criticizing Adroid for not being "open" are primarily picking on precisely the vagueness that you have highlighted. There are ways that Android is "open" that really matter...to you. For other people, there are ways that Android is not "open" that really matter. Just ask Stallman, for example.

You cannot build and sell / distribute your own devices with OS X on it. Apple has been very aggressive with companies that tried that, in particular with Psystar, the first company that sold "hackintosh" computers [1], which they sued into oblivion.

So no, OS X is not open and there's nothing vague about it.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psystar_Corporation

Hold on there. Psystar was attempting to sell copyrighted software in violation of a EULA by breaking encryption, which is specifically prohibited by the DMCA. I'm not saying that I agree with that specific case, but I think a great many open source advocates would take issue with you comparing the actions of Psystar with the desire to have a fork-able OS (which, BTW, OS X is).

Had Psystar sold computers with OpenDarwin running X, Apple wouldn't have batted an eye (couldn't, even, since it's all BSD).

You cannot compare OpenDarwin + X with OS X. Come on ... none of the polish and mostly none of the applications working on it. It would be completely useless and it wouldn't be OS X.

Your argument is like saying Windows is open because ReactOS exists [1] or that you could say a Linux distribution + Wine is Windows. It's not.

And comparing to Android, you can distribute / sell Android devices, even with your own modifications to Android and Android is also "copyrighted" btw.

That's what open-source has always been about - the right to fork. You cannot fork OS X. You cannot fork iOS. You can certainly fork Android.

     in violation of a EULA by breaking encryption,
     which is specifically prohibited by the DMCA
You mentioned 2 separate issues here btw - is it either violation of an EULA, or breaking encryption? And how are these issues separate from the freedom to distribute it or from the freedom to fork it?

[1] http://www.reactos.org/en/index.html

Android is much more open than OS X. No argument there.

But Psystar was never interested in a "fork". They merely wanted to make a profit by selling Apple's software on commodity hardware. Doing so was both in violation of the EULA (which forbade redistribution), and in violation of the DMCA which prohibits breaking encryption for the purpose of making a copy of copyrighted material. The EULA clause has not been tested in court (to my knowledge), and may not be valid. However, the DMCA prohibition on breaking encryption is well established. There is even a list of what encryption you are specifically allowed to break: http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2010/10-169.html

no, OSX is not open. you can't take the published source code and compile it into a useable copy of OSX.

you can take the published android source code and create a useable copy of android from it. the entire operating system is there. android is open source. the people criticizing android for not being open are either lying, or have forgotten that we have moved on from the 3.0 branch which was not open.

You can take the published source code and compile a useable copy of OS X. In fact, for many years the OpenDarwin project did just that. What you could not do is run the Aqua GUI or many of the default applications that come with a Mac bought in the store.

But that's the point. Sure, you can compile and run "Android", but is it the same as the OS that runs on a phone I buy from Verizon? Android phones sell with proprietary software that is most definitely not open. Macintosh computers sell with proprietary software that is most definitely not open. But enough elements of both are open to the point that you can boot a device and accomplish real work.

What you could not do is run the Aqua GUI or many of the default applications that come with a Mac bought in the store

Which isn't very useful at all. Android on the other hand allows you to run Market, Apps, Amazon Apps, your own in house apps on your device of choice by using the provided source code. You will have to write your drivers may be but that's not nearly the same as write your CF or Aqua or OpenGL implementation plus a ton of other things to make stock OS X apps works. That goes into practically impossible category.

So in other less terse wording - you can call Darwin open source but you cannot really call OS X open source.

Sure, that's essentially my point: Parts of the Android stack are open and parts of the OS X stack are open. Whether or not the important parts are open depends on who you are. Take, for example, the other story on HN today about HTC finally opening their bootloader. That, to me, is much more important than any other part of Android being open.

"Open", in this context, means open source. HTC's bootloader has always been open source, as far as I know. It's been set up to only boot signed kernels, but that's "open" as in, "customers can modify their devices" not as in, "customers can view and modify the source code we put on the device."

HTC's locking the bootloader isn't exactly an issue with Android's openness. It's an issue with the openness of HTC.

>Android phones sell with proprietary software that is most definitely not open. Macintosh computers sell with proprietary software that is most definitely not open.

Ubuntu comes with proprietary software that is most defnitely not open...

Just because OEMs and carriers ship versions of Android that contain closed components does not mean that Android itself is somehow "less open". You can download and compile the source and throw a vanilla, open version of Android on any device that will allow it. It's not Android's fault that OEMs lock you out of their devices, any less than Linux would be responsible for UEFI.

>But that's the point. Sure, you can compile and run "Android", but is it the same as the OS that runs on a phone I buy from Verizon? Android phones sell with proprietary software that is most definitely not open.

Yes, the image of AOSP that I built for my Nexus is identical to the shipping image, minus the Verizon apps (Voicemail and My Verizon). I'm running CM9 now. Motorola/HTC/Samsung all have their custom overlays for skins, but that's not really the point. The stock ICS is a pleasure to use and is ages about Blur/Sense/TouchWiz in usability.

No, the drivers are generally not open. Wait, they're almost never open.

So, you can make a useable copy of Android that run in.. an emulator. Woot.

That's the major "Android is not open" gripe I have.

Besides, we might have "moved on" from the closed source Android 3.0, but that doesn't mean much. Android 5 could be closed for all we know. In fact, it could be forever closed, at any given time.

And now, Google has history were they actually have closed it. Which changes, well, everything. They won't be afraid to do it if they have an interest into doing it.

The gripe that you have is other people are not providing free, open drivers that you can use the way you want. The point of Android being open is you can have your own hardware, write and publish your own drivers and take the Android code to create Android compatible device which is fully open. That cannot be said of other successful Mobile offerings.

Darwin + X Windows is Open Source (ie, you can fork it etc).

OS X isn't.

For other people, there are ways that Android is not "open" that really matter. Just ask Stallman, for example.

No, Stallman argues that Android isn't Free Software (according to the FSF definition)[1]. He's correct in that. He also argues that the hardware for Android isn't open enough. He is correct in that too, but fails to note that most of what he says there also applies to the x86 PC platform (assuming it is using binary graphics drivers, which is how most Linux desktop boxes are deployed).

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/sep/19/android-fre...

But Android is not an open source project. Because Google does not open its development to external contributors, nor do they develop it in the open. They only do code drops. They don't take patches.

They do take patches on the drops that they have open sourced - http://source.android.com/source/submit-patches.html

Many people had similar arguments about how GCC and glib were developed back in the day (specifically, that the GCC team wouldn't take patches).

People didn't like it, and ended up forking because of it. No one argues it wasn't Open Source though.

> But Android is not an open source project. Because Google does not open its development to external contributors, nor do they develop it in the open. They only do code drops. They don't take patches.

Ignoring for a moment the fact that the factual assertions you make are completely untrue, to subjectively label something as not "open source" because you don't like the manner in which the source code is released publicly in accordance with free and open source software licensing is absolutely ridiculous.

That's exactly it. It's a continuum. And Android is the most open OS from all the successful consumer OS's. If it would've been anymore open, like say Linux, it would've probably suffered from the very same fragmentation issue that Linux has, and it would've never gotten this successful as it is today.

In fact I'd even like Android to be a little more "standardized" or more "closed".

I think you make an excellent point. There is no utopian definition of open - it simply cannot exist meaningfully. So there has to be a compromising definition. I like to define it on a scale like Andy Rubin did on D8 interview. Left most is least open and rightmost is most open. I think in the current mobile space Apple sits on the far left, Microsoft a little to their right and Android farther to the right. Only Meego or OpenMoko might sit farther right to Android but they are not really relevant to the mobile market.

Left most is turn-key software that never gets distributed. Far-left is proprietary software, such as iOS that comes with severe restrictions on how and when you can use it. You cannot install it on non-Apple devices and any app you install on it (i.e. any use case) has to be approved by Apple. Other software on the left, but closer to the center, is Windows, that does get distributed in binary form and that you can install on any PC you want, but comes with a very restrictive EULA.

GPL v.3 software sits somewhere in the middle. BSD/MIT is far-right, while right most is public domain.

I think it's extremely unfair to place Android anywhere on the left side of this scale.

I think it's extremely unfair to place Android anywhere on the left side of this scale.

And I didn't place Android on the left - farther right in fact. That and I was limiting what can be on the scale to Mobile platforms - so licenses or Windows for instance do not belong there.

Right, I was trying to paint a larger picture of the whole landscape.

Their arguments are also inconsistent.

Marco is saying on one hand that Android is closed, but on the other hand he says that Amazon's App Store will take over Android's distribution. By definition, if Android wasn't open, then Amazon couldn't fork Android's source-code, they couldn't distribute it on their own devices and they couldn't build a third-party app store.

Another argument is that Android phones are locked by carriers and filled with crapware, but again by definition, if Google restricted the actions of carriers, then Android wouldn't be open.

The problem is that they use that phrase for virtually any argument against Android. Being about carriers being dick (the ask the phone vendor to cripple the software and the phone vendor obeys), about vendor not upgrading the OS on phones (because they want you to buy a new one), etc. All of this being unrelated to whether Android is open or not.

Android markets itself largely on "open". iOS... does not.

Android has a history of being managed in ways which are anything but "open" -- ranging from the opaque "chuck a bunch of code over the wall" development process up to and including the "we'll provide this release to some of our special partners, but none of you plebes can be trusted with it".

So criticizing Android on the ground that it contradicts its own marketing should be fair game; doing so does not carry with it an implication that any competing platform is more "open", simply the implication that Android does not practice what its hype preaches.

> Facebook: "Our users want to interact with brands."

As distasteful as the hacker crowd may find it, this is probably a true statement.

A significant number of people (in the developed world) really do construct a large part of their personal identity by buying branded products from companies in order to signal something about themselves.

There's a section on this on the Wikipedia page for "Brand":


What yeswecan said, but to expand: people like brands - they will gladly and openly declare their brand allegiances on their profiles. We saw this before Pages even came out.

What people don't want to do is to be constantly bombarded by bullshit communications from said brands. In many ways, openly declaring your brand preferences is signaling - the "liking" of brands is for their friends, not an enthusiastic wish to receive "special offers" from you. What they dislike even more are the highly intrusive ways brands are marketing themselves on Facebook.

It's great that you're running a promotion for a brand I like. No, I will not let you post to my wall as me. No, I will not spam 15 of my friends with your stupid offer before actually receiving said promo. No, I don't want to be forced to "Like" your stupid brand before I can even look at your page.

Brands, I want to receive pertinent information from you. If Starbucks is opening a new store in my area, I totally want to hear about it. What I don't want to hear are bullshit "news stories" concocted by your marketing department that is entirely content-free and screams like a cheap attempt to keep your name in my head.

But it works, which is why they do it.

I work with some brands on trying to measure this and in many cases I'm not sure it does work.

The typical process works like this:

1. Brand creates facebook page

2. People who really, really love the brand connect with the page.

3. The brand observes that people who have connected with them on social media are excellent customers.

4. The brand tries to increase the number of connected users by offering promotions and similar.

5. The new connections do not have the same value as the originals because they are attracted only by the offers and promotions. Which the brand then needs to keep offering otherwise "engagement" and other similar metrics drop off.

6. The original connections, the brands best and most enthusiastic customers, are now trained to only purchase when a discount is offered. Margins suffer all round.

It can appear that social media offers an easy way to create revenue. The long term effects are much harder to measure (because there is a huge lag between action and measurement) but they are often negative.

Everyone stops thinking about it after 4, because connections are measurable and thus reportable by the media planners at whatever agency the brand has hired to do their social. It's simply a metric and few people at real companies think about it, they just see the numbers and think it's working. This is because agencies tell them it will and that's the worst part about it all.

Social's value is seeing how people react to your brand, absorbing their feedback, connecting directly... but the planners have reduced it to numbers, like they do everything, and sucked the life out it.

I completely agree. It looks like it is working and agencies/whoever is running social don't look any deeper because why would you when everything is fine?

Social media is by no means a silver bullet, but that's not to say that it doesn't have it's uses for brands. Raising awareness, however, is something that social media can be particularly useful for.

I agree. If you look at it on a CPM basis it is possible to get insane value out of social.

However, the main way I've seen people do this so far is with viral content. Producing something that can go viral is very difficult for some brands - their culture does not support the risky, balls out attitude that does well online.

(If you have examples of viral content that does not fit this pattern then please let me know)

Some of The Muppets videos went viral on YouTube in the past few years.

Other short form work also tends to go viral, YouTube is often credited with rejuvenating SNL, despite NBCs insistence on taking down every clip

People are brands too. I almost only watch talk show interviews in clip form.

You should write this up and submit a link.

I can see myself keeping a copy of this post to show to clients for years to come. Well done for crystallising something I've been floundering to put into words.

^-Can also be described as a summation of why Groupon will not last in the long run. Well said Sir or Ma'am.

Perhaps if you conflate "users want to associate themselves, from time to time, with brands" and "users want to interact with brands".

kind of ironic to say hackers are above branding, when here we are arguing Apple vs Google vs Facebook!

I'd argue that this discussion isn't at all branding - it's about something more fundamental — user expectations, privacy actual fact. We're not arguing that Facebook is bad because it's Facebook. If Apple and Facebook switched places tomorrow, we'd still be "arguing" (though I feel this is the wrong word) about the same basic points.

But the reason people identify so strongly for or against is because of the branding.

When I think of something being "bullshit", I think it is totally false. But many of these points are part-truths, not complete falsehoods.

For example, Google tracks lots of personal data to make their products better. So the sentence "We solicit all of your personal information and track everything you do to make things better for you" is partially true. Of course, something is in it for Google too. When they add new features to a product driven by personal data mining, they seek to grow market share. They also use your personal data to target ads at you better. And they may be using it for further research projects that you don't know about.

But the statement has a lot of truth to it. That's not the normal definition of "bullshit".

Marco's use is consistent with "On Bullshit", Harry Frankfurt, 1986. Specifically: "Bullshit can either be true or false but bullshitters aim primarily to impress and persuade their audiences." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Bullshit)

I don't disagree, but I think in the context, bullshit is being used to mean PR-talk. As you say, PR talk might be half (or more, or less) truths, but it smells nonetheless.

The sentence from Google is a falsehood. It claims that the tracking is done for the user, and implies that this is their only intention. The actual truth is that Google only does what's "good" for the user as long as it improves their market position and/or makes them money. To have a position of "well, they do care about theirs users, even if it is to make money off of them" is intellectually dishonest because you're ignoring the implications of this -- that Google, in the end, has a drive to improve its own profits and market share. Obviously Google is made up of lots of different people and there are non-corporate wings that do actual good things, but this doesn't excuse the basic profit motive that must exist. Google doesn't care if you're getting the best experience from Facebook... they still want you to use Google+. They only want to target ads at me so that I click on them and they get more money.

Google cares about my online wellbeing as much as Colgate cares about my teeth.

Now that is Bullshit.

Yes, Google makes money from their advertising.

But Google does things that directly limit their ability to make money from advertising, when those decisons are in the interest of consumers.

Take the whole design and UX of Chrome. There are many, many ways Google could have changed the design to make more money from it, and yet they haven't because they aren't in the interests of the users.

Additionally many (both at Google and elsewhere) believe (and can show evidence) that advertising can improve the user experience when it is done properly.

Companies (especially those with a share structure like Google's) can exist to care about more than just making money.

Google chrome isn't exactly a good example, considering that it's the only browser I've ever heard of embedding advertisements in its default homepage - http://www.techradar.com/news/mobile-computing/laptops/googl...

The Safari homepage cross promotes.

The IE home page cross promotes and/or has paid advertising (depending on your market).

Even Firefox has done cross promotion occasionally.

I don't use Opera often, but I don't think I've seen advertising on their dial-page thing.

Is there some critical distinction I'm missing?

I remember Firefox also had Thunderbird ads on it's homepage at some point. Google could have done much worse imo.

Also, could you provide an example of where advertising improves the user experience?

In today's heavily SEOd world, sometimes the AdWords ads are actually more helpful than the first 10 results. It's always a sad moment when that happens, but in certain verticals it's becoming almost inevitable despite everyone's best efforts.

An example (there are probably many better): I was looking for spas in London the other day, and a lot of the results seemed pretty dodgy - tantric therapy? no thanks! - but the ads for Groupon and competing services reminded me that I might be able to get a good daily deal and led me to explore quite a few options that weren't in the search results.

Disclaimer: I work for Google, but not on any advertising-related products (unless you want to take the stand that every Google product is advertising-related; thought I'd head off that reply in advance).

Similarly with health-related queries. When you have a serious problem, you're after any kind of information that might help. In my personal case, several of the ads returned more interesting info than the first few pages of algorithm-ranked results.

It improves the user experience by allowing amazing free services to exist.

You're being entirely too cynical about this. Yes the profit motive exists for corporations. So what? It exists for individuals too. Do you only do volunteer work because anything else would be selling out?

Seeking a profit does not imply moral bankruptcy. This sort of thinking is a knee-jerk reaction to the de-humanization of commerce and interaction via the internet and call centers. But don't forget that companies are still made up of people, and it's still possible to have a great relationship with a company, even a very large one. Granted, Google is one of the worst in this regard, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

It improves the user experience by allowing amazing free services to exist.

That may be true, but that isn't what I meant.

I meant that there are numerous example where exposing your audience to something for commercial purposes may benefit the audience.

For example, the paid results of a search like http://www.google.com.au/search?q=web+hosting are arguably better than the heavily SEO'ed organic results. That's because the profit motive for the web companies encourages them to pay enough to expose themselves, whereas less legitimiate affiliate sites can't afford to compete because they are further down the profit chain (meaning they don't have the margins to pay for the most common keywords)

The other good example (as I noted elsewhere) are recommendation systems like Amazon and Netflix use.

Netflix and Amazon recommendation systems.

I think there's always a fine line between the users and the company's interest. That's because if the users have 0 interest, the company will not succeed.

So it's always about finding the right balance between "keeping enough user interest" while "maximizing company's interest".

That's what Google does. They do that well.

Many companies maximize the company interest too much and fail due to that.

Few companies maximize the user's interest (I wont dare saying too much, because I'm a user), and fail due to that (unfortunately).

"For example, Google tracks lots of personal data to make their products better."

I think the post is discussing motivation.

If Google tracking you would make your life better, but somehow not help them target advertising, would they still do it?

Google collects personal data to make their advertising product better for advertisers. Translating that into something along the lines of "we track you to make the product better for you" is misleading to a degree that it deserves to be called bullshit.

Obviously, there are indirect benefits to users from advertising. It's what funds the service after all. But there is a balance, and tracking has made the product worse for me to the point where I have stopped using it.

You forgot the biggest bullshit of all, Marco.

Hacker News users:

I'm so mad that the government is doing <xyz>!

I'm so mad that big business is doing <xyz>!

I'm so mad that venture capitalists are doing <xyz>!

I'm so mad that angel investors are doing <xyz>!

I'm so mad that <xyz> got funding!

I'm so mad that language <abc> doesn't do <xyz>!

I'm so mad that I can't jailbreak <xyz>!

I'm so mad that I'm actually expected to pay for <xyz>!

I'm so mad that more people don't visit my blog!

I'm so mad that so many people visit blog <xyz>!

I'm so mad that person <xyz> is a jerk!

So what did you build today?

Nothing. I can't focus.

This applies to all criticism. Far more people judge than do because it's that much easier. That doesn't pull the rug out from under their complaints though. Few claim they could do better when they say XYZ sucks; they are just saying it sucks. Media critics, political pundits, even non-developer Steve Jobs do/did little more than evaluate others' work while creating none of their own. That doesn't render invalid their criticisms though.

I like the reference to government. Govts b.s., startups b.s. , what next?

Isn't this comment just as cheap and reductionary? Many of the things you've listed their affect developers, startups and the system in which they are either able to succeed or fail. Even the characterization as nothing more than "I'm so mad" seems unfair.

Perhaps it's just an accident that edw519 has juxtaposed this comment against a post that's built out of pure tasty linkbait, an artfully constructed pop-music confection of a post that's predictably climbing the HN charts even though it's built out of truisms that old-school HN readers have read one million times each.

But I doubt it.

Yes, of course each one of edw519's bullet points refers to something important and true, just as each of Marco's bullet points refers to something important and true. They were true yesterday, and they'll be true tomorrow, and they'll be true the next hundred thousand times each one of them gets upvoted.

But the point is that the urge to spend time pressing the RIGHTEOUS TRUTH button over and over like a lab rat can become an addiction that ultimately does not serve you.

And with that I'm taking Ed's hint and trying to leave HN for the day. ;) Bugs must be fixed!

> Yes, of course each one of edw519's bullet points refers to something important and true

Isn't edw519 making an error in his implied equivalence of the power relationship between the B.S. and whining of the dependent ones?

Not quite. It a pretty good list of things that don't affect HNers as much as HNers think they might. What HNers learn about Angel investors prior to trying to raise doesn't help that much when it's actually time to raise. Jailed devices affect developers, and are important to factor into decisions, but jailbreaking itself is a distraction for the vast majority of developers who do it. Worrying about government regulations is a waste, instead we should build things that will make it difficult for regulators to stop things they don't like without also stopping things that they need.

So, what did YOU build today?

And why do you assume we all have to build something?

Some of us have actual paid work we like, you know, we're not all "entrepreneurs" building the next whatever...

Everyone should be building something employed or entrepreneurs.... Even analysts, are building something a model for his boss to make decisions based on...

Everyone should be building something. Technical or otherwise.

If you think Hacker News sucks that bad, you're free to go read reddit and bitch about the users there. This comment is shitty and cynical and you should feel bad about it.





A superficial cheap shot would be to note that you have to go nine pages into Ed's results to find a comment scored as low as 'funkah's top-scored comment. Less superficial observations follow readily from actually reading the two sets of comments.

Veteran status readily accounts for the spectacularly high amount of karma Ed has here. That and name recognition surely biases the score on any given recent Ed comment upwards. But the difference in tone, effort, and craft between Ed's comments and 'funkah's is hard to miss; put more succinctly, the reason Ed has an average comment score of 27 (27!) and 'funkah has an average of 2 is that Ed doesn't write things like "This comment is shitty and cynical and you should feel bad about it." He's more likely to draw an ASCII art picture.

I point this out mostly because 15 minutes spent reading the best of Ed on HN is time well spent, and so there you have it: a convenient link off this stupid thread.

Maybe I am missing your point, but I think that judging comments on the basis of their authors karma is a bad idea.

If we're talking about my comments, I agree. If we're talking about Ed's, no. I'm not interested in a nerdy argument about whether we should have karma at all.

All he is trying to say is that being a hard boiled cynic more often than not hampers your productivity.

I totally agree with that.

You must be new here. Check out edw519's profile and comment history. It should provide you with a little more context.

There was a very good talk at 28c3 that should remember everyone, that Apple and Google are not working for the public interest (as some fans still believe)

Partly NSFW:




Those guys are funny! “They sell a product! How evil!”

Read the comments on this page, most of the criticism here is just that. "You are the product", thus everything is bad. Google/Apple make good stuff, so they're evil, hold power and are "dangerous"

I always, always, always find what I want from Google. So whatever they are doing is, in some way, for my benefit.

And even if I was ready to pay for every website/service I use (which I'm not), ads are not going away. So when they do whatever they are doing to show me better ads I'd say that's on my benefit too.

I'm not a Google unconditional fan (I hate Android, love iOS) and certainly they can do better. But implying they don't benefit the end user is what I find bullshit-y.

And I think that's a very poorly written article, btw. Marco can do a lot better.

I know this guy is one of the HN celebrity set, but can we please modify that title to something more meaningful?

Something like:

"Bullshit - what companies really mean?"

Deeply agree on that list.

But there are some o at least one company that I'd actually trust more than others, and support, and that's Mozilla. Because there's no share holders. Because it's owned by non-profit. And because their track record is perfect so far. Everything's open. All the development is in the open, not just the code.

Everything's made for our best interest actually.

Funny enough, I gave FF the heave somewhere in 3.x and switched to Chrome. I love Chrome. I love working on Chrome. But I've been thinking a lot the last few days about what you just said. Now how do I get my bookmarks out of Chrome and back into FF...

So, that wasn't so difficult.

You should check who pays 80% of Mozilla's budget based on a secret contract Mozilla is not allowed to talk about.

Not the users.

And? Their code is still open source, their development resources, calls and notes are available in a wiki. They, in contrast to both Google (I love Chrome, don't get me wrong) and Microsoft have a vested standards-first focus and even their "app store" that is in development is entirely standardized and HTML5/w3c based versus the Chrome Web Store.

Who cares where their money comes from? There is no doubt in my mind, whatsoever, that the only influence Google has bought is the default value for "search provider" for the search box, and the branded homepage.

What about Opera?

Their software is unfortunately proprietary, but I trust them. As far as I know, they never sold any data they got though their proxies with Opera Mini. And they got a lot.

I'm liking the opera guys. they do good stuff and they're small, yet still alive.

That being said, it doesn't make them good on the open source front. They're proprietary. They don't develop in the open.

So while I like them and their product, I don't trust them the way I can trust Mozilla.

In other words:

I don't trust Google, MS, Opera, or any other such company. They make good products (yes, even MS), but again it's a different matter.

How much is "as far as I know" worth these days?

Devoid of anything new or insightful, this article sounds like a teen being 'edgy'.

My thoughts exactly. It feels like upvotes for the author, not the content.

Did marco make his blog much more link-baity, or has it always been like this? It seems like he is playing to the crowd now.

I don't know, but I can't believe I'm becoming one of those old fogies who's getting tired of blog posts with *shit in the title.

He got Fireballed. He is often linked by DF too.

Does Apple actually claim that their app review process is in _everyone's_ best interests, or just their customers (which is frequently at 180-degree odds with sketchy devs)?

Apple's bullshit is strictly business. Google's and Facebook's bullshits affects peoples privacy, and, if they live in a country that values privacy, actually violates their fundamental rights.

Facebook and Google are engaged in open warfare against social values and legal restrictions that are prevalent in most of the world (especially outside the US), and the lies they tell about it can not simply be categorized as "bullshit" you can decide to tolerate on a individual basis.

Do you have any citations for this? I'm curious to see how Google is unknowingly violating people's privacy to the point that it's borderline illegal in certain countries.

Facebook on the other hand, I can easily believe they're doing that.

> Do you have any citations for this? I'm curious to see how Google is unknowingly violating people's privacy to the point that it's borderline illegal in certain countries.

There's nothing unknowing or borderline about it.

Canada's privacy commissioner rules Google violated Canadians fundamental right to privacy: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/oct/19/google-stre...

France fines Google over privacy violations: http://mashable.com/2011/03/21/france-fine-google-street-vie...

Korean police raid Google offices in Seoul over privacy violations: http://gawker.com/5798135/police-raid-google-for-privacy-vio...

FTC settles with Google over privacy violations: http://wjlta.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/ftc-settlement-over-go...

And my personal favourite:

"A single word expletive as a headline isn't just a way of getting cheap pageviews"

Microsoft must be ticked off that they were left out of the list.

What is a Microsoft?

I can think of this as well.

an "IT security company" : 1 - We secure your network 2 - Our site is down for maintenance

Just wondering, why are we valuing this blog post that talks about a first world problem and brings no solution or anything critic or productive? Are we biased against Marco.org?

I'm confused, what is wrong with talking about a first world problem? and what do you mean by "Are we biased against Marco.org"?

Yes, it's true the things listed are bullshit. Yes, I guess we can take it or leave it.

Sometimes the "take it or leave it" position ends up being presented in a way that it is framed that those of us who choose not to partake in the rape of our liberties are backwards luddites (non-facebook member here, also got their domains blocked to kill their insidious tracking). I hope that criticism of those who say "no" is not where this article series (if that's what it is) is headed.

They're all bullshit except the 'Android is open' thing. That's just a plain fucking fact.

Despite the incessant barrage of snarky 'open' jokes from professional Apple frother John Gruber (typically redeemed somewhat by being funny) and M.G. "Mini-Gruber" Siegler (not so much), you can go download the fucking source code:


Sure, tons of manufacturers will sell you junky locked down Android-based phones (which they can do because... tada... it's open), you can also just go buy the unlocked phone that Google offers, and install whatever the hell you want on it.

And if you really want to root your phone and install your own build of the OS, it's basically as easy as ↑↑↓↓←→←→BA and boom-you're-done.

For any reasonable value of open, Android is. Claiming otherwise is just some weird kind of (apparently contagious) gobbledygook nonsense making the rounds among people emotionally invested in iOS. (Which I do use btw; although Android is open, it is still not good enough for me yet.)

Except for a really long time, ie between Android 2.x and 4, you couldn't download the source code.

Edit: why is that being downvoted? It's a fact. HN can be a strange beast at times.

"A really long time"?

Seriously--I know it's been a busy year--but the nine months (from February 2011 to November 2011) during which Android was being used in certain tablets without being open sourced hardly qualifies as "a really long time", especially in comparison to operating systems which have never been open.

I'm not sure how your'e able to say nine months isn't a long time (especially in this industry!) with a straight face.

Also, I subscribe to a pretty liberal interpretation of "open source", and "source will be downloadable at an undetermined date in the future, if we feel like it" really doesn't qualify.

There is, of course, the colloquial expectation of open - the implication that Google has never shied away from is that openness means choice. Of course, even with the source code, the vast majority of Android headsets are locked down - the openness does nobody any good except people who build custom distros (that normal users can't even install themselves!).

The "open" argument, while arguably, technically correct (the source is available... kind of), fails to meet the bar for what techies consider to be essential to the concept of openness, nor does it meet the bar for what laymen would consider to be openness.

For me an open platform is one that can be used, maintained and extended in ways the original platform owner actively disapproves of. Android fits that description, because you can in fact fork it and do what you want, even if its anti-google (like the kindle fire).

I consider android similar to x.org when it was called xfree86, and oo.o before it became libreoffice. It's definitely open source, but it remains to be seen whether the project will develop an open culture. If not, a hostile fork will happen at some point.

Six months passed between the announcement of the iPhone and its release. More than a year passes between each iPhone generation. 9 months, even in the mobile world, is just not "a really long time", and we're talking about a version of Android that only ran on tablets (which was, incidentally, why its source wasn't released on schedule).

Calling Android "open" is not just "technically" correct. It's really true: you can download the source to Android and build your own versions. Cyanogen does this. Amazon does this. Multiple handset manufacturers do this. Anyone can do this, and many do.

You don't address the parents argument or mine at all. Motorola Xoom owners could not download the source code for their OS for most of its existence. Neither could Cyanogen. for example, get source for ICS beta releases, which means the many obvious UI and UX issues in the initial release could not be fixed by anyone but a small portion of people inside Google.

That's true. But still, Arment posted this today. Yesterday, daringfireball.net linked to a baseless Siegler snarkophany in the same vein. Etc etc etc.

(Edit: No idea why your factual comment's getting downvoted, though. It'll hopefully get rectified as more people roll through this thread.)

It was being downvoted because it simply wasn't factual. Android was not closed "from 2.x to 4". Honeycomb (3.x) was first released on devices in February 2011 and its source was opened in November 2011. 9 months is not a "really long time".

"Android is open" is BS for the plain and simple fact that (time delayed) source code availability is of no consequence to the vast majority of Android users. They say it as though it means something, it means nothing, rather like water vendors claiming "100% fat free" on a bottle of water.

Marco didn't say the claim was factually incorrect, he said it was BS, it is.

Although I'd love to have a few bottles of your fat-free water, it's a bogus analogy. It's more like claiming "100% trans fat free" on a package of cookies. That the vast majority of eaters don't care about or even know what trans fats are doesn't make the statement less true, or less relevant to those who do know and care.

Android's openness is consequential to those who care about openness. And almost every Android user I know (yes, all fairly technical) likes that aspect and indeed takes advantage of it.

To such people, the open aspects -- both the fact that the OS is open source, and that they can install whatever apps they want without having to find a buffer overflow bug in the OS somewhere to exploit first -- are attractive.

The "vast majority of users" aren't the arbiter of whether or not something is consequential to me, or to the other people who generally prefer their systems to be more open.

Not really. Android's "openness" doesn't include the ability to actually modify the software running on your device, which means that on its own it's useless to everyone except hardware manufacturers. It's only on the rare occasions when those manufacturers actually choose to do more than is required on them and open up their hardware to modifications that "openness" is of any value at all.

> doesn't include the ability to actually modify the software running on your device

OK, I am uncomfortable with my weird position in this thread as the Android Avenger (especially seeing as how I don't even use Android except to fuck around), so I apologize in advance for the breakdown in my civility function.





I don't really get what you're saying here. Some Android devices have locked bootloaders, but that doesn't affect the openness of AOSP. If anything, you're making an argument for GPLv3 which would require Android OEM's to allow for open bootloaders and (S-OFF (htc)).

But I can assure you, my Galaxy Nexus is running a CM9 alpha that I built from source last night.

Replace "some Android devices" with "the vast majority of Android devices". That is Marco's point.

All HTC devices since September, most devices from <=2010 (and many, many more with community support); all Samsung/LG devices; some early Moto devices (and all if you don't count the kernel via the community) can have custom software installed.

And if that's Marco's point, it's pretty damn poor. How does what Motorola does with the bootloader of their phone have to do with the code that Google puts out exactly?

As has been explained many times in the past, Android's relative openness compared to iOS at the source code level does not translate to measurable benefits for the majority of users because of carrier/manufacturer lockdown.

Rooting is a security exploit, and I don't consider it relevant to whether the OS is practically open.

Now you're just shifting around your position. I thought it was about the unlocked nature of bootloaders? Yes, in my last post I included some that require "root" but, #1, not all of those root methods are through user-facing security exploits, and #2, most of them allow custom software out of the box from the manufacturer (specifically without rooting or really any work at all), I noted the ones that require "community" support. Your characterization is disingenuous.

Now it's about the openness at the source code level? I think you should look up the CM statistics. There is a measurable percentage (or may tenth of a percent) of Android users that run custom software, so I benefit from that. I and others will only buy devices that will have CM support.

Further, the open nature of Android absolutely trickles down to the users. There are a dozen different (and with different physical form factor) Android models that are free on contract to buy. There is only one WP7 that I'm aware of that that is true for. Lower development costs are passed on to users, I've discussed this further somewhere else on this thread.

First, by that standard anyone's claim of openness is BS, because most users of any open source project don't actually use the source themselves.

Second, Android is "open" in ways that have nothing to do with source availability. Even with a closed-source Honeycomb device, you can run apps from arbitrary sources, access the filesystem, replace OS components like the keyboard and launcher, and develop your own apps without asking (or paying) for permission.

Really? An operating system that is cheaper to OEM manufacturers (and thus cheaper per-device costs) as well as a vastly expanded variety of physical hardware isn't a benefit?

Marco why don't you transform the post in a poll ? ;)

Quite disingenuous to state that "Android is open" is bullshit and at the same time the article finds no mention of Apple's overarching "closed is better for you" attitude.

(Yes, the article hints at Apple's closed-ness. However, only relatively minor, disconnected, issues. Not the overall attitude.)

Only one I really take issue with is:

> Nobody wants a [popular new product category that Apple doesn’t make yet].

To be honest, when you hear that from an executive at Apple, I believe they are being sincere. You have to understand that Apple does not think of the iPhone as "a cell phone that plays music" or the iPad as "a tablet computer" or the MacBook Air as "a netbook". Yes, this is parsing things rather finely, but if you think that doing so is somehow irrelevant, then I would assert that you don't understand Apple and the way they do things.

"Bullshit" is a lack of concern over whether what you've said was true or not.

"We’re not tracking you when you’re logged out" was a straight up lie.

I would like to see a list of Amazon's bullshit.

"There are two kinds of companies, those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second." — Jeff Bezos

"We expect all our businesses to have a positive impact on our top and bottom lines. Profitability is very important to us or we wouldn't be in this business. " — Jeff Bezos

"We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better." — Jeff Bezos

How is this bullshit? >"We expect all our businesses to have a positive impact on our top and bottom lines. Profitability is very important to us or we wouldn't be in this business. "

If anything thats being upfront that Amazon is a business in the business of making money.

Probably parent implied that many AWS services are run at zero margin or at loss to block competition from entering.

Given that you can get anything AWS does cheaper elsewhere I don't think argue that.

AWS's advantages are many, but price isn't really a critical one.

I don't know about the other two, but the first one is a huge steaming pile of BS. First of all; Apple could have also charged less if they made such a limited device. And second, they do charge about as little for the iPad as they can, which is why no one has been able to make a tablet of similar specs with a compatible price all this time.

"premium products at non premium prices" - second part is true, first part is not

I've read/heard a lot about Bezos and I have my own (pleasant) experiences with Amazon's products and services, but I'm intrigued by your comment. Why do you feel these are "bullshit" coming from Amazon?

People who bought what you bought also bought this shitty book.

Kindle Fire is great for reading.

Kindle Fire is great for watching movies.

Kindle Fire is great for browsing the web.

Is there a secret crappy version of the Kindle Fire that amazon is sending to Hacker News readers? Mine is fine at those three things.

If you focus on the news title itself, without clicking, it suddenly starts to make sense:

Bullshit (marco.org)

Am beginning to go with google nowadays...:-P

Brilliant. Now for an interesting theory of why there is so much bullshit see Harry Frankfurt's essay "On Bullshit" (Google it) :)

Well said! We choose to take the bad with the good... Though sometimes companies make it tough for us to appreciate the good.

And another one from Google: There's no reason to delete things, ever.

Wot, no Twitter?

New to realities of capitalism? Good morning America.

You'd be surprised at the number of people who use Twitter for the sole purpose of following their favorite chelebrities, ergo interacting with brands. I'm going to put my toe in the water and assume the same applies to Facebook.

Celebrities may have brands built around them, but they are not simply brands. I know a lot of people who spend a significant amount of time talking to celebrities on Twitter, and they tend to draw that distinction too: If they perceive the celebrity is an interesting person, they'll interact. But if the celebrity just seems to be presenting a "brand," they're much more passive, because interacting with a brand tends to feel hollow.

I wouldn't call the fifty thousand @paulg followers to be passive, exactly, as I see a lot of interaction and he only tweets about the business, nothing personal or news breaking. (I don't follow him on twitter, btw.)

And aside from his personal distaste for the artist Dale Chihuly, I havent derived much about him from either his essays or speeches, so please don't tell me that he's met all 50k of his followers and somehow convinced them that he's a great guy. So do fifty thousand people want to interact with a brand or not?

You're drawing weird lines that I wouldn't agree with. It's a false dichotomy to say "Either these people have met this guy and know him intimately or they want to interact with a brand." I didn't know any of my friends very well before I became friends with them, but they still interested me enough with what I did know of them that I wanted to know more. That's not called "interacting with a brand", it's called "interacting with people." I'll probably never be good friends with Paul Graham, but I theoretically could. Nobody will ever be friends with a brand.

People follow Paul Graham because they are interested in his ideas and influence on the industry, not because they "want to interact with a brand."

Even if he's not sharing any of his ideas or extending any of his influences to his followers? Wes Welker signed up to Twitter a week ago (under his own brand/name) and now has 175K followers, all of whom presumably want to interact or at least be associated with (a form of interaction) Wes Welker, the football player. They'll never get close to interacting with the person outside of a charity event or a sly hookup, so why call bullshit when a social media company claims that its user do in fact want to interact with brands when they, and we, have evidence that they do?

I don't think OP's premise holds true in all cases and it's equally valid to assume that people are interacting with a brand when they're following, liking, friending, retweeting or mentioning personified brands, human or bot.

Microsoft: "Next generation web is coming"

Hacker News: "We don't read it"

HN: these discusions are more intelligent than reddit's.

At, [insert airline name here], we care about you.

On that list, I think FB has the worst "bullshits".

I disagree about the last line, not "everyone" has their bullshit. These 3 do have and spread massive amounts of bullshit, however.

I've never met a person that didn't have some level of bullshit going on. We all do it, so by extensions all our group efforts end up doing it. The book "why we make mistakes" has a good explanation based on how our mind works why it's part of the human experience to peddle a load of crock.

Yep, but I wouldn't equate slipping on occasion in some bullshit to have bullshit at the very core of your operation, as is the case with these three companies.

I know I do all I possibly can not to bullshit anyone. This may limit me in some respects but so do all principles.

GNU: -Spokesman has poor personal hygiene.

Remember back in the 70's and 80's before cable TV? We only had channels 3,6, and 7. We loved TV but couldn't stand the commercials every 5 minutes. The internet has turned into one big TV commercial. Websites are now 10% content and 90% ads. It is so sad that we let this get out of control. Don't get me started on social networking and how they exist to be the big TV commercial to make boatloads of cash.

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