This Week in Google 284 (Transcript)
Leo Laporte: It's time for TWiG, This Week in Google. Jeff Jarvis is at Davos, so we're going to give him the day off. But, hey, don't worry. Matthew Ingram and Kevin Marks are here. We'll talk about the latest news from Google. Why don't we spend some time talking about the latest news from Microsoft, too? It's all coming up next on TWiG.
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Leo: This is TWiG, This Week in Google, episode 284, recorded January 21, 2015.
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It's time for TWiG, This Week in Google. The show where we cover not just Google, but the Cloud, Facebook, Twitter, anything happening up there in the sky. Kevin Marks is down to earth but he is in his garden with the lovely sky behind him. Hi, Kevin.
Kevin Marks: Hi there. Not many clouds, though, I'm afraid. It's clear blue sky here.
Leo: Glad to have you. Yes, and if it starts raining, just, you know. I don't know. You have an umbrella, I think you'll be all right.
Kevin: Not much chance for that here.
Leo: I love the orange tree behind you, though. Also with us from Canada, where it's not quite so balmy, Mr. Matthew Ingram, GigaOm.com.
Matthew Ingram: Yes, no orange trees in my backyard.
Leo: No orange trees in your backyard. But there's always a place for you if you want to come down here. Matthew writes for GigaOm and both of us have been talking before the show about what I think is the biggest story of the day, which has nothing – it has little to do with Google. Actually, in some ways it might have a lot to do with Google, which is Microsoft's Windows 10 announcement, which we've been covering live most of the day. Just the short hand version of this, Microsoft has announced that it will be giving away Windows 10 when it ships later this year, probably in fall, to anybody running Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows phone and that, in effect, what they've been talking about for some time, one Windows, is going to somewhat come true. There will be universal apps that will run across all platforms. There will be a form of – Microsoft calls it “continuum” but it's really like Apple's continuity that allows you to run apps across all the different platforms and data the same way.
They also announced, and I think this will get a lot of attention, a holographic – they call it the HoloLens, which I guess is designed to be used by hollow men, with apologies to T.S. Eliot. The HoloLens is a heads up display which offers 3D holographic images in your field of view as you look around. It's being used, apparently, now by JPO at NASA to help scientists who are designing the – you know, plotting the plans for Curiosity, the Mars rover. Literally, walk around. Mark Rocks says, “Hey, go get that.” Here's what it looks like. You know, some pretty amazing uses. That's going to get a lot of attention.
But I think really, the big story is kind of a revitalized Microsoft under its new CEO Satya Nadella. They did – there is a Google angle here because very early on, at the very beginning, Microsoft – it was Terry, I want to say, Richardson. He's the Senior Vice President for Operating Systems. He said, at Microsoft, you're not the product. I think that's a pretty clear shot at Google, Facebook too.
Matthew: They said they were canceling the Screwgle nonsense.
Leo: They did cancel Screwgled. I think this is really the new Screwgled, not to go after Google in advertising but with snark but to go after them with better products. What an idea, what a concept. They showed off Cortana, which of course, is directly aimed at Siri and Google's Google Now. It does many of the same things Google Now does and again, they emphasized, “But it's in a trustworthy way. Your privacy is protected.”
Cortana was very conversational. I know – Matthew, you didn't see the video either?
Matthew: No, I didn't.
Leo: No, neither of you saw the stream. But the demo was pretty impressive, very conversational. Of course, it's always hard with demos.
Leo: But it seems to me that Microsoft is looking at Google as a serious competitor and doing everything they can to bolster their product line in every way. They mentioned a new browser. They're going to – not exactly a redesign of Internet Explorer. The same engine running – the same rendering engine running it. But Spartan will look very different, much cleaner. In fact, it looks a lot like Chrome. I imagine Microsoft loses some market share to Chrome with new Windows users.
Matthew: I guess the thing that sort of bugs me about – I mean, you're right. Microsoft is, you know, offering a lot of interesting things and the free Windows is a great way to get people on to the platform. I feel like you could say this about Google too; I suppose you have to – it feels like you have to pick someone to get married to, you know, to basically be absorbed into a platform and use everything that platform has to offer you. Have to have the mobile device, have the desktop software, have to have the – they have to suck in all the data about your life before things like Cortana can become useful. So you really have to choose who you're going to sort of get married to because a lot of these things are not going to work unless they have all your stuff, and all your objects and all your devices.
Leo: Yes. Apple invented this, didn't they? The whole idea of a complete ecosystem. Google has done their best with Android and Chromebooks to do the same, although they don't really have a desktop operating system. They have Chrome, which is certainly a wedge into the desktop operating system. It's very clear that today, Microsoft plans to do the same thing. Satya Nadella said, “We plan to be cross platform, everywhere our customers are, because we're a customer-centric company.” He even said, “Instead of having to use Windows, we want you to love to use Windows.” But he said the best experience will always be within Windows 10. He also told developers, and this is a really important message, they have been shedding developers. The fact that Windows Phone didn't take off, I think you can ascribe it a great degree to the lack of apps, the lack of developers for it. He said, “We're going to have a universal platform and you'll be able to write for all the devices.” Then the pitch to the consumer is Cortana and all these other things work better the more time you spend with Windows devices. Everything will work better. So you're exactly right. I think all three companies, Apple, Microsoft and Google are positioning themselves to be the universe. Microsoft has – go ahead.
Matthew: I guess, I mean the main reason I stopped being so exclusively Apple was that started to bug me. Sort of, the fact that you had to use everything Apple and that certain things just wouldn't work if you didn't use Apple. Plus, just the sheer expense of buying all of these Apple products, because they're not exactly cheap. I wanted something that was more – you know, where I could hack together networks out of different things as opposed to having to have everything Apple. They are actually getting better than they used to be, but that was the thing that sort of pushed me away. It felt like Android was a much more open ecosystem.
Leo: Is it?
Matthew: Good question. I mean, is it? I don't know. Certainly, when it comes to things like Google Now, I use Gmail and I have a Google device, all that stuff. So everything – I use Google Drive, and Google Plus and Google Photos. So I am sort of – you know, I've bought into their ecosystem. So is that different? I don't know.
Leo: Your original premise was, this was – do we add Amazon to this too? Isn't Amazon trying to build that same sort of total ecosystem now that they do hardware?
Matthew: The only thing I could say about Google is they do tend to be better at letting you get access to your data and take it with you. I don't know if that's changed or not, but that was a pretty core principle for them.
Leo: Absolutely, yes. Go ahead, Kevin. You're a little low, I don't know if that's us?
Kevin: I'm not sure.
Leo: Oh, we hear you now. There you go.
Kevin: Okay, maybe I was -
Jason: There was a little bit of typing, so I was riding fader. Sorry about that.
Kevin: Oh, I'm sorry. I'll repoint the mic. So what I was saying is, that's the thing. Each of them is having to build the whole set because they've stopped trying to inter-operate, which is kind of sad. So everyone's building their own Cloud services, their own hardware, their own operating system, their own desktop applications and things like that. It's all a bit odd, because we've had the Web as the unifying platform for a while. But they've all seemed to have said, “Oh, no, we can't actually work with each other anymore,” which is odd. Because it leaves this sort of gap in the middle for someone like Dropbox to be the Cloud that works on all the Clouds, which is kind of strange.
Matthew: Yes, in fact, Dropbox is a great example. I mean, I just said the other day, I've got a Macbook Air. I'm running Linux Mint on my desktop and I've got Windows devices in the house as well. I was trying to share folders on my network, you know, which I control. It made me want to shoot myself. It's so – even a simple thing like that is so hard. They've made it hard. Apple's actually made it harder than it used to be. So Dropbox becomes like a godsend. You literally just put stuff in there and it's everywhere. It's as simple as sort of cross-platform networking and file sharing should be, or could be.
Leo: You can't really fault them. I mean, the best way to profit is to force people to use your stuff exclusively. Although, it is encouraging that a company like Dropbox can make its way by offering a true cross-platform solution.
Matthew: I mean, Apple's argument has always been, you know. It's similar to the one you described that Microsoft is making, “By doing this, we make it better for you, the user. So your experience is better, things work properly, you don't have to worry about anything getting damaged or your data flowing to other people because we control the whole thing from soup to nuts, from one end to the other.” That's why the walled garden is such a great metaphor, because it's a beautiful garden. The flowers are amazing and it's really well – it's clean. No one mugs you. You can barely even see the walls until you get up close to them and even then, you think, “Ah, this is such a great garden, man. These flowers are amazing.” But, you know, the minute you want to do something outside the garden, it's like you can't do that.
Leo: I have to say, though, I look at Dropbox and then I look at Microsoft offering unlimited storage on one Drive. Prices dropping at Google. I wonder how long Dropbox's business plan as a storage company alone can survive. I mean, I wonder how much longer they're – Kevin. You're an advocate for open – you're an advocate for exactly the opposite of what we're seeing here.
Kevin: Right, I mean, that's the thing. I suspect that we're at one end of the pendulum swing and we can have another swing back to the other end. The Web is still there, it's still that infrastructure for all of this. It's just that these different companies are just approaching it from slightly different angles. Google was the one who was approaching it from that angle, but because as they grew, they got more locked out by the others – to some extent, they had to build their own operating system as a defensive move. They built them as a source operating system so that other people can use them too. So the biggest OS in the world may well be AOSP rather than Google Android some time this year. That line looks like it's going to cross.
Leo: Explain what the difference is.
Kevin: So, Android is two things. Android is an open source project that's an operating system for phones and it's also a set of Cloud services that Google provides. So if you have an Android phone with Google on it somewhere which – oh, in this case, I have Nexus. So it just says Nexus, it's implied. That means that they've signed the deal with Google, they get to use Google Cloud services. There are certain – which means that without that, you can't run Google's apps that rely on their service. So you can't run Gmail, or Google Maps, or Drive or the App Store and so on. So a big chunk of the Android functionality.
AOSP is Android Open Source Project, which is all the bits that you can freely create and build your own stuff. Google has been moving bits back and forth between the two. So, you know, one of the reasons on a non-Nexus phone, you end up with two copies of everything, is you have an AOSP-derived email client and Gmail. You have an AOSP-derived browser and Chrome, and so on. This is, if you buy a Samsung phone, confusing. You end up with two of everything, because Samsung has decided, “Okay, we don't want to be fully dependent on Google. We want to make sure we have got -” [crosstalk]
Matthew: Right, because they're plugged into the hardware, right? They can use all sorts of things that Google can't.
Leo: You know, Apple has chosen to make its solutions barely inter-operable. I mean, really, Apple is Apple. You're not going to try to use iCloud on any other platform.
Matthew: Nor would you want to.
Kevin: That is a change.
Leo: Nor would you want to.
Kevin: But that is a change, you know. At the point where Apple weren't the ones who are in the league -
Leo: They couldn't do that.
Kevin: They had iDisk. And with iDisk, you could use on Windows and you could use other places because it implemented web app. That was the standard way of using it. It was a web server, and it was great and I miss it. Especially because I paid them money and they deleted all my files. That's not very nice.
Leo: That's not nice.
Kevin: But no, they've gone the other way and said, “Okay, we're going to build something that works for us.” Apple has a lot of good - work as well, there's not news. But the companies tend to do that work at the point where they're not on the largest end of the market. So one of the things Apple did to get itself out of its trough was to adopt a freebie estate call to the operating system and a bunch of standard stuff for that layer, and built a lot of very good networking protocols and things like that, right? MDNS and all the stuff that makes up Bonjour is a set of internet protocols that they helps establish. There's a huge amount to establish Wi-Fi. You forget that now, but it was Apple who decided, “Yes, this is really important and we're going to make the base station a - anybody else's base station to ensure that people have lots of base stations. We'll put it in by default on all our machines so there's a reason to buy a base station and boost it way up.” That created the ability for everyone else to follow along and join in. So Apple is very good at making those choices, making the integration good enough that you understand why they want it and then ramping the industry forward. You can say the same thing about USB, to some extent.
Matthew: USB, exactly. But I think you're right that they did a lot more of that when they were relatively smaller, not the world's most valuable company. They felt like they had to try harder.
Leo: As soon as you have market share, you go, “Screw the other guy.”
Matthew: Right, why wouldn't you?
Leo: As J-DoggNunan [?] says in our chat room, “Microsoft has walls. They're just not as high as Apple's walls.”
Matthew: That's true.
Kevin: Well, thinking now, Microsoft is in that situation.
Matthew: I want to point out, Kevin also has walls. Kevin is in a walled garden right now.
Leo: Kevin is literally in a walled garden.
Kevin: It's a fence, actually.
Matthew: They're very nice.
Kevin: Nice wooden fences, only about seven foot high. Yes.
Matthew: Beautiful garden.
Kevin: But the houses aren't very high here, so we aren't overlooked, which is nice. So Microsoft is now in the situation that Apple was then.
Leo: In a way, they've flip-flopped.
Kevin: And where Google was a few years ago, where they are the outsider trying to get people to come back to their platform that they think is great. So they're going to have to do things differently, and they are. That's one of the things that have been refreshing about the last year or so with Microsoft is that they've been doing things like, “Oh, yes, of course we support running our software on Linux.” And you're like, “Wait, what?”
“Oh, yes. Our cloud will support Linux images as well as Windows images,” and you're like, “Hm. This is not the Microsoft I remember.” It's encouraging. I'm hoping that we'll see more of that and, you know, obviously they've restarted browser development with IE and they've been doing good work with standards there as well. So I'm hoping we'll see more of that and with the other shoe to drop there, they've been releasing versions of Office and so on for Android and iOS.
Leo: Even before they released it for Windows Phone and Windows Desktop. The touch-first Office came out on iPad, is coming out on Android, still is not available for Windows or Windows Phone. But that's what Nadella was talking about. He says, “We're going to be cross-platform. We're going to focus on what the customer wants.” That's nice. “But the best experience will be in Windows.” Is that the best we can hope for, really, in this modern world? Is there a chance, Kevin, of this kind of wonderful idea of open?
Kevin: Google tried doing that the other way around. Google tried very hard to put stuff out on iOS for quite a long time and then at the point where Apple started running interference on them and cancelling apps, and they got into a huge fight about it and called in the FTC. At that point they said, “Okay, if we've got to spend six months getting this into your app store, we're not going to do iOS first anymore.” I think they swam back a bit from that again and they've -
Leo: But that was a market – ultimately, yes. I know there were court cases. But ultimately, that was a market share decision. Google did that and I remember, this was Andy Rubin was pissed off about this. But it was ultimately a market share decision. “Yes, we've got Android. But where are all the users? They're on iPhone. We need users.” But as soon as you have market share on Android – in fact, look how Google has treated Windows Phone. I mean, really, it only exists from Google's point of view.
Kevin: Yes, and that's a reasonable decision. That's like, “Well, there are barely any users of Windows Phone.”
Leo: I guess that's why my question is, is there any hope of true openness?
Kevin: Well, the interesting thing is going to be how Google is with AOSP and I think they're going to have to start supporting writing their stuff in AOSP. But they could lose a lot of market share which is – you know, to some extent, they're already turning a blind eye to that in China in the same way that Microsoft used to turn a blind eye to Windows being prided in China.
Leo: Did you say – it seems to me, everyone will be a bully the minute they can be the biggest kid in class.
Matthew: I mean, that's always been the case. I mean, if you look at -
Leo: Well, I guess it has.
Matthew: I can't remember if it was Tim Woo or -
Leo: But didn't you see My Bodyguard? The big kid turned – never mind. That's a movie.
Matthew: But I mean, if you're the underdog, it's in your interest to be open. Because you're trying to afford -
Leo: Right, only as long as you're the underdog.
Matthew: Exactly. As soon as you stop – and in some cases, Google is very open with all sorts of things. But it's not open at all when it comes to Search and the algorithm because that's its core. You know, it has to build a moat around that and keep people away from it. But it'll be open with other things that aren't as relevant. The thing that I'm sort of wondering about is, it was one thing when we were talking about hardware, so a phone, you know, a laptop. Does your phone work with your laptop? Can you – even OneDrive or those sorts of things, that's one thing. But if you're talking about things like Cortana, and Siri and Google Now, they're basically ingesting all the data about you that they possibly can from every point of view. Where your phone is, are you in traffic, have you turned on voice recognition, are they reading your email, are they reading your voicemail? So once they get access to all of that, I think that the idea that it's a silo – [crosstalk]
Leo: “And we're going to protect you.”
Matthew: - locked into them, that becomes more of an issue than if it's just a piece of hardware.
Leo: That's an important thing to take away from this, which is, these companies may currently say, “Oh, we'll keep it private. Trust us.” But there really isn't a financial incentive for them to do that in the long run. At some point, you can assume they'll give up.
Kevin: But there is. There is – if they have a huge breach, it's going to be very bad for them.
Matthew: I would love to see Google say something like, “You can take all the data we have from Google Now and from – [crosstalk]
Leo: And delete it from our servers, yes.
Matthew: “Or you can take it from us. We'll package it and give it to you to go to a different service. They'll ingest it.”
Leo: Wouldn't that be great? But is there any incentive for them to do that? There's none.
Kevin: You can get a lot of the data out with take out, but what you don't get is the inferences.
Leo: You can't then apply it to Cortana or Siri.
Matthew: I can't get all my GPS coordinates from using Ways for the last two years.
Leo: There's no standard for that, anyway.
Kevin: You can get all your – if you turned on Google Location History, you can get all of that. I downloaded and it's huge.
Leo: I think it's a KML file.
Kevin: I'll say, it was like a gig.
Leo: Then what do you do with it? It's not like Siri or Cortana could make sense of it.
Matthew: It's not for free – [crosstalk]
Leo: So I guess my question is, Kevin, is there any way to convince these companies who are acting in their best interests financially – is there any way to convince them that it's in their best interest to keep it open? Isn't it always the case that from an economic point of view, once you're big enough, create a silo? Create a walled garden?
Kevin: That's just it. The challenge is them realizing that isn't true.
Leo: It's not true?
Kevin: It isn't true. If you do create the silo, then you create fragility and you're storing up massive, massive problems. You don't see it until suddenly, the site goes -
Matthew: It's too late.
Kevin: Yes, and this is the site death's problem. “Oh, this is great. They're looking after my stuff. I don't have to think about it. Wait. Where did it go?” Which is exactly what happened to me with iDisk. It was like, great. Apple is a big company, I'm paying them $100 a year to keep my stuff on their servers. I'll be fine. I can make links to it over the web and do that. Then one day, they're like, “Oh, we're not doing that any more. You can download it if you're quick and all those links are now dead. Homepage.mac.com doesn't exist anymore and screw you.” That isn't some little Friday night startup. That's Apple. Apple, not for lack of money, just from corporate decision making.
Matthew: I think it was Anil Dash said his iCloud, all of his photos, his wedding, his child, all those photos, gone. So iPhoto upgrade, library not found.
Leo: Horrible. That's just bad customer service. There's no – that's not what we're talking about here. A sensible company would not cheese off its most devoted users by deleting their -
Kevin: This is the problem that in the long term argument for open versus closed -
Leo: Yes, because you take it with you. Yes. You own it.
Kevin: The fragility of something is not just, is it well designed? It's also the corporate structures that own it and contain it. So when, if you build something that's on the platform owned by a large company that they can take away, then you're building it on sand because they can take it away. They've all done this. They've all deleted things. Microsoft is actually better at this than most of them because they have been a developer platform for a long time and they tend to keep things going for longer than you'd expect. But it's, you know. Google has deleted all kinds of things that we've got stuff on. Apple has taken things away, too. I'm sure Amazon at the moment hasn't done that with AWS at all. But its business is that, there's the potential that they could do that. They have done things like delete stuff for political reasons, like they took the WikiLeaks stuff down, for example.
Leo: Is it conceivable that the open source community could come up with a response to this and create an alternative to this?
Matthew: I think they're trying. There's certainly open Cloud initiatives.
Leo: I think it's interesting that you use Linux on your desktop, for instance, Matthew.
Matthew: Yes, and one of the reasons I wanted to do that is I wanted to explore as much as possible of a more open community and a sort of more open ecosystem. The problem is, it's still so much work. You spend a lot of time – you know, it's like building your own Kit car or something. It's great but you spend all this time maintaining it because no one could figure out how it works.
Leo: 2015 will be the year for desktop Linux, I'm convinced. No, I'm joking. I think that ship has sailed.
Matthew: I mean, I switched to Mint because Ubuntu was becoming such a crapped up piece of garbage.
Leo: Mint is loaded with all the stuff, you know. The drivers.
Kevin: We have mobile Linux. Android is Linux. It's hidden but it actually is the biggest operating system in the world now.
Matthew: I mean, Mac is Linux.
Kevin: Chrome is Ubuntu underneath, isn't it? So there is a sizable set of computers out there running desktop Linux. It's just that they call it – [crosstalk]
Leo: Well, what does that mean from the point of view of what I was saying? Can the open source community create a credible alternative? Android is not a credible alternative to the walled garden.
Matthew: The problem is that users in general do not care whether something is open.
Kevin: And AOSP is a credible alternative to Windows Phone.
Matthew: Right. So the vast majority of users just want something that works. They don't really care who's ecosystem, they don't really care what standard it operates on. So if you can provide a totally siloed ecosystem experience and it works great, which is what Apple has done, lots of people are going to say, “Fine, I don't care that it's not open.” So how do you make them care? You can't, really.
Leo: Well, maybe they care when their data gets deleted and next time, they care.
Matthew: If something bad happens, and I think if you look at companies – [crosstalk]
Kevin: [crosstalk] – keep a list of all the things that have gone wrong, right?
Leo: But there are a lot of people – maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome. But there are a lot of Apple users who have been bitten by Apple's crap Cloud services for years who still – most still embrace it, use it and say, “I'm loving this.” So again, I raise the question. Is there any way that – I mean, maybe we should raise the white flag on the idea of a cross-platform nobody owns it, non-proprietary solution. I'm not talking Cloud, just for everything as an alternative to the walled gardens offered by Microsoft, Apple and Google can survive.
Matthew: The thing is, I mean, Kevin knows better than anyone that history of sort of open things like that, open ID, and open this, and open Cloud and they often get a certain amount of traction. But they don't get sort of mass acceptance. They just don't.
Leo: So forget it. We should give up.
Kevin: Well, no. The thing is that they -
Leo: Go read a book.
Kevin: They do and they don't. The successful ones disappear and you forget, you don't think about them anymore. We don't think about, oh, open Web. But we're running open source browsers on open standards, HTML and etc.
Matthew: That's the best example.
Kevin: Open source servers as well, primarily. So there's a huge layer of stuff that's gone there and the point is – the point I was making is that the original thing about open source was, it's great for programmers. You don't have to write the codes that somebody else has already written and then there was this interesting interaction which was that if you managed to convince your company to open source software, then it was great for you as a programmer. Because you could leave the company and still work on it. It was like, “Great, wow. That's a real advantage for me as a programmer.” So programmers like that because it meant they didn't lose their code libraries and things, their knowledge base, when they leave companies. That helped contribute to the – [crosstalk]
Leo: That's interesting, yes.
Kevin: But then the thing that the companies at first were like, “Wait, we're losing all this precious IP.” Then they realized, “Wait. You're leaving the company and you're still working on this code that we're running but we don't have to pay you anymore.”
Leo: For free!
Kevin: “Oh, that works for us too.”
Matthew: “What a great idea.”
Kevin: “What a great idea. Let's do more of that.” To the point where we end up with stuff like Heartbleed because everybody's running the same code base and no one's done a security order on it in ten years because the thing is all outsourced to people who were – [crosstalk]
Matthew: They forgot they were even running it.
Leo: “Somebody already wrote this, so let's just use it.”
Kevin: Right, but you know, that's usually a good thing. When it becomes a monoculture risk, it can be a problem. But it's generally less of a monoculture risk than everybody running Microsoft's code, or everybody running Apple's code or everybody running Google's code.
Matthew: It feels to me like the web was almost an accident. You know, that no one realized -
Leo: A brief utopian period.
Matthew: Well, no one realized how important it was going to be so no one cared.
Leo: Isn't that what Tim Woo says? You mentioned Tim Woo, the author of The Master Switch. That's kind of what he says, is that in the nascent period of any of these technologies, and he starts with the long distance system, it is free, and open and magical because nobody's making any money on it. As soon as the big companies come along and they take it over, it goes from proprietary to closed. Now, he says that it swings, right?
Kevin: Also, they do – [crosstalk]
Matthew: It's always a pendulum.
Kevin: - is takeover as well. The other thing that he describes is that part where they go and get the government to mandate them and probably competitors as well.
Leo: It becomes the incumbents.
Kevin: And that creates the innovation pressure for the new things to occur.
Leo: I guess that's what I was asking. Is there space for an innovative – maybe it's open source, but maybe it's somewhere else. An innovative solution that isn't a walled garden, that does allow users to take their stuff and move it somewhere else, too.
Matthew: I think there always is.
Leo: I hope so.
Matthew: In fact, what we may be seeing – I think what I took away from Tim's book, anyway, is that the pendulum often swings or shifts when something new happens. So the Web is a good example. Is there something new enough? Is it going to be virtual reality? Is it going to be the Cloud? Is it going to be automated assistance like Siri and so on that will kind of – someone will come along at the same time as people are starting to feel locked into these silos and the two will find each other the need or the desire to have your stuff somewhere else or to be outside this walled garden will meet someone who has an offering that's powerful enough.
Leo: We're talking about Google, the Cloud, everything to do with up there in the sky. Matthew Ingram of GigaOm, Kevin Marks of Kevin Marks. You note that Jeff Jarvis isn't here. He is in Davos enjoying a lovely dinner right about now and he'll be back next week. But, hey, we've got two great people to take his place this week. Somebody – where did we find this great Hyperland video?
Kevin: Oh, I threw that in.
Leo: That is lovely.
Kevin: So I wanted to make the point, at one part of Microsoft's thing was, they said, “Look, and NASA is using our VR stuff to explore Mars.” Then, Hyperland is a documentary made by colleagues of mine at BBC in 1989 and – in 1990. It's written by Douglas Adams and he's the guy from NASA doing this VR thing.
Leo: So Douglas Adams of the Hitchhiker's Guide – and you may recognize Doctor Who.
Kevin: Yes, Tom Baker who was 81 yesterday appears much more sprightly in this as it's -
Leo: The fourth Doctor Who. So this is from what year?
Leo: Wow. This is NASA using virtual reality.
One for each eye. I've worn these. I remember going to SIGGRAPH. Remember fighting the dragon at SIGGRAPH with that helmet on?
Oh, jeez. It weighs about eight pounds.
Matthew: I tried one in -
Kevin: He says it's light.
Matthew: I played a sort of 8-bit video game and just about threw up.
Leo: But this was Jaron Lanier. This was the early days of VR, yes.
Kevin: Oh, and W Industries, you remember that? The pterodactyl game?
Leo: Yes, the pterodactyl. That's not the dragon, the pterodactyl.
Kevin: The founder of that is a friend of mine, he's here now. I saw him over Christmas. He said, “Oh, we're still doing interesting things in the space. Keep your eyes open for VR and AR.” So I suspect he's been doing a lot of work on the optics of it. One of the challenges is not having these big opaque screens that are across your face, but doing the thing that Microsoft showed up today where you've got some glass in front of your face that is about as opaque as the sunglasses I'm wearing but is able to inject light from multiple directions. So you can get a realistic overlay on the outside world.
Leo: I always thought that was the best way to do it.
Kevin: But there's a bunch of really hard things to do with that because if you do the classic headset thing like the NASA guy is wearing there, or like Oculus, what you're doing is putting screens there and using lenses to put them at infinity and then your eyes have to relax and look at infinity. So you're creating a tension between your eyes sense of where it should be looking, because it assumes that it should be focusing close up at things when it's converging and so on. So your eye ends up with getting muscular strain as it's trying to resolve those things. You often end up with a headache from that.
Leo: Well, if Oculus Rift makes you nauseous because of its poor frame rate, this thing. The frame rate on this is horrific.
Kevin: Oh, this stuff was very slow. But the other thing was that what they're able to do now with optics is they're able to buy having multiple lenses and multiple light sources from actually producing light that is produced at different distances. So it's like the – what's the camera called that takes the photograph that's always in focus? It's that same technology of light pipes and having lots of different distances. They're starting to be able to construct glasses that can actually give you an overlay that isn't going to give you power lapse errors because of that problem. So I'm not sure how much of that Microsoft had in what they showed today, but I think they had some of it. It's some very subtle and deep optic stuff going on there. So there's -
Leo: Here's the fourth – oh no, that's not Tom Baker. There, is that him?
Leo: The fourth Doctor Who.
Kevin: Tom Baker in this was the Cortana. He's your intelligent assistant. If this is up on Vimeo, just search for Hyperland. It's worth watching because it gets huge amounts – part of it is a history lesson of how hypertext happened and they interviewed Ted Nelson and show a bunch of stuff. But a chunk of it then comes into speculation of what might happen and it's fascinating, because the Web isn't in it. It's all these things that aren't quite the Web. They didn't find Tim Berners-Lee just before the Web happened with all the parallel universes around there. It ends with a lot of VR speculation which is now, as we come to reality, the stuff catches up. So if you've got an hour, I would recommend watching Hyperland.
Leo: I remember seeing it way back when. This is what's so interesting about technology is kind of the discontinuity of inventions. You can predict things like VR but you cannot tell when it will happen. And you can say, “Oh, hyperlinking might make a lot of sense.” But you can't see how exactly it will emerge. This movie was made exactly as Tim Berners-Lee starts to create the first World Wide Web.
Matthew: Exactly, and I remember I was writing about business and the stock marker for a newspaper here and I was writing about the big cable companies trying to build their own internets. So they saw the whole thing, you know, people buying TV shows, and people downloading movies and people listening to music. But they each wanted to build their own system. So, like the one in France, where you'd have to have a specific terminal and it would be run by your cable company. So the exact opposite of sort of the open internet. But they were building them. They were spending billions of dollars to build these things and luckily, you know, the web came along and it got traction before those things did or we'd be right where we are now. Except it would be, you know, CompuServe instead of Google Cloud.
Leo: There are many, many universes all happening at the same time and we're just picking one to be in today. Matthew Ingram from GigaOm, Kevin Marks. More to come with This Week in Google. Our show today brought to you by my mattress. Hey, you know. When you get a great mattress, you got to tell the people. You got to tell the world. My mattress, Casper. If you don't believe it's my mattress, we've got a video to prove it. Casper is an online retailer of premium mattresses for a fraction of the costs because they don't bother with show rooms. They ship you the mattress. I was talking to someone the other day, so actually, we had a king mattress in our new apartment. We couldn't get it in the door, it was too big. So we had to get two twins, but at Casper, this is a queen size mattress in the box the size of I don't know. It's like one of those little dorm room refrigerators. You open it up, you take it out, it goes (whoosh) and it's amazing. It is the best, most comfortable mattress you've ever had by marrying two technologies, latex and memory foam. You get a mattress with just the right sink and bounce. It's firm but soft. I don't know how they do it, it's kind of magic. Plus, you could buy it online easily.
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Matthew: Was that you jumping on the mattress?
Leo: That's me. I sleep on a Casper. I love my Casper. In fact, I liked it so much I got it for my son, who, you know, he's in a dorm room. Actually, they rent a house but there's like upstairs and he needed a mattress and I said, “Well, wait a minute. I'll just have Casper send you one.” He loves it.
Matthew: I noticed you were wearing the fancy pajamas, not the SpongeBob pants.
Leo: Oh, you saw me in the SpongeBob jammies? Next time I'll use those. “Yes, those are my Christian Howell the Third jammies.” I actually got those – I don't know if it's worth telling the story. But I got those. I did a commercial many, many years ago for Clark's Shoes, a TV commercial, in which I had to hang from a bar and drop into a bed. They were showing how comfortable Clark Shoes were. They shot it with – it was still shooting in video, that's how long ago it was, in super slo-mo camera and then the bed would collapse under me and they had all this smoke and dust would come up. I did about 20 takes but they got me special jammies, that's them. Still got the jammies. Some day I'll find that Clark's shoe ad. Thanks to YouTube, it probably exists.
Moving on. We'll talk more about Microsoft. I think there's a lot more to say. It was a very, very significant, I think, announcement today from Microsoft. But of course, it's very easy with these to get kind of sucked into the reality distortion field. So Paul and Mary Jo will join us just a little later on this afternoon. They're in the briefings right now and will have more to tell us about Microsoft's plans for the future.
President Obama gave his State of the Union last night and there was a lot of concern about what he would say about hacking. They had telegraphed that they were going to strengthen the hacking laws using the RICO Act and racketeering laws to make it really problematic for hackers. He actually did talk about cyber security in the State of the Union. “If we don't act,” he said, “We'll leave our nation and economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities, blah, blah, blah.” New cyber security legislation, which at this point, I think after the Sony attack, might be easy to push through. Maybe that's why the White House and the FBI were so anxious to pin it on North Korea. It makes it a lot easier for them to get this legislation through. “No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets or invade the privacy of American families!” This is when you know this is BS, “Especially our kids.”
Matthew: Right? As soon as they mention the kids, you know.
Leo: “Consider the children! Hacking takes such a toll on our children.” That's when you know that they're trying to pull the wool over your eyes. So they do want to raise the punishment for hacking. They do want to bring racketeering into this, which means that you could, for instance, have all of your personal effects confiscated by law enforcement even without being charged of a crime simply because you say, “We're in a hacking chat room.” I think nobody's going to oppose the idea of protecting American soil against the, you know, evil hackers but this will be interesting to see what the response is to this. Did you have any thoughts? None at all, huh? Just me, sitting here. Consider the children.
Matthew: I think Kevin's talking.
Leo: Kevin's talking but nothing's coming out of his mouth.
Kevin: - because, yes, I'm playing whatever again. Sorry. So this is more of the – they want two opposing things which is the problem. This is the problem of all security.
Leo: It's like Cameron.
Kevin: It's exactly like Cameron except Cameron – to some extent, both Obama and Cameron are electioneering now. Obama can't really get much passed so he's able to go back to campaigning, which he's very good at and throwing out ideas, saying, “Well, here's these great things to do but these guys will stop you doing it.” So he's able to go back to proposing things that are slightly less practical but he is still pushing some of these, you know, security state agenda things. Cameron – [crosstalk]
Leo: Well, CISPA, for instance -
Kevin: - has got an election coming up in May. CISPA – hang on. Let me finish.
Leo: Go ahead, do Cameron. You've got a British accent, you should do Cameron.
Kevin: So Cameron is -
Leo: He's your Prime Minister, not mine!
Matthew: So to speak.
Kevin: He's campaigning to his base. So he is – the conservatives campaign on law and order so they're saying, “We should not let these terrorists have any ways of communicating that we cannot intercept,” even though he is being briefed by people who understand this properly and know what's going on. But it doesn't matter too much if he can write the song by it.
Matthew: I don't even think he believes half the stuff he says.
Kevin: I'm not sure that's true. I think he believes some of that stuff but also, he's saying stuff that will play well to the conservative base, which is law and order, terrible foreigners and things. There's a sort of set of tropes that come out there. Whereas, Obama's doing the opposite and doing the things that appeal to his base and wind up his opposition, so there's a bit of politicking there but there is some underlying, you know, problems here that are actually very hard, which is, how do you decide between the interests of the people who want to keep stuff private and the interests of law and order in trying to see what you have? The answer is you have due process. You have the notion of the poisoned tree. You have the Fourth Amendment. You have the Bill of Rights. In the UK, there's the whole European Human Rights doing all this. This upsets the professional spies because they're – you know, they believe they are above the law because historically, they have been. So there's this tension where you get strange things being defended by groups because they're being briefed by the spies saying, “We have to do these terrible things to keep us safe.” We have to intercept communications. You know, they can point to, you know, Turing in the Imitation Game and say, “Look, if we hadn't cracked the codes, we wouldn't have won the war,” but that in some ways – and that's broadly true. But in some ways, that's also like this sort of scary mainstream propagandizing for torture that we've had in US media for the last ten years, 15 years, as we have programs like 24 and – well, too many to mention. At some point, they use the plot device of, “This person knows something. We have to torture him until he tells us it.”
Matthew: Zero Dark 30.
Kevin: Yes, but it's just like Alias that did it. It's not just the dark ones. It's like this is a mainstream trope in police investigations stuff as well. So there is this problem that it is very easy to write these good and evil narratives and say, “If they're the bad guys, then anything we do is justified,” and that is what draws this in. It worries me when the politicians are dancing along that line as well but in particular, it worries me for the encryption stuff. Because in those cases, it's less clear cut than the torture stuff. Torture is fairly obviously appalling and to some extent, they understand they're defending something completely appalling and therefore, they have to assume the lack of humanity in the other to do this. So the American Sniper debate at the moment is literally about Clint Eastwood making a film that presents all Arab people as subhuman and therefore, you think this guy is justified in shooting them on site. That's pretty much the message of the film. It's a well made film and lots of people like it. That is not that different a message from mainstream, you know, war film, police film, whatever. You have the good guys who are somehow impervious to bullets but they can kill people with one shot. You don't think about that because they're the bad guys. It is a – you know, a video game worldview that plays out as a media trope as well. That is a more worrying one.
The encryption one is harder to explain to people because it doesn't map to their experience as much. People do understand that they want their own stuff to be secure but they do want the police to be able to keep an eye on the terrorists. That is going to be very hard to explain this, particularly as we get to the point where they're saying, “You have to provide a way for us to read these messages.” The companies say, “We've designed it so we don't have any way to read these messages. That was the whole point of that software update. That's why What's App and iMessage can no longer read the contents because we were sick of having to give them to you lot.” It's doing the exact thing we were talking about in the first strike, which is damaging the customers' ability to have faith in that the company is looking after the stuff.
Leo: I got to admit, if I'm in the NSA and all of the sudden, the terrorists are using What's App to communicate and I can't see it, that's of concern, right? I can understand why they'd be worried about that. Admittedly, I'm sure the people at the NSA understand the implications of what Cameron called for. But admittedly, it doesn't seem an unreasonable thing to say that we should be able to see into What's App and, if you said, there's due process. So maybe I have to get a search warrant and, you know, go to the FISA court and say, “We think that there are two people having a conversation, planning an attack. They're using What's App. I want to be able to see what they're doing.” What's App maintains a special key in escrow, something like Skipjack where given due process, given a warrant, they can hand that key over to government who can then read those transactions. Is that unreasonable?
Matthew: Part of the problem is that the FISA court and all those deliberations are completely secret. They apparently routinely rubber stamp things or whatever. Is that due process?
Leo: But they have to be secret or the terrorists will know what we're doing. By the way, if you haven't figured this out, playing devil's advocate here. Go ahead.
Matthew: I think there is a pretty good argument against sort of mass collection of data and surveillance that is not targeted at anyone in particular. Because there's some evidence, at least, to show that is almost completely useless.
Leo: Great article in the New Yorker this week along this line called “The Whole Haystack” by Matthias Schwarz, in which he makes a very strong case that in fact, there is no value to mass collection of data. You cannot yet use that data in any way that will help you. What he uses as an example is the fact that we have already known almost every major terrorist attack in the last 15 years. It's been committed by people we already know about and are already watching.
Matthew: In fact, Paris is a good example. Those people were known to police, known to the authorities and yet, still, it couldn't be prevented.
Leo: The size of – the lack of data is not the problem.
Matthew: Exactly. It's filtering it and understanding it. We just don't have the tools. I think what the NSA is hoping is that they can just accumulate this data and then eventually, they'll figure out how to actually go through it and find the bad guys. But at least to this point, there is no evidence that has occurred.
Leo: Right. You'll hear a quote often from Congress or perhaps law enforcement saying, “There have been 54 cases – at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this mass collection of data.” President Obama said that at a press conference. He says lives have been saved but in this article, Matthias goes through those 54 cases and he quotes Patrick Leahy, senator for Vermont who says that number is plainly wrong. These weren't all plots and they weren't all thwarted. According to a deputy of – CIA director Alexander, there's really only one example of a case where bulk phone records stopped terrorist activity. One. So that was -
Kevin: Well, also there's found that most of these stopped terrorist plots in the last few years have actually been organized by the FBI.
Leo: Not the NSA.
Kevin: But no, there was an Intercept article about this which basically said, “Yes, they've stopped all these terrorist plots except that these terrorist plots involved an FBI informant finding some loner and offering him a quarter of a million dollars to go and blow something up, and then arresting him before he blew anything up and saying, “Look, we stopped a plot.” It was like, I think you actually started a plot and then stopped it as well.
Matthew: See, that's progress.
Kevin: This is what happens when you get credit for stopping plots. Like we haven't had enough plots? We'd better find some.
Leo: Let's find some plots and stop them.
Matthew: I just don't see how – even if there were a dozen cases, which there are not. So let's say there's five. Even if there were, does that justify the kind of routine surveillance and breach of -
Matthew: - human rights that we're talking about.
Matthew: On a scale that's unprecedented.
Leo: General Alexander is the head of the NSA – or former head of the NSA, by the way, not the CIA> He called it, and this is the name of the article, “The whole haystack,” which is basically all electronic conversations going on around – not just in the United States, everywhere, at all times, forever.
Matthew: Every time I think about the NSA's bulk collection, I think of that scene in Indiana Jones when they take the -
Leo: The warehouse, yes.
Matthew: Yes, and they put it in a box and they hide it in a government warehouse where no one will ever find it.
Leo: That's where the data is. Legislating for unicorns. I don't know what this is about. I've got to read this here real quickly. Oh, this is the idea of – this is good. Should we play this video? You must have put this in here, Kevin Marks. This is from Parliament.
Oops, sorry. Let me get out of … Wait, let's get that. Those are the big four, by the way. Let's go once more and listen to those. Which countries are doing this spanning encryption?
Matthew: Did he say Moldova?
Leo: I think he did.
Matthew: Boulder. Is that a country?
Leo: I love Parliament. That fellow, by the way, Julian Hupert, is a member of Parliament from I don't know where.
Matthew: I thought that was Louis CK for a second.
Kevin: Brighton, I think.
Matthew: Well, that explains a lot.
Leo: And that woman is Theresa May, she's the home secretary. The woman who, in fact, would according to David Cameron, be signing the warrants that would allow them to crack into encryption.
Matthew: I mean, the problem is, when she says, “There will be no safe place for terrorists to communicate,” that means there will be no safe place for anyone.
Leo: For you and me to communicate!
Matthew: Because how do you differentiate?
Leo: Go ahead then, Kevin.
Kevin: Right. That came from the post that described this as legislating for unicorns. They said, “Well, you can say there will be no safe place for terrorists but that doesn't mean you can actually write legislation that does this. You can say, 'we will introduce legislation that will make sure we have plenty of unicorns in the UK,' but it doesn't mean you can actually make it happen.” That's effectually what they're promising. What they – so they're being a little cynical about this. They've come up with this nice formula of, “There can be no safe space for terrorists.”
Leo: They know, they must know.
Kevin: But if you actually want that to be true, you need to do a lot of that through physical surveillance as well as through interception. To say that we can just – to say that they can do it purely through interception is nonsense. But what you have to do then is follow that up with detailed surveillance and, you know, planting cameras on people and those kinds of things, which is also obviously intrusive and requires warrants and things like that. Part of the sort of reason the NSA and GTSQ [?] have such enormous budgets is they've represented the politicians and they don't need to do that any more because they can sniff all this traffic and do this without doing that. It should be cheaper if they just invest all this money in building these giant haystacks so they can sniff for needles.
Leo: What about President Obama's proposals? Is that also legislating for unicorns?
Kevin: I haven't – has he introduced a legislation proposal? I hadn't seen one.
Leo: Well, of course, CISPA's back, whether CISPA has a chance of passing is unknown, but that's the bill that has failed Congress several times that proposes a sharing of data from the NSA with companies like Google and Microsoft so that Google and Microsoft could get right in there and help them fight terrorism. That has been turned down several times due to lack of privacy protection.
Kevin: Right and the equation has been called the “snooper's charter” -
Leo: Much better name.
Kevin: That's not the official name but that's what it's been successfully labeled the last five times they've tried introducing it to Parliament over two different governments.
Leo: It did sound like Obama was endorsing it. He endorsed enabling better communication between the government and companies about cyber threats. That sounds like CISPA. He had said before, “I will veto this if it passes.” It never did pass but perhaps he's changed his tune.
Kevin: The cyber threats – there's a bit of a dance around that one. Because the cyber threat stuff, the better communications in government about cyber threats was a separate program where they were talking about data breaches and information pooling about that. That was where that stuff came from. So they may be blurring lines there deliberately to make that, use that formula. I've been to a few meetings and things about that and the idea there was, there was this problem that companies have information about data breaches and advanced system threats and those kinds of things. It would be useful to share this with other companies, but they didn't want to share with competitors. Can the government by the broker for relaying information back and forth? Which actually ignores how security really works, which is, there is a network which shares that which is all the security ops guys at your company who know all the security ops guys at the other companies. When some of that stuff shows up, they call their mates and say, “Look out for this one.” [crosstalk]
Leo: I think it's just fascinating that Obama -
Kevin: [crosstalk] - won't actually work and that's, you know. The way the internet has been secured reasonably well so far has been through those kinds of back channels and security communities and risks, account risks and all those. The security community that we know and love. It's very hard to reconstruct that in relationship to reform. The government people know that too. They employ people in that group of people as well. So there's this set of people who understand that and a set of people who are trying to build a management structure on top of it that makes it – you know, historically it's been very hard to do it successfully. If you start trying to tell your security people how to share things with people, you're going to have a bad day because you will lose the better security engineers if you tell them they can't talk with people outside the company.
Leo: What's really amazing is this reminds me of 1984's – what do they call it? True speak, where truth is lies, war is peace. Obama says, “In order to protect the privacy of American families, we have to snoop.” It's just like, “Oh, no, that's the opposite!” It's like nobody's listening.
Matthew: We've always been at war with Eurasia.
Leo: Exactly! “In order to protect, no foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets or invade the privacy of American families.”
Matthew: “We're going to do that.”
Leo: “That's our job.”
Matthew: Right. If anybody's going to invade anybody's privacy, it's going to be us.
Leo: I just – (squeaks)
Kevin: Also, the other thing is the shout out about American persons – it's not American persons. There's all the legislative stuff that says, “Oh, we must protect, because of the Fourth Amendment, we can't snoop on American persons.” Which, you know, has a slightly generous definition. It includes me despite my lack of citizenship because I live here and so on. But they interpreted that to say, “If we can assume that more than half of this conversation is not on American persons, we are allowed to snoop on it. Then we'll clear the whole thing anyway.” So that was how they danced their way through that at the NSA.
Matthew: And they're also allowed to use a sort of best guess as to whether someone is a foreign citizen. So if you mention Saudi Arabia, boom.
Leo: Boom, you must be a foreign citizen. Well, I'm sitting here with two foreign citizens. This entire show is being recorded by the NSA for future reference because clearly, I'm communicating with foreigners.
Matthew: Luckily, the NSA is collecting the non-US part and the Canadian and British governments are collecting the non-US part. So it all works out.
Kevin: Right, and then they have an information sharing agreement, if that's true. The US can collect information on non-US citizens, and the Britains can collect on non-British citizens at an age that British citizens do because they don't have a Fourth Amendment there. But they have an information sharing agreement so they can share the information that they have on each other's citizens with each other and join the dots up. So that's how they circumvent that particular -
Leo: It reminds me of a great novel and later Sean Connery movie called The Anderson Tapes. Sean Connery creates a plan to rob every apartment in a large, wealthy apartment building and as soon as the robbery happens, all the law enforcement agencies that have been tapping every phone immediately erases all records of this thing being planned. “I don't even know. We were listening but we don't want to have anything to do with it.”
I should point out that there's an even more sinister nexus, that between Hollywood and content creators who would also like to use these laws to protect copyright. There's been no attempt by the federal government to separate the interest of fighting terrorism with the interest of fighting copyright. When they talk about hackers, that's just as much people stealing HBO Go passwords.
Matthew: And we've seen that from SOPA and PIPA and even before. Copyright maximalists and sort of content – massive content empires are more than happy to cozy up to whatever it takes to get sort of strong legislation passed. If they want to kind of – fear about terrorists and so on, because that's what it takes, they're more than happy to do that.
Leo: They want to add racketeering, any act which is indictable on any of the following provisions, etc., etc. It means that, you know, if you share your HBO password with somebody else, you can get ten years and they can take your house. It merely relies – at this point, we're merely relying on the goodwill, on the kindness of the court system, to keep that from happening.
Leo: Right. “Such persons' interest in a property, real or personal, that was used or intended to be used to commit or facilitate the commission of such a violation, any property, real or personal, constituted or derived from any gross proceeds, all this goes to law enforcement.” In fact, even without an indictment if you're a co-conspirator. Unbelievable, unbelievable. So this is the proposals the White House has put forward to protect us and our privacy against them foreigners. While we're at it, let's just shut down all the bit torrents too.
Matthew: It's going to be the same as before, it was if you had tools that would allow you to break encryption on a CD or DVD, that was a crime. If you have encryption tools that will allow you to protect your computer from snooping by the government, that will be a crime.
Kevin: I think that is a crime. That's section 12.01. Cory Doctorow just announced that he's going back to the EFF to try to get that repealed. That was on today, saw that.
Leo: Good, good man.
Kevin: So that's encouraging because he's -
Leo: He was EFF's international ambassador for goodwill or whatever, I don't know what his title is.
Kevin: He basically would go to all these DRM meetings and understand what was going on, and write it down and publish it. Also, gather all these drafts and things that they were trying not to publish and publish them. So that sort of was a big part of stopping this stuff being much worse than it is.
Leo: “Cory Doctorow and the EFF aim to eradicate DRM in our lifetime.”
Matthew: That's a good goal.
Leo: “We pledge, before this decade is out, to eradicate DRM.” In fact, they even use a rocket ship, Apollo 12.01. They clearly understand the reference. A mission to eradicate DRM in our lifetime. Well, good on you, Cory. Cory is so well spoken, so smart and I agree with him, absolutely, 100%. Although I have to admire, you know, I have to point out that Larry Lessig, who for a long time, this was his call, realized that nothing was every going to happen unless we fixed how we financed elections. He's focused everything, all of his efforts now, on campaign finance reform, even creating a PAC – this is brilliant. We've talked about this before, a PAC, political action campaign, to raise money to lobby members of Congress to eliminate lobbying and PACs. You got it, you know? It's the only way to do it.
Matthew: I sort of feel like Larry maybe fighting that one sort of dragon was almost too easy so he decided to take on an even bigger one that's even harder to kill.
Leo: It's not enough just to get rid of DRM. Let's get rid of corruption entirely. But he does make a point, you know, as long as Hollywood is spending money on these members of Congress, you're not going to get anybody to do anything. It's great if you can add the children and terrorism, everybody wins. All right, we're going to call this episode Legislating for Unicorns, I think. Let's take a break and when we come back, more. We also have a mini change log, some new stuff from – not much.
Jason: Not much and I scoured.
Leo: A short change log. I have a change log, but I'll save that for my tool of the week. We're talking right now about Google, the Cloud and the Google-verse with Kevin Marks, kevinmarks.com. On the Twitter, he's @kevinmarks – oh, he's a wonderful voice, a passionate voice for open standards. And Matthew Ingram, who covers all of this stuff so beautifully on gigaom.com. Always great to have both of you guys on the show. Jeff Jarvis will be back next week. He's in Davos, probably snoozing right about now. This is This Week in Google.
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Google wants to become – well, we know they want to become an ISP. They've gotten a little more serious about Google Fiber in more communities. Now, Google wants to become a wireless carrier. Exclusive story from the Information. In fact, let me log in because I pay for the Information so I can read the whole thing instead of just an excerpt.
Kevin: The second paragraph.
Leo: Yes, exactly. It's worth paying for if you're not already doing that. Jessica Lessin and her team do a great job. I asked her, said, “Aren't people going to do what I'm about to do, which is subscribe and read the article out loud?” She said, “That's all right. People will subscribe because they want to get access to it.” So, by the way, Amir Afrati, who works at the Information, has such great contacts at Google. He's often breaking scoops.
“Google plans to shake up the US wireless market,” he writes, “By selling Voice plans to consumers directly from Google through T-Mobile and Sprint.” So I guess to become an NVNO. It's the latest example on how Google tries to prod incumbents to change their business to benefit Google. That's what they do with Google Fiber to show you that it's possible to have a gigabit ISP and make money on it. Google's expected to reach deals to buy wholesale access to the carrier's mobile, voice and data networks. It's code named “Nova.” Nick Fox is leading it, a long time Google executive and Amir says that launch this year seems likely.
Matthew: It makes sense in a lot of ways. I mean, I'm kind of surprised they haven't tried it before now.
Leo: Disney's an NVNO. I mean, Virgin. There's so many NVNOs. It's an easy thing to do. One of our advertisers, Ting, is a Sprint NVNO. It's an easy thing to do.
Kevin: I think there's a timing issue here because they couldn't - at the point that they were trying to launch Android across all carriers, they couldn't do this. Now where the carriers aren't going to drop Android, they can do this.
Matthew: Yes, good point.
Leo: It's interesting that Sprint and T-Mobile are -
Kevin: [crosstalk] – with these carriers already, right?
Leo: Explain to me why Sprint and T-Mobile are willing to have these third parties lease wholesale data and sell below their retail prices, offer better plans.
Matthew: I think both of them are struggling. I don't know that but it feels like it.
Leo: I guess they need to, huh?
Kevin: So there's a fixed cost and a variable cost. So the fixed cost is maintaining the network and growing it, and they want to keep doing that. Then there's a variable cost, which is running all the stores, and signing people up, recruiting them and so on. So if they can offload some of that variable cost stuff to somebody else, they're happy to do that because it helps them with the fixed costs. That's basically how NVNO stuff works.
The other thing is, the reason that it's those two is that they're the GSM ones. So they're the ones that's actually straightforward to operate with as opposed to Verizon, which is weird as anything, and AT&T, which is not quite as weird but still slightly odd. Whereas, GSM is like the global standard. The reason you can force things out of phones and put different ones in and have them work broadly is because they use GSM. Yes, there are different bands and you have to have different radio frequencies and this is actually slight – [crosstalk]
Leo: Sprint's not, though. Sprint's a CDMA carrier, so they would have on GSM and one CDMA carrier.
Kevin: Oh, I thought Sprint was GSM.
Leo: No, that's what's interesting is that it's both. I think that's probably why it is both, because I think that they want to be able to say, “Whatever kind of phone you have, you can bring it over.”
Kevin: That makes some sense, yes.
Matthew: The risk, I mean, as a mere mention, Sprint and T-Mobile, their networks are not as robust. They don't have as good coverage.
Leo: Yes, they're the also-ran. That's why they're willing to do it.
Leo: The reason that Google has held back on this, Amir writes, is because they didn't want to upset wireless carriers. They needed them to carry Android phones. Now it's not such a big deal because -
Kevin: I just said that.
Leo: You just said that? Sorry. I'll add – did you say this? The other reason is anti-trust. I think if Google were to come along and say, “Why don't we just buy T-Mobile?” They could do that but the likelihood of government approval, I don't know. It might be an unknown. So this is a great way to do it and as you point out, cleverly, in advance of my insight, that now they don't have to worry about pissing off the other guy. You just said it so eloquently I didn't understand you. “They didn't wanna piss off the other guys.” You know, I think I'd be tempted. It wouldn't even have to be less expensive if I thought Google was going to deal with my more fairly and have better customer service. But Google's not exactly known for customer service, are they?
Kevin: Right, but it's a tradeoff, right? So I had a problem with – I use T-Mobile because I think their customer service, their deals are pretty good and their service is good. But I had a problem last week where my phone stopped working on Wednesday, just as I was getting on the train to San Francisco. So when I got to San Francisco on Wi-Fi, I'm tweeting them saying, “My phone stopped working. What's wrong with it?” They're like, “Oh, try turning it on and off again.” It's like, “Yes? I've tried that. I've also tried taking the SIM out and putting it back in again.” It's not a physical flaw. It's a network flaw. Then, after doing that with the customer service guy, they say, “Oh, you're right. I'm going to have to transfer this to engineering. They'll get back to you within 72 hours.” I was like, (gasps). I knew it. I wasn't actually going to San Francisco the rest of the week, so I let it sit for 72 hours, but that got me to Saturday. Saturday, it was like, “They still haven't fixed this and they haven't responded any further with updates.” So I went to the shop and said, “Give me a new SIM now, please.” And that's straightforward. Then it worked. So clearly, it was not necessarily the SIM but the network's knowledge of the SIM. But it's like, “You should have told me to go to the shop. You have retail shops for this exact purpose. Why did you tell me to wait 72 hours for engineering to look at it?” So it's one of those, like, (growls).
But the thing is, Google doesn't have retail shops. So if that happened to me with Google, they would have to mail me one. But I suppose if - [crosstalk]
Leo: Erica G. in our chat room says she has Google Fiber and the service is excellent on Google Fiber. So Google has figured out, in a consumer-facing business, at least how to do it right. Presumably, that would apply to an NVNO.
Matthew: I wonder whether Google – would they prepared to help Sprint and T-Mobile with their networks? I mean if, say, Google has a lot of people who understand networks, lots of people who've got tons of Fiber, maybe they can actually help improve those services.
Matthew: Then buy them.
Leo: I think that's got to be the ultimate goal is just buying them.
Kevin: See, the head of Deutsche telecomm was flying a kite about selling T-Mobile this week, wasn't he? I saw something about that.
Leo: They've been trying to sell it for ages. Remember Softbank was going to – or was that Sprint? Wasn't Softbank going to buy them and then Sprint/T-Mobile merger and … But historically, the US government has not looked too kindly on these things. They don't care if Comcast and Time Warner merge, that's fine. Apparently, teleco lobbyists are not as effective.
Kevin: But Google buying T-Mobile would be less of an issue because it wouldn't reduce competition.
Leo: They're not in the same business. Yes, they're not in the same business.
Kevin: I mean, it would create vertical integration, which is another kind of problem. But it's – they're less worried about it these days, I think.
Leo: I'd be all for it. Sprint, not so much. Not so crazy about Sprint.
Kevin: I haven't tried Sprint. I've been on the other three and T-Mobile has generally been really good.
Leo: I like T-Mobile.
Kevin: They don't bill you for stuff you don't want. They don't force you to buy a plan and at the point, you can add any gadget to it you like. You don't get overcharges for the data. You can actually get unlimited data, though they do throttle you a little bit.
Matthew: Don't they have a global roaming plan?
Leo: They do. It's not very fast but it works.
Kevin: It's limited to 128 kilobits, which is good enough for normal textual stuff. But you're supposed to, again, be able to upgrade it. So last time I was in the UK, which was actually quite a while ago, middle of last year, I thought, “Oh, okay, let's try these upgrade parts.” So I quickly upgraded and it doesn't work, doesn't resolve properly, no way to know who I am or connect to it properly. So, you know, I think to some extent they realize that these billing systems are actually gigantic, creaking bits of crap. So if they simplify them, then the customers are happier because they don't have to interact with a crappy billing system. They don't have to employ people to be on the phone with them. It works out better for them to do flat rates.
Leo: You know what would be interesting? Google already does something kind of cool with the Android device manager. You've used that on All About Android, right, Jason? Where -
Jason: Well, we actually used it when I was hosting TWiG while you were at -
Leo: Oh, you did it on TWiG.
Leo: Yes, I saw. I mean, it's very cool. So Android device manager is only available on Nexus phones right now but presumably, if Google did do an NVNO, they'd be offering – you'd think they would sell it just through the Play Store or would they have brick and mortar store fronts? How would they do it? I don't know. But the device manager, what's cool is it's kind of like the Fire phone where you can get help, a live person, right?
Jason: Yes, you just hit a button and it asks you a couple questions. Then connects you, within a minute.
Leo: Can't do that on AT&T.
Jason: It was pretty seamless, very impressive.
Leo: Actually, you can do it on AT&T but – never mind.
Matthew: But there's no one there.
Leo: I'm on AT&T and it still works. You have to have a Nexus phone, it's just on the internet. That's kind of cool.
Matthew: They have internet on phones now.
Leo: They have the internet on phones. It's an amazing, amazing thing. It's tiny, but it's there. The little internet. Apparently, Google makes its self-driving cars in Livonia. Is that near Moldova and Kazakhstan, I don't know what -
Kevin: Is that a place or a city?
Jason: I believe it's Michigan, right?
Leo: It's near Detroit. So I think that's kind of cool.
Kevin: Well, that means they can actually build and test them in snow, now. So that's really good.
Leo: They didn't work in snow, did they? The autonomous vehicles don't work except in perfect conditions. Only in California. The goal is to have driverless cars on the market within five years says Chris Urmson, director of self-driving cars for Google. This is an article from the Detroit Free Press. Apparently, if you live in Detroit, you don't have to be explained where Livonia is. It sounds like Fredonia, the fictional country where the Marx brothers lived. But apparently, it's near Detroit. ]
Matthew: Or Elbownia. That's where all the programmers worked in Dilbert.
Leo: Within five years. Are you ready? That's 2020. I'm ready.
Matthew: I'm ready.
Leo: Really, would you get in one of these? There's no steering wheel. You just get in the car and you say, “Take me home.”
Kevin: You say, “Okay, Google, oh no!”
Leo: We've all seen that Silicon Valley episode where -
Kevin: I just realized this could be the problem. You're listening to TWiG and Leo starts directing the car.
Leo: Okay, Google, take me to Livonia. Take me home, is Livonia. Right now, it's legal – driverless cars are legal in Nevada, Florida, Washington DC, California and Michigan. I think, though, I may be wrong. But I seem to remember it was for research purposes, not just, you could take it out on the road. You can't just get in your autonomous vehicle and drive around.
Matthew: I think Google's going to have to come up with a – like, the one they have now is cute and everything but I think they're going to have to come up with something a little more Jetson style or Tesla style for a bunch of people to bother getting in.
Kevin: That is Jetson style. It's a little – [crosstalk]
Matthew: It is a little, yes.
Kevin: But I mean, somebody, I think it was Megan Mcardle who said it's not so much a driverless car as a driverless golf cart.
Leo: They asked Urmson about that. He said, “When you first see a driverless vehicle in your neighborhood, do you want it to be a big black SUV? Do you want it to be a Hummer?” No. He says, “We chose that design because it looks safe, and friendly and unintimidating.”
Matthew: It does.
Kevin: Also that golf carts have different rules about them than cars, so you know, there are categories of cars, right? I suspect that they're hedging their bets because you can drive golf carts all over the place and you can drive them on roads in most jurisdictions. But they have different constraints on them than cars, trucks and so on.
Leo: I think these are also urban, primarily urban, vehicles, right? They're really -
Leo: So they need to be small for parking for getting around.
Kevin: Yes. I think these have a smaller range than the ones we were using before. With that, you know, the other half of that thing is Tesla, isn't it? So Tesla is building the electric cars that people actually want because they're very nice cars and they're talking about driverless Teslas and projection – as well. The thing is, this isn't going to be like a sudden thing. The people who bought Tesla Roses don't want driverless cars. They want to feel control and do 0 to 60 in three seconds or whatever the hell it is.
Matthew: But I'll bet you $10 Uber is going to buy some driverless cars.
Leo: Uber should.
Matthew: So the first place you're going to see them is stuff like that, I think, in cabs, delivery vehicles and then eventually they'll start becoming more consumer level.
Leo: That's kind of key, too, because the autonomous vehicles that Google showed us all had steering. They were regular – they were retro-fitted regular cars. They had steering wheels, and brakes and accelerators. These new little pod-like ones, they don't have a steering wheel.
Kevin: Well, that was the point. In order for them to be able to drive them on the road, they had to have someone sitting behind the wheel and have a wheel, have a big red override button.
Leo: Just in case.
Kevin: So this iteration is rebuilding them without them but with little cuddly golf carts that won't hurt anybody if they hit them.
Leo: What about the person inside? I just think there's psychologically this notion that I am at the mercy of this computer, whatever it wants to do, it's going to do, even if it's drive off a cliff. There's nothing I can do to stop it.
Matthew: I still like what you, and I and Jeff were talking about, the question about whether the Google smart car AI would make a decision to drive you off a cliff if the only alternative was, you were going to smash into a bus.
Leo: We had some visitors yesterday from Switzerland. Their two sons were studying in the United States. I said, “What are they studying?” They said, “Philosophy.” Oh, boy. I said, “No, wait a minute. That is the new thing to study because we're in a world now where ethicists, people who are deciding what artificial intelligence can and cannot do, it is a realm of philosophers and ethicists. That's a perfect thing to study right now. There's going to be a huge demand for people to solve things like this.
Well, okay, you're writing the software. The car could avoid collision in two ways, one, by steering into a bus full of school children, two, by driving the person in the car off a cliff.
Matthew: The occupant.
Leo: The occupant. So, I mean, the ethical, moral, right thing to do would of course be to drive off the cliff, save children's lives.
Matthew: But that's prevented by the Third Law of Robotics.
Leo: I'm the occupant. What do you do?
Kevin: Well, you know, these throw the fat guy under the train things tend to be done by philosophers that don't understand physics. A fat guy would not stop a train and a Google Car would not stop a school bus.
Leo: That's why they make them so small. The occupant dies no matter what.
Kevin: If you search for “car hits school bus” on Google Photos, you'll see what a car looks like when it hits a school bus. There's a reason school buses don't have seatbelts and weight five tons. It's because if they hit anything, the thing suffers.
Leo: It's a giant battering ram. The cost could be an issue. The lidar that these things use is $70 thousand.
Kevin: Yes, but that's – you know, you can scale that. That's because they don't make many at the moment. All that is, you know, is optics and senses and okay, there's a mechanical thing that makes it rotate.
Leo: That's actually what this guy said. He said, “It's not made of Ubobtainium.”
Matthew: It's hilarious, if you read the piece, one of the only accidents that a Google test car has had is when a driver manually moving one rear ended a Prius.
Leo: That's really the truth and the answer to that ethical question is, it's pretty clear these will save lives in net because, you know -
Leo: Yes. Six thousand people die each year while texting.
Kevin: But that was the point I was trying to make with the Teslas and we've already seen this with cars, is that this isn't a once-for-all change for drivers in cars. It's an incremental change. The cars do more – these cars are down a lot because the cars have more and more stuff built in, now. They have lane following. They have overtaking lidar warnings. They have a whole set of, you know, ABS systems and things that can detect what's going on. There's more and more computation going into the cars to make them safer and the driverless thing is just an extrapolation point on that curve, where at some point you're like, “Okay, keep following the lane. Okay, maybe I'll take over.”
Oh, parking. Parking is one that you can just press a button and the cars will do that now. So there's a whole set of cars that have pieces of this, where they've solved a small part of the problem space. The question is, can you solve the entire problem space? At the moment, it's hard and it requires, basically, Google to scan the entire road in 3D three times and decide which bits are permanent and which bits are temporary. But that may change over time as they get better at this. But the thing is, of all the things to try to top, it's not that high a bar. There's so many people who are really bad drivers and crash cars into things so many times that it shouldn't be that hard for them to do a bit better.
Matthew: To do better, yes. But I think there's going to be, I'll bet you, in cultural terms, there will be a huge upswing in people driving giant, gas-guzzling Chargers and GTOs and stuff. Because they want to maintain control over their vehicle.
Leo: “I own my destiny.”
Matthew: Right, so they'll pay people to remove all the automatic driving things so that they can drive wherever they want.
Leo: Yes. I actually have been in the self-parking Ford. You would think that might be a little creepy. It's not, it's actually kind of really cool. The wheels spin and it does the whole thing and does it perfectly. Admittedly, that's not the same as driving down the road but I think we can get used to this idea that the car drives itself. We might even like it.
“Google is now a more trusted source of news than the websites it aggregates.”
Matthew: That doesn't surprise me at all.
Leo: This is something that the delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos will see. This is from the 2015 trust barometer. Search engines are now more trusted than news sources. Traditional media on this graph, the blue. Red is online search engines and the line has crossed. By the way, online search engines don't just beat traditional media, they beat whatever hybrid media is, social media and owned media. I don't know what these other things are.
Matthew: I actually had a friend who used to be in the newspaper business say that he didn't understand these results. He said, “How can the aggregator of something be more trusted than the thing that produced the content?” I said, it makes perfect sense to me. Because if you go to a single news outlet, you get their news and their version of the news. If you go to an aggregator, you get news from all over and presumably, you get a broader sample. It's for objective – [crosstalk]
Kevin: I think it depends how you ask it. Because if you ask, “Do you trust the media?” You get a, “No, I trust Google more.” But do you trust, you know, this particular media that you're a big fan of, whether it's Fox or MSNBC, wherever it is. Then you'll get a different answer because people still do like – people still buy the media or ascribe to the media that reinforces their worldview and they will like those ones more.
Matthew: Actually, Emily Bellin, I had this conversation about when trust came up before. She said, you know, “Some of the best newspapers probably wouldn't score high on a trust ranking because lots of people hate them because they are continually coming up with investigative stories.”
Leo: Right, they keep goring my ox.
Matthew: [crosstalk] – because the countries are corrupt and whatnot. So of course people would say they don't trust them and yet they're clearly better than some of the other ones that fans of Fox news would say, “Oh, yes, I totally trust Fox news.” Because it tells them what they want to hear.
Leo: That's a good point. If you view them as an aggregator, you're going to see them all. I think we all use aggregators, now. I use aggregators. I don't go straight to the New York Times site to read New York Times articles.
Matthew: In fact, that, whether it's Twitter, or Facebook -
Leo: Or Flipbook, Flipboard, Prismatic, yes.
Matthew: All these tools. The default for lots of people is, “I want to see information from more sources.” So the idea for newspapers, at least, that your app is going to be so good that people will just download that and then they'll just pay for the stuff that comes from your news organization is just farcical People aren't just going to choose that, I don't think. Or not enough of them.
Kevin: Well, what they're doing is saying, you know, “It's time to say, we need to build loyalty and we'll give you things and make you feel special for being part of our club.” That's something Jeff's been promoting to the -
Leo: Yes, and that's kind of what we do here. I mean, we're not the only source of tech news by any means and actually, in a way, we are an aggregator, aren't we? We aggregate news from a variety of sources into this, the commentaries that we add.
Matthew: Actually, New York Times has had a fair bit of success with its app, NYT Now, in which they have content from other places that is selected by their editors. That's a form of aggregation, something that they used to despise.
Leo: That's where value is added. I presume the value we add, which is analysis, commentary.
Matthew: In fact, newspapers were the original aggregators. Let's face it, they took stuff from news wires and all sort of places, and packaged it up for you and gave it to you.
Leo: Right, right. Quick Google change log, some quick things from Google. Actually, there's only a couple.
First, Google Chrome version 40 is out. Chrome 40. I'm on the beta, so my beta is 40.0.221485. Hand off now available on the OS 10, material design as well. The new Google Chrome is here. The new Google Chrome is here.
As far as change logs go, a change could be a negative change. The death of Google Glass. Google Glass sales are halted. That's it, it's over. But Google says, “We're still committing to launching a consumer product but we're not going to make the Glass Explorer edition anymore.” That's good, because it cost $1500 and was launched two years ago, almost two entire years. The Glass team will move out of the Google X division, that's their RND blue sky division and will have its own department. According to Tony Fidel, the chief executive who was part of the acquisition of Next. So that's kind of interesting. I guess what this says is, Google's making a devices division.
Matthew: It's interesting that they're sort of de-emphasizing Glass and Microsoft is coming out with this very sort of Glass-like thing that they're clearly betting hugely on.
Kevin: Well, I suspect this isn't a coincidence. I suspect Google got some rumor of that and were like, “Okay, let's get this out of the way so that Microsoft does that.” Obviously, Google Glass is a very imperfect AR in that it's not doing the complex problem of overlaying things directly on the world. It's just giving you a little screen in the corner. That's a sub-feature that the Microsoft's does, but what you can actually do is say, “That thing over there, draw a red ring around it.” It'll let you go and get it. That's a much harder problem and you know that Google is working on that too. The reason that you're here in this harbor is they're probably going to be releasing something new like that. But they're possibly being cagier about it than Microsoft is being with this.
Matthew: Well, there's the Magic Leap, right? Isn't that the thing? Their sort of Oculus style -
Kevin: Yes, they bought Magic Leap, yes.
Leo: It makes sense that Google would separate all of these into device division.
Kevin: I think Magic Leap is more like the stuff that Microsoft showed. The Microsoft stuff was built by the people who did Kinect and a lot of that is about the 3D sensing and getting that stuff right. Magic Leap was that piece of it, not the 3D rendering side of it.
Leo: Magic Leap was a $2 billion startup that was basically in stealth. Raised a lot of money and it turned out they were building, kind of, augmented reality glasses, right? How close are these to what Microsoft showed off? I mean, I see the finger commands.
Matthew: Yes, they feel very similar.
Kevin: I mean, you know, given the video I showed from 25 years ago, these aren't that novel of ideas. In fact, the patents on a lot of this stuff has actually expired now. Even the data glove there that that NASA guy was wearing in the show.
Matthew: It did have wires coming out of it.
Leo: Right. No wires, it's a mesh.
Kevin: The difference is with this stuff is that the Kinect thing and the Magic Leap thing are both doing lidar type things of saying, “Okay, your hand is there, your hand is there, your hand is there. I can model where your hand is and understand what you're doing with it and therefore use that as the gesture without you having to actually strap yourself in.”
Leo: Do you think – it looks so weird. So they're showing somebody typing on a virtual keyboard and so, really, it just – you're standing there going like this. Do you think people will accept that notion and just get kind of used to that?
Matthew: People accept a lot of weird things.
Kevin: They accepted typing on Glass, which everyone said they wouldn't.
Leo: Yes, but there's a physical thing you're typing on.
Kevin: Yes, but it doesn't have any resistance.
Leo: Well, I'm thinking about people looking at you, thinking you're such a dork.
Kevin: You would probably do it on a table surface or something -
Leo: Yes, and you'd do it in private, I think. Is this better? I guess it's better because it's programmable and -
Matthew: What's that finger thing? Go up – what's that? Is someone wearing a keyboard on their fingers?
Leo: “I've got productivity on my middle finger and I'm not afraid to use it.” I don't …
Matthew: That looks painful. That doesn't actually look …
Leo: I guess you stick your hand out and then you can use your other hand to -
Matthew: Oh, oh.
Kevin: Oh, it's showing you buttons on your hand for you to click.
Matthew: Okay. So you have to remember which part of your finger has the -
Leo: No, you don't, because you're seeing it.
Matthew: Oh, it shows you.
Kevin: One of the overlays, yes.
Leo: I don't know. I'm glad I'm getting old. I probably won't have to worry about this.
Kevin: You'll be grumpy like me because – [crosstalk]
Leo: “Where's the mouse? There's no mouse!”
Matthew: “You damn kids.”
Leo: But it is exactly – I mean, this reminds me so much of so many, you know, fantasy videos we've seen. Apple had the Knowledge Navigator thing. This is all kind of in that. Microsoft's been talking about this for a while, actually. “You already have a room opened, would you like to close existing room and auto-map contents of room? Would you like to auto-map contents of room in existing room or would you like to cancel?” I would like to take a nap, please.
Matthew: “I would like to delete all the contents of every room you've ever created on accident.”
Leo: “In his living room, this man has pulled up the pod interface, what the applications call a mini work station for the user that ensconces their entire view.”
Matthew: Sounds lovely.
Leo: Yikes. Yikes. This is Magic Leap. So did you say that Google bought them?
Matthew: They did, even though nobody really knows what they're doing.
Leo: Here's the Hula Hoop interface. That's what they call this thing that's all around you, the Hula Hoop interface. But it's available even on the couch.
Kevin: I guess you wonder why you'd be on the couch if you could just lie down in bed.
Leo: That's exactly right. I don't want to have to hold my arm out, either.
Matthew: Then it's Wall-E, right? You're floating on a levitating couch with it over it.
Leo: Yes. I just want to think it and it happens. I don't want to have to move around.
Matthew: I think that – the first thing I thought of when I saw the HoloLens was a project that I think MIT was working on years ago because I think they were using Quake, or Doom or something like that as a model. They were trying to get VR or AR goggles that would allow you to play Quake, except in the real world. So you'd be able to run around and see monsters, basically, hallucinate and then shoot them with a sort of virtual weapon. I would pay money for that.
Leo: You'd get sick, though, very quickly. I can promise you. How about socialization? It says, “Oh, don't worry. You'll never do yoga at home again when virtual people can appear beside you.”
Leo: You know, we were reviewing yesterday the Samsung VR glasses that are based in Oculus Rift and use a Galaxy Note 4. One of the toys in there, you can watch a movie. You can watch it, just on the screen, but you also can be in a movie theater. You know, there's chairs. You can look behind you, there's the projectionist.
Jason: It sounds so cheesy but it's strangely like -
Leo: It's comforting.
Jason: Yes. Because there's also light effects. Like they kind of thought about the fact when you're watching a movie on a big screen, it reflects on the seats beside you. So the action on the screen actually illuminates and darkens everything that surrounds you. It's very normal … strange.
Matthew: [crosstalk] – for talking -
Jason: Yes, a cell phone ringing in the corner.
Leo: Here's something I can get behind. You're sitting on your riding mower, you've got acres to go before you sleep. You're riding the mower, you're boring, (mower sound). Magic Leap allows you to butcher virtual gophers instead. You can turn it into a game, as you're mowing, and the gopher says, “Splat.” You can mow it. Wow. I'd like to have been at the meeting where they brainstormed this crap.
Leo: Chopping veggies? Not without a bonus multiplier! So everything will game-ified. Everything. You're playing “Chop the Cucumber.” This is really – I don't know, I'm not against this. I'm not against this.
Kevin: Have you guys seen Black Mirror?
Matthew: No, read about it.
Kevin: Have you seen Black Mirror, Leo?
Leo: What is it? What is it?
Kevin: It's a British TV show which is kind of like the Twilight Zone but modern world. They just released it on Netflix in the US. It originally came out in 2011 in the UK and then they did a second series last year, I think. They just did a Christmas special this year.
But it's a series of standalone episodes that show little science fiction stories where they've involved technology in some way. So the second one is the completely game-ified world where everyone is going around owning credits for things they didn't have to spend on media, and other things and so on. That's the moral of the second one. The third one is that you have a little AR thing in your head which records everything you've ever seen and done, and lets you thread up on – for people to see and how that effects people's relationships and so on. So there is a different – it's worth seeing. It's dark as hell. It has the same darkness that the original Twilight Zone has but it also has – it's the presumption is that, you know, projected forward technologies are the kind of things that's being built.
Leo: I love this. These are not – they're all standalone episodes, you don't have to watch in sequence.
Kevin: You don't have to watch in sequence.
Leo: Oh, you do have to watch in sequence?
Kevin: You don't.
Matthew: The only one that I heard about was packers threatening the Prime Minister and forcing him to have sex with a pig or something.
Kevin: Yes. That's the first episode and that tends to be a very dividing episode. People either like that or hate it.
Matthew: Or they hate it, right.
Kevin: It's put a lot of people off the series, which – the premise is farcical, but the point is that it's farce that's well acted, which is played very straight, which is a very British tradition. The actors in it are brilliant, you know. It's Rory Kinnear, who won like the Best Actor Award last year.
Leo: Is Jon Hamm in it?
Kevin: Jon Hamm is in the Christmas special.
Leo: Mr. Mad Men.
Matthew: I have to admit, the first one, the description put me off, so I have not watched it. But the description you gave sounded fascinating.
Kevin: If the description puts you off, then don't watch that one, necessarily. It may put you off the whole series. Because the point of it is, it's about – actually, if you listen to on the media this week, at Gladstone Interviews, Charlie Brucker who created it explains the invention of the idea, which came from the 2010 election where Gordon Brown went out and talked to a voter, and then got in the car with his mugger friend and – [crosstalk]
Leo: Oh, I remember that.
Kevin: - said, “Why did you put me in front of that bigoted woman?” Then he had to go back and apologize to her. Brucker was surprised that the Prime Minister of the country was so driven by the media that he was forced to do these things he didn't want to do. He says, “Okay, how do I extend that into farce?” He came up with this concept for that. So if you know that context, it makes a bit more sense. But it is very much a – that one is in that sort of uncomfortable – foe territory. The others are more – that one's not directly about technology, really. That one's about media and people – I mean, it is about technology.
Kevin: It sort of shows the Twitter mob encouraging him to do it, effectively. It's that thing that goes on. But that's the sort of sense that it's about technology. But the second or third ones are actually very strong dramas and then they keep that going for the second series as well. They all – I don't know what the word is. They are exaggerated in the same way that Twilight Zones are. They're in that, “What if we took this thing and pushed it too far?” But they're also acted and directed well enough that they can sustain quite a lot of it. So it's definitely worth watching.
Leo: On Netflix in the US, Black Mirror.
Kevin: Yes, I think they – they might not have the Christmas special yet. You may have to find other sources for that.
Leo: I went to Channel 4's site and it looks like it's blocked. I can't get any video to play, so you can see at least the first season on Netflix. “Miss Piggy and a Politico, Together at Last.” Wow.
Oh, is there one more thing in the Google change log? I forgot. Let me look.
Kevin: There was the – I think three of these are the same. So they did a new Google knowledge graph and there's pluses and minuses to this. So they're trying to give you more useful information. So they're giving you stuff like marking upcoming events and letting you book tickets from it. It provides that directly in search results and sending them outside. They're doing a big push on events, which is good, but the way they're doing it technically is a bit weird in that instead of marking up the HTML, they're saying, “Inject this giant blob of JASON into the top of your thing that only you can read. Read that and do this thing.” So they're basically – it reminds me of -
Leo: And this is the thing. This is that bar on the right, the knowledge graph on the right. So I just searched for Beyonce, and my God, I mean. You get songs. You get her social media profile. You get recent posts. If she were on tour, which apparently she's not, you could even buy concert tickets from this.
Kevin: Yes. I don't think she's actually on tour at the moment.
Leo: Who's on tour?
Kevin: Midge Yur is on tour but he may not be big enough.
Matthew: Midge Yur, wow.
Kevin: He played San Francisco last weekend.
Matthew: There's a flashback.
Kevin: I know that he's on tour. I was like, “Should I go to this?” I'm like, “Yes, I can't go to San Francisco that much.”
Matthew: Grateful Dead are coming back, too.
Leo: Oh, Grateful Dead is reuniting, yes, even though one of them's dead.
Kevin: [crosstalk] – for upcoming events. So he's playing Halifax, Canada, in Connecticut, and some of -
Leo: Also controversial is this appearance of the social media profiles, as well, for whoever you search for. So even if it's a brand, so if I search for – not “Pixer,” but Pixar, this is Danny Sullivan's example on Search Engine Land. Not “Pixer,” but Pixar, I will get their Facebook, YouTube and Twitter profiles. But isn't this what people want? I don't have a problem with this.
Matthew: Why would someone have a problem with it?
Leo: It's making Search more useful. I don't know. Do people? I thought you said some people had a problem with it. Let's see if I can find some tickets – oh. You can also get maps. If you search for Starbucks, you'll not only get a map of Starbucks but their social profiles. Same thing with Google. So, now this is important if you are a brand. Google has added some markup for this. So you want to, on your – if you're a brand, you want to on your Pages make sure you use the markup so you will get these social profiles embedded. Structured markup and -
Kevin: So this is – markup is one of my hobbies.
Leo: Yes, I know.
Kevin: The way they're doing this is really odd. So, you know, I've not going to get too much in the weeds here. But the normal way you do markup is you do HTML, so you have human-facing visible stuff in your HTML. Then you have invisible stuff that's not for the humans as attributes on that.
Leo: So author equals would be an example, right? The author -
Kevin: Real author or something like that.
Leo: So Google's deprecated this, alas, but they used to – you'd put it on your page, real author equals Leo Laporte and then if people search for my name, it would display it more nicely.
Matthew: I'd love to know why they deprecated it.
Leo: Yes. It's weird, isn't it? Because it used to be -
Matthew: I thought it was a great feature.
Leo: You'd have your picture next to your blog. You'd know, “Hey, that's Leo. There's his picture.”
Kevin: I think we all liked that and they decided it didn't help people click through to things that they wanted them to click through.
Leo: So, for instance, if you're an organization, you would have @type:organization and then it would know, “Okay, this is not a human.”
Kevin: Right. So this is the schema.org stuff. But it's the way they're doing it - so schema.org has its own problems which I can go into at length if you want. But broadly, it just defines inheritance graph rather than a set of properties, which means that everything is a member of a thing, is a member of a thing, is a member of a thing. So you have a place, which has a subclause of something, which has a subclause of something and so on. So it has that sort of data architect overkill thing going on. So if you look up, “volcanoes” on schema.org, they have fax numbers because they inherited that from places. So it's one of those – this kind of almost makes sense. It doesn't quite. So it's a little overdone and it's also not defined by a very open process. It was basically written up by Fiat, by Google and then they have a main link where you can send suggestions. But it's very unclear how you add stuff to it.
Leo: If the big search engine says, “This is what we want,” they're going to win. You don't have to use JASON LD, you can also, it looks like, use Microdata.
Kevin: Yes, but the weird thing about JASON LD is that their putting JASON into the page but they're not assigning it to anything. So they're putting a script type here but they're just putting instruction there that isn't actually assigned to a variable. So the page can't access this.
Leo: Oh, wow.
Kevin: It just declares a bunch of stuff that hasn't got a variable name. So it's completely for their purposes.
Leo: Only Google can access.
Kevin: The page would have to pass it – no, the page would have to, like -
Leo: You'd have to have some more script that would say, “Look for some -”
Kevin: You'd have to run some script to say, “Look for a script with tied application OD plus JASON and then get the consensus, then pause it.” It's like, this seems …
Leo: Surely you can embed it in a larger script, couldn't you?
Kevin: No, because it's got a different type.
Leo: It has to be its own – it has to be its own application, LD plus JASON? Huh.
Kevin: So it's this very weird thing of, like – this is, hint, there's a long blissful debate about this. But this comes down to the – is the stuff that you're adding to this designed to make sense to the people who are looking at the page or is it just for the search engines? The drawback of doing stuff just for the search engines is that you can say different things to the search engine than you can to the page.
Leo: Oh, that's a big deal.
Kevin: Which is a bit tricky and, you know, they're assuming that they're smart enough to penalize people who do bad things with this. But what that tends to mean is, the search engine has to decide whether you're a trusted source or not. So if you look at Twitter, it's kind of like this. Their system is not quite the same syntax but it's quite a bit similar. You dump a bunch of crap into your head with metatags that say, “I'm a Twitter card, this is my URL, I'm this kind,” and so on. Then Twitter can process it and give you, if someone pastes that link to a tweet, they'll get a better preview. Except that, because that's letting you inject stuff into Twitter, they'll only let you do that if they've approved you. So it becomes a way for them to exercise control over the rest of the Web. To some extent, isn't that same trend showing up in Google? Historically, Google has been, “We'll make sense of the whole Web and present the results as best we can and crawl things, apply – in certain areas.” This is more of the, “We will tell you how to markup your page and then decide whether you're worthy to be included in the knowledge graph or not.”
Leo: The ticketing links are done exactly the same way. So it's not that Google is creating links and then giving you a place to buy, but in fact, the artist – here's an example with Ariana Grande. The artist would use special markup to show a card that included on-sale date availability and the link goes to your preferred ticket site.
Kevin: Yes, but the point is, the artist would already have that on the page. So what they're saying is, “Okay, we gave out -” [crosstalk]
Leo: You don't have to go to the page. It's right in the search results.
Kevin: If you buy into the artist, the artist is happy with that. The point is that they're saying, “We're not going to try and make sense of your page. In order for you to appear in this, you have to add this special magic markup that will then make it appear in Google. If you want to appear in Facebook, you have to add this different special magic markup that'll make you appear in Facebook. You want to appear in Twitter? We've got a third set.”
Leo: There's even a comedy event markup.
Kevin: Oh, this is – you would not believe schema.org.
Leo: So comedy is a different category than music, apparently. Wow.
Kevin: They've got this sub-class mentality. So they're trying to – they define an abstract base class and they define sub classes as the things that they actually see in the real world. It's a bit of a – it's a bit weird. So I can see what they're trying to do, but it reminds me of Google Base, which you may remember from a decade ago. It was a similar idea, which was like, “Okay, parsing the Web is hard. How about you just upload your stuff to Google and we'll use that to reference, to create better data here.” So they've – and they cancelled that a few years afterwards because they realized the only people who do that are the spammers. Then they had this giant database full of things that didn't matter that much.
Now, the way this works is where, in these kinds of examples, when you're given the clear incentive, it's like, “If you want to sell tickets, we'll make you able to sell tickets from the front page of Google before they even click through.” People will dash to do that. So that's probably a benefit to both parties. But what it's doing is putting slightly more control over the presentation of the Web to Google in the same way that we were discussing at the top of the show, where we haven't been having this problem with the different silos doing different things.
Matthew: I think that actually plays into some of the people's criticisms about where Google is going with Search, is – not just competitors, but even users. Where they're trying to pull more stuff into their box from wherever to give you the stuff you want, which is good. But you know, they choose what information goes in there and they choose who it comes from. Those choices sometimes benefit Google. Sometimes they benefit someone else. It sort of moves beyond the kind of purely, you know, objective search that people thought they were getting.
Leo: There's always the risk, as there was with the author tag, of it being deprecated and you spent all this effort doing this and suddenly Google says, “Yes, we're not going to show that anymore.” Since it has no place on your own page, it's completely lost now.
Kevin: That's the thing. So, you know, the Microformat way of doing that – my favorite that I helped found, so I'm biased here. Microformats works on the basis that what you want to do is annotate the webpage with the smallest possible change to give the computer's a hint how to parse the content that's already there. So real author is an example of that. Real author says, “This particular -” You know, there's a way of marking up a page to say that it has an address book entry in it, an H card. You can mark that up to say, “This is the person; this is the URL; this is their photo, address,” whatever else you want to do. But how do you know which one's which? Well, if you put real author on the link, then you're saying, “This one's the author of the page.” Point it to the other page as the author of this page. That's a hint that should be obvious to the layout of the page to the human but isn't obvious to the computer.
So when you have an article on the web, it'll have the title in the bylines somewhere on it. The bylines might be the top, might be the bottom. But it's usually clear what's mean by that. It'll say, “bi-whatever.” By putting the real author, you can say, “This is the real author of the page, give a hint to the computer and they can parse it, and display the author in that way.” Where that becomes useful – if you go to – a concrete example. If you go to kevinmarks.com, my site, and scroll down to the bottom, there's a bunch of comments there that have been created by parsing other people's sites that have an H card in them. So when they present the comment, it'll show their face next to the comment. That's the indie Web way of doing this. So we're trying to mark the stuff in a way that isn't just defined by one company but is defined by a common practice.
Leo: I like that. So instead of having something like Gravitars, using a third party service, it's just in their page markups. Yes.
Kevin: You know, we looked at them. One of those common things on the web is little people, little icon plus name, you know. Face, plus name, plus link. So the minimal way you do that is, you just put, “Class=h-card” on the element that contains that and if it finds a photo, it's the photo it finds. Sometimes it's the name. If it finds the URL, it's the link. So you can do that by adding one value. But if you want to add more detailed ones, if there are six photos in there, you want to say which on is which? You can put explicit classes on the elements that represent those.
So the point is that there's two facets. One is that it's not designed to be, “Here's a data structure that you have to populate, probably into the system.” It's like, “Here's something you're already doing. Here's some extra hints to make it easier to parse.” But the second thing is that the information in it is the information that's already being presented to the people looking at the site. So you're not going to forget to update it. So the other problem with this hidden mediator stuff is that when you go to change the site, you'll change all the stuff that people can see but -
Leo: But you might forget.
Kevin: You might forget about them or maybe you're updated by another process and you can't tell that's wrong until someone searches you on Google and sees a picture of the other customer service that's doing it. Because your IDs got crossed or something. So you're better off – there's this basic principle called DRY – don't repeat yourself. Which is, if there's information about something that is being presented, present it once rather than twice. Because if you present it twice, you don't know which one is correct. The problem we're getting now with this kind of markup is that if you want things to be presented correctly by Google, and Facebook and Twitter, you've got to do three different sets of proprietary markup in there, put the title in three times, put a link to the photo in – they have different rules about what size photos they accept, so you often have to make a different photo as well.
Leo: I like it.
Kevin: If your photo isn't big enough, Facebook won't show it and if it's the wrong shape for Twitter, it'll crop the middle out and make it look weird. So there's -
Matthew: Real author's a great example. Like, Google went to a lot of publications, including ours, and said, “You should implement this thing. Here's how to do it. You have to do it because if you tag the author and connect it to their posts, they'll show up higher in Google. There will be a little picture of the author and everything. It will help your rankings, blah blah blah.” You know, because everyone wants to help their rankings and no one knows what helps or what doesn't. So if Google specifically says, “This will help.” Then you better do it. So then lots of people did it and then Google was like, “Well, this isn't achieving what we want it to, which is to get more people to click or whatever. So now we won't support it anymore.”
Leo: Well, that's the Google change log. That was good. That was good. I'm glad we got into that, although I think Microformats is a dim, dark area of the Web.
Kevin: Well, we're trying to make it -
Leo: I wish you all the best. I think it's obviously brilliant.
Kevin: It's fairly widespread.
Leo: Does Google not acknowledge it? When I search for Microformats, the first thing I find is a Google page about Microformats.
Kevin: Google does acknowledge Microformats, yes. But it indexes – they haven't updated. We've made some changes to the Microformats markup as we learned stuff and they haven't caught up with that yet. So they're indexing Microformats 1. Microformats 2 has less arbitrary declarations in it. So it's easier to write parses for but Google hasn't updated their list of – [crosstalk]
Leo: Is that what Chris Messina was doing at Google? Was he trying to – no?
Kevin: No. Chris was somewhere else. Chris was inside G+ trying to make it sensible.
Leo: I know Chris Debona is there, promoting open source. They need an advocate – is that what you were doing at Google? That's what you were doing.
Kevin: Yes. I was doing some of that stuff, yes.
Leo: You were advocating Microformats.
Kevin: I was doing Microformats, yes. I was doing open social a lot. I did get Microformats into Blogger, that was one thing I did. I did encourage the Search people to index it at the time and they have done well with it.
Leo: Is that how Google kind of works, is it needs to be somebody in there who's advocating?
Kevin: That's like any company. You know, it's a mixture. They will find stuff from the outside and use that as a thing to look at, as well. But if there isn't someone making a case for it, it's unlikely to get down.
Matthew: “Open social ...”
Kevin: The other thing they will do is look at the – you know, is this stuff widespread? So Wordpress' default templates have Microformat's markup, which make it easier to make sense of Wordpress when you're parsing it. So there is a large chunk of the web that has this on, that means that's a useful thing to do that also parses Microformats from that. But there's also, now, a large part of the Web that has Facebook markup on because Facebook has encouraged people to put the stuff in so they show up in Facebook. So the – don't know what Google is. Did they index the Facebook markup as well and thereby cement the Facebook markup as a way of doing it, or do they invent their own thing?
Leo: It's so difficult when you're the big search engine, to know what to do.
Kevin: You know, I suspect they'll do both. They'll try and make sense of it.
Leo: Challenging, though.
Kevin: Yes. It's an enormously hard problem. The point of this – part of Microformats was us coming up with ways of doing this that didn't involve a separate file. That was the original motivation. But the other thing was, I was running a search engine when we first started doing this, because I was doing technorati. It was making my life easier, if we could do literally this thing of, “If you put this markup in, then your face will show up in technorati.” It was one of our use cases for that. That was, you know, very like the real author thing that you were talking about. The point of that was trying to do it in a way that was literally the smallest possible change to what people were already doing so that the thing that e found is, the more complex that you put in this, the less likely people are going to get it right and the better chance you've got of presenting their search result with some strange noise in it because they accidentally put the wrong thing in the wrong place.
Leo: Elon Musk is going to compete with Google but not on the ground. He wants to build an internet in space. What a character.
Matthew: He's Iron Man.
Leo: He's Stark. Elon Musk, at a SpaceX event in Seattle a few days ago says that he's going to spend $10 billion – of course, of other people's money. He doesn't ever spend his own money. Building a space internet. The hyper loop, by the way, is not his either. He's just saying, “We should do this.” So hundreds of satellites. The idea is, and by the way, Bill Gates tried this. A lot of people tried it. Hundreds of satellites would orbit around 750 miles above the Earth. That's actually closer than geosynchronous orbit, which is up to 22 thousand miles above earth. So lower satellites mean less latency, of course. It would give you fiber optic speeds, he says.
Leo: Depends on what kind of fiber optic, I guess.
Kevin: So it was – I don't see the director announcement with Musk. I'd like to hear what he actually said but I think I read on GigaOm – I usually rely on them for this kind of thing, right? His point was that the speed of light in air is higher than the speed of light in fiber by a factor of two-thirds. Well, one and a half, whichever way you look at it. So even though they're 1200 miles up, they should be able to get pretty good latency out of this compared to Fiber. The speed of light in copper is even slower, it's a factor of three, so it's half the speed again. So in principle, the signals through the air should be faster. And that's true as long as there aren't too many hubs. Honestly, it's only actually true if you're getting to a server that's far enough away. So it'll probably make sense that they have ground stations near data centers or something.
Leo: So this is kind of like Project Loon. It's the same idea, but instead of balloons, you use satellites. They're a little higher but not much.
Kevin: [crosstalk] – it's like 1200 miles or 12 miles.
Matthew: If you read that story, down lower it says there's another competing effort from a guy named Greg Wyler called One Web. They actually know each other. They're working on two competing multi-billion dollar space satellite projects. Yes, it just makes no sense of me.
Leo: What was that, DRY? Is that the acronym?
Kevin: Don't repeat yourself. But this is different. You actually want redundant satellite networks so that if one runs redundant, the choices are -
Leo: Greg Wyler was a satellite chief at Google, Virgin and Qualcom are involved in this. So they've got some big money. But is Elon Musk proposing doing it all by himself? I doubt it.
Kevin: No, it would be in consortium. But the point is, you know, whoever's doing this, they'd have to launch all those satellites. That's good for him, because he's trying to make launches anyway.
Matthew: Well, and Richard Branson said that he doesn't have – Elon Musk doesn't have the rights to the spectrum that he'll need, but Greg does. One Web does.
Kevin: Spectrum rise is tricky when you're trying to do global satellites, is that right? That was part of the problem with Iridium. The other problem with Iridium is that is was conceived way too early and it was thinking about voice. But the other -
Leo: Iridium exists, by the way, and went back to the course. I think it was only 60-some satellites. We're talking hundreds of satellites in this one.
Matthew: Every time I think of satellites, I think of Sirius and XM. You know, they both spent billions and billions of dollars, blew their brains out creating two competing networks. That was a really bad idea.
Leo: Right. You know, I feel like, though, the notion of ubiquitous global internet is certainly an idea who's time has come. If there's a way to implement it, it would be great to do that.
Matthew: I think it'll happen. I just don't know why we'd want two companies spending billions to do it.
Kevin: Well, it depends, I mean -
Matthew: Competition is good, but.
Kevin: You know, we've got one GPS system. You know, there's a secondary one that's not quite there yet but we have one GPS system because it was built by the US government for its purposes and then realized it had civilian applications. I think there is, potentially, value in more than one competing satellite network in the same way there's value in more than one competing ISP. The question is, you know – then it becomes a business decision whether they can roam to each other or not, unless the technology is radically different. But I think there's a difference in thinking about, is this something you put a satellite dish on your house for or is this something that talks to your phone? Those are actually very different use cases.
Iridium was designed for a phone. They were to be very mobile and therefore, you had to have this thing that looked like a 1980s cell phone to be able to pick up the signal and not fry ahead. Whereas, if you're doing something that's designed to have a dish on your house like a satellite TV dish, that's a different proposition and that's more viable because you can get a lot more signal through that.
Leo: Let's do that and then we'll use mesh to get it mobile, and we'll be done. Then you and I can go home and use our Hula Hoop keyboards.
Kevin: Well, way back in – Christ, what was it? '96? Astra, who runs the satellite networks for Skye over Europe. They added data capacity to their satellites and I was doing the new media stuff in the UK at the time. So we got to go and talk to them about – I think we were helping them with a presentation and then talking about what are possible applications for this? At the time, the applications were really crap because they didn't have much bandwidth left after they used most of it for television and comms that they were already doing. So they had this weird ability that you could basically multiplex a packet to the whole of Europe simultaneously. In fact, that's what they had to do because they had all these satellites that were pointing down and these dishes that were receiving all the signal. Then they had to de-multiplex that and decide who gets which packet.
So it didn't make much sense for actual, you know, sending audience and traffic over that, because you're massively wastefully sending packets tot he whole of Europe.
Leo: It would be great for concerts.
Kevin: Well, except that's exactly what they're doing with the satellites anyway.
Leo: Oh, that's right. Oh, yes.
Kevin: They've got a TV channel for that. But it'll be great for, like, a CDN where you really do want to send the same image to everyone, where you want to send -
Leo: Microsoft could have used that today for their Windows 10 announcement.
Kevin: Right, or they could use it for, you know, if you have a software patch you want everyone to have, those kinds of things. It would make sense but it would be very hard to actually set the infrastructure up for that. We spent a long time trying to think about what could you do, if you could send a data packet to everyone in Europe who is attached to this thing at the same time and couldn't come up with any good ones. It's actually quite hard.
Leo: I'm sure you should have asked – I'm sure if you'd have asked GCHQ, I'm sure they would come up with something you could do with that. We're going to take a break. When we come back, our tips of the week. Matthew Ingram from GigaOm, Kevin Marks, Leo Laporte.
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This is the time in the show where we like to give you some tips, or tricks or tools. I don't know if, Kevin, you've got something. The last time you were here, maybe a few times before that, you showed us a game that I couldn't stop playing. So be kind. Oops, you're muted. Unmute.
Matthew: What was the game?
Leo: Was it Freeze? Or was it -
Kevin: It was 2048.
Leo: 2048, that's right.
Kevin: Remember that?
Leo: Oh, God. Don't do that again.
Kevin: Okay, I wasn't going to show you that. Have you seen Linkbubble? Okay, so I might have to change some settings for you to see this. But it's an Android browser and the fun thing about it is that you know the bubble heads in Facebook that it shows for the chat? It does that for the browser.
Leo: What? Why would I want to do that? So I have a little – oh, look at that. You get a little pop-up for the page you want.
Kevin: So if you're browsing Twitter, or Facebook or the Web, whatever, and there's a bunch of links, you click that and a little bubble appears on the side. Then, when you want to read them, you click that and get a little set of bubbles so you can go back to them.
Leo: Oh, neat-o. Look at that.
Kevin: It's kind of cool. Then you can take the bubble and throw it. You can either throw it to Share or to Instant Paper – [crosstalk]
Leo: Oh, I'm going to get this. That would be useful because we do this all the time going through stories for other shows.
Kevin: Yes. So it's basically the embedded web browser view. So it behaves mostly the same as Chrome except that it adds this little UI change to the browser that makes it quite fun and useful. So I recommend that. I think it's free if you only want one bubble at a time and there's a Pro version which is $3 or something, maybe $5. That lets you have access to multiple bubbles. I tried it out, I thought, “This is really useful.” Particularly for that use case of – it's quite hard to do the “read later” thing reliably inside another app. Because this is where it can hook into the URL thing and give you an aside, you've got the secondary thing that you can throw them out to the Read Later thing if you want to. So it gives you a way to triage the links as you click on them.
Leo: I've already downloaded and installed it.
Jason: I should also add on that, Chris Lacey's the developer. He also released for another dollar an app called Tap Path. Basically, what it allows you to do is you can program either one tap, two taps or three taps on a link to do different things. So one tap would go to your browser, two taps would go to the Linkbubble, three taps would give a share or something like that. So they play really well together.
Kevin: I haven't played with that one.
Leo: Probably already featured on Android App Arena.
Jason: I had Chris Lacey on All About Android and it was featured on there.
Leo: There you go. This is why, if you watch All About Android, you're way ahead of the game. This is, of course, not only my producer, Jason Howell but also the host of All About Android and Android App Arena. Tap Path, browser helper by Chris Lacey which works in conjunction with Linkbubble.
Jason: And other apps, but it works really well with Linkbubble.
Leo: Cool. I just bought both. This is getting to be a pricey show, here. How about you, Matthew Ingram? Anything you'd like to give us a plug for?
Matthew: Yes, actually, you've probably all heard of, or used or talked about this before, but that reminded me of one of the tools I really like on my Nexus. That's Andmade Share, it's called. It replaces the Share menu on an Android device and you can create your own sort of custom Share menu, reorder the things in your Share menu and then you can – what I do a lot is I'm looking at a webpage and it's something I want to save to Instant Paper, I want to share it on Twitter, I want to share it on Google+, I want to post it to Facebook, want to post it to Tumblr. You can do all of those things by just clicking checkboxes. So take this item, post it to Twitter, post it to Google, save it to my Instant Paper and put it on my Flipboard magazine. It's a massive, massive time saver.
Leo: Sounds fabulous. And it's free. Like Handmade, without the H. Andmade Share. I've been dying for something like this. I wonder if it'll work on – you know, it's really annoying. The Samsung Share menu, of course, puts all the Samsung stuff on top. If that would work with that, it would make it a lot more – I would take one of the many ping points away from the Note 4. But now that I'm using a Nexus, who cares? To heck with that.
My tip actually is something new. What's App is a messenger service. We mentioned it earlier because, like a couple of other messenger services, they've added encrypted transactions, which is fantastic. You can use it as a messenger. A lot of people worldwide use it who are trying to avoid spending money on costly SMS plans. But one of the drawbacks of What's App, it was available on every platform including iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Nokia 60 phones and Windows Phones. But you couldn't use it in your browser until now. They've actually done this very cleverly. They've created a What's App client that will work with Chrome. So if you go to web.whatsapp.com and I've set it up, it looks just like What's App. I actually don't have a chat going on but you would see it. You link it with a QR code. So you'll have to have the newest What's App version. I just installed What's App. It worked fine on Android with the latest version, which was pushed out today. I was just checking on my Windows for my Lumia 1520 and it works with that too. In fact, the only thing it doesn't work with is iPhone.
Matthew: iOS, yes.
Leo: What's App says it's because of restrictions Apple places on the iOS platform.
Matthew: I just set it up, too. It was super easy to get the QR code.
Leo: Super easy. It was a clever way to do it, I thought, because you're very much tied to your phone number in What's App. What's App uses your phone number to identify you. So this was just a clever way of kind of saying to the Chrome browser – it's not an extension as far as I can tell how they're doing this. It's just a web page. But it's a good way to tell the web page, “This is the phone number I'm going to use with this.” I have What's App on all my phones, which means I have it on many phone numbers.
Matthew: I actually had a friend tell me the other day, he said he was texting with someone and I said, “Why don't you use What's App?” He said, “Because I can't.” Whatever he was using had a web client and he said, “I can't use it on my desktop.”
Leo: That's one of the reasons I use Hangouts for my texting. Or Push Bullet, you could use. There's lots of – Mighty Text. Lots of way to do that but now What's App will do that as well. It doesn't – see, I asked my kids and their friends. They don't use What's App. Nobody in the states, I think, really, has picked up on What's App. But I started installing it because it's secure. I think it's really great that they built encryption into it. Strong encryption into it. I think they're using the – what's the technology the Red Phone guys created? They're using that. So it's open source publicly crypted.
Matthew: We actually have our whole family – I've got three daughters who all have phones. Some of them are iPhones, some of them are Android. I'm Android and my wife is iPhone so we all use What's App.
Leo: It's cross-platform.
Matthew: We use it for group chat.
Leo: That's pretty cool. Actually, I don't know if that's what What's App is using now. I don't know what kind of technology they're using. But I'm pretty sure it was open source publicly crypted. Of course, once it's in the What's App app, you don't know what it is. So I don't know if it's – closed source is always a little tricky with encryption. Open whisper systems is what they're using. Whisper systems.
Matthew, great to have you, as always. Matthew Ingram. He scribes at gigaom.com. We really appreciate the time you give us and we hope to have you back soon. Also, Kevin Marks in his garden with his birds. Kevinmarks.com. What are you up to, anything you want to tell the world?
Kevin: Well, the indie stuff with Microformat is kind of interesting. So it's the tenth anniversary of technorati tags.
Kevin: I was like, “Wow, that's a long time ago.” So that was one of the first examples of this where we got people to markup the Web – markup the numbers with tags in them so that we could parse them and present them back to them. That syntax is still quite widely used. It's used by plugging platforms originally to the tank pages. Though, the hashtag has become an even shorter shorthand for that. Now, people can just hashtag, the hash and the tag inside the post. But one thing that we've added recently in the indie Web stuff is how to markup a tag of a person because you – this is a thing you can do in Twitter where you app reply to somebody or where you – in Facebook, where you can mention somebody and it'll do a link to them. Google+, if you plus them, it'll do the thing and link to them in the page. But there wasn't a distributor way of doing this reliably. So what we did was we just used the H card thing we talked about. I'll give you a link to this. I'll just stick it in the chat, find the chat window – hang on.
What it does is, it does the H card thing we were talking about earlier where we were using it for not showing the author of a post, but if I want to show somebody else in a post, then I can do the same thing of linking to them. I put H card on it to say that this is a person and then I can – if I put classic – category, I'm saying, “This is a person tag, I'm intending this is a tag of that person.” I did that on my last set of home to website club notes so they're all marked up in that way. Which means, when people get mentions from that, they can know that I was tagging them as a person. So at the point when I post it, it'll send mentions to the people I've marked up in the post and they can know that I've been talking about them.
Leo: Of course, as always with Kevin, I have no idea what he just said.
Kevin: I'm sure I can take another pass through it.
Leo: No, you're just too smart for me, Kevin. Don't even bother. It's indiewebcamp.com/person-tag.
Matthew: I thought he put it well. It's like @-mentioning or plussing someone on Google+.
Leo: But it's open.
Matthew: Not restricted.
Kevin: It's a combination – the nice thing is a combination of a set of building blocks we already had. So we already had the building block for marking up a person. We already had the building block called Web mention for saying, “I've already linked to this page, here's the page I linked to you from.” So the combination of the two means that if someone links to me on the Web and puts this in and then can send a Web mention to me, then I will have it linked to me. I can see it.
Leo: Does that always work everywhere?
Kevin: It'll work – well, you need to be listening. So for them to be making the mention, you need to be listening to them. So if they're using indie Web stuff, then -
Leo: So I could do this in my leoville.net, you know.
So the point about this is, there's a lot of these little bits and pieces we've been building. They each have to make sense as a standalone thing. So I've got to markup the page to say, “I'm mentioning this person.” That's great on its own. I just made that page more sensible. But it's only useful if someone is going there and looking. So web mention is a way of saying, “I've mentioned this page. Here you are, go and have a look.” Then the problem is, how do I set up something that listens for that? Well, this Webmention.com is it all – that you can set up to listen to them for you and then it will feed them out. It'll let you get them back later so you don't actually have to have code running yourself to do it.
So it's a series of these pieces where we build a little piece, and then another little piece and go, “Oh, we can combine those two pieces. Then I can mention people on the Web and I don't have to be using Twitter or Facebook to mention them inside their world.”
Leo: I like having Matthew Ingram and Kevin Marks on. It makes me feel like Barbie. “Math is hard. My head's gonna 'splode.” All right. I guess I'll have to read this, and figure it out and something. I don't know what I'm going to do with it but I like the idea. Let's put it that way.
You guys are great and we really love having you on. So thank you for being here, both of you. We do This Week in Google every Wednesday, 1 PM Pacific, 4 PM Eastern time, 2100 UTC. You can watch live. Jeff Jarvis will be back next week. We're getting close to the one month. I think we can call Gina Trapani and see -
Jason: I believe I already have.
Leo: She said she could be on every month.
Jason: I have to find the schedule page but I believe I already have her booked.
Matthew: Time's up!
Jason: February 11th, put it on your calendars.
Leo: Time's up on her sabbatical. Maybe she can explain web mentions to me.
Jason: Just when she thought she was out, they pull her back in.
Leo: If you can't watch live, on demand versions available always with all our shows at TwiT.tv, that's our website, in this case, TwiT.tv/twig. You get every show there or subscribe. That's the best thing to do, that way you get them each and every time. They download on to your mobile device or your thing, whatever thing you use to listen to shows like this. We're glad you do. Thanks for joining us, we'll see you next time on This Week in Google. Bye, bye!