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(1427) U.S. Accuses Google of Illegally Protecting Monopoly

1427 points about 21 hours ago by 1915cb1f in 10000th position

www.nytimes.com | Estimated reading time – 7 minutes | comments | anchor

But Google has long denied accusations of antitrust violations and is expected to fight the government's efforts by using a global network of lawyers, economists and lobbyists. Alphabet, valued at $1.04 trillion and with cash reserves of $120 billion, has fought similar antitrust lawsuits in Europe.

The company says it has strong competition in the search market, with more people finding information on sites like Amazon. It says its services have been a boon for small businesses.

Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit comes two weeks after Democratic lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee released a sprawling report on the tech giants that accused Google of controlling a monopoly over online search and the ads that come up when users enter a query.

"A significant number of entities — spanning major public corporations, small businesses and entrepreneurs — depend on Google for traffic, and no alternate search engine serves as a substitute," the report said. The lawmakers also accused Apple, Amazon and Facebook of abusing their market power.

The scrutiny reflects how Google has become a dominant player in communications, commerce and media over the last two decades. It controls 90 percent of the market for online searches, according to one estimate. That business is lucrative: Last year, Google brought in $34.3 billion in search revenue in the United States, according to the research firm eMarketer. That figure is expected to grow to $42.5 billion by 2022, the firm said.

The lawsuit is the result of an investigation that has stretched for more than a year. Prosecutors have spoken with Google's rivals in technology and media, collecting information and documents that could be used to build a case.

Mr. Barr, a former telecom executive who once argued an antitrust case before the Supreme Court, signaled that he would put the tech giants under new scrutiny at his confirmation hearing in early 2019. He said that "a lot of people wonder how such huge behemoths that now exist in Silicon Valley have taken shape under the nose of the antitrust enforcers."

All Comments: [-] | anchor

jmnicolas(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

What I wonder is why would you sue Google before Amazon? Yes Google is a monopoly, but IMO Amazon is much worse.

I'm not thinking about the cloud business which has plenty competition, but the retail stuff. They undercut the competition until it dies then they're the sole business around.

Case in point: a couple weeks ago I bought a 16 TB hard drive for my personal server. It was something like 420€ on Amazon and about 600€ on my local Newegg equivalent. While I would have bought it locally for a couple dozen euros more, there was no way I would spend almost 200€ more for the same thing.

I know that long term it's bad for me and I hate myself for it but I still went with Amazon.

codersarepeople(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

But Amazon doesn't have anywhere close to a monopoly on retail? There are many more options for retail, in particular buying a HDD, than there are for search. And while it's clear that Amazon does engage in some anti-competitive behavior, the pricing you complain about doesn't really have to do with Amazon; the seller set that price, not Amazon.

julienb_sea(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

Because Amazon isn't a monopoly, you just don't have any retailers competing with them on price for this rather niche product. That is not necessarily all that surprising.

If anything, I would think you would enjoy that Amazon is forcing other online retailers that service your area to bring their prices down. In the US, there are a variety of retailers who are competitive with Amazon on pricing. On convenience, perhaps not, especially for Prime members, but certainly Amazon is not in a completely different price bracket most of the time.

mediaman(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Many DOJ attorneys resigned from this case in protest of it being brought to bear too quickly. Bill Barr, US Attorney General, overruled senior DOJ attorneys who felt that it was impossible to bring a strong case against Google by rushing it before the election.

As a result, this complaint being brought is considered legally weak, and it gives Google's legal team a huge advantage in fighting it. If the decision to accelerate the case, at the cost of its strength, causes the complaint to fail, it'll probably be the last antitrust case against Google we'll see for some time.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/03/us/politics/google-antitr...

dmix(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

The ones who resigned didn't happen to have their own political motivations as well? These cases always have plenty of time and areas for arguments refined.

I can't read anything with politicized names and highly question the perfectly placed PRified counter points.

The truth, aka middle ground (if such a thing even exists anymore), is the hardest thing to come by these days. Lawyers working for a gov agency are the least reputable in this area in my books.

Hokusai(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

> it'll probably be the last antitrust case against Google we'll see for some time.

...in the USA.

stjohnswarts(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

Thanks for the input. I had assumed they'd been working on this behind the scenes for awhile. I should have realized with the current administration one should never believe that best practices were being practiced.

karmasimida(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]


I doubt not Google has a very competent legal team.

hindsightbias(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

Barr is going to have his pick of Board seats in 2021.

davidw(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

I think there are legitimate things worth investigating Google for. And other big tech companies too.

But right now? Just before an election? Hand it off to career DoJ people and let them bring it some time next year.

iaw(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

Last federal case probably. The Democratic states Attorneys Generals mostly have not signed onto the lawsuit because they don't want to be bound by unfavorable settlement terms (sorry I can't remember where I read that in the last couple days)

eiji(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

The questions is if a stronger case would see the light of day in the next four years with a change in administration. Maybe Barr thinks the answer is no.

ummonk(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

We've been waiting for them to build a strong case for several years. It will likely take several more for it to work its way through the courts. At some point the interests of the public in having a timely curb to Google's actions outweighs the value of preparing a perfect case.

justaguyhere(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

Many DOJ attorneys resigned from this case in protest

Wouldn't this give Barr the opportunity to bring in people who always agree with him and make the situation worse? Not just this case against Google, but in general.

nostromo(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

You're reading a whole lot into this single sentence in the article:

> Some lawyers in the department worry that Mr. Barr's determination to bring a complaint this month could weaken their case and ultimately strengthen Google's hand, according to interviews with 15 lawyers who worked on the case or were briefed on the department's strategy.

wnevets(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

> at the cost of its strength, causes the complaint to fail, it'll probably be the last antitrust case against Google we'll see for some time.

The conspiracy theorist in me says this was on purpose. Barr isn't rushing this case before the election to make it look like they're doing something, they're rushing it to sabotage any future attempts to rein in Google.

ecf(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

How are these antitrust lawsuits not partisan hit-jobs?

'...Acting under the direction of the Attorney General Of the United States, and the states of Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas...'

ehsankia(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

It definitely seems like a political hit job. It's unfortunate because the Democrats were working on some good stuff too, but it seems like Republicans wanted to rush this out before the election to help their chances.

beezle(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Unfortunately what much of our elected officials (state and national) do is based on 'like' and 'dislike' rather than actual law. In the case of Google/FB/Twitter, both have many dislikes rooted at best weakly in law (IMO, IANAL)

LatteLazy(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

They were about to do this back in May I think [0]. A few months back, State AGs were all within days of doing the same too, that still hasn't happened either.

Call me when a thing happens.

[0]. https://www.theverge.com/2020/5/15/21260494/google-antitrust...

themgt(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

OK. You only had to wait an hour[1]:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department and 11 states filed an antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet Inc's Google on Tuesday for allegedly breaking the law in using its market power to fend off rivals.

[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tech-antitrust-google/u-s...

jonprobably(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

If, on a whim, google blocks your name or business, what do you do? I found out by accident, and I think they have too much control.

Earlier this year, Google suspended my ad words account. I don't know why but think it was their mistake. The sites and ads were ethical and well within their terms. Still, I've sent emails and letters without progress.

It's frustrating not having an avenue to resolve the issue. Even more so because I'm in tech and though I understood these things. More so because I worked at google for a long time.

In the suspension dialog they warn all accounts under my name or the domain names linked to the ad words account will be blocked.

I don't depend on ad words. If I did, I would be completely out of luck. I'm not aware of an alternative ads network or search engine.

Hamuko(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

>How do you survive on the web if google, on a whim, blocks your name, or business?

What, as an individual?

na85(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

>Google's a monster. If they don't want you on the net, there's nothing you can do.

That's hyperbole. I'm on the net and Google can't stop me by any white-hat means. I have a website hosted on non-Google infrastructure on a domain name registered with a non-Google registrar, and I don't rely on advertising to pay the bills.

Have you considered a more ethical revenue stream that doesn't involve advertising and surveillance? There is life after AdWords.

cageface(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Attorney General William P. Barr, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, has played an unusually active role in the investigation. He pushed Justice Department lawyers to bring the case by the end of September, prompting pushback from attorneys who wanted more time and complained of political influence. He has spoken publicly about the inquiry for months and set tight deadlines for the prosecutors leading the effort.

I'm not opposed to some anti trust action across the entire industry but making this a partisan election issue is just going to discredit the whole thing and obscure the real issues.

A4ET8a8uTh0(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Especially if it ends up being ineffective due to rushing. It is not like Google hires no lawyers.

toyg(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

I hate Trump but here his admin is right to rush things. Unless the issue is put on the books before November, chances are that a Dem administration will quietly scrap it (possibly in exchange for concessions on the surveillance side, considering who represents California...).

Obviously this should have been done sooner, but it's Trump we're talking about, it's half a miracle if it gets done at all.

DSingularity(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Why do you think Barr pushed them against Google?

conistonwater(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

I think there is clear precedent for this sort of thing. When I read Fatal Risk (about AIG's financial division from 1980's to the financial crisis in which it collapsed), there was if I remember correctly Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general for New York, with a bunch of cases on which he built a career and a ton of political support that subsequently failed in the courtroom. The result was a complete waste of money and resources on shoddy cases, some people got fired in disgrace and some people got popular. (In Google's case it would be like the CEOs resigning while admitting no wrongdoing and the case itself languishing in court before being settled with no positive outcome for the society.) Let's hope the Google case is not going to turn out that way.

parasubvert(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

This one was obviously coming. The question is what the specific issues outlined in the lawsuit will be, and what possible remedies are.

Prominently allowing search engine choice in Chrome, Android, etc. may be one part of it. Splitting search off from the rest of Google might be another. Regulating search overall might be one but that carries a lot of risks.

mrkramer(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Nothing will happen just like with Microsoft. DOJ is only doing this to scare them to ease and liberal their services.

Google achieved dominant market position through legal and fair market competition. If you want to regulate them introduce Internet Search Engine laws do it the same for Internet Social Networks and Internet Social media. They are not breaking Google up that's for sure.

Listen what Larry Page said 'data in data out' with Facebook and with Google. If internet service allows you to export your data and move it to the competing service there are no problems.

'You don't want to be holding your users hostage. We want there to be a competitive market, we want other companies to be able to do things so we think it's important that you as users of Google can take your data and take it out if you need to or take it somewhere else.' [1]

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfmQkNKo_0A

blazespin(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

This isn't about search, it's about how Google abuses the profits they get from search. You're not supposed to leverage a monopoly in one area into others. It's near impossible to compete with such companies.

I can't imagine any sane person would say that Google's search itself is a problem.

It was the same problem with MSFT when they tried to leverage their monopoly in OS into browsers, apps.

Grimm1(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Maybe they did initially but the Google of the last 5+ years has been resting on their laurels in terms of search, showing subpar results to drive you towards their ad results. Then they abuse their special status on chrome and relationships with mobile providers to keep their position. Read the house report page 77 it sheds light on that.

Edit: Ah yes the random downvotes without replies -- except it doesn't really change the above.

Edit2: 'By owning Android, the world's most popular mobile operating system, Google ensured that Google Search remained dominant even as mobile replaced desktop as the critical entry point to the Internet. Documents submitted to the Subcommittee show that at certain key moments, Google conditioned access to the Google Play Store on making Google Search the default search engine, a requirement that gave Google a significant advantage over competing search engines.417 Through revenue-sharing agreements amounting to billions of dollars in annual payments, Google also established default positions on Apple's Safari browser (on both desktop and mobile) and Mozilla's Firefox.418'

the-dude(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

But Microsoft did change. I have read here, but can't recall the comment, the attitude within MS changed drastically.

jimbob45(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

It seems clear to me that MS didn't just accidentally forget to develop IE for 5+ years in the early 2000s. They did so because they needed to avoid the antitrust inspectors. Given that Chrome exists in its current form today because of a lack of competition, I don't know how you can claim that the antitrust stuff did "nothing".

throwaway3699(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

As long as Microsoft have an effective 100% market share on desktop operating systems, I'll be remaining skeptical about the DoJ case against Google.

grishka(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

> You don't want to be holding your users hostage.

Except that's exactly want you're doing in case of social media. Even with the ability to move your data, you can't simply move platforms because network effects lock you in. I'm really looking forward to ACCESS Act.

newacct583(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Microsoft lost their case and was ordered broken up. They were saved in the DC Circuit who rejected the remedy, and then by the incoming Bush administration who had the DoJ back off the case and settle.

It's very easy to imagine that (as with many things from that era) had a few hundred votes in Florida gone differently Microsoft's windows empire would now be just a memory. It was very close.

It was certainly not the wrist slap you're imagining.

RedditKon(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

The Larry Page video you reference is almost a decade old (8 years). I'm sure a lot of things have changed inside Google since then.

ArtWomb(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Watershed moment in how we 'price' monopolistic power. It's not 'market share' or 'barriers to entry' or even engaging in 'anti-competitive behavior' anymore. But more about how corporations can control the free flow of information. Much harder to make that case for the government I should imagine.

What's surprising to me is how un-monopolistic Google's share of the Cloud + AI market is under its control, considering how many of the techniques were invented there. I'd put it at under 25%.

The real behemoth is NVidia + ARM. GPU shortages are endemic. And the cost of a new entrant to the market just to construct a fab is probably $20B+. Ask Intel XE how much they are spending just to keep up ;)

AnthonyMouse(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

> It's not 'market share' or 'barriers to entry' or even engaging in 'anti-competitive behavior' anymore. But more about how corporations can control the free flow of information.

But that's really the same thing. If Google bans or interferes with Fediverse apps because they compete with YouTube, that's anti-competitive behavior. If they don't and those apps gain share with people whose content keeps getting censored on YouTube, they're not very effectively controlling the free flow of information.

Censorship by an incumbent is a market opportunity for a competitor, so a corporation can only really sustain it through anti-competitive actions against the challenger(s).

bogwog(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

> What's surprising to me is how un-monopolistic Google's share of the Cloud + AI market is under its control, considering how many of the techniques were invented there. I'd put it at under 25%.

I don't find that surprising because Google is a mess. They're a very poorly run organization, making decisions that make no sense at times. Their inefficiency and/or incompetence is probably the only reason why they haven't wreaked havoc on all of the markets they have their hand in. And the various monopolies they do have are, as monopolies usually are, immune to stupid decisions that would kill most other companies.

I think it might be because their corporate culture of being the good guy/'don't be evil' is incompatible with the reality of their situation. Like cognitive dissonance at a corporate level. I wonder how many of their employees in positions of power are still living in that fantasy, and making decisions based on it?

nojito(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

>Watershed moment in how we 'price' monopolistic power. It's not 'market share' or 'barriers to entry' or even engaging in 'anti-competitive behavior' anymore. But more about how corporations can control the free flow of information

Once the lawsuit drops I doubt this is the argument they are going to make.

This is going to be your run of the mill antitrust lawsuit. It's just making news because tech has avoided them for 30+ years.

A4ET8a8uTh0(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Chip is probably one of the few spaces, where oligopoly or duopoly makes sense ( though it is still scary ). The entry barriers are not artificial. It is genuinely hard to start from the ground up just based on the level of progress made thus far.

With Google that argument is harder. A person could whip up G level search engine, mail, and maybe even youtube equivalent, but moving all those people ( but to make them consider your alternative would be impossibly painful to do ).

I will admit that NVidia and ARM scares me, but I am not sure what can be done here.

nottorp(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

I think the shortage and performance war is happening only at the top and the market is more volatile at the mid-bottom. Besides AMD and Nvidia have been trading places if we look beyond the last few years. Not enough to base a monopoly lawsuit on.

If Nvidia actually gets to buy ARM, that's another matter. But again they can't sue based on a purchase that hasn't even gone through yet.

sylens(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

> What's surprising to me is how un-monopolistic Google's share of the Cloud + AI market is under its control, considering how many of the techniques were invented there. I'd put it at under 25%.

That's why the suit is aimed at search and search advertising

MeinBlutIstBlau(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Yeah but Nvidia and ARM are luxury goods. There is no point breaking up a monopoly of that calibre. They specialize in a niche market that affects an even more niche market.

The simple fact that I can say 'google it' and colloquially anyone in the US and probably Europe would understand what I mean kind of states how dominant they are in the market.

cma(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Neither Nvidia nor ARM make fabs.

helen___keller(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

> Watershed moment in how we 'price' monopolistic power. It's not 'market share' or 'barriers to entry' or even engaging in 'anti-competitive behavior' anymore. But more about how corporations can control the free flow of information. Much harder to make that case for the government I should imagine.

I don't know if or how this fits within actual antitrust law, but it makes sense that the issue was never price gouging, the issue was one entity gaining too much power.

In a theoretical dystopian future, a megacorp could own 99% of market share of all industries in the country, but intentionally offer very low prices on every product to avoid 'monopoly' concerns. It becomes clear: monopolistic pricing is just a symptom, not the real issue. The real issue is power.

If this suit (and followup suits on other megacorps) fail, the future may call for new laws to define monopolistic power in novel ways, as soon as we the people recognize that getting search and email and social media for free doesn't mean that the megacorps are on our side.

burtonator(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

Anti-trust legislation is pointless. It's only enforced selectively and for political reasons. It would be FAR FAR FAR better to just enforce proper taxation policy so that companies like google actually pay taxes.

Right now FANG have completely unfair competitive advantages that they SHOULD NOT have.

WTF does Facebook get to build a campus TAX FREE just because they are Facebook.

If you tried to do a startup your company wouldn't get these advantages.

kazinator(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

Thus, you must think monopolies and price-fixing cartels and whatnot are fine; the only 'sin' is tax evasion.

known(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

'If it moves tax it. If it keeps moving regulate it. And if it stops moving subsidize it' --Ronald Reagan (b. 1911)

use-net(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

way to go!

dvduval(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Google used to be more in tune with small businesses. Now they are so focused on that ad money (mostly from big corporations), that so many small businesses are getting squeezed out. Rather than helping small businesses grow, that keep taking parts of the market small businesses previously made some or all of there revenue from. And of course Google gets tax breaks that are not available to small businesses because they can do accounting tricks. It's just not a level playing field anymore.

thisisnico(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

As a small business, this is why I'm focused on Facebook Advertising. It's very easy to focus local.

johnghanks(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Sorry but is it really a monopoly when the reason you're a 'monopoly' is that your products are just plain better than the competition?

transperceneige(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Well, maybe they are better because competition doesn't stand a chance due to anti-competitive practices?

woeirua(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Frankly I'm surprised to see that they're going after Google first. Amazon and/or Facebook are much more vulnerable to an anti-trust lawsuit, and just based on some of the public information that we already have they have likely engaged in anticompetitive behavior. I fully expect that antitrust action against FB/Amazon will continue regardless of who wins the election.

ummonk(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

Amazon has substantial competition. Facebook less so, but still more than Google Search.

dleslie(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Amazon has clear and healthy competitors; Walmart, Cosco, Alibaba, Ebay and so on. It would be a struggle to prove that they're a monopoly, let alone that they're using their monopoly illegally.

Whereas Google has something like 95% of mobile search, and actively consumes competitors or, allegedly, wields its monopoly to drive traffic away from them.

wbl(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

What Amazon is typically accused of, having store brands, is what every retailer does. That's hard to win. Maybe there are other things, but I haven't heard of them.

adrr(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

Amazon would just point to Walmart as the market leader since Walmart has double the revenue.

gremlinsinc(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Not sure about Facebook, I mean there's reddit, twitter, etc. Each w/ it's own niche...but Amazon, and Apple, imho are the biggest offenders. Amazon would be first on my list.

blazespin(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

They went after Google, because Google has a monopoly.

Amazon does well from AWS, but hardly has domineering marketshare in the way Google does.

The idea that FB has a monopoly is laughable. Until Trump put the kibosh on them there was a real threat from TikTok. Zuck was getting desperate. Social media is very fickle.

Aapl as well only has a monopoly amongst high paying customers. Not sure you can call that a monopoly.

Google is a well defined monopoly.

johnsillings(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

A great paper on Amazon's anticompetitive practices for anyone who's interested: https://www.yalelawjournal.org/pdf/e.710.Khan.805_zuvfyyeh.p...

zozin(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

I'm not really sure on what basis you conclude that Amazon and/or Facebook are more vulnerable than Google. Google controls +80% of search; it dominates desktop browsers with 70% market share; it effectively owns the most popular mobile operating system and +65% of mobile users use Google's mobile browser; it also owns YouTube and Gmail, which tie neatly into the rest of its products and lead to even more market domination (they read your emails and sell that information to advertisers, etc.).

Google has done more to atrophy progress on the Internet than any other big tech company. It has used its monopoly position on search and ads to crush competition. Google has been 'evil' for a very long time.

asciimov(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

You go after Google first, because they have had such dominance the longest. Anybody else would just argue 'What about Google?'

As friendly as Facebook has been to the republican party, it doesn't surprise me that they aren't first in line to be prosecuted, if ever.

derivagral(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

When they started adding those 'This site works better in Chrome' popups on their web properties I was fairly shocked; didn't MS get in trouble for essentially this & Windows/IE?

the_only_law(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

I'm guessing I just don't understand the Microsoft/ IE antitrust case because everytime I read about it makes no sense what was done that was illegal.

ehsankia(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

I believe Microsoft got in trouble for bundling IE with Windows and doing a lot of things to keep users there.

They still do a lot of shady things actually: https://www.theverge.com/21310611/microsoft-edge-browser-for...

Every once in a while I see Edge pinning itself to my taskbar after an update, or opening automatically and telling me to migrate.

redm(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

I'm much more interested in the Ad-tech Monopoly. The Doubleclick merger should have never been approved.

"Other states are still considering their own cases related to Google's search practices, and a large group of states is considering a case challenging Google's power in the digital advertising market, The Wall Street Journal has reported. In the ad-technology market, Google owns industry-leading tools at every link in the complex chain between online publishers and advertisers.

The Justice Department also continues to investigate Google's ad-tech practices." [1]

[1] https://www.wsj.com/articles/justice-department-to-file-long...

stjohnswarts(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

I concur, I think this is when Google really jumped the shark. That said I believe it would be relatively easy to break up the company 1) office/mail/maps service as a pay to play 2) cloud service 3) search service. Obviously 1 would have to go to a rival ad platform or freemium to pay the bills, maybe also keep the 'non search' ads platform. 2) and 3) should be able to pay for themselves 3) with related ads to the search.

dcolkitt(10000) about 7 hours ago [-]

Probably true, but antitrust law is based on consumer welfare. Let's say Google uses monopoly power in the ad market to squeeze advertisers. It's hard to translate that into direct harm to consumers.

That argument would either hinge on the cost of advertising being passed along to consumers. Very hard to prove. Or the higher cost decreasing the total amount of advertising, somehow harming consumers. Dubious when ad-free products are generally considered premium and desirable

wannabag(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

Couldn't agree more, the adtech is where the monopoly lies. I worked for a doubleclick / ads 360 competitor and it was so plain that Google used its dominant position not only to squash competitors like us but also to further obscure the auction mechanisms. Today it's a challenge to specify exactly what you want to bid for a given keyword, in part for the better since it dramatically reduces complexity for advertisers but it does remove a lot of the control and hands it back to... Google. Ultimately the auction is completely irrelevant since Google decides which ads will show and by extension whose ad money they'll pocket. In addition to that, Google charges premium for ad space even in non-competitive markets; I'm talking about what you end up paying for a top spot although there are no other actors in the auction for a particular keyword (even in broader matches). While one could argue that it's up to them as a publisher to decide what a spot is worth, this mechanism is completely obscure and you will only ever find out in hindsight through what you pay for the traffic.

scumcity(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Wherefore? FB and other such platforms are much better at display ads technology, as they don't care about user privacy at all. User tracking is the only real discriminator when it comes to display ads, where as search queries are very discriminating.

option(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

Exactly, Doubleclick acquisition should not have been approved. I'm wondering if we still have that same approvers still "doing their job"

chanfest22(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

Google does a bunch of things that are less than ideal. What this complaint alleges doesn't seem to be one of those things.

Here's Google's response: https://blog.google/outreach-initiatives/public-policy/respo...

permo-w(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

How did google get their own top level domain?

hardtke(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

The media reporting as well as Google's response is entirely focussed on the consumer monopoly on search, but the DOJ complaint focusses equally on potential anti-competitive practices in the search advertising market. The DOJ describes the situation well here:

110. There are barriers to entry in these advertising markets that protect Google's advertising monopolies. Most critically, search advertising of any kind requires a search engine with sufficient scale to make advertising an efficient proposition for businesses. Specialized search engines require significant investment, including the cost of populating and indexing relevant data, distribution, developing and maintaining a search algorithm, and attracting users. Search advertising of any kind also requires (1) a user interface through which advertisers can buy ads, (2) software to facilitate the sales process, and (3) a sales and technical support staff. The same barriers to entry that apply to general search services also protect Google's general search text advertising monopoly.

Declaring search advertising an illegal monopoly would not only open up the possibility for structural changes (requiring them to license the search advertising to other search engines, giving aggregators the ability to buy search advertising on google.com) but also exposes them potentially to large payments to advertisers who have been harmed in the past.

actuator(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

@dang makes sense to add this in the top level comment as well, lest people create separate threads for this.

mortdeus(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

The stupidity of this argument could be boiled down to the government trying to file an antitrust lawsuit on the Rolling Stones having an ongoing monopoly on rock music because movie directors are still deciding to use their superiorly popular (and in my opinion superiorly written) music over all the modern hacks.

I dont think this is an issue of antitrust, rather an issue of regulation.

You regulate the internal affairs of the oil industry not because you still care about the monopoly Standard Oil once hand on the market, but rather because you care about how they can directly operate in such a way that has been proven to cause more harm than good. (e.g. this is why california is so up tight about getting your car 'smogged')

There is a debate that needs to be had regarding how the power of big tech flies in the face of the 1st amendment when it comes to how internal bias can harm the public in the same sense that somebody yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater can cause trouble.

But this doesn't fall under antitrust and I think distracting the real issue with this kind of lawsuit is just another way for Washington to feint like they are 'actively' trying to do something about the problem while in reality allowing for the problem to persist into the long term future.

cblconfederate(10000) 3 minutes ago [-]

The rolling stones don't pay movie makers to feature their music instead of others (do they?)

Joeri(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

But to build a competitive search engine you need massive engineering, network and hardware resources; or put simply you need a lot of money. To fund that very expensive to operate but necessarily free search product you need lots of ad revenue, for which you need advertisers, which only pay for ads on the dominant search engine.

Maybe it is a lot easier for google to stay on top than for others to get to that level? And is the market really open when competitors face a sky-high barrier to entry?

Osiris(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

> Google used 'exclusionary agreements and anticompetitive conduct'

For a long time, I've felt that any contract that specifically prevents a party from engaging in business with any other party should be considered anti-competitive and illegal.

I understand why businesses like them, but I can't see how they ever benefit customers.

Exclusivity contracts were the backbone of big enterprises accused of monopolistic behavior, like Intel and Microsoft, and I'm sure many others.

Can anyone give me a good case for why exclusivity contracts (contracts that ban a company from engaging with a competitor) are good for consumers?

cdmckay(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

Doesn't Qualcomm do this too?

acituan(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

A game theoretic advantage, "we will only invest in our end product x which uses your y if you agree not supporting competitors for a period of time " in which x is beneficial to the end user but not worth the cost/risk with competition.

This is the same idea with patents; I'll sink costs to deeper R&D in exchange for safer prospects of profiting from it.

tomohawk(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

It is illegal, if you're a monopolist. You can be a monopoly, but you can't do things like this if you are.

summerlight(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Not sure if this is going to make a strong case in the court at least in the current legal framework. For many cases, competition is a click away; Search is straightforward, and for Ads it's merely a matter of budget allocation (thanks to FB and Amazon, there's some real competitions). To prove that this is objectively harmful to consumers, a lot more works would be required for DoJ. I don't see any good arguments in the filing other than ambiguous 'reducing consumer choices, stifling innovation'. Now I can understand why lawyers were concerned with this half-baked accusation in a NYT article.

Probably legislation approaches proposed by Democrats is a right way to handle this case. I'm afraid that this immature lawsuit may give Google and other tech giants political exemptions to the future antitrust regulations potentially enabled by the reformed bill. Maybe Biden administration will decide to just drop it in favor of reforming the bill?

simonh(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Note that having a functional monopoly through simply being popular is not illegal, it's practices which unfairly protect or exploit that market power that can be illegal.

The article goes into some candidates for activities that might be judged abuses, such as buying the default search slot on iPhones. Another might be unfairly promoting Google properties, and artificially burying competitors in search results. Another area that might be looked at is Google providing various free services such as Gmail and Google Docs, essentially subsidised by search revenue, in order to squeeze out competitors from possible revenue streams.

Having said that, this is mostly a shakedown. If Google would just set up a PAC and cough up I'm sure this will all just go away.

redm(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

In reference to the default search engine partnership between Google and Apple:

'Though Google and Apple have been tight-lipped on how much their deal is worth, the lawsuit projects that it accounts for between 15% and 20% of Apple's annual profits.

That means Google pays as much as $11 billion, or roughly one-third of Alphabet's annual profits, to Apple for pole position on the iPhone. In return, Apple-originated search traffic adds up to half of Google search volume, the government says. Google declined to comment on that statistic, and representatives said they weren't aware of the "Code Red" language included in the lawsuit.' [1]

Thats a lot of revenue and if they clouded, this case may have legs.

[1] https://www.wsj.com/articles/googles-exclusive-search-deals-...

skeletonjelly(10000) about 7 hours ago [-]

Bit of a side question: how can deals be tight lipped in a publicly listed company? Can shareholders vote to make information public? Or is it just not common

ju-st(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

As comparison: 'The new search deal will ensure Google remains the default search engine provider inside the Firefox browser until 2023 at an estimated price tag of around $400 million to $450 million per year.' https://www.zdnet.com/article/sources-mozilla-extends-its-go...

elihu(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

> Apple-originated search traffic adds up to half of Google search volume, the government says.

That doesn't seem plausible. It seems like it ought to be more like 10-20% of search volume going by market share. Unless Apple users are for some reason doing more searches than Android and Windows users.

I could see how maybe ad revenue from Apple users is disproportional to their market share because they're generally wealthier.

spideymans(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

And now we see why Android exists, and how immensely valuable it is to Google.

sumedh(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

I still dont understand what is wrong with that deal?

Apple has the option to go to Bing and the user has the option to change the default search engine.

ricardo81(10000) about 6 hours ago [-]

Google earn more per 1000 searches than Bing by quite a margin (I believe there is a stat for this in the UK CMA report).

Google can offer an amount greater that any other search engine would find profitable. If I remember correctly, Google earn around double per 1000 searches than Bing does. Other English based indexes tend to use Bing ads and earn even less per 1000 searches.

I suspect the amount Google offers is an amount that is deliberately at a level that Bing would not be able to match.

BearsAreCool(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Why is it that this is only attacking google search? I'm not that well versed in antitrust legal matters but why isn't there attempts to break up the broader Alpbabet into sensible smaller companies that each do their own thing? In my head that seems like it should be simpler.

maxlamb(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Because search is the only area where Google has a clear monopoly.

TuringNYC(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

To me, it would be disappointing if they broke up the firm to the point where R&D has to survive w/o subsidies. US science research funding has not kept up. I'm glad the likes of Google have kept pace with corporate R&D.

Consider for a moment where self-driving-car technology would be w/o Google subsidizing it. Or mapping technology. Or like a dozen other technologies. Were these supposed to pop up w/ VC struggling from round to round? Many of the VC backed companies themselves have a put option of being acquired by Google/FAANG -- so if that exit is gone, it would be even worse.

nottorp(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Search is the monopoly, breaking up is the remedy?

theandrewbailey(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Microsoft was having some antitrust problems when Google was founded, so Google said 'don't be evil.' Now Google got big enough and lived long enough to become a villain.

verroq(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

You either die a hero or live long enough to become a villain.

residentfoam(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

Where was the antitrust in all these years ?

I think it is a little too late now. Companies like Google have grown to the size where it is now impossible to stop them from being a monopoly.

I don't think there is anything, anyone in the world can do to really allow a fair competition in the space.

As for the fines that e.g EU has inflicted to Google in recent years, they are simply ridiculous, considering Google's revenues.

sam0x17(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

Anti-trust law really has broad authority if they can make this stick. Just because this is tech doesn't make it special. The EU fines were nothing. If this goes well, it would be a forced dismantling similar to what happened in the early 1900s. Google would have to win the case or cease having any U.S. presence whatsoever to get away from this.

Fishysoup(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Under any other administration I'd support this (i still do, provided the motivation is legitimate anti-trust concerns). But it's pretty obvious that the cheeto prince just doesn't want his hate speech banned or his dissidents having a platform.

dang(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Please don't take HN threads into political flamewar. It helps nothing and just makes the thread worse (more predictable and nasty).


formerly_proven(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

If you are accusing someone of protecting an illegal monopoly, you are implying there is an illegal monopoly. Does this mean they will attempt to split Google up?

parasubvert(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Splitting up is only one remedy. Often it leads to a consent decree, which is effectively a negotiated but forced settlement (e.g. fines, restructuring, etc.) and contract that binds future behavior.

bbqmaster999(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Antitrust was a disaster for Bell Labs, which gave us inventions like the transistor and Unix. Nothing as noteworthy after the breakup and string of acquisitions. In the same way I'm worried for all the moon shoot projects at these big companies if they are broken up. I suggest reading the Idea Factory and then see how you feel about breaking up big tech.

jjtheblunt(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

Go is pretty close to being from Bell Labs, in the sense it's a continuation funded by Google of work from Bell Labs, no?

AlexandrB(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Bell also forced you to rent their telephones if you wanted phone service. The old Bell was a disaster for consumers and Bell Labs does not excuse their monopolistic practices. As a counterpoint consider Xerox PARC, which brought us the GUI and Ethernet without Xerox fucking over their customers (too much).

Edit: I find it funny that someone posting on 'Hacker' News is defending a monopoly that extracts an ad tax from every startup and kills many innovative new companies by acquihire.

zxcvbn4038(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

I think this has been a long time coming and probably needs to happen. My ad-hoc monopoly test has always been customer service. When your a monopoly you don't really care about consumers because you don't have to. Look at your local DMV, your local cable company, and Google. What do they have in common? They act in their own self interest over consumer's interests. They take anti-consumer actions with impunity and are dismissive of all complaints. They go through great lengths to turn their problems into your problems.

I'm hoping that this leads to adblock being fully supported in chrome again with all the proper hooks to be able to filter content. I also hope this leads to greater privacy and a right to be forgotten for all. Most of all I hope this leads to Google answering the phone instead of hiding behind their algorithms. (Even when I was working at a top 5 web site the only way we could contact anyone at Google was Twitter and former college roommates that happened to work there).

nova22033(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Airlines have pretty bad customer service. so do most insurance companies.

rrrrrrrrrrrryan(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Quality of customer service and percent of market share are inversely correlated, but they're still separate variables, and one does not imply the other.

Amazon is an example of a company that, despite having an enormous market share of online shopping, has remained aggressively aligned with the customer. (They'll happily use their market dominance to wring every last penny out of their suppliers and their employees, though.)

Simplifying greatly, this is the main difference between antitrust laws in the EU and the US: the EU doesn't really have the concept of a benevolent monopoly. In the US, you have to make a strong case that the company is engaging in anticompetitive practices.

Notably, this has less to do with how the alleged monopoly treats its own customers than with how it treats other companies in the same space.

ehsankia(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

That seems like a skewed test that is biased companies that work at scale. It's much harder to have good customer service for every user when you're making pennies per user but bank on having billions of users.

d1zzy(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

This argument doesn't seem correct to me. It's not like Google has had great customer support when they started out and later on, as they became a monopoly, they stopped doing that so it's one of the (many) signals it's a monopoly that doesn't care. Google never had customer support, it's whole business was built around that model. They are successful BECAUSE of it, not IN SPITE of, and only the latter form can be a signal of monopoly.

If you want a more accurate signal here go for 'Google doesn't care about its users as much as it did many years ago' in terms of anti-user features and changes it's making all the time now. But of course that's a bit harder to show as happening because you have to take each such change on a case by case basis and show that indeed it's hurting more users than it's helping (because many such changes while they seem as they go against the prosumer or the HN community, they very much follow what the average Joe needs or wants).

jacobsenscott(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

My DMV in Arapaho County Colorado is efficient and easy. Most things can be done online or at a kiosk. If you do need to talk to a person the wait is short.

In the rare instances where I have a problem with comcast they have been able to solve it pretty quickly and easily. They are over priced though.

We use a lot of google services and I've almost never needed any kind of customer support because they tend to just work. I did have some issues with a Fi line once and chat responded immediately.

There are major problems with monopolies, but from my experience customer service tends to be fantastic compared to smaller organizations.

arcticbull(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

> Look at your local DMV.

This is IMO the only part of your response I disagree with.

In most of the OECD, DMVs are wonderful, or at least, functional and expedient. In most developed countries, government work is considered a public service job, and respected, appreciated and well paid. 30% of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and 25% of Finland is employed by the government.

The DMV being the most utterly soul sucking place on earth has little to do with being a monopoly, but rather, Americans belief that the government is worthless, manifest. People - and services - tend to behave the way you expect them to, and this is no exception. While not a uniquely American phenomenon, it's not a function of being a monopoly.

As you'll see virtually all Ontario DMV equivalents (ServiceOntario, broader in scope than the DMV, handling health card issuance, birth certificates, and a many other government services [2]) have wait times under 20 minutes [1]. They also do manage complaints quite effectively via the Ombudsman program [3], and as a last resort, fold neatly under media pressure.

[1] https://data.ontario.ca/dataset/serviceontario-wait-times-in...

[2] https://www.ontario.ca/page/serviceontario

[3] https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/contact-us

bla3(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

There's tons of tiny companies with terrible customer service. Maybe 'monopoly' implies 'bad customer service', but the other direction certainly doesn't hold. It sounds like you're suggesting the implication works the other way round.

amelius(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Can't we have some minimum requirements for customer service which companies have to comply with?

perardi(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

My ad-hoc monopoly test has always been customer service.

And who exactly is Google's customer? The Gmail user, or the ad buyer?

sam0x17(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

Forgot about the monopoly -- how about outright fraud?

As someone who used to operate a domain parking service, I've seen evidence numerous times of google taking away publisher earnings because of alleged clickfraud, but then not refunding advertisers for those same clicks.

I know of three advertisers who were appearing in AdSense ads on a publisher page back in 2009 that Google refused to pay out because of 'click fraud', and none of these advertisers received refunds or any indication that they were defrauded. Google took the money that was supposed to go to the publisher, kept it, and didn't refund the advertisers. They probably never do. I ended up paying $800 out of my pocket to compensate my users for the lost revenue.

I have also worked with hundreds of advertisers in the SEO space, and I have never, ever, seen someone say they had ad money refunded because of click fraud, yet I've seen plenty of publisher earnings held back because of supposed click fraud. Google's fight against click fraud is really just a fight against paying out to publishers, full stop.

Google also used to do this crazy shit (don't know if they still do as I'm not in that space anymore) where they would change the TOS at midnight and then retroactively block the past month's earnings on hundreds of accounts that are violating the seconds-old TOS. Pretty sure that is illegal as well.

If you think about it, Google has zero incentive to stop real click-fraud, especially if their chosen course of action is to just keep the money and not have to pay publishers or refund advertisers. This space needs regulation, and it's needed it for over a decade.

I will happily forward what I have if someone knows how to get in touch with investigators.

summerlight(10000) about 3 hours ago [-]

> As someone who used to operate a domain parking service, I've seen evidence numerous times of google taking away publisher earnings because of alleged clickfraud, but then not refunding advertisers for those same clicks.

Because they're not charged at all in the first place? No charge, so nothing to refund.


extropy(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

I would assume Google just shows more ads on other sites to compensate for the fraudent clicks. Why should they give you money back when they can just fulfill their side of the contract by showing ads to non fraudent users.

someonehere(10000) about 6 hours ago [-]

How about this? They have zero incentive to stop click fraud because they want to show one set of numbers to potential customers that their ROI will be significant. Meanwhile they bait you, hook you, then you don't see the results they promised. Exactly as you said.

cblconfederate(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

Google constantly takes 10-12% of adsense earning as 'invalid traffic'. Now we obviously dont use bots, we have real users, so i can only assume they consider those misclicks. Or something else, they have no transparency. The RPMs have been going down for a decade even as our traffic is stable, and slightly up during covid.

They also don't fill our inventory. I wish we had alternative ways to find advertisers.

I have yet to see studies confirming that the money that advertisers spend is made good on google marketplace or fb marketplace etc. Sure they may see 50% of it working, but what about the rest of it?

dudus(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

Google does filter out invalid clicks on the advertiser side as well.


Edit: spelling

treis(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

This doesn't seem like it's going to work. Given a choice between search engines pretty much everyone is going to choose Google. I think there are definitely areas that Google acts anti-competitively. But search? The competitors are a URL away. And few use them because Google is just flat out better.

cwxm(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

The question I would posit is: Do the actions from Google that the Justice Department consider to be anti-competitive prevent competitors from becoming better?

For example, let's say I could be curious about DuckDuckGo if I had to choose a default search engine when I got an Apple device instead of Google being the default, then that could be revenue to DuckDuckGo for them to improve their search engine.

goodluckchuck(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

>few use them because Google is just flat out better.

I completely disagree with this part, but you're totally right on people continuing to use it.

Search is highly dependent on the query. At first DDG's results seemed bad to me, but after a while I think I've changed how I write my searches. It's hard to explain, but I guess I'm putting more thought into understanding what it is that I hope to find.

Now, Google's results seem to just be a listing of whoever did the best SEO targeting on the subject, and ultimately that means worse results for me. It's less about what I'm looking for and more about what Google has to show me... and Google always has something relevant to show me. When DDG doesn't, I'm forced to re-consider my query and try again, ultimately reaching a better destination.

However, 'change the way you search' is niche at best. Google is satisfying because it's so easy to use, that you almost don't even have to write a query. It's like an automatic 'I'm feeling lucky' based on it's knowledge of you and your location and time of day, etc...

cblconfederate(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Google's business is ads, not search

gonational(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

It's a bit like saying, in 1911, that given the choice between petroleum companies, everyone is going to choose Standard Oil, to which the answer is a resounding yes, of course they will.

Ask anybody in much of the Midwest where they will choose to buy groceries and they will answer Walmart.

This kind of reasoning is not an argument against the philosophy behind antitrust regulations. Rather, it is emblematic of the situation that monopolies create for themselves, by using their economies of scale to create pricing that cannot reasonably be expected to lose any competition over customers.

The same economies of scale benefit consumers and the economy as a whole as long as the business behaves in a manner consistent with the shared values of society. As soon as they decide to behave differently, though, society is at the mercy of a monopoly because they have consumed the entire market.

cma(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Default placement is way more powerful than typing in a URL, which most people never do for searching Google.

stjohnswarts(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

It will work most likely. We aren't in 2000 any more and both parties are mad Big Tech. There will definitely be some heads rolling in FAANG in the next few years.

ericd(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

There are structural issues that make it very difficult for new competitors to gain traction in search. For example, many website owners are now hostile to new web crawlers, but they're happy to allow Google to hammer their servers because they want that sweet, sweet search traffic.

Mandating a commonly accessible crawl, with cached versions of the pages, would help new entrants a lot.

Also, there're large network effects with ad networks. It seems unlikely that many marketing managers are going to take the time to do targeted keyword queries on your search engine with 1/1,000,000 the traffic of Google.

m-p-3(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

The question is: does any of the competitors stand a chance against Google if they can't acquire more users and therefore improve their engine with the added revenue? Seems like a catch-22, and having Google as the default search engine everywhere, including in the web browser they make and that has the highest marketshare only exacerbate this.

xenadu02(10000) about 7 hours ago [-]

It's not illegal to be a monopoly - especially by providing a superior product or service.

The case hinges on the no-compete, tying, and default placement agreements. If Google didn't pay anyone to be the default search engine, didn't require Android Phone makers to pre-install Google apps and make Google the default search in order to get access to Google services and the store, etc then there's no problem.

The complaint also says that one of the reasons Google's results are better is the network and scale effects that come from owning 80-90% of search. A competitor has a very difficult time no matter how good their algorithm because you need insights you can only get when people use your service at scale. I don't personally know if that is true but that's part of the complaint.

The proposed antitrust violation is likely the combination: using their dominant position to outspend any other players when paying for default placement to ensure they're the only one with the scale to have the best search results. That forms a self-reinforcing cycle: users who do choose pick you because you have the best results and you use that fact to fund no-compete and default placement agreements to ensure you have unmatched scale which further reinforces your ability to deliver the best results.

Again: I don't know if this is true or a valid argument, but it seems to be what the complaint claims.

beezle(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Agree (responded in an earlier comment). If DOJ are going to look anywhere, it should be the advertising side of things and placement in search results (as opposed to sidebar ads). Even then, I'm not sure there is any case.

smeeth(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

I wish this anti-trust action was around their dumping of free services (mail, docs, calendar) and not search. But no, thanks to Reagan era hand-waving that monopoly power can only harm consumers and not companies we can't have nice things.

ratww(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

But the dumping of free services also did harm consumers. First it caused consumers to be left with a single choice, and then with none.

CogentHedgehog(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Google definitely needs anti-trust scrutiny. The timing is suspicious though. Could political motivation be at play here?

And why didn't Facebook get sued too? They're just as anti-competitive. Was there an implicit protection agreement reached at one of those private dinners Zuckerberg had at the White House?

And what about Amazon? There's a whole laundry list of anti-competitive practices happening with their online sales and marketplace.

Mountain_Skies(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Trump's dislike of Jeff Bezos is well known. I doubt Amazon is getting any special favors from the White House. Given how blatant and extensive Amazon's scummy practices are, I've got to wonder if the feds and the state attorneys general are letting Amazon keep collecting more and more of the rope that will eventually be used the hang them with.

glenstein(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

>And why didn't Facebook get sued too? >And what about Amazon?

I completely agree, and this has been my main headscratcher since we first heard about a possible anti-trust case.

For starters, I still think things like banks, telecom, and probably oil, and defense industry companies probably need to be broken up, and that they should be much higher priorities. To say nothing of the obscure industries we wouldn't normally think of (Luxxotica with glasses) that are monopolized. There's probably others for obscure things I'm not even thinking of.

And even within tech, I wouldn't even rank Google ahead of Amazon, and I'm not 100% that I would rank them ahead of Facebook either.

And, if that's not all, I think Google at least serves as a check on the other Frightful Five, and subtracting Google will serve to further consolidate tech. And if that's not enough, I feel that the tech industry has served as a useful check against other entrenched industries. Their clash with cable, and occasional work to protect an open internet are a healthy counterbalance to voices of other monopolized industries.

reaperducer(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

The timing is suspicious though. Could political motivation be at play here?

A reasonable thought on the surface, but this has been pushed by many people on both sides of the aisle, including Elizabeth Warren.

yokto(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

> And why didn't Facebook get sued too?

'The rumor is that a suit against Facebook will soon follow' [1] said Matt Stoller in his latest BIG, a newsletter about the politics of monopoly and finance. It takes a lot of resources to file those suits, so don't expect them to be announced at exactly the same time.

[1] https://mattstoller.substack.com/p/how-would-president-biden...

PS: Since it contains quite a bit of interesting and relevant information about the cases against GAFA, I submitted this particular newsletter at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24837931

ashtonkem(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

I agree that the timing is weird, but the lack of action against Amazon actually weakens the argument that this is political in nature. Trump hates Bezos and has been threatening him for a while, so to leave his company out is noteworthy.

djanogo(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

It's not any more suspicious than announcing it 3 months earlier or 3 months later.

There is no right 'non-suspicious' timing for this type of scrutiny.

013a(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Could there be political motivations in politics? I'd expect so.

The issue with doing anything during an election is that people on the other side accuse the administration of suspicious timing. The issue with doing nothing during an election is that everyone accuses you of being a lame duck. This is, more or less, business as usual for the administration; they've been on Big Tech's ass for at least a year now, and finally something is coming of it.

Every big tech company needs looked at, and potentially split up. And, maybe, they'll all get their turn. But resources are limited; when the US went to war with Germany, we didn't airdrop troops in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich, and Frankfurt on the same day. Actually, we didn't even start with Germany. Starting with Google allows some legal precedent to be set on some of the very weird, novel antitrust issues the case is going to face, which will make future cases easier. I tend to think Amazon should have been the first, but Google is certainly up there, and probably (IMO) a more potentially harmful monopoly than Apple, Microsoft, or Facebook.

abvdasker(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

'Could political motivation be at play here?'

It's wild to me that this is even a question. A lawsuit like this a couple weeks before the election from a DOJ which might not exist in 4 months is nakedly political. Why is anyone taking this seriously?

matwood(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Announcing Google today does not preclude others from being announced later. Cases take time.

Also, based on the story I saw the Google one is pretty straight forward. The deals they have made to force their search onto things like the iPhone (with Apple) and Android (with the carriers/manufacturers) is the issue.

eplanit(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

I think they're going to go after FB and Twitter (and YouTube?) with a Section 230 case/argument.

paradox242(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

It's not unreasonable to question the motivation of this DOJ, nonetheless, that does not mean that there is nothing here, even if the green light was given for bad reasons. If we are seeing action on Google it could be that they have been preparing something for some time now and it was simply the case furthest along. I would agree that while Google is not entirely clean the behavior of Facebook and Amazon are much more egregious.

CydeWeys(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

And don't forget the biggest gorilla of the bunch, Apple, with its locked down walled garden that it gets a 30% cut of.

Maybe the next administration will give equal scrutiny to all of the big tech companies rather than seemingly targeting just one of them.

prichino(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Of course there's politics involved. Who do you think Google's owners would prefer to win? Just yesterday came out an expose of how Google skews searches of political terms for each party in the US.

tomnipotent(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

> Could political motivation be at play here

That's usually how this stuff works.

> And why didn't Facebook get sued too

You can't make one case against multiple companies, and resources are finite. It will take many years for each of these cases to play out.

r721(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]
treis(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

I'm dumbfounded. Of all the things in the tech world they chose Google paying Apple, Samsung, et.al. to be the default search engine to sue over. That's not really evidence of Google blocking competition. That's evidence of phone manufacturers using their power in one market (phone sales) to extract cash out of another (search/ads).

Aaronn(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

Another place to get all of the documents in this case is https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/18552824/united-states-...

Any time someone buys a document from PACER and has the RECAP extension https://free.law/recap/ installed in their browser it is uploaded so everyone can view it for free on the Court Listener website.

Historical Discussions: Chrome exempts Google sites from user site data settings (October 18, 2020: 1294 points)
Chrome exempts Google sites from user site data settings (October 07, 2020: 4 points)

(1309) Chrome exempts Google sites from user site data settings

1309 points 3 days ago by arm in 10000th position

lapcatsoftware.com | Estimated reading time – 2 minutes | comments | anchor

Chrome exempts Google sites from user site data settings

In Google Chrome's 'Cookies and site data' settings, accessible via the Preferences menu item or directly with chrome://settings/cookies in the address bar, you can enable the setting 'Clear cookies and site data when you quit Chrome'. However, I've discovered that Chrome exempts Google's own sites, such as Search and YouTube, from this setting.

Below I visit Apple's site, which sets some cookies and local storage.

My settings allow only Twitter to keep site data, and you can see that all of the Apple data was deleted after quit and relaunch.

Now I visit YouTube, which sets some cookies and several other kinds of storage.

After I quit and relaunch, the cookies are deleted, but the database storage, local storage, and service workers are still there! (Did you know there are so many different kinds of web storage?)

Chrome respects the 'Clear cookies and site data when you quit Chrome' setting for apple.com but not entirely for youtube.com. In order to prevent YouTube from saving data, you have to add it to 'Sites that can never use cookies'. (Note that adding YouTube to 'Always clear cookies when windows are closed' is not sufficient.)

Now I try visiting Google Search, which sets some cookies and local storage.

After quit and relaunch, the cookies are deleted, but the local storage is still there!

Again, to prevent this from happening, you have to add google.com to 'Sites that can never use cookies'.

Perhaps this is just a Google Chrome bug, not intentional behavior, but the question is why it only affects Google sites, not non-Google sites. I've tested using the latest Google Chrome version 86.0.4240.75 for macOS, but this behavior was also happening in the previous version of Chrome. I don't know when it started.

(Some people are going to read this article and say 'Use Safari instead of Chrome!' But it's important to note that Safari doesn't even have the feature to clear site data on quit, so Safari is actually worse. In this respect, Safari is years behind. Firefox and all of the Chromium-based browsers already have the clear site data on quit feature.)

All Comments: [-] | anchor

demygale(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Chrome is the Internet Explorer of this decade. I'm old enough to remember when some developers defended IE when it was hot trash. There's just no excuse for using it.

n1vz3r(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I don't understand why your post is downvoted. We need to SHOUT about switching to single other alternative left (Firefox) until it is too late.

markawesome(10000) 3 days ago [-]

God, people are so quick to jump on the Google-hate train and then advocate for a politicized justice department to hop in and somehow make everything better. Mozilla is just as guilty as Google. Mozilla has Firefox sync and Chrome has its own sync. This is basically to stop clearing browser data from automatically disabling sync, which most people would want. There are a plethora of third-party tools that allow you to clear your browser data completely if you want. There is nothing stopping you from using them, and you'd also be surprised how much you can do (including disabling Google Sync) from a simple policy file.

Stop waiting on your government to fix things because they aren't going to. If you want to fix things, then build your own tools to abstract syncing, bookmarks, and other features from the browser. They exist, whether you've ever taken the time to look or not. Somehow it is easier though for people to simply say... The government will fix it for me, rather than fixing things yourself.

dbuder(10000) 3 days ago [-]

What is your relationship with Google et al?

mthoms(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The author posted elsewhere in this thread that they were signed out of Google entirely. So sync was disabled.

>Mozilla is just as guilty as Google.

Since Mozilla doesn't do anything similar when not signed into their sync service, this is plainly false.

>If you want to fix things, then build your own tools to abstract syncing, bookmarks, and other features from the browser. They exist, whether you've ever taken the time to look or not.

If you're not highly technical, you're not entitled to privacy?

>Somehow it is easier though for people to simply say... The government will fix it for me, rather than fixing things yourself.

It's simple. Some of us believe that a base level of privacy is a human right. And the only entities capable of facilitating those human rights are governments.

vehemenz(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Mozilla does not have other websites and an advertising platform tied to your browser history, and bookmarks. Firefox Sync is basically a standalone service.

Pretty big difference.

nunodonato(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It's amazing the amount of crap people put up with in exchange for some comforts and conveniences these days (google, apple, amazon). Sad that so very few people put values first

red_admiral(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Apple seems to me, if not perfect, at least a couple of levels up from google or amazon.

tupputuppu(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Could it be it's just peoples values are like that? That regular consumers are ignirant and short-sighted and care more about funny games and easy apps instead of privacy or quality?

rvba(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Add steam to that too. So many people are angry that there are alternatives...

mahkoh(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Is it amazing? Even on here you have people saying that they have to use Windows or Apple instead of Linux because of some minor issues.

m463(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Personally, I think there's a market opportunity for someone who actually treats people with respect and decency.

djhaskin987(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Do your part to fight the monopoly.

Endure the broken sites and sometimes poor support and download Firefox.

If that doesn't work, like it kind of won't for me either, go with Microsoft Edge. They're currently based on Chromium but that's only because they're trying to embrace and extinguish Google Chrome. It's another big giant but at least we're giving Google a run for their money.

ViViDboarder(10000) 3 days ago [-]

But for real, what sites are broken? I've been using Firefox for years and haven't found one.

Some are broken by my tracking protection, but toggling that off for one time access generally yields a working site.

black_puppydog(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Also, if a page doesn't work, and it's not essential to you (like, 99% of news sites) simply close the tab. And leave a ranty comment on the HN thread for bonus points :P

n1vz3r(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I use Firefox since 2005 as my main browser (I had a brief affair with Chrome between 2009 and 2012), and never experienced broken sites and poor support. Firefox works just fine.

iwalsh(10000) 3 days ago [-]

There is an ancient (created in 2012) bug report about this general issue; it appears broader than the report's title would indicate: https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=127340

or_or(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Do chromium derivatives have this problem? Specifically brave?

Tipewryter(10000) 3 days ago [-]

To avoid this type of thing I start Chromium via a script that replaces all settings with their defaults when I quit Chromium:

    chromium-browser           \
        --password-store=basic \
        --enable-dom-distiller \
    rm -r ~/.cache/chromium
    rm -r ~/.config/chromium/Default
    cp -r ~/chromiumDefault \
~/chromiumDefault is the dir as it was created when I started Chromium for the first time and set all settings the way I like it. I update it every once in a while when I tweak a setting.
simias(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Seems like an interesting method but at this point why not just use Firefox?

Nacraile(10000) 3 days ago [-]

So, honest question, because I'm genuinely bewildered: why would you bother doing this, when Firefox exists, is perfectly functional, and isn't made by Google?

rightbyte(10000) 3 days ago [-]

As easy as setting up Emacs.

It seema like a losing battle trying to make Google products not act as malware when they are designed for that purpose. It is so much easier to just use Firefox.

tjoff(10000) 3 days ago [-]

To avoid this type of thing I start firefox.

Seriously, if you care about the internet don't use any webkit browser.

low_key(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I do something similar with chrome (have to use sometimes it for testing compatibility), but just create a fresh profile every time with:

  chrome_dir=$(mktemp -d)
  echo 'Using temp dir: $chrome_dir'
  /usr/bin/google-chrome \
      --incognito \
      --user-data-dir='$chrome_dir' \
      --window-size=1280,1280 \
      --no-referrers \
      --no-pings \
      --no-experiments \
      --disable-translate \
      --dns-prefetch-disable \
      --disable-background-mode \
      --no-first-run \
  wait $!
  rm -rf '$chrome_dir'
Someone1234(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Relevant Brave (Chromium-based browser) bug discussion on exactly this:


They merged in a (partial?) bug fix in 2019:


The underlying problem isn't that Google sites are directly excluded, it is that Local Storage, Database Storage, and Service Workers aren't cleared by that setting, and that Google uses those for persistence.

Is this being evil or was support just not added when those were introduced? I have absolutely no idea. But I agree with fixing the underlying bug in Chromium either way.

est(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Local Storage, Database Storage, and Service Workers aren't cleared by that setting, and that Google uses those for persistence.

I always search with a specific Google.ca domain with cookie and javascript disabled. It worked really well and Google knew zero shit about my search habits on my Gmail account.

tonetheman(10000) 3 days ago [-]

If you right click inspect and go to applications you can clear all of the site settings. But the end user UI should support this option.

You could argue that a Service Worker should not be cleared since that is more than likely not personal data exactly.

Vinnl(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Not exactly this: according to that bug-report, it happens to non-Google sites as well, if I'm reading it right.

sildur(10000) 3 days ago [-]

In the article you can see chrome deleting Apple's local storage, but not Google's.

whack(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Break up Google into the following companies, each with its own independent shareholders, board, and CEO:

- Search

- GMail

- Drive/Docs

- YouTube

- Android

- Chrome


Until that happens, these shenanigans are destined to continue.

anticensor(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Instead of breaking it apart, which would cause extraneous expenses, turn it into a non profit: Pay out all creditors (regardless of immediacy of the debt), executives and shareholders in the process. Then turn it into a non-profit with a primary purpose of 'furthering the public access to knowledge of mankind in any suitable manner, including web search and cloud computing'.

Mxs2000(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Why would there be independent shareholders? If I own GOOG today I should be entitled to an equivalent share of all its parts when broken up.

driverdan(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Android and Chrome do not make any money directly themselves and you ignored Google's core business, advertising.

vishnumohandas(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Over the last few months I have had ~30,0000 visits to my website, almost entirely from HN, and I was disheartened to find that 52% of visitors were using Chrome[1].

Given the pro-open-web and anti-FAANG sentiments that's shared on HN I had expected slightly different results.

[1]: https://simpleanalytics.com/vishnu.tech?start=2019-10-18&end...

tzs(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Firefox can be kind of annoying to use on HN, at least if you post often.

I use Firefox for most of my personal browsing other than Fastmail's webmail interface, and most of my general work browsing.

I use Chrome for a lot of testing and development at work and for dealing with PayPal. These things all get separate profiles, and Chrome handles multiple profiles better than Firefox. Yes, I know about Firefox containers, but I need separate bookmarks and history. Containers just deal with cookies and maybe cache.

I've been tempted to switch to Chrome for at least HN and Reddit because I tire of dealing with Firefox's spell checking. It regularly tells me things are spelled wrong that are not (such as 'webmail' in this comment). It's not just that it is terrible that irks me--it is that it is inexplicably terrible.

What I mean by inexplicably terrible is that they are using Hunspell. That's the same open source spelling engine that is used by Chrome, and LibreOffice, and MacOS. Those all have great spell checking. I thus infer that Firefox's problem is not an engine problem. It's a dictionary problem. So why don't they they grab the ones LibreOffice uses?

Here are some words that came up in comments of mine either here or on Reddit that Firefox incorrectly told me were spelled wrong. Each one interrupted my writing flow as I had to stop and go look it up elsewhere to make sure that I had it right.

> all-nighter auditable automata blacksmithing bubonic cantina commenter conferenced epicycle ethicist fineable inductor initializer lifecycle micropayments mosquitos pre-programmed preprogrammed prosecutable responder solvability spectrogram splitter subparagraphs subtractive surveil tradable transactional tunable verifiability verifier

There's an issue in the Bugzilla for reporting misspelled words. I've reported all of those there so they should eventually be fixed. I'm not sure how long that takes.

Here's a bunch I indirectly reported earlier, that are now fixed:

> 'ad infinitum' anonymized backlit bijection commoditization else's handwrite heliocentrism merchanting natively photosensor plaintext pre-fill preload prepend resizable scoresheet surjection unrequested

(Indirectly because I asked about them on /r/firefox, and someone responded telling me about the Bugzilla issue, which he had already added them to).

Here's my list of ones I have not yet reported:

> ballistically chewable counterintuitive exonerations mistyped phosphine programmability recertification shapeshifting tradeoffs webmail

nicbou(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I get 63% Chrome, 26% Safari, 5% Firefox, 2% Edge.

shadowgovt(10000) 2 days ago [-]

People say one thing and do another. That's the most consistent rule of human behavior prediction.

polote(10000) 3 days ago [-]

From my figures on 100k visitors from a few days ago it is 21% for Firefox an 40% for Chrome, not bad

gambiting(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm surprised that it was so low. I work in tech and I don't know anyone who uses anything other than Chrome.

fpgaminer(10000) 3 days ago [-]

One can be anti-Google and still use Google products. The browser is an exceedingly important piece of software. For some people, the cost of switching to something other than Chrome is too great. Maybe Firefox doesn't work well. Maybe they hate Safari. Maybe their favorite extensions aren't available. Whatever the reason, the cost of switching is greater than the price they put on their anti-Google stance. And that's okay.

Personally, I switched from Chrome to Firefox a long time ago. But I still use plenty of other Google products. I'm overall anti-Google, but I'm not a religious about it. I disconnect from Google where I can, and support products that match my views when I can.

If anything, I'm surprised the percentage of non-Chrome users your site encountered was as high was it was. Makes me kind of hopeful.

freedomben(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Worth remembering is that the commenters on the site are the minority. There are a lot or lurkers on HN (possibly orders of magnitude more lurkers than commenters), so 'the pro-open-web and anti-FAANG sentiments that's shared on HN' may be a vocal minority.

underdeserver(10000) 3 days ago [-]

A lot of people likely use a work laptop and have to use Chrome at work - due to internal apps that only work on Chrome.

nuker(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Safari is healthy 31%, nice

f311a(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I think this test should be performed when you logged out from the Chrome profile. Youtube, Google Docs and Google search automatically pick it when you logged in.

lapcatsoftware(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> I think this test should be performed when you logged out from the Chrome profile.

It was.

vehemenz(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Along with sign-in-to-sync, AMP, URL hiding, upcoming manifest v3, Google is doing their best to benefit advertising and data collection. As the market leader in ads, it is textbook anti-competitive behavior, but the courts will have to decide if it is legally.

superasn(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm kinda happy they are doing it more and more. Just waiting for the last straw that breaks the camel's back.

lern_too_spel(10000) 3 days ago [-]

If that's the case, why is Safari already worse than manifest v3, already hiding URLs, already promoting Apple News (more anticompetitive than AMP), and not even offering the ability to clear storage on exit?

SquareWheel(10000) 3 days ago [-]

As far as I can see, Manifest v3 addressed all the major concerns. It was a developmental spec and they adapted it based on feedback. What problems still remain that you take issue with?

sildur(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Not being able to set a 'home' in maps unless I consent to be spied is another shitty behavior from Google.

lima(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I like declarativeNetRequest and think that the tradeoffs are reasonable, especially after the last revision[2]. Ad blocker extensions are a major security risk, and this fully eliminates the risk without breaking most of the functionality.

Adblocker extensions need full access to all network traffic and all it takes is a single person's account or machine to be compromised to get access to millions of browsers. Chrome extension compromises are a somewhat common occurrence - see [1] for a recent example.

I want ad blocking without giving the extension access to my cloud accounts, bank statements or company intranet.

My current solution is to use the ExtensionSettings[3] Chrome policy to blacklist extensions from particularly sensitive domains like accounts.google.com, my bank and the company intranet, but it's a clunky solution - I still want tracking and ad scripts blocked on those!

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24803740

[2]: https://blog.chromium.org/2019/06/web-request-and-declarativ...

[3]: https://support.google.com/chrome/a/answer/9867568?hl=en

usrusr(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I doubt that there can be much of a legal angle: the defense would be to think of Chrome as a client software for Google services. That client software can additionally interact with many third party services if they follow open web standards, but why should that have legal implications on how it interacts with their own services? It's a very dissatisfying situation.

coding123(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I just switched to Firefox. Haven't used it in a long time. The one feature that helped me switch that wasn't there in the past was the Password import feature. Done and done. Goodbye Chrome after 12 years.

driverdan(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Use a 3rd party tool like BitWarden or 1Password for password management. It prevents browser lock in.

proto-n(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I would be curious how chrome engineers rationalize this one away.

anaganisk(10000) 3 days ago [-]

'We put a lot of thought in implementing our APIs' - Google Chrome team while their peers violate their own APIs.

Sheer arrogance of the devs in chrome related threads, I hate it.

minikites(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Imagine if we paid programmers like teachers so only the dedicated and thoughtful ones stuck around.

baq(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Money and more money, also 'if it wasn't me, somebody else would do it for this much money'

vehemenz(10000) 3 days ago [-]

::cashes $20k monthly paycheck::

I just do what I'm told.

cute_boi(10000) 3 days ago [-]

a corporate strategy. We cannot blame engineer because we are made to believe they made it because of their manager. And we cannot blame those manager because we are made to believe higher manager did it. And ultimately we cannot blame anyway and just say Google did it. And now nobody cares because people think google is very large organization we cannot blame whole organization for small things.

I will blame them for making such system. If we blame them I think ultimately this issue is going to be solved?

geogra4(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The us government has not successfully prosecuted an antitrust case since att in 1984. This is a pretty clear cut case

fmajid(10000) 3 days ago [-]

You can blame Justice Robert Bork for that (yes, he of Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre and failed Supreme Court nomination):


The Chicago School invented the "free markets can do no wrong" ideology that denies the possibility of monopoly, but Bork is the one who weaponized it to cripple antitrust, in plain violation of the statutes. The article is from a right-wing site, BTW.

lapcatsoftware(10000) 3 days ago [-]

[Article author here] A few notes:

1. I tested with many different sites and configurations in order to narrow down the issue. The screenshots in the article are just a small sample of my tests, for illustration.

2. I'm not logged into Chrome or any Google services. I've gone through chrome://settings and disabled everything Google-related. Nonetheless, although I'm not using those Chrome features, this issue obviously could be related to the existence of those features in Chrome.

3. My goal in publishing the article was to get the issue fixed ASAP. I'm a browser extension developer, so I'm constantly testing with different browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. It wasn't my intention to start a browser war.

4. I believe that Chrome is entirely open source, so I hope that someone familiar with the code base will take a look at this issue. The sheer size and complexity makes it a bit daunting for an outsider, but since Chromium has been adopted by other browsers such as Brave and Edge, there are outside developers already working on it.

tgsovlerkhgsel(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Thanks for addressing this - #2 would have been my guess.

Did you report it in the Chromium bug tracker? (https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/list)

From my experience, they tend to look at those sooner or later.

noisem4ker(10000) 3 days ago [-]

4. Chromium is open-source, while Chrome is not.

dhms(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I was wondering about number 4. Does Chromium currently have the same behavior?

leeoniya(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> My goal in publishing the article was to get the issue fixed ASAP.

could be 'by design'

mqus(10000) 3 days ago [-]

To me it seems to be that way if you logged into chrome (and therefore into all google services). It seems reasonable that it does not log you out(e.g. delete cookies) when restarting the browser, even when setting it otherwise.

But those things are why i don't use chrome anymore so I can't verify it.

lapcatsoftware(10000) 3 days ago [-]

[Article author here] I'm not logged into Chrome or any Google services. I've gone through everything in chrome://settings and disabled all of the Google-related settings.

varispeed(10000) 3 days ago [-]

We need to start lobby governments to make this data collection and processing business illegal. I think all the platforms like Google, Facebook, Instagram and so on should be forbidden to collect the data they don't need to conduct business. That is they should not be allowed to package the data and sell or develop new products using this data. Otherwise we should consider whether people using their products could be considered their employees and had to be paid appropriate wages? In the end entering data to their systems is a job.

briandear(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Or just stop using those services. Privacy can be a competitive advantage.

wombatmobile(10000) 3 days ago [-]

"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."

— George Orwell, 1984

input_sh(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Wrong book mate.

eznzt(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Surely that's a quote by Winston Churchill.

Seb-C(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It is not as bad as Google, but mozilla also does some shady stuff that I find annoying and eroded my trust in them.

When I go to the extension store (as a developer) and click on 'Manage or submit extensions', they automatically get my email and credentials from my Firefox sync account (the one registered in my browser). I understood that by trying to use this store with multiple accounts in multiple containers, but it is impossible. You cannot get the normal and neutral connection screen to login to any account, they grab your credentials without your consent anyway.


morpheuskafka(10000) 3 days ago [-]

True, but I think a better argument can be made that an addon website is an integral part of the brower itself, as opposed to an unrelated website like Search or YouTube.

m463(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I turned off everything I could in firefox and it still phoned home all the time.

Finally I just firewalled it off:

pgt(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I was thinking about The Fall of Google in the shower today and how it could happen while seemingly more evil Amazon is flourishing.

The reason I think comes down to Google's unwillingness to let engineers talk to customers. If even 10% of the engineers at Google were talking to customers inbetween sitting on multi-coloured bouncy balls and having political in-fights with PM competitions for who could destroy and relaunch Google Chat the fastest, they would still be winning instead of me typing this in Mozilla Firefox on an iPhone with DuckDuckGo as the default search engine.

nuker(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Google customers are corp's marketing departments, not people. People are natural resource for Ad data mining, which usage should be taxed or licenced by govs, btw, like oil. Amazon just sells stuff, so customers are people.

phkahler(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Stop complaining about Google and start using Firefox. Simple. If it's not simple and you find yourself tied to Chrome then you dug your own hole. This type of thing has been going on a long time.

qzx_pierri(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Firefox has been great for me lately. I use iOS, so I can have password synced cross platform, and I honestly feel like Firefox performs better than Chrome on my PC. Chrome eats up RAM, and it runs in the background unless you manually configure it otherwise.

I won't try to sell anyone on it, but it's awesome. Politics and Mozilla's laughable behavior aside, it's still a damn good browser.

whoknew1122(10000) 3 days ago [-]

You can use Firefox (or Brave) and still point out Google's privacy violations and self-dealing. These positions aren't mutually exclusive, and are more productive than 'stfu n git gud. git f1r3f0x.'

1.) Not everyone is going stop using Chrome. It's better to let Chrome users know what they're getting into.

2.) Pointing out Chrome's privacy issues gives an extra push to stop using it. This post may be just the push someone needs to overcome the inertia built by using the same program for years.

devwastaken(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Chromium works better. Those who care should build a better browser. People will not migrate to inferior products. If privacy is the concern you can use brave.

bretpiatt(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm down to using Chrome for Google Properties that I use (Gmail, Drive, Meet), then Edge for regular browsing on my PC, and Firefox for browsing on mobile.

It's a reasonable amount of work to manage your privacy these days even for someone with the knowledge. So many users either (1) don't know, (2) find out and don't really understand how to fix it so they don't, or (3) find out and don't care.

Without some level of accountability at the public policy level we won't see a level playing field. Google is doing with Chrome what Microsoft did with IE (back in the IE4/5/6 days). If they continue while public agencies move slowly they'll catch up eventually and I believe we'll see some level of enforcement action.

jimueller(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Agreed, good to call them out, if this is intentional, but about the only way to stop this stuff is to stop using their browser.

I switched back to Firefox a few years ago. I know they've had their issues recently but still probably the least evil browser.

d0gbread(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Since I see some agreeing comments, I'll throw out a bit about why I disagree.

Like shopping on Amazon, or buying from China, I'm going to do what's best for me as an individual. It's government's job to step in and tweak the playing field to keep it competitive, and I'll happily vote to regulate the very things that serve me today, whether that's breaking businesses up, preventing mergers in the first place, having businesses pay for their externalities, etc.

Maha-pudma(10000) 2 days ago [-]

From the outside looking in I always wonder why anyone uses chrome. I'm not a web dev but do use devtools. Why use Chrome over something like Firefox, Vivaldi or one of the other browsers? Genuine question, what makes it so good.

defnotashton2(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Ff extension management is unusable for 5 or more extensions.

Need extensions to prevent sites from blocking select, copy, paste. I want an extension manager extension that let's me quick toggle extensions but ff apis don't currently support this from what I understand.

shadowgovt(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's faster. I've tried switching several times. Firefox is slower for the sites I visit.

sidyapa(10000) 3 days ago [-]

A tangent but, a lot of google's sites disobey browser standards and rules like for example sound autoplay on load. When you visit https://santatracker.google.com/ or youtube, it automatically plays sound without any user interaction, which is impossible for non Google sites to do

silexia(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Wow, this is terrifying. I am a big supported of Google and dislike the recent attacks on FAANG, but this is shocking to me. If they are exempting themselves from this, what else could they be doing?!

vaccinator(10000) 3 days ago [-]

That site doesnt even load in my browser... I only see the Google wave (Firefox mobile v6x)... but on the other hand, there are Firefox extensions that make websites load as if you were using Chrome.

m463(10000) 3 days ago [-]

outlook (via web) also seems to be able to play sounds, like meeting notification sounds in firefox.

geofft(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This is not actually true. There are no shortage of random news sites that auto-play sound. Reddit does too. Does Google own all of them?

robertlagrant(10000) 3 days ago [-]

When you visit a Netflix content URL it automatically plays sound and moving pictures without any user interaction! Evidence of Google owning Netflix?

lima(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> [...] which is impossible for non Google sites to do

No, they don't. This is false. It's a mechanism called Media Engagement Index, Google properties have zero advantage, and any site can get a high score.

Chrome ships with a preloaded MEI assembled from global telemetry data, which is then trained locally:


andrenotgiant(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Google disobeys their own standards in MUCH worse ways. This year they are pushing a reduction in Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). https://web.dev/cls/

But they purposefully use CLS in Search to increase clicks on Ads https://twitter.com/andyhattemer/status/1262564268890820609

Historical Discussions: A warning about Glassdoor (October 15, 2020: 1256 points)

(1258) A warning about Glassdoor

1258 points 6 days ago by nosmokewhereiam in 10000th position

www.reddit.com | Estimated reading time – 3 minutes | comments | anchor

EDIT: A little info from Glassdoor that I learned as part of my last job in marketing:

The most recent review left, regardless of its score, is weighted at 80%. This is why after a negative review is left, a company will routinely leave an onslaught of positive reviews to counterweight the negative one. Glassdoor is trash.

Also, some valuable nomenclature: an Active employer is one that uses the platform to respond to reviews and maybe some other trivial touchpoint engagement. An Engaged employer may be one that pays for the service. I'm inferring from the subtle threat in Glassdoor's own content.

EDIT 2: Some people are pointing out that their algorithm had detected an identical review was submitted, which was the reason for my getting banned. Problem is, I didn't leave a second review. Like I said, the original review was live for 2 months and then it was removed for the reasons cited.

Original: For the past few years, I've often defended Glassdoor as a useful resource as part of any job-seeker's overall job-seeking toolkit.

About a year and a half ago, I interviewed with a company that had horrendous reviews. Literally, all 15 reviews were 1-star and for the same reasons. So in the interviews, I brought up some of the themes. The hiring manager, a decent man, admitted to all of it and said he was desperately and single-handedly trying to change those issues. So in this case, the negative reviews weren't a bunch of bitter employees; they were actual experiences and issues.

I elected to join the company based on this honesty and the prospect of a challenge, and of course, it was exactly like how all those reviews had said it would be. It was awful. I was thankfully laid off due to COVID.

After being laid off, I left a very detailed, thorough, cutting review that within a week of being posted, had 6 'helpful' upvotes or whatever. After two months, the review was removed suddenly for violating guidelines and so was every review I had ever written. Incredulous, I reached out to Glassdoor's content management team. They would not tell me exactly what the issue was, just that I was banned from participating in their community. Finally, a service manager emailed me to say they had some proprietary algorithm that had detected language that was in violation of Glassdoor's guidelines. To be clear, I didn't use any community guideline-violating language. Apparently, they detected an identical review had been written elsewhere.

I have a close family member that works for Glassdoor. I spoke to this person and found out that a very recent strategic repositioning for Glassdoor is that they are trying to become a PR company of sorts, so they are focusing on brand management for companies. As a result, they are getting very aggressive with negative review-takedowns while allowing very obviously fraudulent positive reviews to remain the same.

This same company from which I was laid off, from June-August, posted 10 5-star reviews, each of which was of similar length, all with just about the same thing to say. Cliches like, 'great culture', 'build your skills', 'enlightened management', 'cool tech', 'takes care of employees'. I reached out to Glassdoor and asked them to use their 'proprietary algorithm' to see if there was any fraud in that content, to which they said no, there was no violation.

So, what I'm getting at: with Glassdoor's supposed strategic pivot to brand management, it is becoming even less reliable than it was before.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

mandeepj(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's better to cross-check rather than relying on a single source. Another option is Blind. Sometimes people also leave workplace reviews at Google.

perdid0(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Had never heard of Blind. Thanks for that! will check it out

vanshg(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is the Glassdoor business model one that could truly benefit from blockchain?

mtnGoat(10000) 6 days ago [-]

i think any review based platform is good, then things can magically disappear when someone ponies up the cash to make an opinion they dont like go away.

freedomben(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I used to use Glass door extensively to vet potential employers. After starting at one company however I realized the problem with this.

Regularly in meetings the head of HR (which they called 'People') would encourage us to go leave 5 star reviews on Glass door to help with recruiting efforts. It was really spun as a way to help the company.

The problem though is that this company had some problems, things I would normally expect to see on glassdoor. Because of the way they encouraged it, glassdoor was flooded with 5 star reviews that made it impossible to find any negative ones.

I no longer even check Glass door.

cdolan(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Correct on the internal promotion - in addition to Companies compelling Glassdoor to confirm the Reviewer actually worked at the company. Often reviewers don't respond, resulting in a removed review.

I researched this a lot because I noticed companies I had intimate knowledge of had any sub-4 star review disappear. I detailed the practices in another comment elsewhere; https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24793383

Paul-ish(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Do we have more evidence? I generally don't like to take the claims of a single anonymous poster at face value. I certainly appreciate the irony in this case.

cdolan(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not hard evidence, but I researched this a lot because I noticed companies I had intimate knowledge of had any sub-4 star review disappear. I detailed the practices in another comment; https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24793383

lordnacho(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Well I don't want to suggest this is the whole answer, but game theory in economics and evolution tend to say that signalling has to be expensive in order to be honest.

So peacock's feathers and money-back guarantees are the type of thing that people often quote as signalling fitness.

The point of Glassdoor or any other review site it to make signalling cheap and reliable, so it's trying to square a circle.

Word-of-mouth still has the your-rep-on-the-line quality if the person is somewhat close to you, and the decision is something important. Your buddy will say bad things about you if you recommend a crappy employee to them. A random stranger might not hear from you again, and knows that when you tell them this person is the best thing since sliced bread.

In general, 'How expensive is it for them to say this?' is a useful heuristic that you should pay attention to. It can give interesting results in several life situations:

- School counselling. Once you're out the door of your school, the career counsellor is not gonna hear much from you. They say they care, and it sounds like they do (genuinely, I had one who was like the school mom), but at the end of the day they both don't know anything about careers other than 'teacher' and they aren't affected by you not being able to find a job with your degree of choice. It does affect them that you get into a top uni, everyone wants credit for the Ivy League kids.

- Every internet review but non-famous people. See the other comments.

- Salespeople can be divided into relationship and transactional. If they guy is on the phone with you every day, his advice needs to not be crap. This can make it pretty defensive and useless. OTOH if he vanished once the sale is done, that's useless another way.

- If someone says something that harms their own interests, that's honest. Of course be sure you understand their interest.

- Life advice. Often if there's a great psychological cost, there's a story worth listening to. Painful things like why someone got divorced, especially if they paint themselves in a negative light, can often be trusted, or are at least worthwhile to listen to. Coming of age stories where something crappy happened because the narrator did something stupid, similar. Lottery winning stories of various sorts are often not, you can tell when the inevitable 'I fought the odds' part arrives that it falls flat.

rocha(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Nassim Taleb wrote a whole book (Skin in the Game) under a similar premise: "Never trust anyone who doesn't have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will benefit, and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them."

zarkov99(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That was well put. Nasseem Talib wrote a whole book about skin in the game and how it is essential for believability.

cranium(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's too bad that giving critical feedback in your own name (to show skin in the game) is going to burn you in other jobs. Few want an employee that can bite the feeding hand.

Interestingly, I tend to trust more some anonymous answer on Quora because the person won't get any upvotes to display on their profile so (hopefully) their only incentive was sharing their story.

SirYandi(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Some amazing advice I have to say.

astuyvenberg(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's the exact same play as Yelp - once they grew out of the community review forum stage, they turn to extortion to make it profitable.

kaffee(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is this true? I thought Yelp still did a decent job of moderating reviews.

shiftpgdn(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I worked at a mid sized company that was going through a very rough patch (right before the inevitable bankruptcy.) During this time I got a call from a Glassdoor rep who /explicitly/ offered to remove bad reviews in exchange for us moving to a high paid tier and putting up X amount of job listings.

Glassdoor is just corporate Yelp.

Quekid5(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Glassdoor is just corporate Yelp.

I think this is the inevitable fate of all for-profit review sites which become popular.

The incentives just don't align.

speeder(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Today I was thinking about this kind of thing, for example Epic not allowing reviews at all, Valve 'off topic' review hiding, metacritic changes to their system, or Netflix removing their review system...

I concluded that review systems often are on the losing side when their income comes from what they are reviewing, reviews you can trust are those that are unrelated.

For example a famous bastion of review is the Michelin Guide, although controversies happened to it, and often restaurant owners get mad at it for not 'supporting the restaurant industry' when the guide doesn't do what they want, I realized the probable reason the guide works, is because it wants to sell car tyres, not food.

Michelin Guide purpose is make people drive to places and use their tyres (there was even a controversy caused by confused restauranteurs that thought it was 'unfair' restaurant you can't drive to, aren't in the guide), thus the only bad incentive they might have is to choose restaurants that might cause bigger tyre usage than normal.

But Netflix for example can't piss off the movie companies or they risk losing their catalog. Metacritic depends on ads, can't let users piss off the advertisers, and so on.

jdofaz(10000) 6 days ago [-]

For whatever reason the disc rental side of Netflix still has user reviews and the 5 star system

InitialLastName(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> But Netflix for example can't piss off the movie companies or they risk losing their catalog

More than that, Netflix needs your eyes on their service, as opposed to the (dozen?) other competing, equally shoddy services. What you watch makes no difference to their bottom line... the only thing that matters is that you don't see a bad review on Netflix and switch to another streaming service (because if you do that too often, you might decide to remove Netflix from your list of $10/month services).

bryanlarsen(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Consumer's Reports is the canonical example of a review site where the incentives line up correctly. The only way they make money is by selling memberships, so the consumer and the customer are the same people.

city41(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Reviews for entertainment are of very little value, and always have been. The only time this isn't true is if you get to know the reviewer and understand that your tastes and theirs line up. I suppose if something is universally panned that could be useful information, but that isn't very common.

bencollier49(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I just visited the site and was met by a banner stating that trust was central to their product, and so they would never remove bad reviews.

To my mind there must be some confusion here. I believe it's highly unlikely that they'd lie so directly. So something else must be going on, even if it happens to be the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. And even that's unlikely. More digging needed, I think.

cdolan(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Ding ding ding!

Three things actually occur here.

1. Companies pay the employee who left the review if they can identify them. $1,000 to the former employee to take the review down, along with an NDA.

2. Companies push Glassdoor to validate the reviewer was actually employed by the company. Some reviewers may not respond to Glassdoor's confirmation requests, resulting in the review being taken down.

3. Companies' HR or Talent Acquisition employees write reviews themselves and promote internally to other happy employees that adding "honest reviews" will help accelerate the company. Basically indirectly fishing for 5 star reviews.

Any startup with more than ~300 total employees (current + former) generally has attention to their Glassdoor ratings. A local company I know of is a huge offender to removing negative reviews and flooding their page with 4.5/5 star reviews in quick succession.

daltonlp(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> I believe it's highly unlikely that they'd lie so directly.

That's why lying so directly works so well!

In their T&C page, the 'Removal of Content' section (6A) says they remove content, or portions thereof, at their sole discretion.

Trust IS central to their product. A direct lie usually begins with a true (or unfalsifiable) statement.

seibelj(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Glassdoor is extortion-as-a-service. They routinely called up two previous places I worked and offered to remove bad reviews if we paid them, which we declined. One of the bad reviews eventually became prominently featured. To be honest it wouldn't surprise me if they wrote the review themselves, that's how scummy I feel this company is.

Totally garbage business model, and if anyone reading this works there I hope you re-evaluate your life's purpose - you only get so many years and using them to help Glassdoor seems really terrible. What an ethically bankrupt piece of worthless trash that place is.

DesiLurker(10000) 6 days ago [-]

So basically it has become a 'protection' scam.

sharadov(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They are becoming Yelp.

j2bax(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't know, I mean, their rating is pretty good as an employer... https://www.glassdoor.com/glassdoor

bencollier49(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Surely, at least in some countries (hypothetically, IANAL), at that point the act of removing negative reviews for money means that they themselves have editorial status and, consequentially, negative reviews are a form of libel?

jboy55(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The jobs industry is incredibly scummy. Everyone comes in thinking, 'Wow, I'm going to help people get into a job they'll love!'.

You leave because you get tired of pushing Uber jobs on everyone because they have unlimited budget to spend to attract job seekers.

fogetti(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It seems to me that the bad reviews were published on the site regardless of their offer. So I can't see how is this extortion.

Extortion would be along the lines of 'we publish some made up bad reviews unless you pay'.

fugazithehaxoar(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Luckily, it's pretty easy to spot fake reviews on Glassdoor. Unfortunately though, it kind of ruins the experience for most people.

The two big mobile app stores have been flooded with spam reviews for over 5 years now unchecked. For those that know how to spot fake reviews, it's easy to tell which apps are not legit. For most consumers though, they just believe what they see.

dllthomas(10000) 6 days ago [-]

So... it's pretty easy to find reviews that you are confident are fake, and you're probably right about most of them.

But that only leaves us an uncorrupted signal if, given a review you have deemed authentic, it actually has a good chance of being so. Do you know that that's the case? How?

I'm not sure it's true in your case, but statements like this are often made when people don't realize they're (implicitly) marking their predictions against those same predictions.

thih9(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Luckily, it's pretty easy to spot fake reviews on Glassdoor.

Could you elaborate? How?

sorokod(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>Luckily, it's pretty easy to spot fake reviews on Glassdoor

Care to automate your insight and create a meta Glassdoor?

redisman(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Same with Amazon. The star system in the store is so beyond manipulated that it's completely worthless

DesiLurker(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I have worked for a large company that told employees to go write 5* positive reviews on GD. I suspect it is a common practice.

this just provides GD to turn into a Yelp of sorts that can do the 'reputation management' on the side.

Sigh, I have come to believe that its impossible for the profit motive companies to stay neutral in long term, esp if thats their main revenue source.

I wonder if there is a publicly funded entity that is also responsible for public good that can & should run something like this. but then if widely adopted that has a high probability of turning into china/black-mirror style reputation system.

TeeWEE(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Its ok for companies to ask their employees to leave reviews at glassdoor right?

dsizzle(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Separate from the review issue, but does it seem that Glassdoor's salary estimates are low? The estimates in Glassdoor seem lower than those in levels.fyi, e.g., although it's hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison. It may also be because those who are lower paid are more likely to post, but it also seems worth pointing out that it would be in management's interest to report a lower salary estimate.

pcthrowaway(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I was just wondering about this myself. I'm not sure if there's a clear incentive to game salary information. If a company posts a lower-than-real salary, they risk seeming less desirable than their competition to candidates, who may then apply elsewhere. If they post a salary that exceeds what employees are typically paid for the position, candidates will accidentally high-ball when asked about salary expectations.

Falsifying details about employment happiness and health of culture do have clear benefits for deceitful companies however.

sct202(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think a lot of glassdoors data is really old. Just looking at some of my submissions, my 5-10 year old contributions are still showing up and seem to have a pretty large impact on titles where there's only a handful of contributions.

Dig1t(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This sounds like a market opportunity. If Glassdoor has pivoted to shilling for other corporations, someone should turn around and make a site that allows honest negative reviews of companies.

Anyone interested?

ben174(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm game, if I get to start the stack :)

staticautomatic(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Count me in. Already brainstorming ideas for safeguarding review integrity. Email in my profile.

otoburb(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I believe Team Blind does this and tries to deflect the gaming through blind anonymous reviews but where Blind validates the poster possesses a company email.

The problem is that if it gets too successful then it's easy for companies to classify emails from the Team Blind domain as spam. Having said this, if that happens then that might already be a yellow flag on the part of the employee.

peacefulhat(10000) 6 days ago [-]

totally missing the underlying problem here. this sort of thing is endemic. you will end up pivoting too if your site displaces glassdoor.

b0rsuk(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think it's a systemic problem. A problem with incentives. Once the site gets big enough, inevitable pressure builds up in the top management to squeeze more money. Top of the hierarchy naturally attracts psychopathic and narcissistic types.

lowdest(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm interested. I definitely think these kind of things are cyclic.

Glassdoor is now owned by the same parent company as Indeed, so if a company is a client of Indeed's recruiting services there's definitely a conflict of interest present.

alisonatwork(10000) 6 days ago [-]

My eyes opened to this after leaving my last company. They announced layoffs shortly after I quit and Glassdoor was inundated with a flood of long, detailed reviews expressing concern and unhappiness around all the issues that had caused me to leave voluntarily. The company's star rating dropped from 3.5ish to 3 and was trending down.

Then, mysteriously, within the space of a week, almost all of the negative reviews vanished from Glassdoor, and a lot of bland 4 star 'well there's good and bad, some mistakes were made, but despite the past few months, overall it's good' appeared, pushing the handful of negative reviews that remained off the front page. I know from former colleagues that management had 'suggested' staff write these sorts of reviews.

Now the company rating is higher than it was before the layoffs and I am completely disillusioned with not only that company, and Glassdoor, but the fakeness of the industry as a whole. It's so disappointing that a site that originally felt like a useful resource for workers has become just yet another PR/branding tool.

bitobserver(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Had a similar experience somewhere. It seemed that any time a negative review was added on the company's Glassdoor, within weeks there would be new 4-5 star reviews. I watched that happen a few times.

bartread(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I wonder how new a phenomenon this really is. It's certainly been possible to get reviews taken down for many years.

Some time ago I worked for a company where I did a stint as a technical recruiter before moving into an interim head of IT role to tide them over whilst we hired someone permanent. One of the people I'd been instrumental in hiring whilst I was technical recruiter went on to join the company during my tenure IT.

It turned out that this person was not my - nor the company's - greatest ever hire. They were demanding, complaining, entitled and, above all, lazy. We bought this person a bunch of special equipment, including a ludicrously expensive keyboard supposed to help with RSI. Still, they continued to be obnoxious and lazy, literally doing nothing productive, until they were asked to leave during their probation period because they were basically insufferable.

Said person then went on to post a slanderously inaccurate review on Glassdoor about the company, their manager, and the people they'd been working with in that team. At this time I wasn't particularly happy at the company, for various reasons, but even so, I could see the review was completely unfair and, substantially, a work of embittered fiction.

I was pretty annoyed and felt somewhat responsible given that I'd been part of the team who'd brought them in to the company. So, with little hope of recourse, I contacted Glassdoor explaining the situation and detailing the inaccuracies in the review in a lot more depth - and a lot more specifically - than i've done here.

Now, whilst what I said in my email was accurate, and I had little motivation to lie or paint the company in a particularly positive light, Glassdoor really had no way of verifying that what I'd told them was true. Moreover I wasn't in a role related to hiring. Nevertheless, within a couple of days the extremely negative review had been taken down, and I was grateful to them for taking it down.

With that said, it sounds like what may have started out as a sane policy to handle complaints on a case by case basis has perhaps evolved into something rather less noble.

woah(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I can easily see a scenario where a lot of people are happy at a company and there are also people who are unhappy.

cdolan(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I researched this a lot because I noticed companies I had intimate knowledge of had any sub-4 star review disappear. I detailed the practices in another comment further down;


ekanes(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Glassdoor was acquired by Indeed, who is moving all paid job postings ($$$) over to Indeed. That leaves Glassdoor without a business model, hence this internal pivot.

Source: https://www.chadcheese.com/episodes (scroll down to see the Glassdoor/Indeed episodes)

glouwbug(10000) 6 days ago [-]

But don't we do the same? When looking for a new job we remove contacts from references who might cause more harm than good. It's all about image

darepublic(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's because they use an antipattern for monetizing... Start with it free and then make it simultaneously crappier and not free. Improve quality and charge a humble amount for it. That's all this idea in this form is worth imo

sizzle(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Is there a way to scrape reviews and build an accurate database of all reviews over time that is verifiable by some blockchain type of encoding so you know if they were modified or deleted and can do a check against the current site.

This would yield far more insight than taking their word on their proprietary algorithm flagging reviews. This would also be awesome to use against Yelp that I have first hand experience trying to be extorted by their sales teams affecting a family small business I host a website for and yelp page.

andrei_says_(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If only they would be willing to leave the extra money they get for manipulating public opinion on the table, right?

But it's so easy! And so profitable!

Joking aside, the reviewing-anything niche is getting very difficult in the age of sock puppet accounts. Any platform sooner or later becomes a space for dispute, manipulation and outright war between entities with competing agendas and no ethics.

It's a very difficult space to provide a good service - there are enough players ready to say anything and poison the well.

We live in the era of everyone getting a dip in distorting reality :(

phaedryx(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I had a similar situation. My negative review was removed about a month after I left it, which was after the period allowed to go back and edit it.

b0rsuk(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I suspect it was a bait&switch scheme all along.

lhnz(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I wonder if a secondary system which showed the trend line of reviews and any spikes in ratings would be valuable?

pbreit(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I doubt it's anything mysterious. A once in a century pandemic is not a good representation of a broader time horizon.

The whole "pivot" sounds like uninformed heresay.

sdenton4(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yeah, it's kinda weird how large institutional actors have more power than a motley crew of disorganized workers.

If only there were some other way.

mistermann(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> but the fakeness of the industry as a whole

It seems to me from reading the news that this charge can be increasingly levelled at larger portions of overall Western Civilization every day. It seems like a lot of wealthy and powerful people are simultaneously forgetting the simple lessons their parents taught them (I presume) when they were growing up.

I can't think of very few famous people or organizations nowadays that I'd nominate as being trustworthy and of 'high moral character', it seems like rationalizing away behavior that would previously have been considered highly unethical is like the hip new craze...and why not I guess, it yields tremendous benefits, and has no costs (to the individual or company doing it) that I can see.

hhs(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If interested, there was a long piece that talked about Glassdoor [0], and commenters also raised points about the validity of the information on that platform [1].

[0]: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/22/improving-work...

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16232898

mgh2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yes, everything is about money these days, every other value a company professes is utterly false.

But corporations are governed by people, so the problem seems closer to home than we think.

I wrote a piece exploring a hypothesis on why this is the case: https://medium.com/@marcos.g.hung/why-we-are-dispensable-7a5...

m463(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This happened to a friend of mine with yelp.

He had hired a lawyer who did a terrible awful incompetent job.

He left an objective review on yelp which in a short time just disappeared.

(Personally I was wondering if the lawyer contacted yelp or yelp contacted the lawyer)

everdrive(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Online review systems are dead. Surely some must still be valid, but the well is poisoned, and nothing can be trusted.

b0rsuk(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've been pondering this idea. STEAL IT! Build a service that only hosts comments that were deleted from popular sites. Then for any given youtube channel or company review you'd be able to check what kinds of comments are deleted over there.

Are there any legal issues to this?

andi999(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Apart from copyright issues, probably if the comments were deletrf for hate speech etc, you might be in bigger trouble as well (singe technically your company posted it)

elwell(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Hmm... crawl archive.org?

diego_moita(10000) 6 days ago [-]

... and then we realize that marketing, corruption, manipulation, extortion, influencers, bots and mechanical-Turks have finally taken control of the promise of 'knowledge of the crowds'.

Putin's goons on Facebook, bots on Twitter, Yelp's 'algorithm' being used to extort merchants, personal brand management on LinkedIn, black-hat hackers on HN and Reddit, ... why should Glassdoor be different?

AlexandrB(10000) 6 days ago [-]

'Wisdom of crowds' as described in early internet essays is only sustainable when the crowds are motivated by some intrinsic purpose and not by financial gain. Financial incentives applied to 'the crowd' generally lead to spam, rating extortion, and various other corruption.

jamesdhutton(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Glassdoor explicitly denies that they allow employers to pay to remove negative reviews. See this FAQ on their website: https://help.glassdoor.com/article/Can-employers-pay-Glassdo...

I am not offering an opinion on this. I am just noting what Glassdoor itself has to say about this.

xnyan(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think it's instructive to look at how Yelp does it. There is no pay-to-delete button. There are however ways to have non-factual, incorrect, offensive or a myriad of other types of posts removed. How a review is judged as violating policy is an internal decision. Which reviews are surfaced on the front page or how the 'average' review is determined or slew of other details that affect how a restaurant or company looks are are also under the control of yelp/glassdoor.

There are enough ways to put the thumb on the scale that you can honestly say that you don't have a delete bad review button, yet money can still strongly influence how positive or negative an org looks on a review site.

ggm(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This directly contradicts what the article says. The FAQ item is dated September 2019. The Reddit article is 9 hours old as I write in October 2020.

The followup here, strongly suggests other un-related people have been called, even cold-called, and offered by people puporting to be glassdoor, to wipe the problem.

I agree you aren't offering an opinion and I value that. I would also value some commentary to my note: What do people think, about what people said on reddit, and said here, regarding this, and what glassdoor said in September 2019?

I know what I think: I do not believe this policy is well enforced, and I believe the posters who say they were invited to pay to clear their record. You notice they do not have 'report breach here' links on that FAQ item. They do disclaim it has legal force.

It may of course be unscrupulous non C* staff, or it may be intermediaries mis-representing their role, e.g. SEO leeches.

chaos986(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I never look at comments for Glassdoor. I do check Salary info and leave my Salary info.

Is that aspect being gamed as well and in what direction? advertising higher salary then what they would actually offer?

milkytron(10000) 5 days ago [-]

For the last two jobs I've taken, I looked at the Glassdoor salaries.

The first was right in the middle of the range Glassdoor stated. The second was actually much higher than what Glassdoor said, likely because I was joining a new team on a new project with a good budget.

Idk if it's being gamed. But if anything, I'd imagine it would be lower than what they would offer, simply because the data might be from employees that have started long ago and haven't gotten raises to match what a new offer would given for salary. As well as dated information (someone added their salary 3 years ago, but has gotten raises and hasn't updated their salary on Glassdoor).

throwaway77384(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I had always suspected that Glassdoor would eventually succumb to this. Every metric is a gamed metric, after all. Why would Glassdoor be immune to this? Companies have very little to lose from bullying employees into leaving fake positive reviews. Yet they have much to lose from true negative reviews.

I have checked every workplace on Glassdoor prior to applying, taking things with a pinch of salt / applying some awareness of what reviews seem fake (like the famous split between loads of 1-star and loads of 5-star reviews, which tells you something is fishy, like loads of products on Amazon have).

I think I'll dial up the awareness for future purposes...shame.

Nextgrid(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Companies have very little to lose from bullying employees into leaving fake positive reviews.

Glassdoor can always fix this problem by implementing a 'ban hammer' system where if multiple employees provides credible evidence of a company forcing them to post fake reviews then the company permanently has a black mark on their Glassdoor page (and future reviews are disabled, so they can't even fight back with more fake reviews).

AlexandrB(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Every organization that accepts reviews from 'users' about goods/services/employment provided by organizations eventually seems to run into a conflict of interest between their stated purpose and their finances. This is true of Yelp, BBB, and now, I guess, Glassdoor.

This is why organizations like this are not a replacement for government enforced labor and consumer rights. Once an organization establishes a strong brand as a consumer review aggregator, the temptation to accept money for better ratings is extremely strong. When talking about a for-profit review aggregator, you might even say that accepting money for ratings is part of their responsibility to the shareholders because it can be so much more lucrative than serving accurate ratings to individuals.

Zigurd(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is one reason why nearly all social media (if you take reviews to be a form of that) sites should know their customers' identities and be able to use that information to screen for astroturfing. Even a small payment and requiring a method of payment would reduce astroturfing, and put review sites on a revenue model that would reduce the temptation to become extortion-as-a-service.

ViViDboarder(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Except that if you accept money for better ratings the quality of your suggestions goes down and people stop using your service.

This is why many such review sites explicitly do not allow you to pay to alter reviews. Their entire revenue engine would crumble.

Some will allow you to solicit reviews (Glassdoor), while others even prohibit that (Yelp, Apple App Store) due to it generally being some way of influencing scores.

nerdponx(10000) 6 days ago [-]

How does Angie's List perform in this regard? The user (i.e. review writer/reader) pays, not the business being reviewed. In theory, that forces the incentives to align correctly.

adverbly(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is it not possible to design a for-profit, open source, transparent architecture that could allow for a trusted review mechanism? If its clear that there are no code paths or questionable 'algorithms' which would permit sale-to-a-higher-bidder, then it might be possible to give a lot more trust in the site as a user.

One would think that some sort of production deployment using completely open source/transparent technologies might be possible. I guess the drawback to this would be that you basically couldn't have system admins, and competitors could easily just git clone and copy your whole stack?

zerop(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Do you think Quora also does it or might do in future? I would trust Quora more looking at the founding team.

skybrian(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Government regulation has its own obvious failure modes (various kinds of corruption, industry capture, or underfunding), so you can't say one is always better than the other. It all depends. There is no guaranteed solution. Hopefully some better Glassdoor competitor will come along.

polote(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It is not only reviews companies it is any company in which revenue is not aligned with the company's product objective, you find the same things with dating apps for example.

One way to solve that, is to stop offering free service and make users pay to access the service. If you have Glassdoor but it is not the companies who pay but the users then the issue is solved

fakedang(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Ahh, I remember the good old days of Zomato extorting our restaurant. Zomato's rep offered to give us a 5 star rating if we gave him free takeaway food, or a 3 star rating otherwise, during the initial listing. We obviously gave him the free food, but I thought I would be a wise-ass and decided to record him. Posted it online, but turns out, Zomato's doing that with every restaurant, so it didn't become much news at the end of the day.

dpeck(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Glassdoor == Yelp == "top places to work" == every other business that revolves around curating a group of people to promote and extort in equal measures.

elwell(10000) 6 days ago [-]

== is a test, not a statement of equality.

lithos(10000) 6 days ago [-]

So they're sacrificing why they exist and the reason they have anyone visit their website. To become a PR company that is based on the memory of a community/purpose.

sippingjippers(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Classic bait-and-switch. This essentially happens with every review site after they build up enough brand awareness to pull it off. I guess it happens because from the perspective of the company it makes total sense to try. Why earn pennies on the dollar from e.g. ad clicks when you can get huge lumpy (and possibly regular) payouts for much less work in much less time

j4nt4b(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> To become a PR company that is based on the memory of a community/purpose.

This sounds like the angst-beat poetry of our current future.

stefanmichael(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It seems like a desperation move, potentially a last resort?

The premise of 'let's get rid of the only reason anyone would ever visit our site for short term revenue' is just not where you would expect a company to do in normal circumstances.

I know that Glassdoor recently laid off 300 employees[0]. So my read is that this is a dying breath of sorts.

[0]: https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/glassdoor-lays-off-300...

mshumi(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Goodhart's law in action. 'When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.' Nothing more, nothing less

Frost1x(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Agreed, but I think the issue is the fact the measure becomes a target to begin with. We've structured so many aspects in society to be unforgiving of failure to meet metrics and thrust hypercompetitiveness upon everyone as an almost direct darwinistic mechanism of survival. Because of this, metrics become targets and systems are gamed as a survival mechanism.

The argument for all of these metrics and push for competition is that it pushes out the lazy and leeches of society. What it really does is draws out the clever and lazy or clever leeches of society who are proficient at gaming systems and metrics, all while making plenty of proficient and productive peoples' lives more difficult and miserable.

It also incentivizes everyone to focus more on manipulating systems and target metrics than doing what they're supposed to do. Metrics rule my life so why bother doing anything that doesn't focus on the metrics? Real successes outside the metrics go unrewarded.

When failure is acceptable, metrics often don't become targets they become guidelines to help you achieve success. When I go to the gym, lifting a certain weight and performing a certain number of repetitions can be use to quantify success and improvement. I can cheat and lie to myself: perform a repetition incorrectly that makes it easier or add support and so forth. Ultimately though, gaming these metrics I know I'm only cheating myself. I may not see improvements and it may be discouraging but I know with perseverance, I have a strong chance of improvement. It works because I have no ulterior motivation that makes me want or need to game the metrics and am willing to accept my failures and success alike.

cj(10000) 6 days ago [-]

In response to people in this thread claiming Glassdoor will remove reviews if you pay them:

Maybe our company was just unlucky with the sales rep assigned to our profile, but altering reviews was something they made clear would not happen regardless of if we paid or not.

At the time our company was getting negative reviews meant for a different company in a different country with a similar name. It was a major hassle to convince Glassdoor the bad reviews weren't legitimate. Eventually they were removed but it required a lot of persistence emailing / calling them every week and providing evidence the reviewers never worked for our company. Meanwhile we were stringing their sales person along hoping that would make it easier, but I don't think our sales rep had any sway.

I dislike Glassdoor especially for small companies where 1 unhappy person on a team of 15 can ruin their employers reputation from the perspective of future hires. IMO they shouldn't allow reviews on public company profiles until there is a critical mass of reviews such that any 1 review won't dramatically swing the star rating.

monoideism(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> IMO they shouldn't allow reviews on public company profiles until there is a critical mass of reviews such that any 1 review won't dramatically swing the star rating

Are you this accomodating towards potential employees? Such as, if a potential employee got a single very bad recommendation from one past employer, or one negative past online experience or reputation hit?

I don't know, you may well be, but I suspect most companies are not.

Most reasonable people will take the size of a company into consideration when looking at reviews on GlassDoor (at least in the last, looks like it's no longer worth looking at now). So a single bad review for a small company would not be a deal breaker for me. It's the patterns I look for.

Hopefully, you're doing the same when hiring.

cdolan(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I researched this a lot because I noticed companies I had intimate knowledge of had any sub-4 star review disappear.

I believe you are correct that Glassdoor wont explicitly take "cash" to remove a bad review. However they do have internal costs if you threaten them legally, which can compel a removal.

I detailed more of the practices in another comment further down; https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24793383

tuna-piano(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The problem with all review-centric companies is two fold:

1)Fake reviews are an actual hard problem to solve. Good reviews can really make or break your company so the incentive to game the systems is quite high.

Positive reviews for your own company, negative reviews for your competitor, or cunningly, clearly fake positive reviews for competitors to get them in trouble with the review site.

2)Incentives lead these review-centric companies to some bad outcomes (or at least the lack of trust by consumers). Interestingly, companies with better revenue models outside of the reviews may end up building the most trust among consumers.

I would think Google is very well positioned here. Both because they don't need to get the $$ from scammy tactics and because their user data can help them find fake reviews much more easily. Did user XXX use Google Maps to get directions to the location? Did user XXX get an emailed receipt from that company?

reaperducer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Fake reviews are an actual hard problem to solve

No, free reviews are a hard problem to solve. But it's been done before.

The reason there are famous restaurant and movie reviewers is because they are professionals paid enough by their publications to keep them honest.

The problem is that SV wants content, but doesn't want to pay for it. Spending money doesn't 'scale.' So the bubble solicits reviews from random people with no vetting. Garbage in, garbage out. 'Crowdsourced' is just another word for 'amateur.'

mywittyname(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You can't trust ratings that you aren't paying to read.

The business model for these review sites are all the same: be useful for long enough to corner the market, then institute a pay-to-clean policy. Sprinkle in a few fake negative reviews for those tough to close leads. The revenue they can extract for the businesses listed on their sites is much higher than what they could achieve through ad revenue alone.

colinmhayes(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The dark web markets actually figured out a good way to solve reviews. 1. Only people who bought a product can review it. 2. the review includes how much was paid. 3. Heavily encourage everyone who buys the product to review it.

PragmaticPulp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'll admit that I was bit by Glassdoor astroturfing. The company had an almost 4-star average review and the first three pages were glowing 4 and 5 star reviews.

My first week at the company was nothing like the great workplace describe on Glassdoor. I'll spare the details, but suffice to say it was the most abusive workplace I've ever seen.

Later, I realized that all of the 4 and 5 star Glassdoor reviews started after a specific date and arrived in a short burst. If I went back far enough, the reviews were consistently 1 or 2 stars.

I tried to leave a fair 2-star review using the most dry and basic facts without any exaggeration or hyperbole. It stayed up for a month before disappearing without explanation.

Glassdoor is not a place to find honest company reviews.

iKevinShah(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Glassdoor is not a place to find honest company reviews.

... which genuinely raises the question, what is a place to find honest company reviews except actually personally knowing someone working there?

ptmcc(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I empathize, and I feel like I watched this happen a few times to new hires at my old job. A glowing Glassdoor profile is as much a reflection of engagement with Glassdoor as it is the quality of company and work environment. An 'engaged employer' badge on a company's profile almost certainly means the numbers are juiced upward.

My previous company of 7 years had 4.9 stars on Glassdoor. They cared a lot about maintaining their profile.

My current company of 2 years has 3.5 stars on Glassdoor. They don't care much at all about maintaining their profile.

Even accounting for the jadedness that comes with tenure, my current company is a much better place to work in many ways. Old company was fine, good even, but lol at 4.9/5. I won't be going back anytime soon, despite the standing invitation.

starchild_3001(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yup my experience isn't too far off.

Nuzzerino(10000) 6 days ago [-]

In 2016, I wrote a scathing, negative Glassdoor review about a company that truly was a developer sweatshop. It had only 1 review at the time. The review got close to 50 upvotes and was one of the top Google search results for the company name. A second negative review came up not too long after that. Within weeks, the company had at least 20 5 star reviews added to this. The entirety of the company was no more than 30 employees, leading me to conclude that someone was directing employees to write positive reviews.

This seemed to violate Glassdoor's rules on 'incentivized reviews', but when contacting Glassdoor, the response I got was that they investigated the situation and determined that there was no violation of the rules. I stopped taking the site seriously after that.

KingNoosh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've seen the exact same thing as a small-mediumish (100-200 now) start-up I used to work for, there'd be an email sent around to encourage employees to leave a good review, seeing as you can't change your review after it's a scary way to waste your shot.

But I guess that shots wasted anyways if the system is rigged to begin with.

RobertKerans(10000) 5 days ago [-]

At job before last, we were offered a large bar of Cadbury's chocolate (a 200g Dairy Milk if I remember correctly) as a sweetener (hoho) for writing a Glassdoor review. Which would be written and emailed to the person who came up with the wheeze and...

anyway, afaik all those chocolate bars are still in a cupboard somewhere at the offices

ShakataGaNai(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is true of most companies reviews. If they are reasonably small enough (say under 500 to 1000 employees), they all have the same pattern (chronologically): Sparse to no reviews for a while. One or two negative reviews. A few days to weeks later... a huge influx of positive reviews for a few days. Then back to nothing.

redisman(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've seen this happen at a previous place I worked at too. One extremely on-point and constructive review with low stars and tons of likes that was then followed by a flood of junk 5 star reviews that obviously the CEO or his lieutenants wrote. There doesn't seem to be any way to combat those fake reviews now.

Historical Discussions: Room-Temperature Superconductivity Achieved for the First Time (October 14, 2020: 1234 points)

(1234) Room-Temperature Superconductivity Achieved for the First Time

1234 points 7 days ago by theafh in 10000th position

www.quantamagazine.org | Estimated reading time – 7 minutes | comments | anchor

A team of physicists in New York has discovered a material that conducts electricity with perfect efficiency at room temperature — a long-sought scientific milestone. The hydrogen, carbon and sulfur compound operates as a superconductor at up to 59 degrees Fahrenheit, the team reported today in Nature. That's more than 50 degrees hotter than the previous high-temperature superconductivity record set last year.

"This is the first time we can really claim that room-temperature superconductivity has been found," said Ion Errea, a condensed matter theorist at the University of the Basque Country in Spain who was not involved in the work.

"It's clearly a landmark," said Chris Pickard, a materials scientist at the University of Cambridge. "That's a chilly room, maybe a British Victorian cottage," he said of the 59-degree temperature.

Yet while researchers celebrate the achievement, they stress that the newfound compound — created by a team led by Ranga Dias of the University of Rochester — will never find its way into lossless power lines, frictionless high-speed trains, or any of the revolutionary technologies that could become ubiquitous if the fragile quantum effect underlying superconductivity could be maintained in truly ambient conditions. That's because the substance superconducts at room temperature only while being crushed between a pair of diamonds to pressures roughly 75% as extreme as those found in the Earth's core.

"People have talked about room-temperature superconductivity forever," Pickard said. "They may not have quite appreciated that when we did it, we were going to do it at such high pressures."

Materials scientists now face the challenge of discovering a superconductor that operates not only at normal temperatures but under everyday pressures, too. Certain features of the new compound raise hopes that the right blend of atoms could someday be found.

Electrical resistance occurs in normal wires when freely flowing electrons bump into the atoms that make up the metal. But researchers discovered in 1911 that at low temperatures, electrons can induce vibrations in a metal's atomic lattice, and those vibrations in turn draw electrons together into couples known as Cooper pairs. Different quantum rules govern these couples, which stream together in a coherent swarm that passes through the metal's lattice unimpeded, experiencing no resistance whatsoever. The superconducting fluid also expels magnetic fields — an effect that could allow magnetically levitating vehicles to float frictionlessly above superconducting rails.

As the temperature of a superconductor rises, however, particles jiggle around randomly, breaking up the electrons' delicate dance.

Researchers have spent decades searching for a superconductor whose Cooper pairs tango tightly enough to withstand the heat of everyday environments. In 1968, Neil Ashcroft, a solid-state physicist at Cornell University, proposed that a lattice of hydrogen atoms would do the trick. Hydrogen's diminutive size lets electrons get closer to the nodes of the lattice, augmenting their interactions with the vibrations. Hydrogen's lightness also allows those guiding ripples to vibrate faster, further strengthening the glue that binds the Cooper pairs.

Abstractions navigates promising ideas in science and mathematics. Journey with us and join the conversation.

Impractically high pressures are needed to squash hydrogen into a metallic lattice. Still, Ashcroft's work raised hopes that some "hydride"— a mixture of hydrogen and a second element — might deliver metallic hydrogen's superconductivity at more accessible pressures.

Progress took off in the 2000s, when supercomputer simulations let theorists predict the properties of various hydrides, and the widespread use of compact diamond anvils let experimentalists squeeze the most promising candidates to test their mettle.

Suddenly, hydrides started setting records. A team in Germany showed in 2015 that a metallic form of hydrogen sulfide — a pungent compound found in rotten eggs — superconducts at −94 degrees Fahrenheit under 1.5 million times the pressure of the atmosphere. Four years later, the same lab used lanthanum hydride to hit −10 degrees under 1.8 million atmospheres, even as another group found evidence for superconductivity in the same compound at 8 degrees.

Dias' lab in Rochester has now shattered those records. Guided by intuition and rough calculations, the team tested a range of hydrogen compounds searching for the goldilocks ratio of hydrogen. Add too little hydrogen, and a compound won't superconduct as robustly as metallic hydrogen does. Add too much, and the sample will act too much like metallic hydrogen, metalizing only at pressures that will crack your diamond anvil. Over the course of their research, the team busted many dozens of $3,000 diamond pairs. "That's the biggest problem with our research, the diamond budget," Dias said.

The winning recipe proved to be a riff on the 2015 formula. The researchers started with hydrogen sulfide, added methane (a compound of carbon and hydrogen), and baked the concoction with a laser.

"We were able to enrich the system and introduce just the right critical amount of hydrogen necessary to maintain these Cooper pairs at very high temperatures," said Ashkan Salamat, Dias' collaborator and a condensed matter physicist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

But the fine details of the hydrogen-carbon-sulfur potion they've cooked up elude them. Hydrogen is too small to show up in traditional probes of lattice structure, so the group doesn't know how the atoms are arranged, or even the substance's exact chemical formula.

Eva Zurek, a computational chemist at the University at Buffalo, belongs to a group of theorists loosely affiliated with Dias' lab. Earlier this year they predicted the conditions under which one metal that might have formed between the diamond anvils should superconduct, and they found different behavior. She suspects that high pressures instead transformed Dias' substance into an unknown form whose superconductivity is especially robust.

Once Dias' group can figure out exactly what they've got on their hands (details he and Salamat say are coming soon), theorists will build models exploring the features that give this hydrogen-carbon-sulfur mixture its superconducting power, in hopes of further modifying the recipe.

Physicists have proved most two-element hydrogen hybrids to be dead ends, but the new three-element blend marks a potentially significant advance into the world of complex chimera materials. One of the elements involved seems particularly promising to some.

"What I like about this work: They bring carbon into the system," said Mikhail Eremets, an experimentalist at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany whose lab set the hydride records of 2015 and 2019.

He explained that the lightness of hydrogen is not the only way to beef up the vibrations that steer electrons into Cooper pairs. Stronger links between neighboring atoms in the lattice also help, and, he said, "carbon has very strong covalent bonds." Materials with carbon frames could bring the added benefit of preventing the whole assembly from tumbling down at the low pressures humans find comfortable.

Zurek agrees. "Room pressure I thought would be very challenging," she said. "But if we can bring carbon compounds into the mix, I think that presents a way forward."

Correction October 15, 2020: Ashkan Salamat is an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, rather than simply the University of Nevada, as originally stated.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

shadowgovt(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This is interesting for a couple reasons.

1) While I agree with the article's assessment that superconduction along huge distances is a likely no-go given pressures involved, it's not out of the realm of possibility that we could find a way to apply massive static pressure loads to small high-performance circuits.

2) If the pressures are 75% the Earth's core, that raises interesting geologic questions about what's going on in the Earth's core. Perhaps the model for Earth's magnetic field (or the material that causes it) will need to be adjusted to account for the possibility of naturally-occurring superconductors.

dheera(10000) 7 days ago [-]

It's also super interesting for engineering reasons:

- Maglev trains can be built at much lower cost

- Other levitating transportation via the Meissner effect

- Quantum computing

- Entertainment, theme parks

Lots of things I can think of.

hinkley(10000) 7 days ago [-]

One of the interesting conversations about a new technology is figuring out the 'ladder' of applications for the tech as more or larger versions become available in a particular price class.

Portable MRIs are one application, once you can make a big enough chunk of the stuff, but earlier than that, couldn't you use small pieces of superconductor in communications equipment? Power supplies, ranging from IC power regulators up to mains power transformers?

User23(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The core is computing the ultimate question.

asdfman123(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I'm not so sure there's geologic implications. This kind of superconductivity only occurs in very specific compounds at very specific temperatures -- way cooler than what's going on in the earth's core.

We've found a few substances that are superconductive at very low temperatures, but it doesn't have any impact on geology because those conditions simply aren't found on earth.

lumost(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I wouldn't rule out extremely high internal pressures in static materials as a future research direction. Prince Rupert drops reach a pressure of 700 Megapascals, roughly 2-3 orders of magnitude less than the required pressure for this experiment. I'd imagine that more advanced processes and materials can already manage internal pressures substantially greater than the Prince Rupert Drop.

anonuser123456(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Earth's core is pretty hot IIRC.

Pick-A-Hill2019(10000) 7 days ago [-]

While I agree that it is an interesting finding, the lede of 'at room temperatures' buries the fact that using a median of 330-360 gigapascals as a measure of the earths' internal pressure equates to a pressure of 8223639745.0093 pounds per square foot. (Rough calculations based on 3,300,000 to 3,600,000 atm for the Earths' inner core)

[Edit to correct the maths] = 5325785739.6251 pounds per square foot.

yamrzou(10000) 6 days ago [-]

For anyone interested, I recommend a BBC Horizon documentary about the earth's core called 'The Core'. I found about it on HN and quite enjoyed it.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4035519 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13486960

aqme28(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This wouldn't exist on our earth, but there are superconducting neutron stars out there (at pressures far greater than we can produce on earth). I wonder if this has any implications for those.

SoSoRoCoCo(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> superconduction along huge distances is a likely no-go given pressures involved,

Pedantic note: they said only for this material, not a no-go in general. Not sure if you caught that.

'Strained silicon' is a technique for achieving faster frequencies in modern CPU by applying force to the lattice with another deposition layer. I wonder if properties of the lattice under pressure can be instigated either by similar process, or even during phase change when creating the material.


larrydag(10000) 7 days ago [-]

That's an interesting hypothesis. So are there layers in the Earth's mantle that are superconductors?

effie(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Room temperature superconductivity itself is not revolutionary for anything except academic papers. Lossless power lines and frictionless trains are a gimmick as those losses are small part of their operating cost. Resistance of copper cables is very small and acceptable already. When price of superconducing cables is comparable to copper cables, then it becomes interesting.

ReptileMan(10000) 7 days ago [-]

But what about energy storage? How much current you can pump in a closed circuit?

tasty_freeze(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Having another data point will help in shaping their understanding of the phenomenon, which may lead to future more practical developments. So don't discount the fact this is an academic result.

Power line losses are not insignificant, and put a limit on how far power can be shipped. Solar and wind variability is a problem, but if power could be shipped anywhere on the grid with no transmission line losses (there would still be other losses) it would do a lot to smooth out local variations in power generation.

erikpukinskis(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Isn't superconducting a requirement for fusion reactors (for plasma confinement)? I think all the cooling required for that is a major impediment to both the design and the efficiency.

dplavery92(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Superconductivity is phenomenologically different than 'very low resistance.' The excitement about high-temperature superconductors is not only that there will be less power dissipated through power lines, but they will enable new technologies in power generation, high-energy physics research, analog and digital circuitry, sensors, and communications.

anoncareer0212(10000) 7 days ago [-]

To be fair, the article takes some care to point out that cables are likely impossible

deelowe(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I don't think the elimination of cable losses is near the top of the list when it comes to discussions around why high temperature SC is revolutionary.

nashashmi(10000) 7 days ago [-]

There was a previous article posted on HN about a new record being set for speed of sound. The medium that transmitted the sound was high-pressure hydrogen. I don't know what rabbit hole I stepped into, but it let me to an article about solid hydrogen acting as a metal and becoming an awesome super conductor at room temperature.

I thought we had reached this record with solid hydrogen. But I cannot find this online anywhere. The material this article goes over is hydrogen-carbon-sulfide. The previous record for superconductivity was using hydrogen-sulfide.

I wonder what other materials can be added to lower pressure at room temperature and maintain superconductivity. Lithium? Nickel? Copper?

MayeulC(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Metallic hydrogen is predicted to be a room-temperature superconductor. And if my understanding is correct, it is related to the speed of sound ('phonons') in that material. Stressing the material further increases the speed of sound.

However, metallic hydrogen is pretty much theoretical at that point, although it looks like we are getting closer. No other material that I know of had achieved >0°C superconductivity before.


ddumas(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Saw the title and thought 'oh, I'll bet it is at some insane high pressure or some other exotic condition'. Clicked through to an image of a diamond anvil. Not disappointed.

asdfman123(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I'm actually really happy they put the catch at the top of the article.

It's so annoying to read science articles about how X will revolutionize Y, but you have to dig through the comments section to find out why it won't work.

Most new research findings only have very specific applications. It's only groundbreaking when something can (eventually) be implemented in real life for a reasonable cost.

strig(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Achieved at 267 GPa, 15 deg C.

Paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2801-z

Tade0(10000) 7 days ago [-]

'In a diamond anvil' is the 'in mice' of superconductivity.

pontifier(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Does anyone have a key understanding of why these extreme pressures enable superconductivity?

I'm trying to imagine how these extreme pressures would modify bond angles, nuclei spacing, and constraints on motion. And also tring to understand how that's affecting the behavior and creation of the Cooper pairs.

djaque(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Handwavey explaination: the particles pair up because of vibrations in the crystal. It's modeled like a bunch of metal balls on with springs between them and you can imagine tapping one end and sending a wave of vibrations through. However, these springs are a bit non-linear and so I imagine that if you pack the atoms closer together then you will change the spring constant.

The other knob you can use to change the vibrations is the mass of the balls. This can be done by using different isotopes of the same element and the critical temperature goes down with mass.

ouid(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I have a different explanation. Think of a material as a sponge for heat. When I squeeze the material, I raise the temperature, and that causes heat to leak out. The temperature of the material doesn't really tell me how much heat is in it, so this experiment is suggesting that it is the heat itself that prevents superconductivity.

Now a superconductor is just a conduit for electrons that doesn't generate heat. We know from Landauer's principle that heat is only generated when you destroy information. If I take a pair of entangled electrons, those electrons contain exactly one bit of information (in the von neumann sense). If I cannot add energy in excess of the energy required to disentangle them, then that bit of information is never destroyed.

Whether or not a given interaction between the electron pair and the substrate has enough energy to disentangle them is not a function of temperature, it is a function of the actual energy that may be imparted to my pair. Which is proportional to the actual heat in my material, rather than its temperature.

btilly(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Also a handwavy explanation aimed at people who aren't familiar with a lot of the concepts of condensed matter physics. Please salt with the knowledge that current theory can't fully explain how high temperature superconductors work. And that I'm not an expert in the field.

First concept, virtual particles vs real particles. When we talk about 'an electron flowing through metal' it is not actually a single electron. As it moves, the electron will move into an atom, another gets knocked out. But in aggregate it 'acts like' a single particle with possibly different properties from a real electron. For example it likely has a different mass. A virtual photon will travel slower than a real one. And so on.

Virtual particles can even correspond to things that aren't particles at all! For example sound is a wave, and quantum mechanically is carried by virtual particles known as phonons. These act exactly like any other particle, even though they are actually aggregate behavior of lots of other things!

A Cooper pair is a pair of things (eg electrons) that are interacting enough that they have a lower energy together than they would apart. Electrons are fermions, with half spin. They have a variety of properties, such as the Fermi exclusion principle. A bound pair of electrons becomes a virtual particle with an integer spin. Which makes it a boson, which behaves differently.

Superconductivity happens when charge is carried by bosons.

In high temperature superconductors, it looks like the electrons are at least partially bound by interaction with phonons. The high pressures change the speed of sound, and therefore change how easily Cooper pairs form.

rasz(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Overflow in the physics simulation code.

adrian_b(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Like another poster already said, both lower temperatures and higher pressures confine the movements of the atoms, so either of them can cause the same phase transitions.

Besides this new example with superconductivity, there are other more familiar phase transitions with the same behavior.

For example, with most liquids, in order to solidify them you may either cool them or compress them.

The same if you want to liquefy gases, either cooling or compressing has the same effect.

Room-temperature superconductivity at very high pressures has been predicted many years ago, but it is very nice to have an experimental confirmation.

hilbert42(10000) 7 days ago [-]

'Room-Temperature Superconductivity Achieved for the First Time'

Quanta Magazine ought to know better than to lead a story with a misleading headline like that. Moreover, they've even made it worse by 'exaggerating' the temperature by quoting it in degrees Fahrenheit in stead of Celsius (using Fahrenheit is a no-no in science).

That superconductivity was achieved at room temperature but at that huge pressure is hardly worth reporting as it's of no practical value whatsoever thus only interest to fundamental research.

nl(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It wasn't obvious until a few years ago that high pressure supercomputing was a thing at all.

It's absolutely worth reporting that room temperature supercomputing is achievable. There are a bunch of applications in things like quantum computing that this makes simpler.

ISL(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Fundamental research is of great importance. It is where the breakthroughs of practical value begin.

Our understanding of electricity did not emerge with the lithium battery, transistors, nor solar cells. It began with scientists studying static electricity, Leyden jars, and making frog-legs twitch, all without practical value.

Superconductivity in any context at room temperature is a substantial breakthrough, doubly so because the experimentalists were operating with semi-viable guidance from theory. This is physics at its best. It may well lead to higher-Tc materials.

rrrrrrrrrrrryan(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Quanta is not written for scientists, it's written for lay people. They do good work translating today's science and math into everyday language without too much oversimplification, but it's always a balance.

Most American (and many British) readers use Farenheit to describe the weather and room temperatures, and given the context, it absolutely makes sense to use it in this article.

jqpabc123(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Impractical temperature or impractical pressure

Pick one.

ddavis(10000) 7 days ago [-]

In the 50s a few megabyte hard drive was the size and weight of a refrigerator-- and came with a huge price tag, impractical price and impractical size. It'll be interesting to see what we can do in a few decades!

londons_explore(10000) 7 days ago [-]

267Gpa isn't unreasonable to achieve 'in the home'.

For example, if you had a rod of the superconducting material 1mm in diameter, and you wrapped it tightly with a strand of Kevlar (tensile strength 3.6GPa) until it became 100mm diameter, then the center would have a suitable pressure...

ganzuul(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Tensile strength is pulling. The diamond anvil needs compressive strength.

bdamm(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This doesn't seem right, how does a rod go from 1mm in diameter to 100mm in diameter under pressure? Also, how does one 'wrap tightly'? The material would fracture under the stress of the first wrap.

hacknat(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Dumb question:

Shouldn't 'room temperature' include in its definition about one atmosphere of pressure?

I can tell you that I wouldn't want to experience 'room temperature' 30,000 km above sea level.

Arnavion(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Room temperature plus one atm pressure is a separate term, STP - 'Standard temperature and pressure'.

(Of course it's hilariously not 'S' at all, because no one can agree whether the 'T' is 0 deg C or 25 deg C or somewhere in between. But when we're talking about room-temperature superconductors that's not really a big deal.)

drdeca(10000) 6 days ago [-]

there's the concept of 'standard temperature and pressure' , 'stp' , which iirc is 0 celcius at the same pressure as there is at sea level.

Room temperature means room temperature. Room temperature and 1 atmosphere of pressure means room temperature and 1 atmosphere of pressure.

pvsukale3(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Can someone please share some good articles/videos on the implications of achieving superconductivity at room temperature on day to day life? Thanks.

mchusma(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The impact of superconductors https://youtu.be/uq2b4BqKswg

Issac Arthur is amazing.

choeger(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Writing about scientific papers and using Fahrenheit should be a punishable offense.

PeCaN(10000) 5 days ago [-]

how are europoors so consistently butthurt about fucking units of temperature

LordHeini(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yep they actually converted the original units from the paper to Neanderthal ones.

It is really weird they wrote about 'atmospheres' too...

SubiculumCode(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Wouldn't high pressures create high temperatures, just like in earth's core? Hard to believe on 59° at that pressure

zbrozek(10000) 6 days ago [-]

No; those are independent state variables. If they weren't, your air conditioner wouldn't work. Compressing something does work, which raises temperature, but you can extract that heat and cool it down without reducing the pressure. That's half of the refrigeration cycle right there!

yboris(10000) 7 days ago [-]

My favorite quote:

> Over the course of their research, the team busted many dozens of $3,000 diamond pairs. "That's the biggest problem with our research, the diamond budget,"

nappy(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I like this, too:

> "It's clearly a landmark," said Chris Pickard, a materials scientist at the University of Cambridge. "That's a chilly room, maybe a British Victorian cottage," he said of the 59-degree temperature.

asdfman123(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I worked one summer at a laboratory called the Geballe Laboratory for Advanced Materials (GLAM).

Maybe that's why the acronym is what it is. I wonder what GLAM's diamond budget is.

darksaints(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Sounds like prices for gem cut diamonds, which brings in the whole DeBeers monopoly pricing. I wonder why manufactured or rough cut diamonds couldn't be used.

joncrane(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I wonder if this has implications for fusion. In fusion, you have trememdous pressure outwards from the containment vessel due to the magnetic field 'squishing' the plasma to a density that's enough to promote fusion and redirect scattering forces back inward.

Of course to create that magnetic field, you have to have superconductors very close to this superheated plasma. So the first thing to relate to this is there may be less cooling required.

The second thing is, and this is both a stretch AND possible a huge gain, but perhaps the required pressure for the superconduction can be provided by the inherent pressure of the fusion reactor core.

MayeulC(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That's an interesting idea. I wonder if that couldn't be used to bootstrap a room-temperature superconductor: cool it down, start a magnetic field, and let the magnetic field reaction compress the material so that you can let it heat back to room temperature. Could an external or room-temperature field also possibly be enough?

ganzuul(10000) 6 days ago [-]

And why can't I find any research on using the magnetocaloric effect to achieve superconductivity? It's an obvious idea to try.

Zenst(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Temperature was one way to change the properties to enable superconductivity, pressure now being another.

So in effect we have shifted the - can we get superconductivity at room temperature towards - can we get superconductivity at room temperature and pressure.

Whilst many will view the whole advance here is not going to make nice long wires, it does show that for some small devices, there is another avenue beyond changing just the temperature.

ben-schaaf(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> So in effect we have shifted the - can we get superconductivity at room temperature towards - can we get superconductivity at room temperature and pressure.

Not really though, right? We all already own things under higher or lower pressure than normal and they can be kept that way essentially indefinitely. Light bulbs, hard drives, thermoses, etc. On the other hand keeping something below room temperature - especially really far below room temperature - takes constant work.

In theory you could make a cable that keeps the conductive material under high pressure, but you're probably not going to have any luck attaching an air-conditioning unit to your cables.

adamiscool8(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Can someone much smarter than me clarify if this is supportive of, or related to, the US Navy patent from several years ago for Piezoelectricity-induced Room Temperature Superconductor? [0][1]

[0] https://patents.google.com/patent/US20190058105A1/en [1] https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2019/02/us-navy-pa...

Panoramix(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This finding is real science. The patent you cite is unrelated and 100% bullshit.

For example, it states preposterous sentences such as this:

'The fact that the fine structure constant can be expressed as a function of (2e) shows how important the notion of electron pairing is in the composition of the Universe, and gives credence to the theory that the fundamental cosmic meta-structure may be thought of as a charged superfluid, in other words, a superconducting condensate.'

This guy is a scammer who was able to bamboozle his patent attorneys, presumably he gets some incentive to publish patents?

360walk(10000) 7 days ago [-]

From what I can see using a very basic understanding of superconductivity, in that patent superconductivity is achieved by:

1) Taking a wire, and mechanically inducing a wave of lattice vibrations 2) Firing a pulse of electricity down the wire to 'ride the wave' of superconductivity produced

whereas normal superconductors (including this one) produce superconductivity because the first positively charged electrons in a wave of current 'pulls up' the negatively charged lattice behind it as it passes over creating a wave that attracts the second wave of electrons traveling behind (which in turn does the same to the third.)

btilly(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I wonder whether it might be possible to create a material using this and carbon nanotubes worked through it. With the idea that the nanotubes can create and hold the pressure for the superconductor to operate.

colechristensen(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This was achieved in a diamond anvil cell, a sample smaller than a millimeter is squeezed between two diamonds in a special apparatus. This is how you achieve world record high pressures, not even remotely in the realm of possibility for engineering a material.

phkahler(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Maybe this is a crazy idea. If we put superconducting cables around Mars at say +/-50 degrees latitude, can we create a planetary magnetic field to prevent atmospheric removal from the solar wind? Would the atmosphere start to thicken?

I posed this to an EM friend and he estimated 1,000,000 Amp-turns would be required. Never checked his math but that current seems plausible with a good superconductor, plus it's cold on Mars!

unnouinceput(10000) 7 days ago [-]

You'd make it cheaper by building air cleaning factories around the globe and get rid of pollution on Earth.

0-_-0(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Mars doesn't need a magnetic field, without it it takes hundreds of millions of years to lose its atmosphere. It's probably much easier to just top it up a bit every few million years.

threatripper(10000) 7 days ago [-]

More urgently: Could we use superconducting magnets to keep the magnetic field of earth stable so it doesn't collapse and flip in the coming years?

ajnin(10000) 7 days ago [-]

You don't need to recreate a full planet-sized magnetic field for that, you can more feasibly put a much smaller dipole at the L1 Lagrange point that will deflect the solar wind sufficiently so that it avoids Mars.

bg117(10000) 6 days ago [-]

how is this different from the same claim made by a team of Indian scientists in 2018/9?

ben_w(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's about 28 Kelvin warmer

danschumann(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Sounds like we should just go to the earths core. Those pressures are maintained naturally

parliament32(10000) 7 days ago [-]

We tried that once, didn't get very far: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kola_Superdeep_Borehole

Turns out the core is very, very far away and still not really reachable with today's tech.

jjtheblunt(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm misunderstanding how, given the entirely not normal contrivances to cause this, they can call it room-temperature. I mean, for what definition of 'room'?

nkingsy(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Surprised that they keep breaking the diamonds in their diamond anvils at $3k/pair. Wouldn't they know the tolerances of their tools?

s0rce(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Not really related but I broke tons of samples during my PhD work where we applied large stresses in an electric field to brittle tiny pieces of ceramic materials. Sometimes you just need to push the limits to do science.

ISL(10000) 7 days ago [-]

They're running right at the limits of what is possible.

One easy way to see this: these effects only appear at highest pressures, and I believe that the diamond anvil breaking strength isn't terribly consistent (one defect or error in sample-preparation? poof. Got a good one? You can go farther.). I wouldn't be surprised if each promising iteration of the experiment is performed by loading the anvil all the way to failure.

They're working in the dark -- nobody knows for sure how much pressure is enough to yield the next step forward in knowledge.

If the stars align, a single run of such an experiment is sufficient to yield a quantum leap (sorry) in condensed-matter physics. As an example, this particular iteration may prove career-defining for those involved.

That said, if they're constrained on budget, I suspect they think really hard about the way to optimize discovery potential within their diamond-anvil supply constraints.

Retric(10000) 7 days ago [-]

At those extreme pressures it's likely repeatedly applying the same load to the same anvils will quickly lead to failure.

jusssi(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> This page doesn't exist

> At least not in this universe.

Good one. Did they take it down?

Edit: looks to be back now.

andybak(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Still down for me.

staz(10000) 7 days ago [-]

same for me

gbrown_(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Quanta's tweet for this included the rather nice pun 'But there is a crushing caveat' which gave me a chuckle after reading the article.


RegBarclay(10000) 6 days ago [-]

So far, there's always been a caveat. Kudos to Quanta for being up front with it in the headline and being punny with it too.

HourglassFR(10000) 7 days ago [-]

For the metric people, from the actual paper abstract:

> Here we report superconductivity in a photochemically transformed carbonaceous sulfur hydride system, starting from elemental precursors, with a maximum superconducting transition temperature of 287.7 ± 1.2 kelvin (about 15 degrees Celsius) achieved at 267 ± 10 gigapascals.

mnw21cam(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It absolutely boggles my mind that a science web site, reporting on a science breakthrough would report the result in such antiquated units. WTF, people?

sabujp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

When you increase pressure aren't you also increasing temp? So even though the ambient temp may be 59 isn't the localized temp where the atoms are being crushed super high? Which is also the opposite of how i thought superconductors work, i.e. the liquid nitrogen dumped on the superconducting semiconductor experiment that phys. prof's love to do.

konschubert(10000) 7 days ago [-]

No, pressure is independent of temperature.

If you take a gas as an example: When you compress a gas, temperature increases, but you can cool it down again while maintaining pressure.

(And then when you release the pressure it gets even cooler, that's how a fridge works.)

egsmi(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Interesting. I've been putting 0 ohm resistors in my schematics for years. I wonder what took these guys so long. :)

unnouinceput(10000) 7 days ago [-]

no you didn't. you put 1 nano-Ohm resistors in best case scenario, not zero.

Historical Discussions: This page is a truly naked, brutalist HTML quine (October 19, 2020: 918 points)
Show HN: This page is a truly naked, brutalist HTML quine (June 04, 2019: 633 points)

(935) This page is a truly naked, brutalist HTML quine

935 points 2 days ago by Symmetry in 10000th position

secretgeek.github.io | Estimated reading time – 5 minutes | comments | anchor

This page is a truly naked, brutalist html quine.

One of my favorite things is to misuse technology in creative ways. Breaking the rules without breaking the rules.

For example, a hobby project I built long ago was DOS-on-dope, a working Ruby-on-rails parody, billed as the last batch-file based MVC framework you'll ever need. And there was a console.log() adventure in which you played an old school console-adventure-game from inside the chrome developer tools.

The world of esoteric programming is filled with examples of people stretching the rules to breaking point, and misusing technology in creative ways. In particular (for example) I love quines. Quines are programs which output their own source code. Life is a Quine.

A different but somehow related topic I like is brutalism, in particular, this often overlooked aspect:

Another common theme in Brutalist designs is the exposure of the building's functions.

...the tendency to make the internal external, and reveal the secrets of the building, in a somehow.... brutaful way. ;-).

A similarly intriguing idea which has fallen into disuse is the idea of naked objects, wherein:

The user interface should be a direct representation of the domain objects.

Putting all this together I decided to make a truly naked, brutalist html page, that is itself a quine. And this page is it.

Viewing the source of this page should reveal a page identical to the page you are now seeing. Nothing is hidden. It's a true 'What you see is what you get.'

How it works.

Did you know that the rules of html and css allow you to make every element visible, even elements like 'title' or 'style' or 'script', that are normally hidden from view? Those are just elements like any other. You can expose them all like so:

With that snippet of code (which is not a snippet of code, but an actual style block itself!) you can now see every element of this page, including that style block, the html and title tags, etc.

It does have one downside: every element on the page is now a 'block' element, even some which should be 'inline', such as 'code' and 'anchor' elements. We can correct this like so:

To give the code a more 'view source' feel, I've also applied monospace fonts, and a generally simple and consistent style to all elements, using a '*' selector, like so:

So far I've put style declarations all on one line, because ordinary html refuses to treat line breaks as 'br' tags. But there is a way to make line-breaks display as line-breaks, and that is with this piece of styling:

Make the internal external.

The next trick is to make the internal external. We can start by ensuring that the tags themselves, such as paragraph tags, are exposed in their stark, brutal, beauty:

That works for 'p' elements, but do we need to have custom styling for every element? If there was a way to output the 'name' of a tag in html, then we could reduce all of the necessary style rules above to something like:

*::before { '<' name() '>' }


*::after { '<\/' name() '>' }

But alas there is no 'name()' function (yet!). So we are forced to generate a chunk of style information like this (via NimbleText of course)

Please scroll happily past the next 28 offensively repetitive lines...

Some elements are a little trickier because they have attributes. Consider for example the 'anchor' which often has a href attribute. We need that attribute to be visible, including its value. This is done like so:

The attr() function, see mozilla docs is a nifty trick, 'supported' since CSS 2.

The only other style that is special is 'style' itself, which has to include an escape character to avoid being taken literally.

I like to think that may be a parser bug created by browser developers who did not suspect that people would engage in such an atrocity.

Finally to reduce the visual weight of the before and after pseudo elements we can give them a soft purple color and a low weight font:

A different though similar thing I wanted to do was to make a 'markdown.css' file that displays html as markdown. Fortunately I found that some other twisted person had already done exactly that. Nice work Mr Coles.

Finally, because I believe brutalist design, even when applied to truly naked brutal html quines, is about function, not about deliberate ugliness, I'd like to apply these humble styles that improve the readability of this brutiful missive.

...they're derived from '58 bytes of css to look great nearly everywhere'.

One last thing. Although this idea has bounced around in my head for a decade, the thing that reminded me to pipe it into a file was seeing this piece of 'Code as Art' from Geoff Huntley: no yaml. Bring back the world weird web.

Kind regards


p.s. source code here

All Comments: [-] | anchor

sarang23592(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Off topic: does anyone know why are the tags and attributes not selectable in the page?

nyanpasu64(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Because they're defined via CSS ::before{content} and ::after{content} properties, and browsers don't make that text selectable for some reason.

LeonB(10000) 2 days ago [-]

That's not off topic at all, very astute observation. Pseudo elements are not part of the DOM. They're not really there.

Here's a HTML reference https://www.w3.org/TR/CSS2/selector.html#pseudo-elements

vector_spaces(10000) 2 days ago [-]

If you're interested in quines, see also TiddlyWiki[0] (and specifically this[1] great talk by its creator Jeremy Ruston and the late creator of Erlang, Joe Armstrong)

[0] https://tiddlywiki.com/

[1] https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv1UfLPK7_Q

throwaway_2047(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Too much productivity have been wasted on setting up personal blog. IMO everyone should just use tiddlywiki

yeldarb(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Is an empty .html file technically the shortest html quine?

reflectiv(10000) 2 days ago [-]

If it is a truly empty file then no, because that wouldn't validate as a valid html file.

The bare minimum I believe is <HTML></HTML> ...which on its own wouldn't be a HTML quine.

Exuma(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Nothing beats this one IMO: https://aem1k.com/world/

This guy is amazing: https://aem1k.com/

john4532452(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

I wonder how some people are truly exceptional. Not exactly in the same league of hard sciences like Einstein, etc. But an adjacent track in programming. This is not the 10x vs 1000x type of stuff, but original creative thought executed elegantly.

nimajneb(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This one is mesmerizing. https://aem1k.com/0/

thomasfromcdnjs(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Nothing but beautiful, great job!

LeonB(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Thanks Thomas!

lnyan(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Here is another one and it's simpler:


LeonB(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It uses the same idea as the one above, just has less explanation.

oefrha(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This page, while not brutalist, is IMO much more interesting since it codes itself live:


Discussed here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21035313

danmur(10000) 2 days ago [-]

That's excellent!

jwmoz(10000) 2 days ago [-]

They arrested him for having a sick website.

STRML(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The quine introduces a few concepts I've not yet seen before, and I always appreciate deep-dives into the (very) sloppy and forgiving parsing that browsers do to forgive the developer's perceived mistakes. One can argue, quite convincingly, that this was a bad ideaTM and should never have been done; given that we can't break web backcompat, it's here forever, to live alongside all the sloppy coercion hacks and 'did you mean?'s living in PHP & JS.

It is truly surprising that:

    * { display:block; }
actually displays the whole contents of <head>. It makes no sense, but neither does most of HTML, so why not?
arcticbull(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Well, it's a good thing it codes itself now, since the author was arrested for flouting money laundering rules [1].

Kidding, of course, America has a famously low-touch approach to financial crimes.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/01/technology/bitmex-bitcoin...

jonahx(10000) 2 days ago [-]

And the comments are a quine relay: the top comment of that thread is a link to a simple html quine.

dinkleberg(10000) 2 days ago [-]

For anyone else who doesn't know what a quine is:

> A quine is a computer program which takes no input and produces a copy of its own source code as its only output.

dickiedyce(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Actually(tm), an older definition of a quine can be found here: https://www.scotsman.com/whats-on/arts-and-entertainment/fou...

So a parthenogenic Scotswoman would be a double quine.

sfoley(10000) 2 days ago [-]

An HTML file is not a program.

lqet(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Brutalist? There is a custom font, a fixed text width, and it is even centered! :)

pedrogpimenta(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Brutalist doesn't meen no css. Brutalism in architecture is minimum decoration. I mean, it would be brutalist to leave tubes and other plumbings visible on the outside, but if you hide them to make the spacer 'prettier' it's still brutalism.

angel_j(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The appearance of <style> to emphasize the pure lack of </style> ;^D

throw_m239339(10000) 1 day ago [-]

There is nothing brutalist about this page. 'Brutalism' has been turned into yet another buzzword by web-designers. It's now basically an excuse to do cheap looking pages with no sense or understanding of webdesign at first place. It's a race to the bottom.

ketzu(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It probably depends if you consider these things functional or decorative.

tiborsaas(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I have ThreeJS devtools installed and it also displays the injected code :)


LeonB(10000) 2 days ago [-]

If the page knew to show "<script>" before and after script tags, and to apply " white-space: pre-wrap;" to script tags, it would've been slightly clearer what those tools were doing to you.

blackrobe(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I have Dark Reader and it shows the CSS there too. Very cool.

speedgoose(10000) 2 days ago [-]

On a similar topic related to the display CSS property, you can attach a CSS to any XML document and have it displayed in a web-browser.

  <?xml-stylesheet type='text/css' href='style.css'?>
Bonus points if you mix that with XSLT.
baybal2(10000) 2 days ago [-]

On a similar topic, XSLT is still an excellent way to turn structured data into a page. It even works with RSS, ATOM, and OPML.

And you can even mix-and-match it with SPAs, and Vue.js with it's 'hydration' system. That's an very power trick to slash data consumption, and improve cache hits for a 'portal' style website. One showstopper: gazillion XSLT/XML bugs in Chrome left unfixed for 10+ years.

Another particularly interesting application is that you can turn XML data into SVG visualisation solely with XSLT, or you can add some JS with interactivity cod into XSL to run on the client side as a finishing step.

tzot(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Not exactly what you meant, because here the css is included after XSLT is applied to XML: http://xsubs.tv/ice/seriesn%E2%84%96.xml

vidarh(10000) 2 days ago [-]

A site I worked in more than a decade ago now had all the HTML generated by applying XSLT to the API output.

An argument determined if you wanted the page as XML, html or RSS. If you opted for XML, and your browser supported XSL, the XSL would be applied client-side. We still applied the XSL server-side by default to avoid having to deal with compatibility issues for the XSL, but it worked perfectly in most browsers and was great for testing.

XSLT was/is a massive pain, though.

chefandy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

While an interesting study in aesthetics, web brutalism or html brutalism isn't really brutalist at all. They all seem hyper-focused on exposing raw building materials when that totally misses brutalism's goals. A simple, small, unpainted cinder block shack doesn't hide its materials, is made of raw concrete, but probably isn't brutalist. Neither is a brick victorian.

The idea that beautiful forms can come from purely functional design without needing to cover things up with baroque decoration is really a central theme. As is making these huge structures with small, modular elements designed at human scale to get something that's truly people-focused. All of this stems from a utopian idea that scaling production can provide functional, beautifully designed buildings for use by all people, rather than just the privileged few. While the style is polarizing, I'd say it often accomplished its goals. In my experience, well-designed brutalist buildings are easy to navigate, have large open spaces, have lots of little nooks and crannies to foster human interaction, and have really beautiful forms.

While the page has nice enough lines and makes good use of color, the html tags have quite the opposite effect that a brutalist-era designer would hope to bestow upon the user. In this way, I'd say that this website is a far better example of brutalism than that website.

shrimp_emoji(10000) 1 day ago [-]

For context, this is a meme of modern architecture called 'truth to materials', 'which holds that any material should be used where it is most appropriate and its nature should not be hidden. Concrete, therefore, should not be painted and the means of its construction should be celebrated by, for instance, not sanding away marks left by timber shuttering'[0].

It's why so many modern buildings[1] are white or brown.

Also, brutalism is beautiful[2]. Even in its stark outside, it fosters an equal-and-opposite beauty within, like if Nine Inch Nails was buildings.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth_to_materials

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_architecture#Internatio...

2: https://images.jacobinmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/151...

chuckSu(10000) 1 day ago [-]


Guess there always has to be that one person

PTOB(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Plus, there is zero concrete used here.

systemvoltage(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> A simple, small, unpainted cinder block shack doesn't hide its materials, is made of raw concrete, but probably isn't brutalist. Neither is a brick victorian.

> The idea that beautiful forms can come from purely functional design without needing to cover things up with baroque decoration is really a central theme.

Huh? These two are contradictory statements. I recommend giving this a read, Architecture is where brutalism first sprung up: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/06/t-magazine/design/brutali...

aarchi(10000) 1 day ago [-]

In a similar fashion of transforming the mechanics of code as art, this reminds me of code poetry.

Here is my favorite, Capsized by Zak Kain for Stanford's Code Poetry Slam:

    .ocean {
        color: cornflowerblue;
        pitch: high;
        overflow: visible;
    .boat {
        color: firebrick;
        transform: rotate(94deg);
        float: none;
    .rescue-team {
        visibility: visible;
    .crew {
        widows: none;
lucasmullens(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

This one is pretty impressive. I get so many adds for dumb programming t-shirts that say stuff like 'if (me.tired) drink.coffee()' which aren't very creative.

walto2(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Besides being a quine, it's also a nice literate programming example.

betenoire(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Literate programming aims to help understanding, and this does the opposite. This was hard to read and follow along. I kept having to visually skip past meaningless markup.

ImJasonH(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Relatedly, I wrote this CSS that renders HTML as Markdown: https://gist.github.com/ImJasonH/c00cdd7aece6945fb8ea

hezag(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Awesome! Thanks for sharing.

pietroppeter(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Can this be turned in a browser extension that would allow a nicer view source?

lqet(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Unlikely, as in its current form, the styling includes special :before and :after rules for specific elements, and the inclusion of element attributes in the final output has to be also hand-coded for specific elements and attributes.

TomJansen(10000) 2 days ago [-]

For Firefox, I found this extension [1] which is really a step-up from the build-in source viewer.

[1]: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/fire-source-v...

bgdkbtv(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Hah, you think that is brutalist? Try this instead: https://catfish.dev/catfish-developer.html

SamBam(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think the 'quine' part is the part that's more interesting...

Historical Discussions: Facebook account banned after linking Oculus account (October 14, 2020: 893 points)

(893) Facebook account banned after linking Oculus account

893 points 7 days ago by warp in 10000th position

www.reddit.com | Estimated reading time – 1 minutes | comments | anchor

Got my Quest 2 today and created a new Facebook account with my real name (never had one previously) and merged my 4 year old Oculus account with it. Promptly got banned 10 minutes later and now cannot access my account or use my device.

Sent drivers license photo ID as requested by Facebook and my account now says 'We have already reviewed this decision and it can't be reversed.' upon trying to login so it looks like I've lost all my previous Oculus purchases and now have a new white paperweight.

Screw Facebook & Oculus. Be warned folks.


Facebook signup email, ban page and Oculus support email https://imgur.com/a/nZ7Hoe2

UPDATE - RESOLVED - https://www.reddit.com/r/OculusQuest/comments/jcgauj/update_facebook_account_banned_within_10_minutes/

All Comments: [-] | anchor

qwerty456127(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Hardware requiring an online account to work must be outlawed.

As well as the 'We have already reviewed this decision and it can't be reversed' bullshit. For every ban they should be required to issue a very specific clarification on why exactly were you banned and let you to speak to a real person.

caymanjim(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Or maybe just don't buy or use products and services like this?

chaostheory(10000) 7 days ago [-]

For some features, you can't get around not having an online account. I feel it's better to vote with our wallets.

Zenst(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I would have the law along the lines that Hardware should not be limited or curtailed in usage via any optional on-line related identification.

That way for things that may well suit having linked account - fine, but not curtailing that avenue. Basicly making having it linked to an on line account - optional via consumer choice, as it should always be.

gnopgnip(10000) 7 days ago [-]

You do have that right, small claims court

jedberg(10000) 7 days ago [-]

That would probably a step too far. But also unnecessary.

Make a law that requires them to give you a full refund for all hardware that you can't use and all software purchased over the lifetime of the account.

That will make them incur a cost that makes it worthwhile for them to be more careful.

Edit: Downstream commenters make a good point. You'd have to put in a formula for 'depreciation' of the refund, so you can't just get a refund years later.

kmeisthax(10000) 7 days ago [-]

'We have already reviewed this decision and it can't be reversed' is how the Internet has always worked.

The dirty secret of the Internet - going back decades - is that it's concept of moderation mostly relies upon unstated or understated rules half-enforced and adjudicated by volunteers or underpaid contractors with the power of judge, jury, and executioner. This is arguably by design: the vast majority of what moderators are dealing with is spam, which has the properties of being cheap to execute and difficult to filter for. Hence, anti-spam efforts are swift and merciless. More modern efforts to deal with things like foreign election interference and fake news are arguably extensions of this same ongoing effort to summarily hang and execute spammers.

Facebook is not alone in this either: Google's done it from the very beginning and their death penalty stings far harder. There's a few exceptions to this, such as Wikipedia's ArbCom or other collaborative Free Software projects with code-of-conduct rules and moderator transparency. However, even those platforms will summarily execute spammers.

jansan(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I once had a Logitech universal remote control that required opening an account to use it. Sent it back, bought an AllInOne, and never since considered purchasing any products from Logitech. Unfortunately most people don't give a shit and just do what the companies tell them.

nomel(10000) 7 days ago [-]

No account would mean anonymous access, wouldn't it? That's fine, but I don't think many people would frequent anonymous communities since moderation would become extremely difficult, unless the presence was tied with the hardware. Tying an an involuntary account to hardware would probably destroy the second hand market.

goatinaboat(10000) 7 days ago [-]

As well as the 'We have already reviewed this decision and it can't be reversed' bullshit. For every ban they should be required to issue a very specific clarification on why exactly were you banned and let you to speak to a real person.

GDPR requires that algorithmic decisions get this kind of oversight. GDPR is the way to get redress here.

gravitas(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> Hardware requiring an online account to work must be outlawed.

You have just outlawed Roku. An online account is required to make it work, because that's how it was designed to work. It's a rather useless device without the online account.

veilrap(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Strongly disagree. Using the law in this strong arm manner stiffles innovation.

Yes, the current Oculus / Facebook situation sucks.

However, blanket statements like 'Hardware requiring an online account to work must be outlawed.' Would ban very legitimate products such as Amazon's physical buttons for restocking supplies.

Sure the Dash buttons are discontinued, but there's definitely an interesting area of products that might be developed in the coming years for other products in this wide domain.

eecc(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Pardon my ignorance, what did he do wrong to provoke the ban-hammer? Is is prohibited to mix products across Facebook properties?

asddubs(10000) 7 days ago [-]

facebook doesn't like shell/side accounts without anything on them

beshrkayali(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Unpopular opinion: although I hate how oculus sold out to Facebook (possibly backstab of the decade, after the initial crowdfunding), and although I'm a strong advocate of leaving Facebook regardless of their VR BS, there's really nothing wrong with them requiring a Facebook account to use it. I have no idea how much the manufacturing/R&D costs of Quest are, but I doubt it makes sense for Facebook to sell it this cheap without requiring users to link/create a Facebook account. Don't expect stuff to be free/cheap for no reason.

My point is that regulating this space of tech will only lead to less innovation. There's an extremely easy solution that every single one of us can do: don't buy it, don't be tempted by the cheap price Facebook is offering. I closed my Fb account ~5 years ago now (after being on it for about 10 years) and I'm very tempted to buy Quest 2, but I won't. If enough people do this, what ever scummy plan Facebook is weaving will fail, but even if it doesn't, you'd be out of it.

frenchyatwork(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> regulating this space of tech will only lead to less innovation

You might be ultimately right about this, but you certainly haven't proved it. A common theme is a large company will use its leverage to make a product that is better and cheaper than the alternatives, demolish their competition, and the sit on their laurels for the next decade, with the exception of a few updates that provide vendor specific features to encourage vendor lock-in.

In short, Occulus could become the new IE 5/6.

protoster(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I feel incredible dissonance about John Carmack working for Oculus and by extension, Facebook. Especially when things like this come to light.

protoster(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I tried to look for some kind of statement from him, I found this verge article from 2014


Much of the backlash regarding the acquisition has centered on Facebook's business model — data mining and advertising. This isn't a concern for Carmack, who says he 'just can't get very worked up about it .' While he appreciates the need for privacy, 'the idea that companies are supposed to interact with you and not pay attention has never seemed sane to me ... I rather like the recommendations that Amazon gives me on each visit. Educate me. What terrible outcome is expected from this?'

So actually he was fine with this from the start? And while he is moving on to AI and whatnot, he is still currently employed by Oculus, which leads me to believe this is his stance today.

I don't know how to feel about it. Even if you look past the privacy issues, he has engineered a product with hardware DRM! It just a shit product.

bigbubba(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Never meet your heroes.

tigger0jk(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Oculus founder Palmer Lucky promised you would never need an FB account to use Oculus. He said FB promised him the same at the time and seems to regret his naiveté. https://www.reddit.com/r/oculus/comments/ic4ye1/new_oculus_u...

hunterloftis(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I'm very excited about VR. I bought the GearVR, then the first Oculus Rift, and most recently the Quest 1.

Now, instead of buying the Quest 2 (which is unquestionably the best-value headset available today) I'm waiting for a competitor to enter the space.

Imagine if your desktop monitor would only turn on when synced to an active account on a social media platform. If you decide to leave that platform, or if that platform decides you aren't providing enough invasive information about yourself and decides to leave you, you've got an expensive paperweight. No warning or recourse. No thank you.

justinlloyd(10000) 7 days ago [-]

'Imagine if your desktop monitor would only turn on when synced to an active account on a social media platform...or if that platform decides you aren't providing enough invasive information about yourself'

Welcome to your new Samsung SmartTV.

pcdoodle(10000) 7 days ago [-]

good for you. Vote with your wallet.

forgotmysn(10000) 7 days ago [-]

it's not on the level of the Q2, but Varjo makes a really good high end headset, probably comparable to the Valve Index

AnIdiotOnTheNet(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> Imagine if your desktop monitor would only turn on when synced to an active account on a social media platform.

We are rapidly heading towards this future and SV devs are decrying it on HN while helping implement it in the background to pad their wallets.

vl(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yep, they managed to convince me not to order Quest 2. And I already own Quest 1 and Index. Hope Valve is going to ship stand-alone headset, at least their incentives are aligned.

DoofusOfDeath(10000) 7 days ago [-]

It seems to me that the U.S. is ripe for an updating of its consumer protection laws. Particularly w.r.t. shrink-wrap license and other attempts to impose unwelcome terms that the buyer didn't know about at the time of the sale.

I imagine our existing consumer-protection laws were passed over the opposition of monied interests. If so, I wonder how close we are to having the political will do to do that again.

scudd(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I agree, and I think there's kind of an elephant in the room with respect to all Terms of Service Agreements.

Anybody with a mobile phone (as well as a plethora of other products) has inevitably agreed to dozens of pages of legal doctrine which they don't understand, any probably wouldn't without a competent lawyer on hand. But nevertheless, every minor service update, we all hit 'I Accept', despite having no understanding of what we've agreed to.

Is this not massively problematic? What happens if a company actually tries to draw significant action against consumers using the terms of service as their contract?

djsumdog(10000) 7 days ago [-]

At a minimum, a 'ban' of the Oculus account should also include an immediate refund of any and all purchases. It's absolutely ridiculously to think they can just keep all that money while depriving a customer of software licenses they paid for!

abawany(10000) 7 days ago [-]

My guess re. 'how close': approximately 48 quintillion light years away. The US has been corporatist for a long while and is blatantly so since Citizens United - the idea that a consumer protection law would pass in this environment is as 'possible' as the world taking climate change seriously at any point before we are all boiled alive.

varispeed(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I think this business model where someone buying purchasing a physical product must register their data with manufacturer or 3rd party service and be constantly online should be made illegal. There is no business need for this apart from spying on people and gathering data to improve manipulation of messages to trick people into buying more into the manufacturer ecosystem. We need to stop this.

superkuh(10000) 7 days ago [-]

So you think if someone is selling a physical product and they require registration that it's reasonable to force them to stop requiring it with the threat of physical violence from the government?

I just don't see how that is justified. The seller isn't defrauding anyone and isn't using violence themselves. It's so much more easy and ethical to just not buy the product. All you can do is take personal responsibility. Calling for violent coercion like you've done is wrong.

kritiko(10000) 7 days ago [-]

What could you do with a Google Home or Amazon Echo without connectivity? The physical product is premised on being able to search the web and stream music.

zmmmmm(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't think we should ban the whole class of online connected products. Just insist they publish a public API under terms that allow competitors to implement it and configure it on the device. Then anybody can create an alternative ecosystem for the device.

kissiel(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Today my OQ2 arrived. I created an account just for the purpose of pairing the device. I used my real credentials and a gmail email address. I got banned immediately by FB, and cannot init the device. FU FB.

tgsovlerkhgsel(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Return the device as defective?

swalsh(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The idea that I could have an account with hundreds of games I purchased be taken away from me without reason, or without recourse is absurd. Facebook, or really anything holding licensed content needs to be regulated.

stronglikedan(10000) 7 days ago [-]

On a related note, Steam has been getting away with this for well over a decade.

graeme(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Anyone know what Facebook's benefit is from the mandatory linking? At this point pretty much anyone who wants a facebook account, has one. And the quest is niche. They don't need it to drive facebook usage.

Is it data? If so what's the expected value of data they'd get from quest linkage?

JokerDan(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is by no means an exhaustive list nor 100% accurate but yes data, likely to go in to the social profile they build of you to sell/use in advertisements.

Data such as; information provided at sign up, web/links to other users based on sign up info, inferred location information, purchases, interests, visited products, used products, active hours, usage hours, general use metrics... etc

b-etran(10000) 7 days ago [-]

It seems like unfortunate timing - Facebook's cracking down on fake accounts before the election right as the Quest 2 launches. I'd guess that a lot of the people signing up for Facebook just for the Quest don't follow the same patterns as a typical user, so the algorithm flags them and removes them. I'm sure they'll get reinstated once Facebook manually reviews, but it's definitely a major annoyance.

Sidenote, I got my quest 2 yesterday and from a hardware standpoint, it's blown me away coming from PSVR. Too bad the Facebook nonsense keeps it from being a must have product.

vmception(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> It seems like unfortunate timing - Facebook's cracking down on fake accounts before the election right as the Quest 2 launches.

No, this isn't new, more people are just seeing it now since they just expanded the market of users.

It has been like this for years: If you go out of your way to create an account disconnected from a social graph so that it doesn't creepily alert people that would have saved your number/email and uploaded all their contacts in the past, Facebook will ban the account within 10 minutes.

Somebody's inevitable rebuttal: 'Yeah but my grandma just made an account and didn't get banned'

Okay, good for you. The described reality here is also valid.

To make it not ban the account you can upload a contact photo and try to friend request multiple people in a social graph. The time limit is very short and you will otherwise very quickly get instabanned or stuck in a security verification loop where the verification never comes.

This is just creepy Facebook behavior for their data mining operation, now masquaraded as 'ensuring quality of accounts'. This is the same behavior as when they use insecure SMS one time passwords instead of client side code generation, and then use that phone number to add it to the social graph.

Their behavior is very consistent and there is no one individual there responsible for it and even understands the use case.

In this case, this is just another byproduct of Facebook employees living in the warped reality where everyone loves the Facebook product and has it. They honestly believe it there and you should see how confused and affronted they will act when you tell them you don't have an account.

This is just a byproduct of that sentiment.

madsbuch(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Alright, so he bought it 4 years ago. Bu in the EU you have 2 years to start an RMA if a product is not working as expected under normal use. I reckon one would be able to turn it in to their retailer to get a new Oculus.

rlpb(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I believe this is an urban myth. Can you cite the appropriate EU regulation or directive that makes this true? If a directive what about the implementation in the UK?

https://www.gov.uk/accepting-returns-and-giving-refunds for example says (from a seller's point of view) that 'Customers have up to 6 years to make a claim for an item they've bought from you (5 years in Scotland).'

However I see no reason that you couldn't sue the manufacturer if they arrange to break your product even after six years. That would be a tort (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tort) and unrelated to your rights under your contract of sale.

jayd16(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Are there any alternative OS options brewing? Its mostly just an Android device. It can't be that hard to root.

RobertLong(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I hope someone roots it. I'm offering a $5k bounty https://twitter.com/arobertlong/status/1316177057085177857

m1117(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This seems to be an algorithmic implementation of cancel culture. Due to human nature, it can't be not buggy.

EdwardDiego(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Seems most likely that they're trying to flag 'suspicious' account creations in the run-up to the US election, and that the left hand that implemented this algorithm didn't speak to the right hand that was launching a new product that required an FB account.

offtop5(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Best quest 2 alternatives ?

Not being able to create a burner account is a deal breaker

esyir(10000) 7 days ago [-]

At the moment:

For mobile VR? Quest one, that's it.

For wireless? Index/Vive with wireless attachment. That'll be 2-3 times the cost though, and you'll need a PC and router to drive that.

pyrophane(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Seriously, stay away from Oculus. I know they currently have the most versatile/best value headset in the Quest 2, but needing to have a FB account linked to it should be a deal-breaker for anyone who doesn't already have an active FB account (and perhaps even those who do). It isn't just an auth system shared by multiple products. It's Facebook, and the ban-hammer can come down swiftly, especially if, like the author, you are just creating an account to link to your Quest. I'm also not confident, as of right now, that FB is gonna fix this in a meaningful way.

cpuguy83(10000) 7 days ago [-]

While I agree doing anything with a Facebook account is gross, it seems rather, err, trusting to think that Facebook wasn't already linking accounts anyway and are essentially not just getting rid of the system that does that and forcing users to do it for them.

qwerty456127(10000) 7 days ago [-]

A deal-breaker indeed. I am not buying any device I can't use to reasonably full extent without an online account and a cloud connection.

sam0x17(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I have an active FB account, but I would never use it to log in to anything other than FB via a sandboxed browser profile, and if I had to, I wouldn't use that service.

xwdv(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Do not stay away from Oculus.

The Quest 2 is amazing and an important leap for VR. If you care about the state of VR, it must sell well.

Frankly, this is not the hill to die on. If you plan to own a smartphone or really use any kind of service or internet browsing in the modern world going forward you're going to be faced with these kind of privacy dilemmas. Better to just accept it and move on with your life than to basically live like a Luddite for the rest of your life. Facebook will not be the first or last corporation to ask you to relax your absolute anonymity.

zamalek(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I was so excited for the CV1 after I loved my DK2, but I now own a Vive. The Facebook acquisition was a deal-breaker, for privacy reasons and it bring patently obvious it would eventually result in this type of garbage.

devwastaken(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The quest two barely counts as VR. You will only have mobile titles, which are terrible compared to PC. to run quest with PC you need to have a VR ready PC in the first place.

djitz(10000) 7 days ago [-]

That's what I did. Haven't had any issues.

greenpizza13(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Totally agree. I have a Quest 1, before the forced FB integration. I'll be waiting until something better comes along before upgrading my VR setup.

14(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I couldn't agree more. I had the fun of a 30 day ban on PlayStation because my kid sent something inappropriate to his friend. Now I imagine a scenario like this happening but the consequences are my Facebook account shut down permanently. Definitely a huge turn off.

numpad0(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> for anyone who doesn't already have an active FB account (and perhaps even those who do).

This. Unless you have built up sufficiently high profile Facebook fame known inside and out of it, beyond just having a moderately active account, I wouldn't consider it safe to spend a penny on this.

Really unfortunate that virtually no competitor exists in mobile VR segment.

codebook(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I am sick of verifying my FB account periodically after deleting the account and re-create with same email. Then, the weirdness came up, such as timeline only shows a couple of posts or nothing even I visited friends page and showed recent posts. And first a few months, FB asked me to upload the verifiable ID to unblock my FB account. (What the hell they need my ID ? I already enabled 2FA but kept complaining suspicious activity.)

chris11(10000) 7 days ago [-]

There's been a lot of talk about antitrust investigations and regulating big tech. I think one really useful step would be to require multiple methods of authentication with devices like this. Oculus shouldn't require a Facebook account to use.

balls187(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I got a quest 2 (yesterday), and I did not have to use a Facebook account to login. I was able to use my Oculus account.

I did receive a notice that in 2023 the Oculus Account would be deprecated however.

agd(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Yep, the way we fix this is to avoid Occulus products for now.

lmm(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Realistically if you don't want to manage hundreds of separate logins then what are your options? On the whole it still seems much easier to get reasonable behaviour and human involvement out of Facebook than out of Google.

chaostheory(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Yeah, I feel that it's easy for the majority of HN to stay away. I do feel bad for people who can't afford anything else at the moment.

silicon2401(10000) 7 days ago [-]

FB ownership is definitely an instant deal-breaker regarding the Oculus for me. I've heard that the Valve Index is a good alternative. Does anybody with VR experience have any input on that?

abacadaba(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The shrill of millions of nerds realizing they have to choose between the best easiest VR tech and facebook knowing what porn they watch.

TheTruth321(10000) 7 days ago [-]

100% this.

You'd have thought FB learned from the whole bolting on Google+ to Youtube fiasco.

I won't even start on Facebook in terms of just not wanting to be associated with every other scum-sucker thing that company does ... (Hi Facebook employee, I don't mean you personally, but you know I'm right).

trident1000(10000) 7 days ago [-]

VR sucks. The end. See you in 5-10 years when its practical and enjoyable.

MeinBlutIstBlau(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I agree. It's still a gimmick. It's like the WII basically. Hardcore types chant it's praises and families love to play it for a party game once a year.

Other than that, it collects dust compared to your other better mediums that exist.

falcolas(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Beat Saber, Half Life Alyx, Boneworks...

Practical: Mostly, particularly if you already have a gaming computer. It's easy to spend more money on a good quality monitor. Enjoyable: Abso-effing-lutely

m1117(10000) 7 days ago [-]

You can say it about anything, in 5-10 years it'll be better. But in 5-10 years you'll be old and won't be able to fully enjoy. Things are never ideal.

fdsafaeds(10000) 7 days ago [-]

That's unlucky, I'm guessing you haven't played much of it?

Just playing the GTAV VR mod (https://github.com/LukeRoss00/gta5-real-mod) is just something else, whilst not perfect (hell it's a mod on an old game!) it's so fucking sick being in a car chase at 160mph weaving through traffic in VR.

Can VR get a lot better in 5 - 10 years, hell yea, but that's like saying you weren't going to buy an Xbox360 because the Xbox OneX will be out in 10 years.

KingOfCoders(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I've enjoyed Alyx a lot.

ed_elliott_asc(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I bought an oculus go for my son 2 Christmases ago - he has no Facebook, I have no Facebook - what to do what to do

roberto(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Sign up to Facebook?

Just don't use the account for anything else.

epaga(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I too have the Quest 1, absolutely love it, and would have immediately purchased the Quest 2 if FB had not gone back on their explicit promise to never require an FB account.

Someone PLEASE make a privacy-first (i.e. 'NORMAL') headset with similar specs to the Quest 2 - you can charge more for all I care.

Fabricio20(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Better yet.. SideQuest?! (Just got funding) please remove the login requirement as a mod.. or make another OS for it (like Lineage).

This would work really well for SideQuest, since that would give them greater control over new features they can ship.

throwaways885(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Facebook bans accounts fairly regularly for hate speech, which pretty much means whatever they want. It seems ludicrous to me that an edgy teenager can have their headset bricked because they posted some spicy political memes.

novia(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I for one think it's hilarious that future gamergate situations might have real world consequences for the participants.

RonanTheGrey(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The reason they put is 'hate speech' but I'm basically convinced it's a single, stock error message they show regardless of the reason. How can an account be banned for hate speech 7 minutes after it was created?

tenebrisalietum(10000) 7 days ago [-]

- Political memes in the masses are making fact-based and rational political conversation difficult to impossible.

- Teenagers should not be on social networks.

- Teenagers who aren't old enough to vote who want to post political memes - that's like 10x me less caring whether they're banned from Facebook.

I have no problem with the ban.

However, Facebook should separate out its identity service from its social networking service. It might make more money doing this because more people would stick to its services. There's no reason why I shouldn't be able to authenticate with a Facebook account even though Facebook deems me unworthy of participating in its social network.

chaostheory(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I think the bigger problem is Facebook's policing of bots, especially since this is a big election year. I'm going to guess this was the reason for OP's ban

gdulli(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Even if that was true in the needlessly inflammatory way you stated it, it has nothing to do with this.

IronWolve(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I had a post taken down for posting a link to a local gay event. Their algorithm cant figure out pro vs hate speech.

So I started migrating the few apps I used FB logins from, (spotify), then stopped using google login because of facebook. Taught me, not to trust these companies with my 3rd party accounts THAT I PAY FOR.

kerng(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This is not about hate speech... Creating new accounts with Facebook often leads to instaban.

Fabricio20(10000) 7 days ago [-]

If only the reason was hate speech!

This also happened to me, had an account 5 years ago, stopped using it, deleted the account on their website. Last week decided to create it again to prepare to eventually link to Oculus.. Instantly banned. Literally on the 'Confirm Your Email' page got redirected to violated the community guidelines. And I'm not even from the US..

6gvONxR4sf7o(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This is what scares me most about google products. If I lost my gmail account, I would be totally screwed. More surface area across google products just gives me more of a chance to get banned by some false positive somewhere, with no recourse because none of these big companies seem to care about the human. So I try to avoid google products.

There parallels with any of these giant single user account companies.

dorkinspace(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The big difference here is that Google, for now, doesn't care if you create multiple accounts while Facebook requires one and only one account that is tied to your real life identity.

If I could create a fake FB account and not be banned, this wouldn't be an issue at all.

zmmmmm(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Although I also have various concerns with Google, I feel like lumping them in here is a bit counterproductive. Facebook is on a whole other level to Google in many of these respects.

antmldr(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Wow, thought I'd be one of the few struggling with this.

Bought the device with the hope that I could register an account for the first time in years, but similar to others, my account was instantly banned with no explanation other than 'violating community guidelines.'

One of Facebook's arguments against anti-trust accusations has been to point to the lack of consumer harm. This is fairly obvious evidence of material harm to consumers who just bought $500 paperweights.

RonanTheGrey(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yeah, it's extremely hard to open an FB account anymore, which is why aged accounts sell for thousands of dollars on the <mumble mumble mumble> <cough>. Won't put that info here.

I'm frankly surprised FB would go this route then, are they assuming only existing FB users will buy? They have to know they've basically killed the ability to create new accounts.

submeta(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Facebook is evil, plain and simple. They hurt societies, democracies, and individuals alike. Nothing good there. Fuck Facebook! They need to vanish, hopefully soon.

krick(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Yeah... People act upset because they spend money on a product they cannot use. It's not for me to discuss if it's even legal, but if it is, then the only thing to discuss is if it's fair, which is a philosophical question. I, on the other hand, wouldn't buy this stuff anyway, I don't want to do anything with Facebook, I don't want to have an account. The problem is, it's a fucking monopoly, so not wanting to do stuff is Facebook doesn't align well with living normal life. Gyms, clubs and hobbyist communities don't even bother making websites anymore. All news and meetup days will be on Facebook. But if I'm not a registered user, I cannot see them. Now, is this fair? This is just as philosophical question, as with not being able to use stuff you paid for.

So, of course I wish for Facebook to die. But it's not very realistic to hope it actually will.

Jonanin(10000) 7 days ago [-]

To play devil's advocate: historically, VR apps like VRChat have had an absolutely massive '4chan' problem. Harassment, bullying, vulgarity, NSFW/NSFL content, viral memes, brigading, etc. The gender disparity is also alarming (like 90%+ men!). Many feel unwelcome.

I think Facebook wants to make VR fun and appropriate for everyone. One way to do that is to tie in people's real identities. Facebook threads aren't great, but they are better than twitter threads, and A LOT better than interactions in VRChat.

_iyig(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Jonanin, what is your name? Where do you live? What is your current street address? Where do your parents live, and what is their phone number? How about your kids?

I'm asking rhetorically. All this info and more is available to anyone with a full name and photograph via people-finder sites like Spokeo and SocialCatfish, which is exactly what Facebook accounts with a "real name policy" expose to the world. Using this info, any anonymous troll who you tick off in a VR game can send a SWAT team to your house, or tie up your phone lines, or harass your family and employer, or attempt to do you real physical harm. The Internet creates an extreme asymmetry of power between the abuser and the abused, and there are lots of unstable abusers out there with nothing more exciting to do than make your life hell.

The Mark Zuckerbergs and Larry Pages of the world live in gated communities with many layers of people between them and the world, so they don't care about any of this.

eznzt(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Honestly I'd rather everybody got used to rude people on the internet

bserge(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Isn't that better solved by individual accounts for each game and some moderation? I've never had problems in VRChat, though I didn't find it much fun either.

FWIW, I have a few fakebook accounts, with names like Nopey Nofookinwae, and they're still active... Never bought anything from Oculus Store, though.

Facebook is really shooting themselves in the foot here, imo.

hunterloftis(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I think this is a reasonable argument for requiring accounts / checks for specific social apps in VR.

But a VR headset is not a chat device any more than a keyboard is a chat device. It's a general I/O device that can be used for all sorts of experiences, including single-user ones.

bransonf(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I tried to do the math on the Quest 2 hardware, and they definitely cut corners to bring the cost down, but not to the point where I think they have an attractive margin. (On the $300 headset, but the accessories/storage increase definitely have a decent margin). They'll also get some margin on software sales presumably.

That's important because I believe the revenue generating model is entirely from data. Even if I'm wrong, it's Facebook, so we know they're after data for profit.

And consider the kind of data that VR is capable of collecting. It's biometric data at its core. If you take the data involved in VR, tie it to a person under the real-name policy, and give it to some crafty software engineers, you can get some crazy intimate results.

dwhit(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I would think the margin comes from their cut of software sales. Seems to work well for Apple.

wvenable(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The headset is the razor and the games are the blades.

howlgarnish(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Insightful comment from the thread:

Yeah, I think part of the problem is that Facebook has never had an actual product which people pay for and expect to work. Their whole culture and set of priorities are counter to this.

sethammons(10000) 7 days ago [-]

That is a fantastic comment. I was reading through Google SRE stuff. Lots of good info. Lots of very, very bad ideas too. Lots of it is 'at scale, you can't make everyone happy, so don't try.' You end up with SLOs and SLIs based on percentages of availability, errors, etc. If 99.99% of requests are good, don't worry about the rest. However, at scale, 0.01 can be literally millions of real, breathing people with feeling and priorities and things to do. When you give away your product for free, these are good trade offs. When you sell your product, the same assumptions may not apply.

I cannot afford to ignore 0.01% of incoming requests because we charge per request. At a certain point, yes, money and pros and cons yadda yadda yadda. It just feels that, once again, people are saying, 'but Google does it!' -- and that does not mean you should.

chaostheory(10000) 7 days ago [-]

They do. They've had digital photo frames for years now. I just don't think anyone bought it.

xnx(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Facebook Ads is their product.

aluminussoma(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Unfortunately I get the impression that this is how you get proper support from Facebook or Google. Make a Reddit or Hacker News post, get a few upvotes, and someone with influence inside the company files an 'Oops Help My Friend' support ticket or contacts another person with the right authority to take a look.

Historical Discussions: Facebook, Twitter block the NY Post from posting (October 14, 2020: 882 points)

(882) Facebook, Twitter block the NY Post from posting

882 points 7 days ago by henriquez in 10000th position

www.nationalreview.com | Estimated reading time – 4 minutes | comments | anchor

(Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Twitter said Thursday that it censored a New York Post article based on emails between Hunter Biden and a Burisma executive in accordance with its "hacked materials policy."

"In line with our Hacked Materials Policy, as well as our approach to blocking URLs, we are taking action to block any links to or images of the material in question on Twitter," a Twitter spokesperson told National Review when asked why the platform was not allowing users to share the Post's article.

PLAY Top Articles Justice Department Announces Rule to Bar Some Criminal Illegal Immigrants from Asylum Full Screen About Connatix Read More Read More Read More Read More Read More Read More Skip 1/1 Visit Advertiser website GO TO PAGE / Coming Next

Twitter's Hacked Materials Policy states that it does not "permit the use of our services to directly distribute content obtained through hacking that contains private information, may put people in physical harm or danger, or contains trade secrets," though the platform does currently allow leaked and hacked material from other sources, including Wikileaks, to be shared.

The platform said that the policy applied in this case due to concerns about the "lack of authoritative reporting" in regards to the origins of the material included in the article, and subsequently locked the Post's Twitter account. Twitter's actions came after Facebook announced it would limit the sharing of the story while fact-checkers reviewed the piece.

The Post published an article Wednesday morning based on emails between Hunter Biden and Burisma adviser Vadym Pozharskiy discussing an apparent meeting with Joe Biden in Washington, D.C.

"Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together," Pozharskiy wrote to Hunter Biden on April 17, 2015. "It's realty [sic] an honor and pleasure." Joe Biden has previously said that he has "never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings" and that Hunter Biden was appointed to the board of Burisma "cause he's a very bright guy."

In a Thursday afternoon statement, the Biden campaign said the paper "never asked . . . about the critical elements of this story," and that a review of "Joe Biden's official schedules from the time" show that "no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place." The Biden campaign did not dispute the veracity of the emails, though no other media outlet has confirmed the Post's story so far.

The report also mentioned other documents that Rudy Giuliani provided to the Post on Sunday. Giuliani told the paper that his lawyer received the files, including the emails, on a copied hard drive from a Delaware computer shop owner, who discovered them on a laptop that was brought in for repair but was never picked up. The paper reported that the FBI subpoenaed the original laptop computer in December 2019, and included pictures of the alleged subpoena. When asked for confirmation by the Post, the FBI referred questions to the Delaware U.S. Attorney's Office, where a spokesperson said "my office can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation."

The Post's coverage drew condemnations from journalists on Twitter, over fears that the article could stem from "disinformation." But Twitter's actions outraged conservatives, with the Post's opinion editor Sohrab Ahmari calling the move "digital civil war."

Send a tip to the news team at NR.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

optimuspaul(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I don't pay for twitter, I don't have any reasonable expectations for a SLA regarding anything including DMs. Just like I have no responsibility to listen to people on soapboxes on street corners, and soap companies have no responsibility to provide soapboxes to anyone to shout from.

TigeriusKirk(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm not sure what the analogy is between DMs and soapboxes on street corners.

In any case, I have to say censoring DMs is just too far for me to accept.

I've put in a decent amount of effort to curate my Twitter feed so that it's useful to me, but I can't keep using a service that will arbitrarily decide what private communications I'm allowed to have on their service. I guess I'm out, as much as I hate to do it.

hda2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Twitter is still profiting off you with ads. A transaction is still being made.

blhack(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yes you do. You pay with your attention and with your ability to understand the world around you.

Twitter is an extremely powerful bit of technology that can basically make you believe anything. As a trade for entertainment/dopamine: you are allowing it to.

acituan(10000) 6 days ago [-]

To think that your personal transactionality with Twitter, whether you pay for your SLAs or DMs etc, is what matters here is myopic at best. Because this soapbox found itself to be used at planet scale, 24/7 available and proven to be increasingly influential, even consequential, on our institutions that depend on healthy public discourse. Not only your analogy doesn't follow, trying to apply market based normativities on problems of democratic processes is very misleading.

whatever1(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Whatever it takes to get rid of a tyrant. The guy has repeatedly shown that he has no appreciation for the institutions, the unity of the nation, democracy or the election process itself. He will do whatever he can to stay in power. We should make sure he does not succeed.

ALittleLight(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Strive not too long with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and gaze not too long into the abyss lest the abyss gaze back at you.

hyperdunc(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Replace the word 'tyrant' with the name of almost any major political player and it remains relevant. The corruption runs far beyond any individual.

moron4hire(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't know what's going on with the article in question, but I read this:

> Facebook announced it would limit the sharing of the story while fact-checkers reviewed the piece.

And immediately realize, this is it. Facebook is a publisher, not a platform.

donmcronald(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Paraphrasing for a HN comment I saw a while back. A reverse chronological feed of your friends' posts is a platform. A recommendation engine is a publisher. That makes a lot of sense to me.

StanislavPetrov(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Aside from the censorship issue, Twitter is making a mockery of its own policy. Twitter is ostensibly blocking this article under their, 'no hacks or leaks may be linked to' policy, while only a couple of weeks ago the story about the Trump tax returns (derived from a leak) was all over Twitter without being suppressed at all. If Twitter is going to arbitrarily choose which news to censor it should do so without using the fig leaf of a policy that Twitter itself openly violates.

cblconfederate(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Twitter isnt required to be impartial, they are allowed to editorialize to their preference like all the media does. There's a certain anomaly in the US that doesn't provide other media with the same legal protections, but that's something to work on

blhack(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've said before and I will continue saying: twitter CANNOT be the arbiter if truth. It will NEVER work, and trying to do so will be their undoing, but not before they make the problem they think they're solving infinitely worse.

extropy(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Welcome to the new world.

A4ET8a8uTh0(10000) 6 days ago [-]

To be honest it sounds like a regular end of the election craziness. To all those people, who think this is somehow special and deserves special new set of rules, I can only point to 2016 ( Comey saga that also included Guliani ). It is not special. It is not new. It is still speech. It may be lies ( and I am sure we will find out soon enough ) and I get that a lot of people can be influenced. I get it. And it still think it is risky to the existing system that RELIES on lies flowing freely.

What I do not get is why some people honestly do believe that an average person needs to be protected from lies by a censor? And who ensures censor is not a liar? Who guards the guards? The question is important as people seem to be clamoring for rather powerful guards of 'what is true truth'.

specialist(10000) 6 days ago [-]

'What I do not get is why some people honestly do believe that an average person needs to be protected from lies by a censor?'

I was a Chomsky style free speech ultimatist.

Unfortunately, humans aren't rational.

Lying is super effective, its effects pernicious. They activate identity and trigger negative partisanship. Simply trying to refute lies only embeds them further. Profiting from the outrage machine (dopamine addiction) has created a vicious cycle, and worse every year.

Is this really what we want?

The founders had the notion that democracy requires an informed populace. When the audience of NY Post, Fox News, OANN, and others are objectively, stubbornly anti-informed, how is democracy served?

What's the alternative to censorship? How does Truth prevail in the public square?

Even Good Samaritan Chomsky has no response to the Paradox of Tolerance.


For my part, I think it's hysterical that Facebook and Twitter censored a NY Post. That's like the biggest dealer of crack cocaine indignantly tossing a hit of molly in the trash, because that crap ain't no good for y'all.

I'm still baffled why any one would get their news from NY Post, Facebook, or Twitter. It's quite a stretch to call any of that 'news'. So I don't see how allegations of censorship even apply.

syndacks(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not everything can be reduced to a O or 1.

Our imperfect species often draws a line in the sand and says you're either on this side or that. Sometimes that line is a fucked up line and we go to war over it. And other times, we accept it (yes there are other states), internalize it and move along collectively as consciously elevated apes with a new feather in our culture-cap.

That you might not feel a sliver of moral dignity in the line that was drawn by globally dominant companies today, fighting disinformation before an election, saddens me deeply.

Like, yea, your logical brain might be short circuiting right now but can't you see the bigger issue at play?

I'm reminded of the post circulating on HN a few days ago about how FB shut down some Holocaust Denier groups, and the commentary thread just blew up about 'violating free speech' etc. That really messed me up, and made me lose faith in this community.

ryanmarsh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This whole begging for a Ministry of Truth has me wondering... do the kids still read 1984 in school?

Maybe I'm old. What are the kids reading in High School English? Marx?

JMTQp8lwXL(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The average person isn't aware of the very intentional acts to subtly shift their perspective and world view. You're aware of its presence, which to some degree, inoculates you from its effects. Whenever you see any news, you ask yourself: 'What actors might be trying to influence me to believe this, and why?' and I assert the average person does not offer that level of introspection when consuming content.

The solution is media blackouts for a period of N days to weeks before elections. It's what other democracies do. But, during critical periods of time, we temporarily restrict speech. That's how you handle it. Is it a perfect solution, no, but it offers some benefit with not too much restriction.

bleepblorp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's highly ironic that the so-called defenders of free speech have torn through this HN thread downvoting and flagging posts that support Twitter's specific actions or anti-disinformation efforts in general.

Free speech for me but not for thee, much?

To those of you who have done this, or don't have a problem with it, or are about to downvote and/or flag this post, think carefully about if you're actually defending free speech or only speech that you agree with.

Sargos(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm not sure what argument you're making here. Twitter is a public forum akin to a government institution and is now censoring political viewpoints it disagrees with. You shouldn't be surprised that free speech advocates are livid about this and perplexed at those who would defend such a thing.

cryptica(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I have a feeling that Facebook wants Trump to be elected. I think Mark Zuckerberg may have discovered how to play 'Good cop, bad cop' this year.

First, he played good cop trying to protect free speech while his employees played bad cop trying to censor. That was just a test to see how people reacted. To see if people perceived Mark Zuckerberg better after this.

Now Facebook is playing bad cop so that Trump can be the good cop and win the election.

Facebook is benefiting from inflationary monetary policy and Trump being eyeballs deep in debt will ensure that inflationary policy continues. Trump is not going to let the economy tank on his watch.

If Biden wins, he will let the economy tank early in his term and blame it on Trump.

BTW, Spotify also played 'Good cop, bad cop' with its employees this year related to Joe Rogan. Again, Spotify management playing good cop letting Joe Rogan express himself and Spotify employees playing bad cop wanting him censored.

cryptica(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Good to see the downvotes coming in as predicted. I must have got this right. The tech elites are all banding together as always.

gjsman-1000(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I can't really wrap my head around about how shortsighted of a move this is.

Just two weeks ago(!) there was a hearing about Section 230 and Facebook and Twitter were saying it was necessary, and they submitted testimony about misinformation at that hearing.

They've now blown any credibility they had left with half of Congress, possibly more, and have attracted 10x the attention and 10x the perceived credibility to the article.

How did they not expect this to blow up in their face?

nullc(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Well, for one S230 has nothing to do with this. You could revoke S230 today and they would be still completely free to do this... you'd just make it much more likely that not-for-profit and smaller venues like HN which allow users to share links to the NY post article couldn't stay in operation.

dang(10000) 7 days ago [-]

We changed the URL from https://twitter.com/sohrabahmari/status/1316446749729398790 to an article with more information. If there's a more informative source, we can change it again.

Edit: I've changed it from https://nypost.com/2020/10/14/facebook-twitter-block-the-pos... to what looks like it may be a more neutral source. Other users have supplied these related links:



dionian(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Thanks for the transparency. I sincerely mean it

chillee(10000) 6 days ago [-]

One issue now is that the title mentions Facebook but the linked article does not, which is somewhat confusing.

likeafox(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I question if the National Review is really the best home for this story.

pseudo0(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The Yahoo article that you've linked appears to be a republication of an article from the National Review (https://www.nationalreview.com/news/twitter-cites-hacked-mat...). Perhaps it would make more sense to link to the original source?

runarberg(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Just step back a little and consider the alternatives here. NYP is pretty obviously smearing for a major civil event here, a civil event that has the potential of causing serious harm to the second largest democracy in the world. If the social media companies would just allow this smearing to go unhindered, they are basically saying: "We don't care if bad actors use our platform to undermine our democracy," which is nuts.

TMWNN(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>NYP is pretty obviously smearing for a major civil event here

What makes this 'obviously smearing'?

michannne(10000) 6 days ago [-]

We live in a country where we have elected officials and laws to deal with individuals and organizations that undermine our democracy. I don't need some random collective of people headquarted in a random state to decide those things for me.

justinzollars(10000) 6 days ago [-]

When I was in high school, our network had software, perfectly branded as 'Net Nanny' installed which prevented us from visiting certain websites. It was totally lame.

I can't understand why my generation wants to recreate Net Nanny on facebook and twitter. It just adds to the 2020 feeling that everything, all at once, is completely falling apart.

Rapzid(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Why didn't you just go to a different high school?

yalogin(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I don't know how I feel about it given how blatantly the current administration lies and the lengths they are willing to go to manufacture lies. Given that scenario, should we not just assume that everything they say is a lie until proven otherwise?

bgorman(10000) 7 days ago [-]

There is a lot of circumstantial evidence here. Why would Hunter biden be paid thousands of dollars a month to work at a random Ukrainian energy company other than to provide access to Joe Biden. Hunter Biden has no expertise running a energy utility.

oyra(10000) 7 days ago [-]

good idea. applicable to both sides, actually. libs lied all about russian collusion, for instance.

Tycho(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Crux of the issue is that everyone knows there's a double standard. Why do they co-ordinate to block this story and not the countless other "unverified" scoops? Because it threatens a protected politician.

prawn(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Isn't it because a hack was involved?

pensatoio(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I see ridiculous (even virulent) hot takes blasted out by overwhelmingly left-leaning major media orgs with near zero consequences on twitter and facebook. Half the time, this stuff proves to be incomplete - borderline maliciously so - or even factually incorrect, within days.

I'm still hearing daily from people who think Breonna Taylor was shot in her sleep.

Regardless of how you lean politically, this behavior should scare you. People with more power than you can censor at will while the public has basically no recourse.

libraryatnight(10000) 6 days ago [-]

What other countless unverified scoops?

thekashifmalik(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This should be the main story instead of whether censorship on twitter is okay or not.

Call out the blatant bias. (So surprising for a company based in a liberal haven)

bufferoverflow(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Spot-on. When NPR got caught posting fake news recently, absolutely nothing happened to them. When CNN does it, nothing happens to them.

The game is rigged.

iaw(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Maybe the companies that have been accused of allowing misinformation to spread and disrupt the democratic process are making an active effort to 'do something' rather than further contribute to the problem.

esoterica(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They are a private company and are under no obligation to be fair or unbiased, the same way the NY Post has no obligation (and isn't) fair or unbiased.

Given that the administration has no qualms about using the DOJ to persecute tech companies in a politically motivated manner, I see no reason why Twitter and Facebook can't play dirty and fight back using underhanded means.

jimmydorry(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Absolutely agree, but I don't think this is the tipping point yet. An important line was crossed, but it will probably take a bit more before there is enough political capital to do something.

On the other hand, if the party benefiting from this move gets into power, that might be enough to stop any change from happening.

bosswipe(10000) 6 days ago [-]

What happens if the party that is attacking our democracy by spreading disinformation in the last few weeks of the election gets into power?

dang(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Please don't take threads in a partisan direction. That guarantees predictable, nasty, flamewar responses.


(We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24782753.)

patrickaljord(10000) 6 days ago [-]
reilly3000(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is a colossal failure of a scam to discredit Biden. There was no chain of custody, the proported email had tons of tell tale signs of being faked, and NYPost posted exif data that undermined their whole claim. They even used ints for ids allowing a lot of unpublished docs out.




National Review is part of the disinfo apparatus. Take anything they say with a pound of salt.

Plough_Jogger(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The article in question can be found here: https://nypost.com/2020/10/14/email-reveals-how-hunter-biden...

tootie(10000) 7 days ago [-]

What a bizarre story. Unidentified person drops off a damaged computer at a repair shop and never comes back. Hard drive contains lots of salacious info about Hunter Biden. Repair shop decides the correct course of action is to give it to Rudy Giuliani. That is fishy as hell.

nautilus12(10000) 6 days ago [-]

What...you mean hacker news isn't censoring it yet??

esotericimpl(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's funny cause the nypost is about to get sued out of existence.

Why was the pdf created in 2019? If the emails were supposedly found now and turned into a pdf for distribution.

It's almost as if Rudy Giuliani is terrible at committing crimes like he's been doing for the past 4 years.

creaghpatr(10000) 7 days ago [-]

They also locked the NY Post's Twitter account


esotericimpl(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They posted 3 hours ago.

hirundo(10000) 7 days ago [-]

There's a recurring argument on social media censorship that goes: 'you wouldn't want the telephone company censoring phone conversations would you?' And the response is along the lines: 'these are hardly private conversations, any tweet can go viral and be seen by millions'.

This story breaks that mold in that it involves social media censoring private conversations via DM. If you think that's OK for Twitter on its platform, is it also OK for AT&T on its phone network? For Google on Gmail?

riffic(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The difference between the telephone company and Twitter is that the phone company was (historically) a monopoly - the only game in town. Use their wires or get lost. It required common carrier neutrality by regulation.

Twitter (and every single commercial social media space) is not the above, and can do what it wants on its service. It's not a public utility.

JKCalhoun(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I have never heard the recurring argument, thanks.

donohoe(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>> is it also OK for AT&T on its phone network? For Google on Gmail

Twitter is a closed-system and not a utility, and I guess that makes all the difference.

option(10000) 6 days ago [-]

exactly - most miss the point that biggest news here is Twitter censoring direct messages.

didibus(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Actually, that's a great idea, there should be a spam folder or something similar on facebook and twitter as well, and instead of blocking, it should just all go there. Then it be similar to Gmail and Phone Carrier. Users who would like to go check the spam themselves in case something that isn't spam made it there by accident could, and normal people who just don't want to see garbage posts at the cost of a few false positives would have a much better experience.

kube-system(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I really hope AT&T starts censoring these damn spam calls. I've had 5 today.

hotpockets(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If it was a Nigerian 419 scam I wouldn't mind it.

geofft(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think it's absolutely okay for AT&T to censor what it wants on its phone network, provided I have the freedom to use a competitor. Back in the day, we broke up AT&T for precisely the reason that people didn't have that freedom. And then we let them merge back together, for some reason.

I also think that not only is it legally permissible for Gmail to censor links, they do so already. Try reliably delivering a newsletter from a brand-new domain name (I have). Censorship isn't any better when it's the emergent effects of unknowable spam filtering and abuse algorithms than a decision by a human. (I'd say it's worse, because at least you can ask the human what they were thinking.) But the solution there is for consumers to stop using products that don't do what they want, not for big government to tell companies how to implement technical systems.

jariel(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Twitter is a social media platform that engages in content management - they have always been moderating content, since day 1, managing identities etc..

AT&T is not in the business of content.

That's a very material distinction.

That says nothing about how/who/what Twitter should or should not be doing in this case, other than to say the moment you dip your toe into content management, it's going to get very complicated, as we now see on a daily basis in the news.

nullc(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> This story breaks that mold in that it involves social media censoring private conversations via DM.

This isn't a new behaviour.

I've experienced it personally: Back in 2011, when I published the big archive of paywalled but copyright expired Jstor documents with attached manifesto facebook silently vanished any message containing a link to it or the title of it, even in private messages.

One reason you haven't heard more about this behaviour is because the fact of the matter is that its extremely effective.

im3w1l(10000) 7 days ago [-]

It's gone so far now that nothing can surprise me anymore. If Facebook and Twitter made a joint announcement that Zuckerberg won the 2020 election and that Jack Dorsey will be his vp, and that anyone disputing this, whether in public or private or off platform will be banned - even that would not surprise me. If people went along with it so as not to be cut off from their likes and 'influence', even that would not surprise me.

glenstein(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yeah, I think it's necessary and honestly overdue. The problem with these attempted defenses of the race to the bottom we are witnessing in online communication is they step back from the direct examination of specific harms to the abstraction of 'speech.'

Once the subject is switched, we can comfortably speak in generalities about the abstract value of speech. It reminds me of what Keats said about a certain way of thinking about economics: 'Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.'

We're dealing with something that most reasonable people agree is a genuine crisis of democracy, and it's sheltered by a naiive conception of speech that doesn't have anything specific to say directly about Qanon, Covid, the 2020 election. It's a view from 10,000 feet generality that works when the ocean is flat again.

esoterica(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You realize that Google already 'censors' spam emails by redirecting them to a different inbox right? No one seems to complain about that.

sneak(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Google already censors tons of inbound messages, rendering them invisible in your spam folder simply because you didn't pay the deliverability cartel (Mailgun et al) to ensure that you don't get spam-flagged, even if your message isn't spam.

djsumdog(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Facebook, Twitter, Reddit et. al. are now in Orwell's land of 'Ministry of Truth' .. they are telling the people what is reliable 'news' and what is not.

It's getting pretty insane out there.

WalterGR(10000) 7 days ago [-]


The Ministry of Truth and the protagonist of 1984, it's employee, were engaged in revising the written record to make it match what the Party wanted in the present.

They were also the only source of information.

Twitter is not doing the former and isn't the latter, so equating it with Minitrue is 100% factually incorrect.

zests(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I can't imagine Twitter censoring a sensational pro-democrat news article. That's what makes me feel the strangest about this.

tootie(10000) 7 days ago [-]

That's only true if they are doing it in bad faith. And if they were controlling information at the source. You can still easily find this story on nypost.com. I agree this is dangerous territory for Twitter, but it's 100% within their rights to do so. They can censor content completely arbitrarily if they want. Consumers will vote with their feet. Either they like this or they don't.

jimbob45(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Can anyone with a Twitter confirm this is happening? I assume Twitter will stop censoring it once this goes viral.

Edit: Politics entirely aside. We need the truth on Twitter's actions before we lose the chance.

SpicyLemonZest(10000) 7 days ago [-]

It's happening to me, although I heard from a friend that a few people can still post the link for some reason. I get an error message saying the link is banned when I try to tweet it myself, and an interstitial warning me it's unsafe when I click on any existing link to it.

throwawa3495(10000) 7 days ago [-]

can confirm, it's still happening as of right now for the following url: https://nypost.com/2020/10/14/email-reveals-how-hunter-biden...

dilap(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Yeah, I just tried it, I got:

> We can't complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful. Visit our Help Center to learn more.

NPR reporter:

> From Twitter spox: 'In line with our Hacked Materials Policy, as well as our approach to blocking URLs, we are taking action to block any links to or images of the material in question on Twitter.'


Which is completely nonsense as a reason; you can, to use just one of a million examples, freely post this story on twitter:


Facebook is also suppressing the story.

Quite remarkable.

throwaway4715(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Facebook is NOT blocking the Post from posting. They are limiting sharing. This headline is a good example of way it may have been the right move. Misinformation spreads fast.

whateveracct(10000) 6 days ago [-]

HN is full of unwitting Trump/conspiracy theory enablers with their high-minded bottomless 'benefit of the doubt' schtick.

Karunamon(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They literally locked their account.

Hamuko(10000) 7 days ago [-]

>corruption by a major-party presidential candidate, Biden.

I thought this was a Hunter Biden story?

djsumdog(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The story involves Hunter and his father and alleged family corruption.

spamizbad(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The interview with the repair shop owner is also reduces this story's already dwindling credibility: https://www.thedailybeast.com/man-who-reportedly-gave-hunter...

0xC0ncord(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Reading the article, nothing in the repair shop owner's interview strikes me as incorrect or inconsistent. It seems to me that the man is just inarticulate and has never been put on the stage by a reporter before, especially a stage large enough to put a presidential candidate's campaign at risk.

googthrowaway42(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That's what it sounds like when you interview a normal human being at the center of something so politically sensitive and dealing with such high level corruption.

"When you're afraid and you don't know anything about the depth of the waters that you're in, you want to find a lifeguard."

Entirely reasonable sentiment to express.

Rebelgecko(10000) 6 days ago [-]

IMO it's relevant that twitter is blocking the story due to their rules about releasing hacked material, not misinformation. If the hard drive is a hoax, I think it's important to have an open discussion to shine a light on it. Banning the article in a way that appears to validate its claims will only embolden claims of a conspiracy.

I think it's also interesting that the 'hacking' ban doesn't have an exemption for the press. Even though the NY Post is fairly partisan even by tabloid standards,it seems like a double standard if I can still link to an NY Times article containing information about classified government activities that were revealed via hacking

sempron64(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That article had a lot of ads so I'm not sure if I actually got to the end when scrolling, but there really aren't many direct quotes, just assertions by the reporter. To my eyes it looks like he is suffering from anxiety and confusion after this thing blew up. It's unfair to blame him for anxiety. I have "crazy" worries sometimes too and being involved in a national scandal is probably enough to trigger that.

gjsman-1000(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Whatever your perspective, directly verifiable censorship like this is just begging for legal trouble and monopoly investigations. Tactically speaking, I would say this is a massive mistake from Twitter.

jcadam(10000) 6 days ago [-]

No, they're just extremely confident there will be no consequences. They're doing Biden a solid here, and now he owes them.

luckylion(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> directly verifiable censorship like this is just begging for legal trouble and monopoly investigations.

If Biden loses. If he wins, it might very well do the opposite.

rhino369(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's probably also amplifying the story.

koolba(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Technically Facebook did it first: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24778053

tootie(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This is what I don't get. People are screaming for digital channels to not allow disinformation even though they are just a passive communication channel. Is anyone screaming at printing presses for printing the NY Post? It's a garbage publication and this information is at least suspicious, but why are we holding Twitter to such a high standard of integrity and not actually journalists?

cmdshiftf4(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>this is just begging for legal trouble

Fingers crossed.

young_unixer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They've been doing this for years and they are mostly defended by the HN crowd everytime a story of censorship comes out.

Did everyone suddenly turn into a free speech nut this morning?

taxicab(10000) 6 days ago [-]

To be fair, the fact that it was published by the New York Post already seriously undercuts the article's credibility.

Edit: and also the fact that it was written in collaboration with the President's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Amezarak(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Journalists write and publish (or sometimes don't) articles in collaboration with campaigns and other 'interested' parties with an agenda all the time, and rarely mention it or make it obvious. If anything, that's the norm. So what's different about this than those stories?

dimitrios1(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yet I don't recall anyone questioning Buzzfeed News when they dropped their bombshell story years back. I remember the defenders saying something along the lines of 'If the news is newsworthy and constitutes journalism, then the publication it was produced in shouldn't matter'

As HN audience mostly claim to be full of 'independent thinkers' we should have no problem with this being published by the Post if it indeed is legitimate, correct?

ehsankia(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Can someone explain why it even matters. I know HN isn't for politics but I don't understand why having dinner with your son's work friend is that big of a deal. Trump, who is the President (not VP), meets regularly with all sorts of people who spend money at his resort and other businesses and no one cares about that.

dang(10000) 6 days ago [-]

(We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24780927.)

partiallypro(10000) 6 days ago [-]

One might even argue that Facebook/Twitter are doing this explicitly to ensure a party is put in power that won't try to reform them in any way. Their actions show it, and their political donations show it. That's my putting on the tin foil, but I think you could make such an argument. We always talk about Big Oil, etc being friends to Republicans, but often ignore Big Tech's close ties to Democrats.

tyre(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I would expect it has less to do with who they want to be elected than who they think will be elected.

If the polls are anywhere close to real, they're going to see both houses of Congress plus the executive in Democratic hands. That is the same party publicly calling for their breakup.

So if you see it coming, get out ahead of it.

untog(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Big Tech also has plenty of close ties to Republicans: remember when Facebook's Joel Kaplan appeared at Kavanaugh's Senate hearing?


And find one of @pinboard's regular threads on the political donations big tech companies make and you'll find a lot of Republicans:


The reality is that once you're as big as FB, Google and the rest you have enough money to play both sides of the aisle. Doesn't matter who is in power, you've got them both under control.

syndacks(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yep, def using the Heavy Duty kind tonight.

ajxs(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You're absolutely right. The idea that a corporation's board would decide collectively what political stances to take is not groundbreaking. However this kind of critical thinking seems to be so rarely applied to organisations trafficking in information, such as those making up 'big-tech'.

I was speaking elsewhere on Hacker News recently about how the attitude towards trusting corporations seems to have shifted so dramatically. Distrusting the motivations of large corporations was once a pillar of liberal thought in the west. Now many liberals seem to be willing to empower these corporations absolutely as long as they control online discourse in a way that largely benefits the liberal establishment.

I would encourage people to consider for a moment the financial incentives for organisations at the scale of Facebook, Google, Twitter et. al. to support globalist political agendas. This isn't 'conspiracy theory' thinking, it's shareholder primacy, it's simple politics. Anyone who thinks that these organisations support liberal causes out of the goodness of their hearts needs a reality check. They pursue these choices for their own gain.

icpmacdo(10000) 7 days ago [-]

They are also censoring it being sent in direct messages. This is probably the most farcical gift tech has ever given the GOP

im3w1l(10000) 6 days ago [-]

At a moment where people are scared of meeting to discuss things in person. Which makes it orders of magnitudes worse. This is the only voice people had.

rmrfstar(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Robert Graham [1] pointed out that if the emails are authentic, they can be trivially verified via DKIM.

That the email metadata was not released implies the emails are either inauthentic, or that the post did not contact someone with basic competence in computer forensics.

Either possibility seriously undercuts the article's credibility.

[1] https://twitter.com/ErrataRob/status/1316407424648179717

Felz(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Wouldn't DKIM verification require having the public key of Gmail from 2014 on hand? I looked up some old 2014 era emails I got from gmail and it looks like they were using the '20120113' selector at the time, which is no longer available through DNS query.

dsaavy(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Absolutely this can be trivially verified and needs to be. Release the emails if they're real so they can be verified. But also, isn't it the same thing with Trump's tax returns? All I've found so far is that the New York Times obtained copies, but they haven't actually released them to the public to be verified. If anyone can find the actual copies I'd like to see.

We need to take all of the press releases about 'leaks' with a grain of salt, because I keep seeing 'leaks' without actual content or verification. It's bullshit and why places that provide the actual contents of leaks are so important. Yes, certain publications are more trustworthy than others historically, but that doesn't mean they get an indefinite pass on providing verified information.

sk2020(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I would think the financial risk for libel would be serious if it were true that the emails are fabrications and so made with intent to harm. Similarly, I would expect attorneys or all involved would be aware of this and were not sufficiently concerned.

jimbob45(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I wrote the story off this morning. The Ukraine stuff didn't stick to Trump and there's no reason to think it would be any stickier on Biden.

If Twitter is censoring DMs of it though, then there must be something to it.

beervirus(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Have you ever read an article in the mainstream press that spent space publishing metadata?

daveevad(10000) 6 days ago [-]

don't forget this is politics and the campaign is asking the other campaign to make a statement that the emails are inauthentic.

revealing the dkim signatures at a later point would be twice as effective from a political and public opinion standpoint.

throwawa3495(10000) 7 days ago [-]

it's honestly irrelevant about the credibility of the emails and other data at this point, its the blanket censorship of this article that's now the real story.

benmmurphy(10000) 7 days ago [-]

It wouldn't prove they were authentic. It would just prove they were sent through gmail's servers. If you trusted gmail then it would prove the username, time and content was legitimate.

All it looks like to me is some Russian username. I don't see how it ties to a real person. I haven't read the article so maybe the post explains that bit.

troughway(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Much like the HN thread that applauded FB getting rid of some thousands of accounts related to "right wingers", QAnon, et cetera, I equally applaud this admirable move.

I hope that FB, Twitter, Google, Cloudflare and others continue to block and close accounts to prevent the intervention of democracy as much as possible.

A similar case to this may have been the reason why Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election in 2016. So these are all parties who are trying to right the wrongs here done by destructive state actors from abroad.

These are all companies who own the servers that this content sits on, and it's well within their rights to get rid of it if and when they wish to.

If you don't want your content removed from there, then don't post there and don't use their services. Simple as that.

partiallypro(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Right, but what if the story is 100% legit, and the people interfering in democracy are actually FB, Twitter, Google and Cloudflare? All of which are heavy lobbyists, and have their own interests at heart. Shouldn't they just be elevating journalists that are casting doubts on it, or going in to try to confirm or refute the story...instead of just outright blocking something that isn't verifiably false? This isn't remotely the same as QAnon or antivaxxing, as that are verifiably false.

rat87(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Good for Twitter and good for Facebook for once not bowing down to conservative demands to allow them to spread untrue propaganda and conspiracies (https://www.theverge.com/2020/8/6/21357663/facebook-removed-...)

I'm very surprised so many people have a problem with this.

I'm even more surprised people are demanding that forums and social media be stripped of the ability to moderate porn, spam, and vile personal attacks (ie not be able to moderate anything not illegal). Oh plus conspiracies and racism. This would likely turn most forums including HN into trash

hartator(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Was the email not real?

lapcatsoftware(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> I'm even more surprised people are demanding that forums and social media be stripped of the ability to moderate porn, spam, and vile personal attacks (ie not be able to moderate anything not illegal). Oh plus conspiracies and racism. This would likely turn most forums including HN into trash

Have you... seen Twitter? It's full of porn, spam, vile personal attacks, conspiracies, and racism. These things are mostly not moderated on Twitter.

Maybe Twitter claims to moderate them, but the reality does not reflect that at all. The main reason we see controversy over social media censorship is that it's extremely selective, haphazard, inconsistent, and often misdirected. There's no apparent general principles behind the individual decisions, though principles are often trotted out ex post facto when required for PR.

kanwisher(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Welcome to 1984 where social media overlords get to decide what we are allowed to see and read. If it goes against their ideas they can ban it

throwawa3495(10000) 7 days ago [-]

weird that there is actually no mention of these materials being hacked from anywhere though, or did I miss that?

It seems like this computer shop fellow voluntarily gave over this hard drive only after the computer in question became his property (as a result of someone not collecting the computer and not paying the bill)

LOL now this post has been flagged wtfff

SpicyLemonZest(10000) 7 days ago [-]

It's worth noting that HN flags are user-sourced, so unlike on Twitter that doesn't necessarily reflect administrators stepping in to kill the discussion.

likeafox(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>It seems like this computer shop fellow voluntarily gave over this hard drive only after the computer in question became his property (as a result of someone not collecting the computer and not paying the bill)

To say this strains credulity would be be a massive understatement.

the_only_law(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Interestingly they failed to stop discussion of it from becoming a top trending item.

Plough_Jogger(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Also interesting that they provided a dedicated summary of the topic for the related trending hashtag https://twitter.com/search?q=%23HunterBiden&src=trend_click&...

benmmurphy(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I think it is crazy that twitter has gone down this path. Being the arbiter of truth makes their job much harder and doesn't seem to have a big upside. If they have an agenda they want to push the upside might be there but otherwise it's just a perpetual shitshow.

ojnabieoot(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I mean, their previous path was 'it's fine for us to profit handsomely from dishonest propaganda since we're not personally responsible for it, even if that propaganda gets implicated in the theft of an election or a genocide campaign.' This turns out to have its own issues! And it's not specifically about a leftist/progressive agenda: it is plain unethical to profit off propaganda which you know to be deceitful and dangerous, regardless of what political intent.

While it is true that Twitter has cracked the whip against the right far more than the left since they started regulation of misinformation, this is reflective of Twitter being unbiased - the problem is the 21st-century Western right.

ww520(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They do have an agenda to push. What they are doing is consistent with their agenda.

bufferoverflow(10000) 6 days ago [-]

'If' they have an agenda? Really? Jack Dorsey admitted his bias. In the Joe Rogan interview he couldn't address any of the examples of biased censorship.

asdff(10000) 6 days ago [-]

To whom are they the arbiter of truth? Not to anyone with half a brain I hope. It's a private website and they can do what they like with it, same as you or I. If I go on your blog and post something dumb, you'd probably delete it too.

refurb(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Agreed. I can't believe they didn't see the writing on the wall. It doesn't matter what their decision is (demeaning content misinformation or truth) they are going to be taking a ton of shit in perpetuity.

jim-jim-jim(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It has a clear upside. I don't think it's a secret at this point that the values of Silicon Valley are in sync with those of the right wing of the Democratic party. These companies are acting in their self interest.

We can make appeals to the ideal of free speech or point out instances of hypocrisy all we want, but it's a futile and demoralizing thing to focus on. It probably makes more sense to view Facebook and Twitter as media outlets with their own editorial agendas, just like the Washington Post, Economist, Daily Mail, etc. And then disengage if their agenda is at odds with yours.

quest88(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's not as crazy if you think of all the people who yell 'Something should be done about big tech enabling the spread of false information!!!!!'.

Covzire(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Let's be honest, the only people screaming for censorship are firmly on the left. Controlling 'disinformation' is a dog whistle for censorship, hoping that average citizens don't realize what they're really after. We all know who is going to be the moderators in flagging 'disinformation' and we all know which ideology they overwhelmingly favor. I'd sooner trust a pyromaniac as fire chief of my local county than I would trust big tech companies to manage 'disinformation' on my behalf.

hnshooray(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Please. Your nutjob president is screaming nonstop about "fake news".

It ain't people on the left who are uncomfortable with truth. It's the entire Republican Party.

zetazzed(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Right wing district attorneys are currently suing Netflix over Cuties, in a throwback to early-90s moral outrage arguments by people who have not actually watched a film and understood anything about it: https://www.cinemablend.com/news/2556282/netflixs-cuties-bac...

People have just gotten so used to conservative calls for censorship that they escape all notice.

drewrv(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Let's be honest, the only people screaming for censorship are firmly on the left.

This year the president has sued to stop publication of two books because they embarrassed him, one from John Bolton and another from Mary Trump.

This year police in cities across the country have opened fire on journalists.

These are legal and physical attacks, on journalists and publishers, coming from government officials. Social media moderation policies are interesting and important. But if you see censorship and attacks on free speech only coming from one side, you should probably diversify your media diet.

dang(10000) 6 days ago [-]

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24781792.

tootie(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't think that's a fair judgement at all. Not when the right is actively attacking honest journalism at its source while also screaming about anti-conservative bias on social media every time they filter disinformation. I would also not at all categorize deplatforming disinformation as censorship either. Nor incitement to violence. I only agree in that it's not a job that any of these companies are setup to handle.

EDIT: https://www.npr.org/2020/05/27/863011399/trump-threatens-to-...

p1necone(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Assuming you're from America - your right is absolutely bugfuck insane and blatantly corrupt and the fact that you're talking about them as if they're not seriously affects my ability to take you seriously.

What is with all these people talking as if the American right and left are just two regular sides of the same political coin without addressing the massive elephant (pun not intended) in the room.

bleepblorp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The only reason measures to curb disinformation would have a partisan impact is because conservative parties (throughout the industrialized world, not just in the US) use disinformation strategies far, far more than do other parties.

Center-left/left parties use reality to galvanize their base voters into action. Their voters are people who aren't pleased with what's happening in their countries and want to change it for the better. There's no need for center-left parties to lie that their electoral opponents eat babies when their electoral opponents actually put children in cages.

In contrast, right wing parties overcome the inherent unpopularity of their revealed policy platforms (running on platforms of cutting taxes on the very rich while making life harder for the average person is not popular) by using disinformation to make a stated platform based on fabricated wedge issues. Hence, the imaginary convoys of South American migrants that were about to storm the US-Mexico border in 2018.

As such, restricting disinformation will have a partisan impact. Within the US, there is no Democratic equivalent to Qanon, so anti-disinformation measures that impact the likes of Qanon will have no impact on the Democratic party whatsoever.

Functioning societies must have zero tolerance for 'alternative facts.' Disagree over goals and interpretations, but facts must be accepted by all. Democracy requires an informed electorate and there can be no functioning democracy when one side is free to invent its own version of reality.

bleepblorp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The only reason measures to curb disinformation would have a partisan impact is because conservative parties (throughout the industrialized world, not just in the US) use disinformation strategies far, far more than do other parties.

Center-left/left parties use reality to galvanize their base voters into action. Their voters are people who aren't pleased with what's happening in their countries and want to change it for the better. There's no need for center-left parties to lie that their electoral opponents eat babies when their electoral opponents actually put children in cages.

In contrast, right wing parties overcome the inherent unpopularity of their revealed policy platforms (running on platforms of cutting taxes on the very rich while making life harder for the average person is not popular) by using disinformation to make a stated platform based on fabricated wedge issues. Hence, the imaginary convoys of South American migrants that were about to storm the US-Mexico border in 2018.

As such, restricting disinformation will have a partisan impact. Within the US, there is no Democratic equivalent to Qanon, so anti-disinformation measures that impact the likes of Qanon will have no impact on the Democratic party whatsoever. This, however, isn't a bad thing.

Functioning societies can have zero tolerance for 'alternative facts.' Disagree over goals and interpretations, but facts must be accepted by all. Democracy requires an informed electorate and there can be no functioning democracy when one side is free to invent its own version of reality.

nemothekid(10000) 6 days ago [-]

disinformation is a dog whistle for censorship, but fake news is...?

Censorship for thee but not for me.

colinmhayes(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Well yea, the left wants misinformation to be labeled/censored because they're no willing to lie like the right does. Once the left catches on to the need o create their own fake news you'll see this from both sides.

gjsman-1000(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If I was a Twitter or Facebook investor, I have one question:

What did you expect was going to happen?

Honestly. Did nobody have the foresight at Facebook or Twitter to think that this wouldn't blow up? Did nobody think, just once, that this might invite regulatory action or be in news headlines?

And if honestly nobody thought this might happen, I'd want the entire management and 'safety' team replaced for having no foresight for their actions whatsoever.

likeafox(10000) 6 days ago [-]

What's the probability that the story they're blocking is 100% bullshit? And if they have evidence or signals of that, does that weigh in to your opinion on their intervention?

vl(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Pitchforks are out, once current election circus is over, they will come for FB, Twitter and YouTube. Politicians on either side are scared and don't want such strong entities have control over information.

lumost(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Regulation of online media is all but inevitable.

Historically all media sources were directly compared by individuals and groups. You used to get the paper from a news stand/paper boy and could glance at all the headlines in comparison to each other, your colleagues knew what the tabloids were running and what the different takes on the headlines were. In the radio and TV age, a small number of commentators were directly compared by channel surfers on the nightly news.

We're now in an unfortunate scenario where individuals only see algorithmically curated bubbles of news and facts that reinforce their world views regardless of those facts correspondence to reality. They've elected politicians that parrot those facts and world views back to them.

Breaking down these bubbles or removing the peddlers of alternate facts is required for a functional society (as well as a healthy platform). Neither of these actions is likely to be well received by all parties.

History does not look kindly on governments that denied reality.

SpicyLemonZest(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They probably expected it would go over like the Alex Jones thing or the warning messages on Trump's tweets, with a brief burst of interest followed by adjustment to the new consensus that some censorship is justified for the sake of social harmony. (And they may yet be right - there were headlines about those two things too.)

cft(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The just consequence should be that they should be considered publishers, rather than the republishers. And thus lose their 230 protection from civil litigation.

trident1000(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They are utilities at this point I hope they get treated this way. The monopolistic public square of debate cant have kings in charge.

Also can you imagine what would happen if big tech oligopolies teamed up with one political party for a 'I scratch your back you scratch mine' situation. You could have a 1 party political system for eternity and essentially remove the democratic system.

The threat of big tech oppression is significant. And if you watched the movie 'the social dilemma' the oppression and political strong arming by big tech is already happening in countries outside the US.

fennecfoxen(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Also in this category of 'did you actually think this through':

Andy Stone, of the Facebook communications department, calling for fact checks while gloating about reducing its circulation.


(n.b. 'gloating' is interpretation — if it is not the case that this is gloating then a key problem is that this tweet leaves itself very open to this interpretation.)

tboyd47(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They probably have been doing this for a while, and this was just the first time they got called out for it.

Regulatory action has been in the works for some time. Whether or not it goes through depends only on politics. The mainstream media already doesn't like them for eating their lunch. Twitter has nothing to lose by doing this. It will damage Facebook's brand identity as being a 'free speech' platform, but that's about as factual as Google's 'don't be evil' brand or Apple's 'privacy first' brand.

Arthanos(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This post has a very odd tone, as if a private company enforcing their policy to remove unverified & leaked personal correspondence of a private citizen is some unquestionable moral wrongdoing that's apparently going to blow up. Surprised to see this as at the top, on HN.

National Review is a conservative wing-nut website trying to turn this non-story into fuel for their censorship culture war.

Karunamon(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This was a shockingly dumb move. Whether or not you think these actions were politically motivated or made in good faith, it just poured liquid oxygen on the 'reform section 230' fire you're seeing from both sides of the aisle - one using the censorship reason, the other using the disinformation reason.

There's no way you don't block a newspaper, and the press secretary, and prevent anyone from even private messaging the link to each other, and blocking people who share screenshots, and not invite serious scrutiny or action.

The legislative blowback is going to suck. Section 230 is an ordinary law, not a constitutional right or based on one, and that means it's exposed to all the usual political fighting.

afrojack123(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I have figured it out why this move was done despite being stupidly obvious. It is done to provide cover for the next thing Section 230 repealed. Section 230 provides immunity for website publishers from third party content. By repealing section 230, big social media tech gets an even larger monopoly but that's not the reason why this happened. There are lot of people on these social media platforms who are behind the scenes worker type of people. They know how things work and run their mouth freely. Somebody predicted Kamala Harris as VP 1 and 1/2 years out. The politicians can't risk losing control.

excerionsforte(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If you violate rules, you will be banned. They were found to be violating rules, but were treated leniently compared to lower profile users who distribute illegal materials.

This is not new. You will be censored or banned on Hacker News for not following rules. You will not see the distribution of the NY Post's material on this site.

I applaud them for enforcing rules, but not for being lenient with these actors. Free Speech has limits especially in someone elses' house, you should all know this.

Furthermore Reform Section 230 is political crap going nowhere. Any invokation of that here is political nonsense.

ausjke(10000) 6 days ago [-]

the new media moves are building up for a possible civil war

iamsb(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I dont understand the shock.Just 4 years a staffer suspended Donald Trumps account and was considered a hero. So it is not at all surprising that twitter does this sort of policing.

vonmoltke(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> and prevent anyone from even private messaging the link to each other

I can't find this stated anywhere except HN posts. What is the original source for this?

iovrthoughtthis(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is there any potential benefit for fb in having Section 230 reformed?

JumpCrisscross(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> it just poured liquid oxygen on the 'reform section 230' fire you're seeing from both sides of the aisle - one using the censorship reason, the other using the disinformation reason

The GOP is prioritizing § 230 reform. Given their likely fall from power and prioritization of the SCOTUS confirmation, as well as Democrat control of the House and its focus on stimulus bills, the short-term threat is minute.

From an amoral government relations perspective, heavier moderation makes sense. A Biden spoof going viral during the election would attract the attention of incoming Democrat legislators. That creates a medium-term threat where there isn't one.

That said, I'm surprised they chose to block the content over de-prioritise it algorithmically and flag it with a warning.

AzzieElbab(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Given the scope of it, I have to assume some outside pressure was applied. WH speaker is banned off Twitter ffs

heisenbit(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I would not characterize this story as speech but as carefully designed viral marketing content. If one is in the business of attracting people speaking with each other and selling that access to companies and political parties then dealing with viral content intended to undermine your sales is a continuous struggle. This one was deemed over the line and a case of potentially Russian disinformation laundering.

When looking at the legalities keep in mind that these companies have been explicitly warned by the F.B.I. of such possibilities and have spent time combing through their own databases and have identified such events.

jeremyjh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I agree they blundered here. They don't want to be hijacked by another 'leaks' story days before the election but now the suppression of this has become the entire story, and its convinced a lot of people the story is true and dangerous to Biden. Even if the email is true I don't see how its dangerous and if the only media carrying the story are the NY Post and Fox it doesn't hurt Biden.

nimbius(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>There's no way you don't block a newspaper, and the press secretary, and prevent anyone from even private messaging the link to each other, and blocking people who share screenshots, and not invite serious scrutiny or action.

If Biden becomes president, his 2018 quid-pro-quo admission to fire a Ukranian prosecutor is all the assurance social media companies need that Biden would likely ignore calls for reform to section 230. At worst, its a bold gamble social media companies appear to be taking in the face of the Trump administrations almost certain intent to reform.

raxxorrax(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Didn't Twitter and Google already stated they want regulation? They are one of the few companies that actually can facilitate any form of large scale content scanning. Such mechanisms take years to develop if you even get the critical data needed.

learnstats2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>There's no way you don't block a newspaper

This explains why individual billionaires bought all the newspapers.

DSingularity(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Companies which spend millions on counsel every year are not going to blunder. They either have anterior motives (boost the story through censorship) or they had no choice.

I don't know what to think anymore because I don't understand how this censorship will have any effect other than causing the story to spread like fire.

afrojack123(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I agree. It was extremely dumb and obvious. TOO OBVIOUS. What are the politicians and social media tech companies trying to get out of section 230?

rbecker(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm sure they've learned their lesson, and next time it won't be a ban, but a difficult-to-prove reduction in visibility.

bduerst(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Eh, I don't think it's going to have the impact you think it will.

The major criticism for S230 is that social media companies are rampant with fake news, and not doing enough to combat misinformation. If anything, it gives FB and Twitter a defense against an accusation of spreading political misinformation.

CyberRabbi(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Freedom of speech should be a civil right and I hope that's the result of this. No entity should be allowed to censor speech.

fooey(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There won't be legislative blow back, the GOP is days away from being wholesale evicted from controlling anything at all in DC.

As a legislative move, this is changing their bet to the horse that's about to win. The social media companies are clearly more afraid longterm of what happens if they let this kind of stunt spread than they are afraid of the lame duck.

libraryatnight(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is this censorship? My understanding is they held it for review, that just seems responsible? Also it seems like the NY Post article is highly suspect, so again, this seems responsible. Especially given echoes of a previous email 'bombshell' that proved to be absolutely nothing after the damage was done? I just don't know what people want, they want FB to stop misinformation, but not step on anyone's speech? Also I see lots of cries this is partisan, but not seeing many credible examples, so if you're going to what-about on this please give sources. This thread is filled with claims of double standards and no links.

We always hear the adage about free speech and screaming fire in a crowded theater; facebook is a crowded theater and we have a lot of people trying to yell fire.

woo49(10000) 6 days ago [-]

a. They had the same information as everyone else, so what would they figure out in their 'review' that readers wouldn't?

B. It's really the double standard that is the problem here. If you do it do it for this then do it for everything else, including the myriad stories about Trump that are posted based on 'rumors', 'leaks', anonymous sources etc. Whether you like Trump or not should not matter if you are honest with yourself!

Funny thing is, this story was not 'trending' on twitter but the meta story (totally with no evidence) that this was the result of Russian hackers who gave the content to Rudy was trending! That tells you everything about why this is so inconsistent and thus either grossly incompetent or malicious.

annexrichmond(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Facebook also censors joebiden.info in private messages

paganel(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Works for me on the desktop version, i.e. it isn't censored, I haven't checked though in their direct Facebook Messenger app. Also, am not from the US, have sent the joebiden.info link for testing to my gf who's also not from the US.

rat87(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Good for Twitter for doing the right thing

Karunamon(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Did they do the right thing? By engaging in the censorship of a large newspaper and at least one politician, the resulting streisand effect amplified the message far beyond what it would have gotten had they left it alone.

If the goal was to suppress disinformation, they failed miserably.

lettergram(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Reminds me of why I wrote this chrome extension a few years back (uses Keybase for now):


Basically, you can encrypt a message over any medium (facebook, twitter, email, etc.). Wasn't super secure by any means, but the media companies wouldn't know what's being shared.

Honestly, I might rework it (not utilizing keybase). I think I can make it decentralized and / or super easy to use. It's already pretty much plug-and-play provided you know the recipients email.

arminiusreturns(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've always thought this might be a great approach in limited situations (using encryption over unencrypted public 'channels'). Kudos to you for the project, even if it didn't get much traction.

rectang(10000) 6 days ago [-]

For a counterpoint on why this story is likely BS: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/fivepoints/5-points-on-why-the...

partiallypro(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It likely is BS, but not definitely. Even some of the points in the TPM article aren't very strong (I'm sorry, but journalists mocking the story isn't a point.) But, even if it is, it's not the role of Facebook to decide it is or isn't, when it is not verify-ably false. Instead they should just elevate critics of the article/scoop like the article you linked.

smokebutnofire(10000) 6 days ago [-]

A few things take make these emails a bit more credible:

1. 'And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kiev. And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn't.

So they said they had — they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I'm not going to — or, we're not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You're not the president. The president said — I said, call him. I said, I'm telling you, you're not getting the billion dollars. I said, you're not getting the billion. I'm going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I'm leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you're not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.'

- Joe Biden on a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating Burisma, the firm that paid Hunter Biden. (source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCF9My1vBP4&t=78s)

2. The photos of Hunter Biden with a crack pipe that were included. (Scroll down: https://www.the-sun.com/news/1629764/joe-biden-hunter-emails...)

TigeriusKirk(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Which of these points do you find persuasive?

srtjstjsj(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Sorry, but TPM is extremely partisan and must be recused as a source in this discussion.

jcadam(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't think facebook and twitter would have acted this quickly and this brazenly if it were 100% BS. This reaction just reeks of 'Oh @#$!! Kill it!'

fullshark(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Sounds like an open debate on the story on an app that imagines itself as a modern day town square would have been useful.

eranimo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Really confused why right-wing disinformation is trending on Hacker News

esja(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Tech censorship is extremely relevant to many people here, both professionally and personally.

spoopyskelly(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Don't worry, it will go back to left-wing disinformation with the next news cycle.

bgorman(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The fact that this article is flagged is alarming. This is a relevant news story directly related to how technology companies influence public perception.

Like it or not, the New York Post is a widely distributed newspaper in the US.

Once the precedent for censoring a newspaper has been established there is nothing stopping facebook for censoring more 'upscale' conservative newspapers like the WaLl Street Journal or the Financial Times.

collective-intl(10000) 7 days ago [-]


I don't know why you are being downvoted, I think HN's flagging system is another way we are being censored.

Just this summer, I remember multiple articles with important, true contributions to our understanding of covid that got flagged.

We are losing the ability to consider multiple sides of an issue.

donatj(10000) 6 days ago [-]

But they didn't block stories about Trump's stolen tax returns? Is there any sort of non-political justification?

aeortiz(10000) 6 days ago [-]

because they could be verified.

riffic(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The ActivityPub standard and network exists. Nothing (absolutely nothing) is stopping the tabloid from running its own instance on nypost.com

edit: and I wanted to reply to a comment here referring to section 230 but their comment got flagged and I am unable to reply to them. Not really sure why it was flagged but whatever, HN does what it does.

My reply to that commenter would be that there is nothing stopping Congress-critters from standing up their own ActivityPub infra as well. A 'congress.gov' presence on the Fediverse would look pretty spiffy.

the_only_law(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Not really sure why it was flagged but whatever, HN does what it does.

If you truly beleive the comment didn't deserve to be flagged (this does unfortunately happen sometimes, especially on threads like this) you can vouch for it if you have showdead on

Historical Discussions: Dropbox Converts to Permanent WFH (October 15, 2020: 852 points)

(852) Dropbox Converts to Permanent WFH

852 points 6 days ago by jeffbee in 10000th position

www.businessinsider.com | Estimated reading time – 3 minutes | comments | anchor

  • Dropbox just announced it would allow all employees to work from home permanently.
  • The company initially ordered staff to work from home in March, during the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in the US.
  • The company plans to convert its existing offices to coworking spaces to aid in team building and collaboration.
  • 'While we know we may not get it 100% right immediately, we wanted to take this opportunity to fundamentally redesign how we work, and be more intentional and prescriptive with the guidance we're giving to our employees,' a Dropbox spokesperson told Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Dropbox is going remote — permanently.

The cloud-storage company announced Tuesday it would allow all employees to work from home going forward. The shift comes after an internal survey found nearly 90% of Dropbox workers said they were more productive at home.

'Starting today, Dropbox is becoming a Virtual First company,' the company said in a blog post. 'Remote work (outside an office) will be the primary experience for all employees and the day-to-day default for individual work.'

Dropbox initially ordered employees to work from home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in March.

The company will convert its existing real estate into flexible coworking spaces called Dropbox Studios, where employees can choose to go in to work. These spaces are primarily for team building and collaboration, not for 'solo work.'

The company said since this approach is 'brand new,' the program could change depending on feedback from staff.

'While we know we may not get it 100% right immediately, we wanted to take this opportunity to fundamentally redesign how we work, and be more intentional and prescriptive with the guidance we're giving to our employees,' a Dropbox spokesperson told Business Insider.

Dropbox has offices in San Francisco, Seattle, Dublin, and Austin, Texas, but said it may build more flexible studios in other areas.

The company will also allow for greater employee relocation outside cities where there are offices. To help employees in different time zones work together, the company will allow each worker to decide their own work hours.

Dropbox joins Twitter and Atlassian as major firms that have allowed all employees to permanently work from home. Others, like Microsoft and Facebook, said a portion of their workforce would be remote forever.

If you have information you'd like to share, you can reach the author at [email protected].

Loading Something is loading.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

mam2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

So it's been definetely proven that WFH is cheaper for compagnies ?

jjmarinho(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Dropbox has 2500~ employees, and obviously this is just an anouncement. In some years we will have a clearer understanding of the tradeoffs.

My suspicion is that companies that will fully embrace the 'internet way' of doing things will have success.

geerlingguy(10000) 6 days ago [-]

...and that managers don't need to be hovering around their employees in close physical proximity to make sure they do work?

gilrain(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Certainly. Why rent office space when you can commandeer your employees' private property?

turing_complete(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Working in an office will be a major competitive advantage in the years to come.

loco5niner(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Just one mans opinion.

gdulli(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Do you mean the increased productivity will be the competitive advantage, or they'll have a recruitment advantage to be able to attract candidates with a comfortable work space so they're not stuck at home? As a hypothetical candidate in my next job search whenever that is, I'll definitely be wanting the latter.

FlyingSnake(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Companies who go permanent WFH must be saving a fortune on leasing space costs. If these savings don't make it to the employees who're using their private space for office work for free, then it's really bad.

gdulli(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's not like the commercial leases all ended overnight. By the time many of those leases are done, the world will be on track towards normalcy instead of away from it, and people will be dying to get out of the house and interact with other people regularly again. Permanent WFH will eventually become an artifact of covid time like mask usage.

lotsofpulp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

What if they make it to customers in the form of lower pricing?

lysium(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Leasing is only a small fraction of the costs compared to salaries, though.

johnward(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not only will they save money on office space but many of these companies are requiring employees to take pay cuts if they move to a lower cost area. Like all the sudden your value to the company changes because you moved?

michaelt(10000) 6 days ago [-]

As far as I'm concerned, saving an hour of commute each day more than covers the costs of a desk and using a bit more electricity :)

jjmarinho(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's not a zero sum game. WFH can simultaneously save money for the company and for the employees.

jeffbee(10000) 6 days ago [-]

In the steady state your point is right, but transiently a lot of companies are holding the bag right now. Dropbox specifically just built a 770000-square-foot headquarters in San Francisco which, let's face it, they didn't need in the first place (they were already trying to sublease 100k sq ft before COVID). Now they're marketing 1/3rd of that space into a massive glut of unwanted SF office space.

Graph of SF office space availability: https://socketsite.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/San-Franci...

tinyhouse(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I would love to see a chart showing number of applications they receive before this announcement and after. I'm guessing they gonna be swamped with resumes today.

It was clear that it's going to be a domino effect. Each time another tech company moves to permanent WFH it puts more pressure on other companies to do the same. They wouldn't be able to compete for talent otherwise. FANNG can still compete without moving to permanent WFH because of their reputation, salary and benefits, and the fact they have offices everywhere. But most companies cannot.

ck425(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think the effect will reverse after a while. Sure a lot of folk want remote jobs but there'll also be plenty of folk at Dropbox and following companies who want an office and will start looking elsewhere following covid.

jonahhorowitz(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This could be read as: 'Dropbox shifts the cost of office space onto it's employees.'

ashtonkem(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Kind of. It depends how much people are expected to return to the office for team syncs. If you have to go into the office once a quarter, you can relocate to a more affordable area if you want to.

With WFH being permanent I'm about to move out of my 2bd apartment into a 5bd house all while saving large amounts of money. This is a win for all parties; work pays less for an office and I pay less for better housing.

ajsnigrutin(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Meh... working from home for 3 days a weak is great... all the time, really sucks (for me atleast).

Yu miss all the fun with coworkers, all the fun side projects, productive or not...

..on the other hand, working from home, especially when they promote 'whenever you feel like it', means you're 'on call' all the time. Having 'core hours' (eg 10-15h, weekdays) and having everybody available then (for calls, meetings, skypes,...) is ok, but I imagine this will mean ealy morning and late night calls and tasks, and workers will never be able to fully separate work and free time.

omegam(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Anecdotally, but having done 100% WFH for over a year now, I think the first point depends a lot on company culture. We're given explicit permission to use work hours to play games/hang out together, specifically because of the lack of traditional social structures. In the same vein, we're given regular time to work on work-related projects of our choosing.

It definitely doesn't work for some people, but a lot of problems I've seen people bring up can be rectified by the employer. Some of them can't be, but those that can shouldn't be expressed as fact.

blakesterz(10000) 6 days ago [-]

here's the orginal: https://blog.dropbox.com/topics/company/dropbox-goes-virtual...

This was interesting: 'Next, we're embracing what we call "non-linear workdays." We're setting core collaboration hours with overlap between time zones, and encouraging employees to design their own schedules beyond that.'

I've been WFH for about 8 years and have found this just happens naturally. At least for us it did. My team is in 3 different timezones and do work for people in 9 timezones. There is no '9-5', it's just not practical.

MAGZine(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Depends how you build your teams.

I'm working with people across the globe, no doubt a circumstance of a thousand small decisions. Scheduling some meetings is 100% impossible, and often times it involves taking meetings early (7-8AM) or late (7-9PM) in order to make things work.

Even if you carve out time during the day to compensate for those, it's not what I would describe as 'practical.'

jeffbee(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Dropbox, like all other tech companies where I worked, was already completely informal about office hours. Some people would arrive at noon, others would be leaving.

dustinmoris(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Slack + Dropbox: Let's embrace WFH

Microsoft: Getting tired of WFH.

Shows who really believes in their own 'Team' tools and remote working software :)

enumjorge(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not sure what you're talking about. Microsoft came out with their plans to let employees work remotely days ago. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24728887

blocked_again(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Funny thing about Slack is they had a super strict no remote policy before covid. If they had really believed their tools they would have allowed WFH even before covid. Now they don't really have a choice to not WFH.

geerlingguy(10000) 6 days ago [-]

WFH saves money for the company, I just hope that some of the expensive (to the company) perks like prime real estate, free meals, exercise programs, etc. can be translated into at least a minimal budget per employee of: Internet connection reimbursement, annual budget for workspace improvements (ideally with a large initial budget, like $1000 or more for desk, monitor, chair, etc.), and possibly some other perks.

But it will likely just be on the employee to pay for all these things, and the companies will reap the benefits.

mxcrossb(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I wonder if the tax implications are more complex since the employee can presumably keep that equipment after clocking out (or quitting)

boulos(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Interestingly, the commissioned study opens with a productivity argument being much more than any of those perks:

> Loss of focus due to distractions translates to an estimated annual salary cost of US$34,448 per person in lost productivity, or US$391bn for US companies in the sectors analysed, equivalent to 28% of baseline salary payments

jojo2333(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Employee salaries are by FAR the largest expense for these companies.

Office rent is nothing in comparison.

Companies will make decisions based on employee productivity, which IMO, means having people in an office.

pimterry(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Interestingly, Spain has already started on regulating to handle this. An english-language writeup: https://english.elpais.com/economy_and_business/2020-06-26/f...

In short, for remote working employees (any employee that spends >30% of their time working outside an employer-designated office/client site/etc over 3+ months), all employers must have a written contract with the employee, that must:

* Define the tools & workspace necessary to provide a sufficient & safe workspace, for which the employer must cover any costs

* Define working hours (with some requirements on flexibility)

* Be voluntary, in both directions (employers can't fire people who don't want to change to remote work, employees aren't entitled to remote work if employers don't agree)

* Detail how, if at all, the employee's productivity might be monitored, and do so with reasonable regard to privacy and ability to disconnect from work

* Ensure equal treatment of on-site & remote employees, including pay, job stability, promotions, etc.

There's some caveats in there for force majeure, such that this doesn't immediately apply for the unavoidable remote setups created by COVID, but will apply for ongoing remote work where that continues in future.

jopsen(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I somehow don't feel sorry if overpaid tech workers, like me, have to buy a desk and chair. It's not like you need new office furniture very often.

savanaly(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>But it will likely just be on the employee to pay for all these things, and the companies will reap the benefits.

Not for long, surely. Workers' productivity has presumably not changed much and the companies remain in fierce competition for employees so why would a drop in de facto compensation be the new equilibrium?

dubcanada(10000) 6 days ago [-]

My company did internet reimbursement.

But most people don't know that there are massive tax benefits to working from home (at least in Canada) you can write off the percentage of your house you work in of your rent and stuff like that. That alone can equal a $1000 a year or so.

But from a company point of view, getting rid of the office is a massive save in money, so I suspect some will increase salaries or offer other perks such as skipthedishes accounts or what not. Most will just pocket it though.

rogerkirkness(10000) 6 days ago [-]

We give people $5k for setup (includes PC, though), reimburse cell and internet (and ask them to upgrade) and basically spare no expense on webcam, lighting and ethernet setup.

sgustard(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't remember companies passing those savings along when they moved from offices to cubicles to save money.

Wowfunhappy(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Wouldn't it be easier to compensate for these costs via salary increases? Not everyone will have the same needs, and attempting to track everyone's expenses seems more complicated than necessary.

Although, come to think of it, it might make sense to mark some amount of money as an 'equipment stipend' or similar on paychecks. That way, it's clear to both parties what the funds are intended for, even if there's no actual mandate on how to spend them.

d3ntb3ev1l(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Trello has been remote first from start and doing just fine.

randomsearch(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Trello's UX is awful. I wonder if there's a correlation between remote and poor UX? I can think of other examples of famous remote companies with bad UX.

sequoia(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm very curious how we're going to look back on this moment in 3 or 5 years time. Is 'let's try WFH' the corporate equivalent of 'let's try an open marriage' for couples on the rocks, i.e. a 'beginning of the end?'

Just wildly speculating here, the result could be the opposite. But it strikes me as possible that this could been seen in retrospect as a damaging trend, sort of like open offices.

jarjoura(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think the whole tech industry is working from home right now, so no one is missing out by some folks in an office and others at home. Once the extroverted folks start migrating back to the office and people start having FOMO, I think then we can have the debate about what happens next. Right now it's all just speculation.

Also, once the kids go back to school and single people move back to the city or new suburb, where things open back up, this will also play into the debate.

Why work from home when you can venture to the office (or corporate co-working space), find a little nook and work with fast internet, free snacks and a change of scenery.

hourislate(10000) 6 days ago [-]

These companies think they're some kind of trend setters or they're embracing some kind of new way to work, Nokia was doing this back in the early 2000's in the Americas. No one had a desk unless you needed one. Otherwise you came in sat down where ever you liked, plugged in and went to work. You decided your hours, you decided when you came in or worked from home. They also subsidized your home Internet connection by about 50-60%. They had complete respect and trust in the individual.

Took a Pandemic to change these companies minds about WFH or flex schedules, etc.

ck425(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I really hope hot desking doesn't become a thing. I love having my own desk that's setup as I like it.

rossdavidh(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yahoo also went for WFH in a big way, until a CEO change and they did an about-face. It will be interesting to see how many of these companies 'do a Yahoo' in a year or two.

akeck(10000) 6 days ago [-]

One thing I've been wondering about is RSI liability with WFH. Some companies spend a significant amount on workplace ergonomics to prevent/manage RSI. WFH, though, is a much less controlled environment. E.g., a particular worker may not have the physical space for the recommended special equipment.

RSI: Repetitive Strain Injury

pyrophane(10000) 6 days ago [-]

While that may be true of some companies, it has not bee my experience. In most of my jobs if I had an ergonomic setup it was because I took responsibility for it myself and asked for all the things I needed to make it happen.

Vrondi(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Since you are otherwise liable for the safety of your own home (if you own it), then this should be no different. You're responsible for your own bed/couch/etc's ergonomics, and also for your own home office. Like, it's your house.

bryanlarsen(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Permanent WFH will allow Dropbox to more heavily dogfood their own product.

randomsearch(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's a good advert for their own product. I wonder how much that fed into the decision - "encourage the trend that feeds us".

rcpt(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Outsourcing used to not work. But now it might. I'm more than a little bit concerned.

balfirevic(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The future is looking exciting indeed!

superfamicom(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I would not under estimate the value of a shared 'life culture', and not just 'work culture' as expectations don't always line up with reality when having an office in a truly different culture. Sometimes it is amazing, other times it is a difficult situation from my experience.

geuis(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This idea of the future of work being permanently changed is really prevalent right now. It's not going to be. Future of work, that is.

We're in the middle of the storm right now. We've all been bailing water for 7 months or so, and lots of people think that we'll be bailing water forever now, even after the storm clears.

I'd wager that within a couple years at most of COVID being squashed, most if not all the companies declaring themselves remote-first and remote-permanent will reverse those policies. Despite the added costs, there are just too many advantages to offices.

jojo2333(10000) 6 days ago [-]


Companies which have offices will out-compete the rate of innovation for remote only.

Marissa Mayer, coming from Google, the first thing she did when she took the helm at Yahoo was reverse the WFH policy because execs realized it was a huge productivity loss.

a_imho(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Or the cat is out of the bag and people won't be able brush off remote anymore now that it has been demonstrated to work? Companies might be able to push the peons back to the salt mines but it is far from settled at this point.

hn_throwaway_99(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I guess it's not surprising but I am super disappointed by some of the comments here that show a total lack of empathy for people who aren't like you. I mean, you love working from home? Congrats, more power to you. But the number of comments stating that 'only people who are good at office politics like going to the office', 'only incompetent managers need to see you in person', 'your co-workers aren't your friends', etc. are, as I would generously put it, tone deaf.

For many (most?) people this has been the worst working situation of their lives, and attempts to minimize that are insulting. I believe it will be especially bad for those early in their careers, trying to find their footing, get mentorship, and build their network.

halfmatthalfcat(10000) 6 days ago [-]

My hypothesis is that WFH has been somewhat ostracized, generally, by companies for bad reasons that would otherwise benefit employees who find it beneficial.

The pendulum is now swinging in WFH's favor and those who it benefits want to cement it as a very viable and practical alternative to the traditional office model.

hn-throw-22(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think part of the issue is that the work from office advocates are more concerned about their needs and pushing their needs onto others who may have a different preference.

I hope in the future companies will allow people to work the way they prefer, whether that's in office, remote or something in between.

hombre_fatal(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I agree that the comments you've cited are a bit ridiculous.

But it's also important to acknowledge that pre-Covid, only a tiny fraction of jobs were remote at all. People who preferred remote work had very little choice in the matter. Our society assumes that commuting to work and sitting in a cubicle (or worse) is fitting for 99% of the work force.

So what I mainly see here aren't the comments you cite, but a 'ugh but I like the office', which gets very little sympathy from me in a society where, virus aside, the majority of jobs are office-only. Like, the world is already tipped in your favor.

To put it into perspective, I was so desperate for a fully remote job that I took a $50,000 salary for it when I was making $130,000 in Austin, Texas. Now I live in South America on a beach doing exactly what I want to be doing.

I don't like the optics of calling Covid a 'good thing', but it must be pointed out that it got offices (like my former job) that were adamantly ass-in-seat only to go remote-only. It spurred fundamental (hopefully lasting) shifts in our work culture. And a lot of them were a long time in the making and waiting. How many of these companies that were firmly ass-in-seat are now fully or mostly remote realizing that the sky isn't falling? I hope we reach a better equilibrium.

Ideally our employment options would have something for everyone without you needing to go for a $50k job to get what you want. Another culture change I'd like is for WFH options to come with a signing bonus to get your home office sorted out, something that's sorely lacking.

Def_Os(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I recently pinged 2 co-workers for Friday afternoon remote 'water cooler calls'. I could send the relief when they had some informal time to vent and freely chat. I can recommend it wholeheartedly.

john4532452(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The one major reason i fully support remote work is, its effect on 'age bias'. You may be in your 20's and you may not feel the pressure. Once you hit 35+, you see age-bias everywhere. Its better to have job opportunities based on skill rather than how you look.

ccktlmazeltov(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Commuting is destroying cities (we give up space for cars, noise pollution, pedestrian streets, etc.), people (how much time do you lose in commute?), and the world (pollution).

Cars were invented in an era where cities were not as dense, and where jobs were mostly done in person. With the advent of the internet and personal computers, this is changing, that you want it or not.

stetrain(10000) 6 days ago [-]

See also all the posts about 'I had to work from home during a pandemic, with forced restrictions on other activities and social gatherings, while also home schooling my children and dealing with an inordinate amount of stress and disruption to my life, therefore I hate work from home and would never consider it given the choice.'

The last 6 months isn't really representative of why we should or should not be encouraging WFH, but it at least seems to have opened more doors to accommodating it as an option in companies that would have previously been against it.

rexreed(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Generalizations are often false. Including this one.

wuunderbar(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> I am super disappointed by some of the comments here that show a total lack of empathy for people who aren't like you.

I've noticed as of late HN has been riddled with comments such as: here is my extremely strong thoughts on X with my personal anecdotal experience Y, and therefore this is how the world should work.

> I believe it will be especially bad for those early in their careers

Agreed. I think it can be equally has bad for someone midway into their career who is thinking about taking on more leadership opportunities.

fpig(10000) 5 days ago [-]

My issue here is this is not really a honest conversation most of the time.

Wanting to work from home generally means just that, wanting to work from home. Not wanting to work from home however usually really means 'I don't want others to be able to work from home', it's about taking options away from other people. The exception being people who don't want to work from home because they have a pack of screaming children at home, etc - in their case saying they don't want to work from home is actually honest.

Your comment is a good example. For your perceived issues to be resolved, we need to make other people work at the office. The idea that others shouldn't have the option to work from home because them being at the office helps someone else build their network is not something I can agree with.

varispeed(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Not sure why working in office isn't considered a luxury? You are literally making your whole team commute from various parts of the city just to have a face to face contact. Mind you that this arrangement has been created because in the past there was no way to effectively communicate, but now this is no longer a problem, therefore commuting is just a thing from the past that some people are too attached to, akin to preferring listening to vinyl instead of Tidal or something. Why people should live in the past? That ship has sailed.

dimator(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think no one is thinking past 'but I'm more productive!', that's including employers and employees.

Productivity is not the be-all end-all of a career! Human interaction (of any kind) is important, 'wasting' time going to lunch with colleagues is important, serendipitous encounters at the coffee machine are important.

I know for certain if my employer decides to go permanent remote, I'll be looking for another employer. This is not the way I want to live and work.

this_na_hipster(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I completely agree. Additionally, as someone in the thread pointed out, this decision really doesn't make sense by Dropbox. You have a series of problems that I can't see a solution for.

1) If we have Dropbox Studios, who dictates the frequency of those visits? If a manager dictates, there will be resentment of some sorts. If its a democratic vote, what about the people that can't make that date?

2) Assuming the dates have been finalized, the people that cannot make that date are at a disadvantage. They might not be in driving distance to a hub or for other reasons. That would mean information again has to be propagated back virtually for all members.

3) If a date is set and all the necessary people have come together, is it essentially a company day off? If the goal is to meet and talk to people without doing solo-work, I would assume its filled with meetings or events. If this is true, this doesn't make sense to do it too frequently. If done infrequently, it defeats the purposes of these studios.

All of the thoughts so far don't even go through the cliques / groups that would form that can be gatekeepers of information for true remote workers that can't meetup.

Smithalicious(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Many people who thrive working from home have been forced to work in the office for their entire career and are now VERY driven on defending their improved working conditions.

haswell(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Thank you for highlighting this. As others have said, I could not agree more.

As a Product Manager, working remotely 100% of the time is absolute hell. And I say this as someone who was already working from home ~70% of the time before (and I was mostly ok with that).

I also wanted to pick on a few of the categories you mentioned:

> 'only incompetent managers need to see you in person'

Some of the best work I've done is when I'm able to go brainstorm in a room with my leadership. Lacking the ability to do this as we plan our next release, or the next 3 year strategy or whatnot is extremely difficult.

Having competent management means that they understand when this is valuable and when it's not.

> 'your co-workers aren't your friends'

I hear this a lot, and I have to feel bad for people who have never experienced true friendship at work. At each of my jobs, I've made lifelong friends. Friends I've since vacationed with, stood up as a groomsman in a weeding for, etc. This is part of what made those jobs so rewarding.

I think the general thought is that 'jobs change, so that 'friend' might not be around next week', and that's true. But in my experience, if they're true friends, changing jobs doesn't change that.

This says more about me than anything, but where else am I going to meet friends?


All of this to say, in addition to being tone-deaf in light of the current reality in the world, these sentiments are also suspect under normal circumstances.

These things may be true for some people at their place of employment, or for them personally, but it's hard to understand where this comes from.

s9w(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Honestly at this point I would kindly suggest to just fire every employee they have, seeing that every update in the last year made the program worse. Last thing they pulled is making it impossible to pause syncing for more than 24h.

zinodaur(10000) 6 days ago [-]

what a nasty thing to say

throwaway98az8(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Context: I was in the interview pipeline before/when this announced, so I've gotten some additional clarification on the logistics.

I think this is strictly worse than providing employees with the option of where to work (office/remote/some WFH). Something missing in this announcement is that you still need to live in one of the main cities with offices (SF, Seattle, Austin, Dublin) in order to receive full pay. Moving anywhere gets your pay adjusted to the 'local market'.

So to avoid a pay-cut you need to stay in an overpriced city, but you don't have a nice office with meals/snacks/nice desk setup that you can go to.

person_of_color(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Did you take the offer?

ndfbdf(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You can be within 100 miles of a main hub city and be paid within the same band. 100 miles from Seattle is quite a lot of options for instance that are not expensive.

And 'full pay' is relative to the cost of employment for each area. For instance the adjusted amount you would receive in say Kansas still is quite a lot for the area.

dlandis(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Well it's not necessarily a bad thing if the pay cut isn't too severe. Totally depends on what the adjustment is, and whether it's fair.

hinkley(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> but you don't have a nice office with meals/snacks

I was watching an interview recently, might have been buried in the middle of The Social Dilemma, where the speaker mentioned that this class of concierge service risks infantilizing people, and in particular in a time when code that young programmers author effects more and more of the population, that's dangerous.

The implication was that we need people to grow up. If they're going to be responsible (in the specific case), then they should be/get prepared to take responsibility (in the general case).

maerF0x0(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Ironically WFH, whilst being forced to a local actually makes it more expensive. You could live in a tiny studio when your office was available. So now you must rent a sufficient space to include your home office -- In a locale where the price per sq ft is higher.

someone invent a murphy bed that converts to a desk that converts to a toilet so our workforce can live in a space smaller than solitary confinement.

didip(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't understand the negative responses here.

At least for me, I want the company to treat me as an adult and trust that work can still get done well regardless where I am sitting.

This is a good move and upgrades Dropbox in my mind.

crayboff(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's for the same reason why people are negative about companies that require working from the office without any WFH. There are people who are established with their jobs and their teams who don't need to can just sit down at home and go. There are others who prefer the interaction and find themselves more efficient in a non-personal setting like an office.

The negativity is that many of these companies may start trending to a required work from home model as opposed to an optional/hybrid approach.

There is also a smaller worry that these companies will offload a lot of the cost to their employees (i.e. not paying for internet, space, food, etc) without compensating them for these perks that were otherwise promised/expected.

andrenatalbr(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I work for a remote first company for years, and they are now doing the same thing, and I hate not having an office so I can sit and code alone with proper infrastructure in a quiet manner. The company is basically offloading the office costs to employees. I'd appreciate if they give me a 20k stipend to invest on an Air conditioner unit for my house. The heat this year is being brutal in the Bay Area.

sushid(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I relented and got a portable unit for around $500. It's loud and nowhere as nice as an in-unit, but it's definitely been worth it IMO.

anonu(10000) 6 days ago [-]

WeWork still has a future...

I think companies will increasingly adopt this model as the 'big guys' (ie MSFT, AAPL, GOOGL etc..) start to give clarity to their employees that WFH will be the norm.

To counter-balance the solitude, offices will be team building destinations.

WeWork may transform itself into a 'business travel company' powered by technology of course. Companies will host off sites once or twice a month in different parts of the country - or the world - and WeWork is positioned to own the entire vertical of managing transportation, housing, event spaces, food...

geodel(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yep. With a super savvy investor like Softbank on their side they are ready to conquer the world.

swlkr(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The list as it stands for permanent remote work:

- Microsoft - Twitter - Facebook - Shopify - Slack - Upwork

disgruntledphd2(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Facebook's remote policy is for senior (e5+) engineers in the US only right now, conditional on manager approval.

Hilariously enough, they used to allow this kind of remote till 2018, when they killed it.

It's the circle of reactive tech decisions, I guess.

hintymad(10000) 6 days ago [-]

In the early days of Dropbox, engineers went to really loud bars late in the night, and them settled their designs in the bar with god-knows how much drink. This culture made it really hard for engineers with a family, or for those like me who simply hate, I mean really hate, noisy place or excessive drinking.

Well, I guess this WFH policy would help leveling the playground. Bar culture sucks.

batmenace(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Wouldn't the WFH culture also encourage (post-COVID) a lot of informal meetings, people getting together in coffee shops, bars etc to discuss things in person?

puranjay(10000) 6 days ago [-]

As someone who has worked from home for a decade, I predict a mental health apocalypse in the near future. Working from home permanently requires support infrastructure not everyone has access to. It also requires a different approach to work altogether which, again, not everyone is capable of adopting.

If you have family, work from home is great. But if you're single, staying cooped up alone at home can be a disaster.

baron_harkonnen(10000) 6 days ago [-]

What's also becoming very apparent is how many people use work as a means to escape an unhappy home life.

Things like an unhappy marriage can be dealt with by being at the office a lot, or working at home in a big enough home that you can remain isolated. The current situation forces a lot of these issues to come to a boil.

Even if you're just unhappy with who you are and what 'home' means for you, being forced to deal with it can be rough. Work is to many workaholics the same way a bar is to alcoholics. It's a place where a coping mechanism becomes not just a way to deal, but a sign of success.

loco5niner(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The better solution is to not have empty lives outside of work. I realize that's a hard problem to solve, but it's worth solving, and maybe WFH will help spark that change.

confidantlake(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There is already a disaster in being forced to go into the office for some of us. For those of with social anxiety issues, being forced to come into the office every day is incredibly stressful. I haven't had a single panic attack since we went remote for Covid. My mental outlook changed from struggling to get through the day to enjoying life.

fatnoah(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>If you have family, work from home is great.

Hah, I feel the opposite. Having my family at home is what makes WFH unbearable. I'm constantly exposed to the stress of getting a child through the hybrid learning school schedule.

I get absolutely no quiet time or alone time during the day, whereas my office has many quiet places for me to clear my mind for a few minutes.

johnward(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> But if you're single, staying cooped up alone at home can be a disaster.

During COVID I would say this is more of a problem but in my 8 years of remote work I don't really miss the office at all. In normal times you can get out if you want to head to a coffee shop or something. We do video calls which seems to help some of the team members feel better about the situation. Having a commute was absolutely the most stressful thing for me.

I do most of my socializing outside of working hours. Being alone and remote doesn't seem to effect me but I'm also super introverted. I understand this may effect extroverts differently.

thrownaway954(10000) 6 days ago [-]

not trying to sound like a dick...

everyone has to get out of the house and making actual friends in life. co-workers aren't friends, bosses aren't friends, clients aren't friends, work relationships aren't friends. we all need human interaction... join a club, a gym, yoga, bike club, whatever, just interact with people that doesn't involve talking about work. and sitting home and playing video games while good, isn't getting outside.

jedberg(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't think it's family vs not family. It's all about personality. To wit: If you're single, work from anywhere you want is great. But if you have a family, not having a place to escape the distractions of home life can be a disaster.

It's all just how you manage it. :)

aranelsurion(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I find this expectation really strange. It's like 'violence in games', if you refer to it everyone will nod, but how it became such a widely accepted fact is at best unclear.

I'm sure some cases of it happened somewhere, there are some papers, and some appeal to authority is a given, but do we really know if WFH equals mental health issues en masse?

For example, I wonder if: long commute, all the preparation before/after a work day, and resulting overall diminished free time causes more mental issues or not.

What about constant interruptions, loud neighbours and that white light above you, even though you'd rather have it yellow? All the inconveniences of sharing a place with other people, wouldn't any of this take a toll?

Seems to me when 'office' is heard everyone thinks of that one nice summer evening after work and had a few beers yada yada, nobody seems to remember that cold-ass winter day where you would rather stay in 5 levels of blankets yet had to go to office, then slipped on ice and landed on your ass.

Maybe it's true and WFH will turn most people to madness. I'm just saying it's not an established fact of life, and opposite is also very much possible.

rossdavidh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If you have family, work from home is great...sometimes. It depends on the people. Sometimes small children, or even adults, are better able to cope with you being occasionally gone, than with you being there, but don't bother them. You could end up either being continually interrupted, or else having to say some variant of 'stay away from me' to a loved family member. Neither is a good situation.

Not to mention that some people, for financial reasons, must live in places far too small to spend their waking lives in along with their sleeping lives.

jjice(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I can only speak from my experience, but being a single man living alone in a one bedroom after moving to a new city in January was absolutely awful. After spending two months in a new city, everything was immediately shut down and I was stuck working at home in my 13x13 room I rented.

The room I slept in was my office and my dining room as well, not to mention my entertainment room. Instead of seeing all my coworkers (who I was fond of) every day in the office, I now saw my small team during our 15 minute stand ups, which would only occur about 2 or 3 times a week. I saw the gas station clerks more.

I hated it, and I didn't really have a support system. I'm in my final year of university now (that work experience was an internship), and I will definitely look primarily for places that will have an actual office environment.

Ensorceled(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think we are already seeing it. I think the increased polarization I am seeing this US election cycle and here in Canada is partly due to this effect.

sylens(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm not so sure about that. 'This' WFH situation we are now in is very different from what a normal remote-only situation would be like after COVID times are over. People are at their wit's ends right now because they cannot do many of the things outside of work that they used to do. If you have a small child, you used to be able to take them with you on errands and impromptu meetups with other parents and families to break up the day and entertain them.

Now, many people carefully plan out these occasions to make sure they're not bringing anything back home to their own family members. The same can be applied to childcare and even senior care. In normal times, you wouldn't have your kids home all day to interrupt you and require help with schoolwork (or even logging into Zoom).

Additionally, I've found the hardest part of this year is that there just isn't much to look forward to on the weekends - no big group dinners to celebrate birthdays, no vacations to other cities, no bar nights with old friends.

ck425(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Anecdotal but this is exactly what has happened to me. I live alone and have been WFH since March. It's gotten harder and harder and since September I've had outright moderate depression. It's directly linked to WFH and living alone.

beardbound(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I completely agree. I'm single and have worked from home for years, minus a brief contracting gig in an office a few years ago. I made sure to make time for seeing people though. I have friends in my neighborhood and we would meet up for lunch or tea during the week and I would always go out on the weekends. With social distancing it's been really challenging.

I'm fortunate that I have friends that are also careful that live close to me that I can still see. It's not as safe as completely isolating, but I also weighed the risk of completely isolating myself from everyone and I decided that I had to be okay with a certain amount of risk of infection. People don't really talk about the death toll of mental health problems, but it's substantive in certain demographics. I keep telling my friends that you can't eliminate risk, just mitigate it to an amount that you're comfortable with, and that amount is different for everyone.

Complete isolation is not a sustainable plan. I've been looking at what my lifestyle is going to be like until we start getting this under control, which doesn't look like it's coming in the short to medium term.

gnicholas(10000) 6 days ago [-]

When companies say they're allowing permanent WFH, we have to consider this in the context of a non-covid world. After lockdowns are over, people who work from home will not be isolated to the same extent. They can go to a restaurant or park and eat lunch. They can see neighbors in-person. It will not be nearly as isolating as covid-induced WFH is.

golergka(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm single, and transition to WFH has made a great improvement to my social health.

Sure, all people need social interactions. But these interactions don't need to be defined by work. I work in caffe 10 meters from my apartment. Sit with laptop in the park. Meet with friends. I don't drive, don't use public transport, but walk an awful lot.

And thanks with great, mostly asynchronous communication at my workplace, I sleep as much as I want to, and work exactly when I feel like it, and never ever hear or see my colleagues — only text, mostly comments as opposed to instance messaging. Sometimes I just slack off for three days straight. Sometimes I go into work binge for a non-interrupted 20 hour refactoring session. Not even because there's some deadline, feeling of responsibility or any other kind of negative motivation like that — just because I enjoy it and don't want to stop!

I feel like I've been on vacation for the last three months, and yet repository stats show me that I'm more productive as I've ever been.

Oh, and the best thing about all of that? I live in a country with much lower cost of living than US, but thanks to headlines like this, I feel that I'll soon be competing for exactly the same jobs and salaries that SF engineers.

IncRnd(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> If you have family, work from home is great. But if you're single, staying cooped up alone at home can be a disaster.

Why should an employer be responsible for teaching people how to socialize with others?

MarcScott(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Adopt a pet, if you can.

My dog is my work buddy. He's always around, gives me an excuse to take a lunchtime walk, always available for cuddles when I need it. I have a family, that are with me in the evenings, but a pet during the day is a great companion.

nullsense(10000) 5 days ago [-]

>If you have family, work from home is great. But if you're single, staying cooped up alone at home can be a disaster.

I like the break from my family. I didn't get it during WFH. Enjoying being back in the office now.

It's all just different strokes.

Having some companies that choose to go all in on remote gives those people who it suits them some options and for those of us who prefer WFO we know to avoid those companies.

It's polarizing, so I think it's good if companies kinda just go one way or the other.

christiansakai(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Curious, what makes this move (and all the rest of the WFH companies) permanent? Won't in the future when things go back to normal the cities will pressure the companies to have their employees go back into offices to make the economy moving? You know, coffee shops, restaurants, etc need to survive.

jonahhorowitz(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't think the cities have a lot of leverage in this scenario.

0-_-0(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Why do they need to survive if they are not needed?

leetcrew(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> You know, coffee shops, restaurants, etc need to survive.

in general, yeah, but do the shops and restaurants that exist to serve downtown / office park workers need to survive? I'm not convinced that WFH changes the net demand for these services. if these businesses move away from places people commute to and move into places where people actually live, I would consider that an improvement. I'd much rather spend my food budget on happy hour at a local pub than a rushed 30 minute lunch.

ashtonkem(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The longer this goes, the more normalized it becomes. There's also the fact that some percentage of workers have made it very clear that they do not want to return to an office, and companies fear mass attrition to permanent WFH companies if they don't setup a release valve.

A VP recently told me that he expected 15-20% attrition if he demanded a return to the office once this is over.

On the coffee shop front, the most likely outcome is that remote workers will move to smaller cities away from NYC and coastal CA. Coffee shops and restaurants will still get patrons, but there will be more of them in Denver and Austin than SF and LA.

Ensorceled(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I didn't decrease how much I went to coffee shops and restaurants when I started working from home several years ago. That happened with COVID ...

almost_usual(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I would think San Francisco would be the only city really in trouble right now.

tinyhouse(10000) 6 days ago [-]

People will still go to coffee shops and restaurants. It's just that the location of those places will move from office hubs to residential neighborhoods. That's a good thing.

I'm sure co-working spaces will still have high demand so many office spaces would turn into that.

dhouston(10000) 6 days ago [-]

To be clear (if you only read the headline :)), not entirely remote. Solo work at home, collaborative work in 'studios', basically reimagining the offices into collaborative/convening spaces that you go into from ~once/week to once a quarter depending on team/role.

Remote-only cuts out the in-person experience entirely, which is problematic for building teams and culture; and ad hoc 'WFH whenever you feel like it' gets a sort of worst-of-both-worlds situation where you neither get the same kind of flexibility nor the sense of community you typically get from an office (since a large percentage of the team isn't there on any given day, and folks that come in the office less tend to be at a disadvantage in terms of visibility & recognition).

choppaface(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Am curious what sort of metrics and studies that Dropbox HR plans to do to assess this change. The current COVID-mandated WFH atmosphere is a lot different than how things were pre-COVID. In particular, there's the impact of children at home, and for ICs there's a special stigma (due to COVID) to support isolation. However, Dropbox's culture has always been uniquely supportive of IC independence during pre-COVID times despite the fancy office, 'Michelin Star' cafeteria, etc. Curious to see how the change is assessed, even if the detailed hypotheses supporting it are never fully explained.

derefr(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> collaborative work in 'studios', basically reimagining the offices into collaborative/convening spaces that you go into from ~once/week to once a quarter depending on team/role.

I'm forgetting their name for them, but IBM has been doing this for decades now. They buy up office space in every major city, and then, rather than permanently stationing any teams there, essentially make all such spaces into private-access coworking spaces.

In these IBM offices, there's cubicles, hot desks, and meeting rooms, all set up with runs of Intranet-accessible Ethernet + wi-fi + softphones; and you can either just drop in to work, or freely reserve any amount of these from the office's concierge for days/weeks/months at a time — for yourself, or for your entire team, if you've brought your whole team with you to another city/country to do a high-touch customer deployment or something.

At least in the office I went to (Burnaby BC), it was almost entirely empty most of the time. So there was plenty of spare "capacity" in this network for any random need a team or individual might have.

It's a very nice model. Slap an API on it and you could call it "elastic office-space IaaS." :)

johnward(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> which is problematic for building teams and culture;

Why? I've been remote for about 8 years. I don't think I've had any problems building relationships. The only thing you miss from the office is the time spent screwing around with co-workers. I guess you could consider that 'Team building'.

ashtonkem(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Like you, I am genuinely baffled by 'WFH 4 days a week' arrangements (as compared to 'WFH when you have errands that make it necessary', which is pretty common). If I have to come into the office 1 day a week, then I still have to foot the bill for a home office within driving range of the office, which sucks.

I think at once a quarter you're starting to look at the ability to live on the other side of the country and fly in when necessary, which I think is much more price efficient.

mmm_grayons(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> collaborative work in 'studios', basically reimagining the offices into collaborative/convening spaces that you go into from ~once/week to once a quarter depending on team/role.

Doesn't this also have the problem with neither flexibility nor community, especially for once a quarter? More importantly, this means that people now have to maintain their own home offices but still have to live close to a big city and pay the stupidly high costs associated with that.

nimchimpsky(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I mean that is your interpretation/experience of it. Mine is entirely different, which would be entirely different to others.

If your workspace can't handle wfh you have other issues imo

wtvanhest(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm sure you have talked to your exec team at length about the pluses and minuses of that type of structure. That structure feels like a great trade-off that gives employees enough flexibility to reduce their housing costs, while also keeping the culture in place.

Would you mind sharing some of the thoughts your team had while you explored the options available? It feels like such a good move IMHO, I'm very interested in learning how you got there.

bob33212(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I have done this for years. I have seen that some people don't like it for the following reasons.

1. They prefer a predictable schedule. 2. They don't like being at home ( family or workspace issues) 3. They are good at or enjoy office politics. 4. They are incompetent managers and they don't know how to manage engineers other than looking over shoulders and taking attendence.

boulos(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Thanks for highlighting the set of challenges (and also right near the top of the blog post).

Do you or the EIU intend to make the study results more broadly available? (There was a good discussion of Nick Bloom's recent surveys yesterday, and this would be a nice addition to that body of work)

Edit: it was in the blog post... https://lostfocus.eiu.com/

Edit 2: the survey writeup is great (and I've submitted it separately if people want to discuss that; Dropbox itself moving to remote allowed w/ studios is its own discussion)

ryanSrich(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Solo work at home, collaborative work in 'studios'

Yeah this is 100% not remote work.

sharkweek(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I love the idea.

REI I believe is moving to a model, after having just sold their massive new HQ to Facebook, where they will establish a handful of micro-offices around the country where their now distributed team can meet.

Plenty of kinks to work out I'm sure, but feels like the future of work to me.

greymalik(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> ad hoc 'WFH whenever you feel like it' gets a sort of worst-of-both-worlds situation where you neither get the same kind of flexibility nor the sense of community you typically get from an office

Can you explain what you mean by WFH when you feel like it reducing flexibility?

m0zg(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That's the way it should be IMO. It's idiotic to have to drag oneself to the office to do work which can be done just as well, if not better, without getting out of bed. It's also bad to not be able to get teams together from time to time, to brainstorm, discuss things, and just plain get to know each other. I hope companies find a happy middle ground at some point, and I also hope managers can figure out how to manage people effectively in such circumstances. Currently nobody at the previously 'butts in chairs' companies knows how to do that, and my manager friends at places like Google, FB and MS are unsure if they're 'holding it right'.

Cthulhu_(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yeah so not really a new concept; in NL we've had this for a while with names like 'het nieuwe werken' (the new working) or 'flexwerken' (flexible working), which in practice means open spaces, no fixed desk, clean desk policy, etc.

I personally prefer having my own fixed workspace, tyvm. I'm just glad I was able to make it work in the various assignments I've had over the year (e.g. a fixed workspace).

ghaff(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>Remote-only cuts out the in-person experience entirely

Not necessarily. I work in a group that's very distributed and we get together (normally) a couple of times a year plus another once or twice with a larger group.

Of course, that doesn't work if it's more like getting together in person every week or two.

In any case, I agree it makes sense to collaborate. If you wander into the office and no one you know and work with is there, it doesn't make much sense to come in.

headmelted(10000) 6 days ago [-]

'Remote-only cuts out the in-person experience entirely, which is problematic for building teams and culture'

This is stated as fact everywhere but I've not seen supporting evidence anywhere.

I spend about as much time in my day speaking to other people as I would have done productively and by choice before. The only difference now is that I'm more able to avoid extraneous meetings and other drags on my time that don't benefit from my participation (because they're largely irrelevant to my work and vice versa).

In any case kudos for taking this step which I'm sure is not an easy decision to make given that it's a fairly seismic shift to how most companies approach work and employment.

wsc981(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> ... which is problematic for building teams and culture;

Maybe I am alone in this, but I care very little for culture. Perhaps it's because I am a freelancer. I work for a company to bring results and I just try to communicate clearly. When there's doubts we have a chat over Skype, since sometimes direct communication is just more efficient than using chat.

I believe people can work well as teams while WFH and some kind of company culture (whatever that means) isn't really necessary for people to be effective.

For the past 1.5 years I've been working for an Australian company. I do mobile dev from Thailand. There's an Indian team doing some BLE-related mobile dev from India. There's a guy in Vietnam also doing mobile dev. We have a guy in Taiwan doing low-level hardware programming. A guy in Japan doing hardware design. A Russian guy in Georgia who's doing we web-related stuff. And the leadership is in Australia. Everyone seems to be able to get along pretty well and without much misunderstanding. Perhaps it's also the nature of our work, the product we work on.

Why do people feel it's important to build some company culture? What does a company culture even mean?

swalsh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This really is the way to do it in my opinion. Collaboration is one of the hardest parts to do remote (though I think VR could make this better)

jordache(10000) 5 days ago [-]

predominant WFH w/ ability to get together at the office seems like an excellent mixture of flexibility and adequate face time. Strict mode on either ends of the spectrum is non-ideal for most people I would assume.

trimbo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not too long ago, Dropbox signed the largest office lease in SF history[1]. What changes are you making to Dropbox's RE plan in light of this?

[1] - https://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/news/2017/10/10/dro...

taxcoder(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Definitely agree with the idea of a scheduled in office time. I work ~400 miles from my company's office and get there several times a year. I enjoy WFH, but would prefer being close enough to go to the office more often.

Historical Discussions: Gravity is not a force – free-fall parabolas are straight lines in spacetime (October 18, 2020: 790 points)

(792) Gravity is not a force – free-fall parabolas are straight lines in spacetime

792 points 3 days ago by tim_hutton in 10000th position

timhutton.github.io | Estimated reading time – 1 minutes | comments | anchor

(Canvas drawing not supported by your browser.)

Change the frame acceleration:

Move the time window:


Under general relativity, gravity is not a force. Instead it is a distortion of spacetime. Objects in free-fall move along geodesics (straight lines) in spacetime, as seen in the inertial frame of reference on the right. When standing on Earth we experience a frame of reference that is accelerating upwards, causing objects in free-fall to move along parabolas, as seen on the left.

In this system there is only one space dimension, shown on the vertical axis and labeled in meters. The time dimension is the horizontal axis and labeled in seconds. The gravitational field is constant within the area of interest.

Use the first slider to change the acceleration of the frame of reference in the middle. When the frame has zero acceleration it is said to be an inertial frame of reference.

Use the second slider to move the time window. Note that all the trajectories remain as straight lines in the inertial frame of reference.

You can drag the start and end position of each object to change their trajectories. All free-fall trajectories in the inertial frame of reference are straight lines.

Code, more details, feedback: https://github.com/timhutton/GravityIsNotAForce

More on these concepts: https://youtu.be/XRr1kaXKBsU

All Comments: [-] | anchor

zestyping(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This video really cleared up a lot of misunderstandings for me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrwgIjBUYVc

I had never visualized it this way in my head before, and it all makes a lot more sense now. Highly recommend!

xt00(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Thats a great video

elteto(10000) 2 days ago [-]

What a fantastic video.

mensetmanusman(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Great video.

Reminded me of the arguments still going on about 'whether this is true or not' in the sense that the mathematics is painting this more accurate picture than what Newton's math painted, but the math can't explain most of the universe's lack of observable mass/energy, so there might be some higher level of mathematics that describes a different but 'more true' state of events.

the_arun(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Don't we always consider gravity as 'acceleration'?

In f = m * a, for objects falling from sky, it will be f = m * g where g is gravity, m is mass & f is force

Sorry, I think I am missing the point of the article.

derex(10000) 2 days ago [-]

g is not gravity, it's a constant that quantifies the force that gravity impresses on a mass in Newtonian mechanics

nsonha(10000) 2 days ago [-]

in Newtonian physics only a force can cause acceleration

pininja(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The video for this page provides great context https://youtu.be/XRr1kaXKBsU

c06n(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I do not understand how you can have acceleration without changing position (at 10:06). Acceleration is the derivative of speed, which is the derivative of position change. If the position change is zero, how can the acceleration be non-zero?

umvi(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Great Veritasium video.

So some flat earth arguments are actually correct if general relativity is correct, namely that gravity is an illusion and that the real reason we are stuck to the earth is that the earth is accelerating toward us at 9.8 m/s^2

avmich(10000) 2 days ago [-]

A pretty good model. Thank you.

The model shown is for 1D space and 1D time, and this 2D spacetime is curved, remaining 2D. Can you though show us a 3D model of curved 2D spacetime? Maybe as a rotatable, scaleable 3D scene, where more complex phenomena, like planetary motion around a star, would be possible to show?

avmich(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Read TODO list on Github :) . Looks like it's harder than appears...

GuB-42(10000) 2 days ago [-]

My enlightening moment about general relativity: apples do not fall on the ground, instead, the earth is inflating, and the inflation of the earth is accelerating at 9.8 m/s^2. Eventually, the ground catches the apple.

Of course, you are going to tell me that the earth is not inflating, obviously, because it is still the same size after so many years.

But here is the trick: the earth is inflating at the same rate as spacetime contracts. If the earth didn't inflate, the contraction of spacetime would have collapsed it into a black hole.

Note: It is related to Einstein's elevator thought experiment. Here, the inflating earth replaces the rocket powered elevator.

Note 2: If the idea of an inflating earth bothers you, I suggest you start considering that the earth is flat, seriously! Flat Earthers took Einstein's thought experiment quite literally and consider the Earth to be a disk that is continuously accelerated upwards. And in fact, if free fall trajectories were parabolic, that would be the correct explanations. In reality, because the earth is not flat, free fall trajectories are elliptic, though it is only apparent on a large scale.

hartator(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Except that the Apple is exerting the same force on earth.

tim_hutton(10000) 2 days ago [-]

In another comment zestyping posted this video which also has spacetime contracting, in a sense: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrwgIjBUYVc

jayd16(10000) 2 days ago [-]

How do things in orbit work if everything is inflating and space is contracting but nothing falls?

jiggawatts(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Some interesting alternative viewpoints I've seen:

Matter continuously destroys spacetime at its location, sucking in the fabric of the universe.

The Universe isn't expanding; matter is shrinking. Light isn't redshifted on the way to us, it's just that our sensors are getting smaller relative to the unmodified wavelength of light.

leptons(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm not sure how that hypothesis works out with things like black holes and gravitational lenses, friction, and a lot of other established physics. Somehow I figure people that believe in the expansion hypothesis will have some kind of workaround for those.

k__(10000) 2 days ago [-]

How would spacetime know to contract right to the center of earth?!

xwdv(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Does this mean some sort of artificial gravity may be possible after all by causing some kind of inflation?

sergeykish(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Flat Earth constantly accelerated by rocket.., that's colonization ship!

immmmmm(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Physicist here, gravity is a force, just a different one.

Also, like everything else in physics: it depends how you observe it.

For instance, electromagnetism comes from the curvature of a U(1) bundle over space time, the (local) U(1) symmetry yields electromagnetic interactions. For gravity the symmetry is the (local) Pointcaré (SO(1,3) + translations) symmetry and curvature of spacetime itself.

Also gravity on Earth (weak gravitational field) is mostly curvature of time, namely the spacelike curvature can be ignored, and the g_{00} component of the metric can be seen a a gravitational potential. see p 80 of this:


edna314(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I was always wondering if there is a way of distinguishing a straight line in a curved space from a curved line in a flat space, given that you cannot 'look' at space time from the outside. Would that be possible?

hinkley(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Correct me if I'm wrong please, but the 'curved space' strategy describes the velocity of two objects in a 2 body scenario, but it doesn't describe the behavior when the two objects have zero velocity relative to each other, right?

The 'two spheres in a box' experiment for testing the gravitational constant has no relative velocity at all, so how could 'curved space' describe the force between them?

Stierlitz(10000) 2 days ago [-]

@immmmmm: "Physicist here, gravity is a force, just a different one .."

Explain like I'm five, how-and-why a charged particle emits EM radiation when passing through a medium at speeds greater than light.

praptak(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Isn't gravity somewhat like the forces that one observes in non-inertial frames of reference in classical mechanics?

zkmon(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Correct. And just making the trajectory to appear straight by modifying the reference grid doesn't change anything. For example, once can see even exponential curve appear in a logarithmic grid. Force is a relation between the reference frame and the object. It is possible to consider either one as straight or flat.

serial_dev(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Physicist (BSc) turned software developer here, I understood around 2% of your comment :)

(Thanks for the effort, though, it might just be me, in the end I changed profession for a reason)

jstanley(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Physicist here, gravity is a force, just a different one.

Isn't gravity an acceleration, and weight a force? Otherwise gravity would accelerate heavier objects more slowly.

andrepd(10000) 2 days ago [-]

But the principle of equivalence is not included in the Poincaré group.

msiyer(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Perspective is everything.

A simple example to understand how perspective can alter reality is to imagine being a point floating in a 3-D space where you are able to see the X-Y-Z axes. Now, imagine tracing (0,0,0) when you are at (500,500,500). Trivial.

Now, trace (0,0,10^100). That is a huge Z-line you would say. This is the side view.

Now, move to (0,0,10^100) from (500,500,500). This is the top view. What do you see?

Another example: When viewed from perpendicular to X-Y plane, a circular motion on X-Y plane looks properly circular.

When the same motion is viewed standing far away on the X-axis, the motion resembles an oscillation.

Same motion, different perspectives, seemingly different results.

taliesinb(10000) 2 days ago [-]

A fun little physical experiment: a density gradient of the water in a fish tank (caused say by putting sugar in the water) will cause a laser to bend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhNZP2KgMLw

How this can be connected to gravity I do not exactly know. I suppose the change in the refractive index of the water is akin to g_{00} component of the Riemann metric, since it produces a compensating change in the wave vector at that point. Whether you could imagine GR consistently in terms of changes in the local speed of light a.k.a. changes in the permittivity of free space, again, I do not know.

cygx(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Newton's first law tells us that in the absence of external forces, a body will keep going in the same direction, uniformly, ie its wordline will be straight.

However, that concept is not available in arbitrary manifolds, you need additional structure: The covariant connection, which allows you to parallel transport velocity vectors, enabling you to define the concept of straight lines (autoparallels, which will be geodesics if the connection is 'metric').

According to general relativity, gravity hooks into that. So from that perspective, the gravitational force on a test particle will be a consequence of (the generalization of) the first law instead of the second one, making it into a pseudo-force like the Coriolis force.

mocmoc(10000) 2 days ago [-]

No , is not a force

vl(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Original page kinda doesn't explain the idea in simple terms. This Veritasium video gives detailed "popsci" explanation:


klunger(10000) 2 days ago [-]

'This ultimately led [Einstein] to the realisation that gravity is best described and understood not as a physical external force like the other forces of nature but rather as a manifestation of the geometry and curvature of space-timeitself.' This is in the introduction of the paper you shared...

crazygringo(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm curious, how does the 'gravity is not a force' viewpoint relate to the hypothesized graviton particle [1]?

Are they incompatible viewpoints, or just different perspectives on the same thing? (E.g. are gravitons hypothesized to disappear depending on frame of reference?)

I'm assuming they're incompatible (that we need the theory of everything [2] to reconcile them) but would love to know if there's something I'm missing.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graviton

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_everything

contravariant(10000) 2 days ago [-]

In quantum physics the particles are excitations of a particular field. The gravitons correspond to (excitations in) the curvature of space-time. The other force bosons correspond to (excitations in) the curvature of other fields, such as the electromagnetic field.

Interestingly the Yang-Mills equations (used in quantum mechanics) and the Einstein-Hilbert action (used in general relativity) are pretty much identical if you use general enough mathematics.

seaish(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It is likely that both the 'fabric of spacetime' idea and the Graviton are parts of the whole picture, like with particle-wave duality. In the end, particles, waves, and spacetime are really just abstractions on top of the true, possibly unknowable rules of the universe.

amelius(10000) 2 days ago [-]

As you may know, one of the great problems in physics is to unite relativity and quantum mechanics. It happens to be that the graviton is a concept from QM and 'gravity is not a force' is a concept that lives in the theory of relativity.

didibus(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm a bit confused, how does a 2D graph with a curved X axis work?

Does this just mean to say that if we saw things distorted with an outward curve, then something that is moving in a curve would look to be moving in a straight line?

And what's the point of such an observation?

aeternum(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The polar or cylindrical coordinate systems are examples of graphs that can be though of as having a curved x-axis.

causality0(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Always seemed pretty wild to me that for the tiny moment of time photons from my computer screen travel from the LEDs to my eyes, they're being dragged toward the floor at the same 9.8m/s^2 as everything else.

Craighead(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Aren't they being dragged by the Sun, Jupiter, Milky Way Black Hole, Alpha Centauris Black Hole, Sirius, etc also just at an exceptionally small rate?

layoutIfNeeded(10000) 2 days ago [-]

How would periodic "free-fall" motion look in this setup? E.g. a point mass orbiting around a body, or a point mass oscillating back and forth in a 1D gravity well.

jdmichal(10000) 2 days ago [-]

In the left-hand image, an orbit would be a horizontal line, because it's a constant distance. So it's a mirror of the time axis, but translated upwards in space. It would be exactly the same axis-mirroring translation in the other images. So, importantly, it would not be a line in the right-hand image.

xaedes(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This has some visualizations of space time curvature where you can get a sense of the lines particles take in different circumstances: http://www.relativitet.se/Webtheses/lic.pdf

I tried to explain it with words, but I guess the images are worth more than I could write..

tim_hutton(10000) 2 days ago [-]

With two space dimensions and one time dimension (2+1), an orbit in Newtonian physics is a helix. In general relativity that same helical path would be a straight line in an interestingly curved spacetime.

Likewise I guess for the 1D gravity well case, where a sine wave would become a straight line in spacetime.

frutiger(10000) 2 days ago [-]

True gravitational force is something that can't be transformed away by an arbitrary choice of frame (even an accelerating one).

As a brief example, consider two objects in downwards free fall toward the centre of some massive object. Since they head towards the centre, in a free falling frame the two objects actually get closer to each other until they collide as they reach the centre.

This is known as the tidal effect of gravity and is the actual physical content of general relativity. This effect can be shown to be obtained by an appropriate curvature of spacetime which itself can be shown to be related to the stress-energy of matter inhabiting spacetime.

freshhawk(10000) 2 days ago [-]

'If you and a friend started walking straight north, both at the equator but a long distance apart, you would gradually get closer to each other until you collided at the north pole.'

I always thought that was a nice way to drop one dimension down to get the intuition. To the metaphorical 2D ant they see two friends attracted to/falling towards each other, but they are going in a straight line on a curved surface and there are no forces at play.

didibus(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm super layman in all this, but I think the word force here refers to the Newton's force. Which experimentally was shown to not properly predict the effect of gravity, where as seeing gravity as a distortion of spacetime instead of as a acceleration force applied to the objects, did predict accurately the trajectory in experiments.

You can call both a force in the generic dictionary definition of force. Because obviously it's crazy that something can be so powerful as to distort spacetime itself. But gravity wouldn't be a force in the Newton sense of being something that affects the acceleration of an object.

rokobobo(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's been some time since I studied these things, but I believe the post was trying to illustrate that the geodesic lines in spacetime created by Earth's gravity field can be visualized as straight lines after a nonlinear change of the coordinates system. [1] To simplify, these are the lines along which particles move when no outside force is exerted on them--again, considering gravity to be a distortion of spacetime and not a force, very much like the well-known metaphor of steel ball on a rubber sheet, which would curve marbles towards the 'well' it's created in the sheet. But you're right that once the marbles and the steel ball get to a point where one of the gravitational fields cannot be ignored, this framework becomes less useful.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geodesic

dreamcompiler(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I take your point, but I think the author's main point was that because objects in free-fall merely follow spacetime geodesics, it makes calling gravity a 'force' a little bogus, at least compared to the other forces. Tidal effects don't change that; tidal effects mean the spacetime curvature 'over here' is different than the spacetime curvature 'over there', which means the principle of equivalence isn't true in a global sense. But objects still follow spacetime geodesics, which is a concept that's hard to reconcile with the notion of a 'force.'

perryizgr8(10000) 2 days ago [-]

If I throw a ball straight up, it loses speed. The speed at the top of the parabola is exactly zero. So how is the change in speed explained if there is no force involved? Even in a straight path, a change in speed implies a force acting on the object.

Jweb_Guru(10000) 2 days ago [-]

My understanding here is that the ball (like everything else) is moving at a constant 'speed' through spacetime. From the Earth's reference frame, when the ball is frozen in space, all of that speed is in the time component (as is yours). The reason its path is parabolic is due to the very slight curvature in spacetime induced by the Earth; if you instead stand in a 'flat' reference frame (e.g. freefall) and watch the ball, it will indeed look like it's going in a straight line (but the Earth will follow a curved path in spacetime, allowing it to 'catch' the ball). You can verify this using the link to https://timhutton.github.io/GravityIsNotAForce/.

I won't push my luck by pretending to understand how this changes when your spatial velocity is nontrivial (intuitively I feel like it should not even possible to differentiate between spatial and temporal components except relative to your own reference frame, but I could easily be wrong there). But in the case you describe it seems pretty clear.

WClayFerguson(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Here's another 'though experiment' I like which some people disagree with, by not understand reference frames:

Light always travels in straight lines. Even when light is experiencing a gravitational lensing and looks to us from earth that it's bending around a star or whatever, from the perspective of the light beam itself, it's moving in a straight line. It's entire reference frame is bent compared to ours (relativity) but nonetheless the correct view is that the light is still moving 'straight' in it's own reference frame.

Also if the light wasn't moving straight that would mean it's changing direction, which is the same as an acceleration, and a beam of light traveling thru a gravitational field feels no acceleration, because it's not accelerating. Again from this view you can say light is moving straight and experiencing no acceleration, just like an object in free-fall doesn't 'feel' any acceleration, even though they are accelerating from the perspective of some other reference frame other than it's own.

Ace17(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Also if the light wasn't moving straight that would mean it's changing direction, which is the same as an acceleration, and a beam of light traveling thru a gravitational field feels no acceleration, because it's not accelerating.

You could have both a deviation (i.e tangential acceleration) and a constant speed.

shireboy(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I saw this and the related Veritasium video, but am still scratching my head about something. Does this mean that away from all gravity a body does not experience any time? ie a person on a spacecraft stopped in intergalactic space would not age relative to persons on planets?

willis936(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's not that the absence of gravitational fields slows time up relative to observers in more massive reference frames, it's that the presence of gravitational fields speeds up time relative to observers in other reference frames.

You would age about the same as you would in microgravity. You could get closer and closer approximations by going into Earth orbit, solar orbit, and galactic orbit. Each approximation has less gravity, so time would pass slightly slower relative to an Earthly observer at each step, but the effect diminishes.

chrisseaton(10000) 2 days ago [-]

How do you get away from all gravity? Aren't you subject to gravity from all other matter in the universe at all times?

montagg(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I believe (from my limited knowledge from Interstellar) that it's the opposite: higher gravity environments move slower relative to lower gravity environments, which enabled the "go down to high gravity planet for a couple hours and come back and it's ten years later" plot point in the movie. So if you're in intergalactic space, time is actually passing very quickly in the higher gravity environment of a galaxy.

But a person's experience should always be the same, no matter what reference they are in. They will perceive time as passing at the same rate in all environments, but it will be different from people in other environments.

Caveat: IANA physicist, and this is not physics advice.

a3w(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Somewhere I read that a free fall parabola does not even take into account earth's curvature. Although I cannot remember, what kind of function describes the reference system specific ``path, as a function of time''.

Could this be named more correctly: Gravity is not a force – free-fall hyperbolas are straight lines in spacetime (timhutton.github.io) ?

kubanczyk(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The planet's curvature is not very relevant to the article, but, yes, if an object is in a free fall at a slow speed (I mean non-orbital) its trajectory is:

- parabola if you assume flat&infinite ground,

- ellipsis if you assume a spherical planet (an ellipsis is crossing the planet's surface).

This is Newton, not GR.

pmcollins(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Wonderful lecture series on Audible by Benjamin Schumacher:


freedomben(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Can second this. I was worried that course would be over my head since I never took physics in college, but he does a great job prepping you to understand the end of the course.

rsp1984(10000) 2 days ago [-]

When standing on Earth we experience a frame of reference that is accelerating upwards, causing objects in free-fall to move along parabolas, as seen in the accelerating frame of reference on the left.

I'm trying to understand what is meant by this. When I drop an item on the floor it goes there in a straight line, not a parabola. Same if I drop something from a helicopter. Obviously I'm missing something here. Can someone with more insight ELI5 this to me please?

meditative(10000) 2 days ago [-]

it will look like a parabola (or ellipsis if you read elsewhere in this thread) if you add another dimension to your graph of the balls position.

That could be a physical dimension, such as throwing a ball to your friend across the room and plotting x vs y. Or even plotting the height of the ball against time.


consider the x-axis of this image the distance between you and your friend, or time.

j1vms(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Gravity is not a force. The surface of the Earth is moving up to the object in free-fall at an acceleration of 9.8 m/s^2. The force pushing the surface, and the pressurized atmospheric shell, upward is a result of the processes occurring within the Earth (likely, in particular, those within the the core).

lopmotr(10000) 2 days ago [-]

What direction is the earth accelerating in Australia? It's not deforming.

j1vms(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Here's [0] a bit more thorough explanation of this concept for those who are interested.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRr1kaXKBsU&t=504 (Veritasium on Youtube: Why Gravity is NOT a Force @ 8:24)

abeppu(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I've seen this explained elsewhere, and it does look very cool when displayed this way. But perhaps someone with more background can explain to a lay person -- what even is a force?

Why does the existence of a transformation that makes movement under a supposed force actually follow a straight line mean it's not really a force? For the other forces (e.g. electromagnetism) can we say that there's _no way_ to exhibit a transformation that causes charged particles travel on 'straight' lines?

gabia(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The effect of a spacetime transformation isn't just to redefine straight lines along which particles move. It means measurements (e.g. lengths, areas, time intervals) are different depending on where you are in the spacetime. The are forces don't come with these 'extra' effects - an EM field doesn't stretch and contract space.

However, there are a lot of parallels between electromagnetism and relativity! Quite often relativity effects are introduced with an EM analogy, e.g. gravitational waves (which have polarisation) and electromagnetic waves ie photons (which also have polarisation). Note though it really is an analogy - they are fundamentally different things in both reality and mathematical form.

antonvs(10000) 2 days ago [-]

An intuitive way to tell if something is a 'real' force (as proposed to a pseudo- or fictitious force) - can someone subject to that force feel it, or equivalently, can an accelerometer measure the acceleration it produces?

When you accelerate or decelerate in a vehicle, you feel it. But when you jump out of a plane and accelerate towards the ground, you don't feel a force.

Noticing this fact was a big part of what led Einstein to his equivalence principle and General Relativity.

fantispug(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Kaluza-Klein theory is an attempt to exhibit a transformation that charged particles travel on 'straight' lines in a 5-dimensional space. The fifth dimension is supposed to be a very small circle. There are some experimental implications, but the circle is so small that we can't detect them (it's similar with string theories).

String theory tries to do the same thing with other forces; so it's not clear whether there's such a transformation. Forces are technically simpler than embedding extra dimensions that there are no evidence for.

dan-robertson(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Asking what a force is is a very good question with no good answer. One eighteenth century philosopher (if only I could remember who) said that we do not know what forces are but "time has domesticated them".

At around the time of Newton, what we now call physics changed from being something based in an ontology—a theory of what the world was made of to explain why it worked a certain way—into something mathematised where the equations accurately predict the behaviour of the world but there is no ontology other than that the universe is a universe where those equations hold. Modern physics still fundamentally works this way (see Maxwell's equations, quantum physics, etc). Compare to, for example, Descartes with his theory of corpuscles and (totally wrong) billiard ball mechanics, or just about any other ontology from before him.

marcosdumay(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> For the other forces (e.g. electromagnetism) can we say that there's _no way_ to exhibit a transformation that causes charged particles travel on 'straight' lines?

Gravity is peculiar in that there is only one type of charge and it's exactly equal to the inertia quantity. If you try to do something similar to the other forces, you'll get really complicated models, with hidden dimensions and things that don't interact the same way with them.

karlicoss(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Doesn't directly answer what is a force, but perhaps you'll find this perspective interesting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Static_forces_and_virtual-part...

ivalm(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I think a big difference is that other forces (electroweak, strong) can be thought as mediated by exchange of some virtual bosons. Quantum gravity would use gravitons, but this isn't how GR works.

ncallaway(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Newton's first law provides a guide: 'Every object persists in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed on it.'

So, the definition of a force as something that causes an object to change its movement from a 'straight line' comes to us from Newton's laws.

> Why does the existence of a transformation that makes movement under a supposed force actually follow a straight line mean it's not really a force?

It's not just the fact that the transformation exists that means we don't really consider gravity to be a force. It's that the transformation exists, and provides useful predictions about the universe that turn out to be backed by experiment.

Under the theory of general relativity gravity isn't a force, because the fundamental premises of general relativity assume that gravity is actually a distortion of spacetime caused by mass.

We say that 'gravity' isn't a force simply because the predictions made by general relativity have been validated by a number of experimental observations—at least on the macro scale.

> For the other forces (e.g. electromagnetism) can we say that there's _no way_ to exhibit a transformation that causes charged particles travel on 'straight' lines?

I'm certainly not an expert, so I can't really comment on this. My best guess is that there doesn't exist any such transformation that causes charged particles to travel on 'straight' lines that makes experimental predictions as well as our current scientific theories.

colordrops(10000) 2 days ago [-]

How is it not a force though? Regardless of curvature, a ball starts moving if you let it go without applying any force. Curvature alone can't account for that could it?

doomrobo(10000) 2 days ago [-]

When you are at rest on the surface of the earth, you're actually accelerating. I barely understand it but veritasium explains it in the newest vid


saagarjha(10000) 2 days ago [-]

In general, it is convenient to assume that forces exist. However, the model presented here shows that you can instead dispense of the need for there to be a force and show that the apparent acceleration is just the object moving along its curved path in spacetime. You could consider it as if the curvature itself making it look like there are forces.

tim_hutton(10000) 2 days ago [-]

An object at rest is still travelling through time. In fact it continues to travel at the same speed through spacetime when you let it go. It's just that spacetime is distorted such that the straight line takes it across space too, as seen in the inertial frame on the right.

mikelevins(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It acts like an acceleration, rather than a force.

Imagine a bowling ball and a marble at rest from your perspective, and an apparatus with a pair of pneumatic guns that eject pistons with the same precisely-calibrated amount of force. You arrange the guns so that they will hit the marble and the bowling ball at the same moment, and you trigger them together. The marble and the bowling ball are hit at the same time by the same amount of force. The marble, being much lighter takes off much faster than the bowling ball.

Now take the same marble and bowling ball to a place a mile above the moon (so that there is no confounding atmosphere to complicate things) and release them next to one another at the same moment.

If gravity is a force, then we should expect that the marble will fall much faster than the bowling ball, because the same force is acting on two different masses; the lighter mass should be accelerated more, just as it was when the source of the force was the pneumatic gun. F = ma, after all. If the force is the same and the mass is less, then the acceleration must be more.

That's not what happens, though. The marble and the bowling ball fall together at the same accelerating rate.

Gravity acts like an acceleration, not a force.

Lo these many years ago when I was an undergraduate physics student, my advisor told me that we should say 'the force due to gravity', not 'the force of gravity'.

In every day colloquial speech it doesn't matter, of course.

gilgoomesh(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The falling object doesn't accelerate. You, standing on the ground are the one that's accelerating. You see the object as accelerating but that's an illusion due to frames of reference.

As evidence: which object feels a force on it?

You can feel the force the ground continually pushes up at you. The ground is accelerating you up. The falling object is completely idle in its inertial frame and feels nothing.

Smaug123(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I heard an interesting question at one point: 'how come, when you throw a ball up on Earth, the parabola is so strongly curved? Spacetime is nearly flat, so how can a straight line become such a steep parabola?'

I'll answer this question as I understand it, but I only took four lectures of General Relativity before I gave it up in favour of computability and logic, so if there is a more intuitive and/or less wrong answer out there, please correct me.

Intuitive answer: the curve is indeed very gentle, and (e.g.) light will be deflected only very slightly by the curvature; but the ball is moving for a couple of seconds, and that's an eternity. On human scales, the time dimension is much 'bigger' than the space dimensions (we're quite big in the time dimension and quite small in the spatial dimensions); the ball moves only a small distance through space but a very large distance through time, amounting to a big distance in spacetime, and so the slight curvature has a bigger effect than you might expect.

mytailorisrich(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> the parabola is so strongly curved? Spacetime is nearly flat, so how can a straight line become such a steep parabola?

I suspect that the answer is that this is a false comparison.

Manishearth(10000) 2 days ago [-]

So this is the core problem with all of the general relativity materials that model it as a rubber sheet causing curvature in spacetime. They always model it with focus on _spatial_ curvature: which is totally able to model an orbit or a hyperbolic trajectory as a geodesic, but it totally cannot model 'throwing a ball up' since the geodesic for throwing a ball up is just a straight line.

The important thing is that gravitation is a distortion in space-_time_, which is way trickier to model as a rubber sheet because you end up with one dimension of space and one of time. If you distort _those_ (also, they don't distort quite like a ball-in-a-rubber-sheet), you can get the results of a ball being thrown up. It's also possible to visualize this for 2 spatial dimensions with a distorted 3d space, but tricky.

gpsx(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It is much easier to think in two dimensions than three. If you picture the ball following a parabolic trajectory in space then you are really thinking in three dimensions here. It might be easier to think of throwing the ball straight up, after which it eventually falls straight back down. NOW plot this in two dimensions with one of the dimensions being time. As the original comment says, the scaling of the time dimension in seconds is not a good comparison to meters. Physicist like units where the speed of light is 1 (one). In these units, in our two dimensional space-time graph, the ball travels a very far distance while the change in our space dimension is still small. It is very close to straight line.

sohkamyung(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Off topic, but in reality, the trajectory of a ball thrown on Earth is not a parabola, but an ellipse [1]:

> under the laws of gravity, a parabola is an impossible shape for an object that's gravitationally bound to the Earth. The math simply doesn't work out. If we could design a precise enough experiment, we'd measure that projectiles on Earth make tiny deviations from the predicted parabolic path we all derived in class: microscopic on the scale of a human, but still significant. Instead, objects thrown on Earth trace out an elliptical orbit similar to the Moon.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2020/03/12/we-a...

dreamcompiler(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I think of it as being because the ball has mass and photons don't. So Newton's Gm1m2/r^2 = 0 for photons, and you have to use Einstein to measure the 'force' on a photon.

But because massive objects also cannot move as fast as photons, we're probably both saying the same thing from two different perspectives.

raducu(10000) 2 days ago [-]

So, do gravitons exist or not?

js8(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Hm, I think visualizing this would be a nice topic for a 3Blue1Brown's video or something..

edem(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Think about this. You're always travelling through spacetime with a constant speed (the speed of causality == the speed of light). This is your 4 vector because it has 4 components: x, y, z, t. Therefore the faster you go in one dimension (say, x), the slower you go in the other dimensions. The dimension that's affected the most by the warping of spacetime is time (t) in most cases, because you're moving much slower in the other 3. As you go faster your path becomes less warped. This is why the faster your ball is, the less curved its path look like. This also explains why objects with zero x/y/z speed fall straight towards the object that causes the warping: only t remains from your 4 vector so you're essentially moving through spacetime with the speed of causality (light) --> you fall straight down.

newobj(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This is maybe one of those most disturbing things I've ever read. I'm going to be thinking about this for a WHILE.

m3kw9(10000) 2 days ago [-]

When you throw a ball up and down in a moving car the ball is also parabola. You don't need theory of general relativity to explain it.

phkahler(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I've always wanted to know why a ball doesn't follow a beam of light if they are both following straight lines in spacetime.

But even more important, if light beams are reversible under relativity (reflected off a mirror they will backtrack the same path) then light can not enter a black hole because its reversed path could allow it a way out. But then there's that whole thing of objects falling in appear to slow and stop as they approach the event horizon, so maybe light doesnt enter after all.

My conclusion is that you cant really understand it without serious study of under someone who already gets it.

abetusk(10000) 2 days ago [-]

So if light were traveling through 'slow glass' where it's speed through the medium was significantly slowed down, we would see it go in a parabola like the ball?

ummonk(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Great answer!

It's also why I despise the popular portrayal of space time curvature. It looks at space in isolation rather than space time as a whole, and provides no intuition as to why objects traveling at different speeds follow different trajectories.

FWIW I think that in general it is better to just teach people that gravity is an acceleration in classical spacetime (as opposed to a force or curvature). It is simply too hard to create intuition for laymen around minkowskian spacetime, and even harder for curved minkowskian spacetime.

wch(10000) 2 days ago [-]

On human scales, the time dimension is much 'bigger' than the space dimensions...

This is really interesting, and it made me wonder how to convert between space and time. I mean, one meter up is equivalent in magnitude to one meter forward, is equivalent to one meter to the right. Is _c_ the conversion between space and time? In other words, is 300 million meters equivalent in magnitude to one second of time?

atoav(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This is in tune with what happens when you change the timescale in a game engine with proper physics.

pdonis(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Intuitive answer

Your answer is basically the one given in an early chapter of Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler, which is one of the classic General Relativity textbooks.

paulpauper(10000) 2 days ago [-]

>I heard an interesting question at one point: 'how come, when you throw a ball up on Earth, the parabola is so strongly curved? Spacetime is nearly flat, so how can a straight line become such a steep parabola?'

Air resistance, wind, and horizonal acceleration. Over long vertical distances, these perturbations in the x-axis cause an arc. Nothing to do with general relativity.

mrfusion(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Are we flat in the time dimension? Or what is our time size?

vbezhenar(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Are we moving through time with constant speed? Or we're constantly accelerating through time?

herodoturtle(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I never studied this stuff, so the genius of your intuitive explanation is appreciated.

My intuitive response to your intuitive explanation: This ball is moving through spacetime relative to the earth, which is in turn also moving through spacetime relative to the sun - and so light is being deflected off of this ball at each point in its position in spacetime relative to the sun for much longer than light is being deflected off of this ball at each point in its position in spacetime relative to the earth - have I got that right?

Light is a hitman Perpetual driveby shooter Never missing As we dance through the night

nnx(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Veritasium recently posted an excellent video on the subject: https://youtu.be/XRr1kaXKBsU

manigandham(10000) 2 days ago [-]

That's linked at the bottom of the article.

Another good video to visualize GR is this by ScienceClic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrwgIjBUYVc

sfink(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Ok, great opportunity for me to ask a dumb question that's been bothering me for a while, for practical reasons I won't go into.

How is gravity like a force at all, even in Newtonian physics? It seems like mismatched units. Gravity is an acceleration, not a force. F=ma, right? So if gravity were a force, it would produce an acceleration that was dependent on the mass, and it doesn't, so it seems to me like the only sense in which gravity is a force is if you define force as 'something you can't see that makes things move', which is a pretty useless definition.

bananabreakfast(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Gravity is a force that acts due to mass just as the electromagnetic force acts due to charge.

Since gravity acts in a magnitude directly proportional to the mass being acted upon, it just so happens that it manifests as an acceleration since the mass cancels out, unlike EM where acceleration due to charge does not cancel out the mass.

aflag(10000) 2 days ago [-]

According to Newton's equation, gravity's force is F=(GmM) / r^2. Those are the gravitational masses. The mass in F = ma is the inertial mass. The fact that they are the same is remarkable. If it weren't for that, different mass objects would feel different accelerations due to gravity.

caf(10000) 2 days ago [-]

In Newtonian physics it's a force with a magnitude that is proportional to the mass of the body.

For two different objects at the same point in the same gravitational field, the difference in gravitational force due to their differing mass exactly cancels out the difference in acceleration due to their differing mass, so they both accelerate at the same rate.

nimish(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Gravity is a force in the same way the centrifugal force is a force

An artifact of rotating coordinate frames in one, the curvature of spacetime in the other

yunruse(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Mm, just like we have wave-particle duality, one can also speak of some sort of "force-coordinate duality", as it were. Just as we let the sine function be linear for small angles, quasiparticles with forces in Cartesian space are wonderful abstractions. Good physics – especially applied physics – is about handling this balance between precision and mathematical/computational simplicity. Mind, research physics can be the opposite; a lot of nuclear involves (often special) relativity as combined with QM. Until we have a unifird theory, however, the graviton and its force ain't dead yet.

willswire(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Veritasium just put out a great video on this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRr1kaXKBsU

avmich(10000) 2 days ago [-]

A great video :) . Makes you wish he'd include more explanations of mathematical details...

seaish(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's linked at the bottom of this article.

trungdq88(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This, and the one by Vsauce [1] are the 2 best videos explain spacetime on Youtube I have seen.

[1] https://youtu.be/Xc4xYacTu-E

ars(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Would not an electron and a positron trace out an identical line/parabola?

Would that mean electromagnetism is not a force either?

What is the difference between the two that makes one a force and one not a force?

tim_hutton(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This is a great question!

caf(10000) 2 days ago [-]

You can't create a similar transformation for an electric field under which the motion of a proton, electron, muon etc are all straight lines.

The indicator that gravity is special is the fact that 'inertial mass' and 'gravitational mass' are the same thing.

nsonha(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I believe quantum field theory explores these

Yuioup(10000) 2 days ago [-]

So ... what is terminal velocity then?

Jweb_Guru(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Terminal velocity is entirely a product of air resistance (or in general, resistance from any fluid medium). That's mostly caused by electromagnetic interactions (AFAIK) which despite physicists' best efforts is still best explained as a 'real' force. Hence why objects with different shapes or masses can have very different terminal velocities on Earth (and the same is true if you vary the atmospheric composition, or consider objects falling in water). But they will all fall at the same rate in a vacuum, unless the object is massive enough for gravity to warp the trajectory of the object onto which it's falling.

Communitivity(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Gravity is a force, because if it is not for this reason then probably neither are the other forces. Many physicists believe we will achieve grand unification of the forces, which means that in some way they are all related to the curvature of spacetime and each force can be viewed as applying acceleration in a straight line. It's just that the geometry defining that line, the frame of reference, is different for each force.

koheripbal(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Yeah, Tim's argument is fundamentally semantic one.

person_of_color(10000) 2 days ago [-]

How can we manipulate gravity?

lopmotr(10000) 2 days ago [-]

By arranging mass. We can also generate propagating gravity waves by accelerating mass.

hhjinks(10000) 2 days ago [-]

If gravity is not a force, how is spaghettification a thing? If you are stationary when you're weightless, how can different stationary parts of your stationary body move at the different speeds required for spaghettification to take place.

skykooler(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's only a thing in an extremely high gravity gradient, such that one end of you experiences far higher gravitational forces than the other. This means that while you are in freefall 'on average', overall there is a stretching effect as parts of you closer to the source of gravity try to accelerate faster and parts farther away are lagging behind.

fosspowered(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The way I try to understand this is that the stationary body is not a single particle but a collection of particles. Since the black hole distorts the space-time gravity in a humongous manner each of the particles in the body at different points in space-time have significant different curvature in space-time and hence would experience the different tidal 'forces' which would account for spaghettification.

Historical Discussions: Face ID and Touch ID for the Web (October 19, 2020: 733 points)

(741) Face ID and Touch ID for the Web

741 points 1 day ago by Austin_Conlon in 10000th position

webkit.org | Estimated reading time – 20 minutes | comments | anchor

People often see passwords are the original sin of authentication on the web. Passwords can be easy to guess and vulnerable to breaches. Frequent reuse of the same password across the web makes breaches even more profitable. As passwords are made stronger and unique, they can quickly become unusable for many users. Passwords indeed look notorious, but are passwords themselves the problem, or is it their use as a sole factor for authentication?

Many believe the latter, and thus multi-factor authentication has become more and more popular. The introduction of a second factor does fix most of the security issues with passwords, but it inevitably makes the whole authentication experience cumbersome with an additional step. Therefore, multi-factor authentication has not become the de facto authentication mechanism on the web. Face ID and Touch ID for the web provides both the security guarantees of multi-factor authentication and ease of use. It offers multi-factor authentication in a single step. Using this technology, available on over a billion capable Apple devices, web developers can now broadly offer traditional multi-factor authentication with a smooth, convenient experience. And being built on top of the Web Authentication API makes Face ID and Touch ID phishing resistant as well.

This blog post extends the content of WWDC 2020 "Meet Face ID and Touch ID for the web" session by providing detailed examples to assist developers' adoption of this new technology, including how to manage different user agent user interfaces, how to propagate user gestures from user-activated events to WebAuthn API calls, and how to interpret Apple Anonymous Attestation. This article will end by summarizing the unique characteristics of Apple's platform authenticator and the current status of security key support. If you haven't heard about WebAuthn before, you're strongly encouraged to first watch the WWDC 2020 session, which covers the basic concepts. Otherwise, please enjoy.

Managing User Experiences

Although user agents are not required to offer UI guidance to users during WebAuthn flows, the reality is that all of them do. This allows user agents to share some of the burden from websites to manage the user experience, but it creates another complexity for websites as each user agent has a different way of presenting the WebAuthn ceremony in its UI. A WebAuthn ceremony could either be the authentication process or the registration process. This section presents how WebAuthn ceremony options map to WebKit/Safari's UI and the recommended user experience for Face ID and Touch ID for the web.

One challenge is to manage different user experiences among the platform authenticator and security keys. Although the WebAuthn API allows presenting both options to the user simultaneously, it's not the best approach. First, most users are probably only familiar with the branding of the platform authenticator, i.e., Face ID and Touch ID on Apple's platforms, but are unfamiliar with security keys. Offering both at the same time can confuse users and make it difficult for them to decide what to do. Secondly, the platform authenticator has different behaviors and use cases from security keys. For example, Face ID and Touch ID are suitable for use as a more convenient, alternative mechanism to sign in when most security keys are not. And credentials stored in security keys can often be used across different devices and platforms while those stored in the platform authenticator are typically tied to a platform and a device. Therefore, it is better to present these two options to the user separately.

Presenting Face ID and Touch ID Alone

What follows is the recommended way to invoke Face ID and Touch ID for the web. Below is the corresponding Safari UI for registration ceremonies. Here, the Relying Party ID is picked to be displayed in the dialog.

Here is the corresponding code snippet to show the above dialog.

const options = {
    publicKey: {
        rp: { name: 'example.com' },
        user: {
            name: '[email protected]',
            id: userIdBuffer,
            displayName: 'John Appleseed'
        pubKeyCredParams: [ { type: 'public-key', alg: -7 } ],
        challenge: challengeBuffer,
        authenticatorSelection: { authenticatorAttachment: 'platform' }
const publicKeyCredential = await navigator.credentials.create(options);

The essential option is to specify authenticatorSelection: { authenticatorAttachment: 'platform' } , which tells WebKit to only invoke the platform authenticator. After the publicKeyCredential is returned, one of the best practices is to store the Credential ID in a server-set, secure, httpOnly cookie, and mark its transport as 'internal'. This cookie can then be used to improve the user experience of future authentication ceremonies.

To protect users from tracking, the WebAuthn API doesn't allow websites to query the existence of credentials on a device. This important privacy feature, however, requires some extra effort for websites to store provisioned Credential IDs in a separate source and query it before the authentication ceremony. The separate source is often on the backend server. This practice works well for security keys given that they can be used across platforms. Unfortunately, it does not work for the platform authenticator as credentials can only be used on the device where they were created. A server-side source cannot tell whether or not a particular platform authenticator indeed preserves a credential. Hence, a cookie is especially useful. This cookie should not be set through the document.cookie API since Safari's Intelligent Tracking Prevention caps the expiry of such cookies to seven days. It's also important to mark those credentials as 'internal' such that websites could supply it in the authentication ceremony options to prevent WebKit from asking users for security keys at the same time.

Below are two different UIs for authentication ceremonies. The first one is streamlined for the case where the user agent only has a single credential, while the second one shows how the user agent allows the user to select one of many credentials. For both cases, only user.name submitted in the registration ceremony is selected to display. For the second case, the order of the list is sorted according to the last used date of the credential. WebKit keeps track of the last used date. Websites thus do not need to worry about it.

Here is the corresponding code snippet to show the above dialogs.

const options = {
    publicKey: {
        challenge: challengeBuffer,
        allowCredentials: [
            { type: 'public-key', id: credentialIdBuffer1, transports: ['internal'] },
const publicKeyCredential = await navigator.credentials.get(options);

To be noted, even though an improvement over WebKit can be made such that transports: ['internal'] is not necessary to prevent WebKit from asking users for security keys as long as all allowed credentials are found within the platform authenticator, it is for the happy path only. In the case where no credentials are found, this extra property can tell WebKit to show an error message instead of asking the user for security keys.

Presenting Face ID and Touch ID along with Security Keys

Despite the fact that the following usage is discouraged, WebKit/Safari has prepared dedicated UI to allow the user to select a security key in addition to the platform authenticator. Below is the one for registration ceremonies.

The above dialog can be obtained by deleting authenticatorSelection: { authenticatorAttachment: 'platform' } from the registration ceremony code snippet above.

The above dialog will be shown if any entry in the allowCredentials array from the authentication ceremony code snippet above doesn't have the transports: ['internal'] property.

To be noted, security keys can be used immediately in both cases after the UI is shown. "Use Security Key" and "Account from Security Key" options are there to show instructions of how to interact with security keys.

Specifying allowCredentials or not

allowCredentials is optional for authentication ceremonies. However, omitting it will result in undetermined behavior in WebKit/Safari's UI. If credentials are found, the authentication ceremony UI above will be shown. If no credentials are found, WebKit will ask the user for their security keys. Therefore, it is highly recommended not to omit this option.

Propagating User Gestures

Unsolicited permission prompts are annoying. Mozilla has conducted surveys [1, 2] that verify this. Even though WebAuthn prompts are not as often seen on the web as notification prompts today, this situation will change with the release of Face ID and Touch ID for the web.

Websites don't ask for notification permission for fun. They ask because notifications can bring users back to their sites and increase their daily active users metric. A similar financial incentive could be found with WebAuthn prompts especially when platform authenticators are available as a fulfilled authentication request results in a high fidelity, persistent unique identifier of the user. This is a universal truth about authentication and that is why many sites ask for it before users even interact with the site. Though it is inevitable that WebAuthn credential will be leveraged to serve targeted ads to users, at least a similar protection that Mozilla did in Firefox for notification permission prompts can be utilized to make those WebAuthn prompts less annoying to users, which is to require user gestures for the WebAuthn API to eliminate annoying 'on load' prompts.

We foresaw this problem some time ago and filed an issue on the WebAuthn specification, but it didn't get much traction back then. One reason is that it is a breaking change. Another reason is that the risk is not as high with security keys since they are not that popular and not always attached to the platform. The amount of unsolicited prompts has been surprisingly low. The situation is different with the release of Face ID and Touch ID for the web. So, Face ID and Touch ID for the web require user gestures to function. (User gestures are not required for security keys for backward compatibility.)

A user gesture is an indicator to signal WebKit that the execution of the current JavaScript context is a direct result of a user interaction, or more precisely from a handler for a user activated event, such as a touchend, click, doubleclick, or keydown event [3]. Requiring user gestures for the WebAuthn API means API calls must happen within the above JavaScript context. Normally, the user gesture will not be propagated to any async executors within the context. Since it is popular for websites to fetch a challenge asynchronously from a server right before invoking WebAuthn API, WebKit allows WebAuthn API to accept user gestures propagated through XHR events and the Fetch API. Here are examples of how websites can invoke Face ID and Touch ID for the web from user activated events.

Calling the API Directly from User Activated Events

button.addEventListener('click', async () => {
    const options = {
        publicKey: {
            challenge: challengeBuffer,
    const publicKeyCredential = await navigator.credentials.create(options);

Propagating User Gestures Through XHR Events

button.addEventListener('click', () => {
    const xhr = new XMLHttpRequest();
    xhr.onreadystatechange = async function() {
        if (this.readyState == 4 && this.status == 200) {
            const challenge = this.responseText;
            const options = {
                publicKey: {
                    challenge: hexStringToUint8Array(challenge),                     ...
            const publicKeyCredential = await navigator.credentials.create(options);
    xhr.open('POST', '/WebKit/webauthn/challenge', true);
    xhr.setRequestHeader('Content-type', 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded');

Propagating User Gestures Through Fetch API

button.addEventListener('click', async () => {
    const response = await fetch('/WebKit/webauthn/challenge', { method: 'POST' });
    const challenge = await response.text();
    const options = {
        publicKey: {
            challenge: hexStringToUint8Array(challenge),             ...
    const publicKeyCredential = await navigator.credentials.create(options);

To be noted, readable streams cannot propagate user gestures yet (related bug). Also, the user gesture will expire after 10 seconds for both XHR events and Fetch API.

Easter Egg: Propagating User Gestures Through setTimeout

button.addEventListener('click', () => {
    setTimeout(async () => {
        const options = { ... };
        const publicKeyCredential = await navigator.credentials.create(options);
    }, 500);

The user gesture in the above example will expire after 1 second.

On iOS 14, iPadOS 14 and macOS Big Sur Beta Seed 1, only the very first case is supported. Thanks to early feedback from developers, we were able to identify limitations and add the later cases. This also helped us recognize that user gestures are not a well understood concept among web developers. Therefore, we are going to contribute to the HTML specification and help establish a well established concept of a user gesture for consistency among browser vendors. Depending on how it goes, we might reconsider expanding the user gesture requirement to security keys.

Interpreting Apple Anonymous Attestation

Attestation is an optional feature which provides websites a cryptographic proof of the authenticator's provenance such that websites that are restricted by special regulations can make a trust decision. Face ID and Touch ID for the web offers Apple Anonymous Attestation. Once verified, this attestation guarantees that an authentic Apple device performed the WebAuthn registration ceremony, but it does not guarantee the operating system running on that device is untampered. If the operating system is untampered, it also guarantees that the private key of the just generated credential is protected by the Secure Enclave and the usage of the private key is guarded with Face ID or Touch ID. (A note: the guard falls back to device passcode if biometric fails multiple times in a row.)

Apple Anonymous Attestation is first of its kind, providing a service like an Anonymization CA, where the authenticator works with a cloud operated CA owned by its manufacturer to dynamically generate per-credential attestation certificates such that no identification information of the authenticator will be revealed to websites in the attestation statement. Furthermore, among data relevant to the registration ceremony, only the public key of the credential along with a hash of the concatenated authenticator data and client data are sent to the CA for attestation, and the CA will not store any of these. This approach makes the whole attestation process privacy preserving. In addition, this approach avoids the security pitfall of Basic Attestation that the compromising of a single device results in revoking certificates from all devices with the same attestation certificate.

Enabling Apple Anonymous Attestation

const options = {
    publicKey: {
        attestation: 'direct',         ...
const publicKeyCredential = await navigator.credentials.create(options);

Verifying the Statement Format

This is the definition of the Apple Anonymous Attestation statement format. Issue 1453 is tracking the progress of adding this statement format to the WebAuthn standard.

$$attStmtType //= (
                       fmt: 'apple',
                       attStmt: appleStmtFormat
appleStmtFormat = {
                       x5c: [ credCert: bytes, * (caCert: bytes) ]

The semantics of the above fields are as follows: x5c credCert followed by its certificate chain, each encoded in X.509 format. credCert The credential public key certificate used for attestation, encoded in X.509 format.

Here is the verification procedure given inputs attStmt, authenticatorData and clientDataHash:

  1. Verify that attStmt is valid CBOR conforming to the syntax defined above and perform CBOR decoding on it to extract the contained fields.
  2. Concatenate authenticatorData and clientDataHash to form nonceToHash.
  3. Perform SHA-256 hash of nonceToHash to produce nonce.
  4. Verify nonce matches the value of the extension with OID ( 1.2.840.113635.100.8.2 ) in credCert. The nonce here is used to prove that the attestation is live and to protect the integrity of the authenticatorData and the client data.
  5. Verify credential public key matches the Subject Public Key of credCert.
  6. If successful, return implementation-specific values representing attestation type Anonymous CA and attestation trust path x5c.

The final step is to verify x5c is a valid certificate chain starting from the credCert to the Apple WebAuthn root certificate, which then proves the attestation. (This step is usually shared among different types of attestations that utilize x5c [4].) To be noted, the AAGUID is all zeros even if the attestation is enabled as all Apple devices that support Face ID and Touch ID for the web should have the same properties as explained at the beginning of this section and no other devices can request Apple Anonymous Attestation.

Unique Characteristics of Apple's Platform Authenticator

Here is a summary about unique characteristics of Apple's platform authenticator, i.e., Face ID and Touch ID for the web.

  • Different option set results in different UI, and therefore please specify it wisely.
  • Only RP ID and user.name are selected to display in the UI.
  • User gestures are required to invoke the platform authenticator.
  • Apple Anonymous Attestation is available. Use it only if attestation is necessary for you.
  • AAGUID is all zero even if attestation is used.
  • Face ID and Touch ID for the web is available in Safari, SFSafariViewController and ASWebAuthenticationSession on iOS 14, iPadOS 14 and macOS Big Sur. For macOS, Safari 14 with downlevel OS will not get this feature because the attestation relies on a new system framework.
  • All public key credentials generated by the platform authenticator are resident keys regardless of what option is specified.
  • Credentials can only be cleared for all via Safari > History > Clear History... on Mac Safari or Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data on iOS & iPadOS.
  • The signature counter is not implemented and therefore it is always zero. Secure Enclave is used to prevent the credential private key from leaking instead of a software safeguard.

Current Status of Security Key Support

Besides the introduction of Face ID and Touch ID for the web, iOS 14, iPadOS 14 and Safari 14 on all supported macOS also have improved security key support including PIN entry and account selection. Here is a list of features that are currently supported. All of them have been supported since iOS 13.3, iPadOS 13.3 and Safari 13 except the two aforementioned.

  • All MUST features in WebAuthn Level 1 and all optional features except CollectedClientData.tokenBinding and most of the extensions. Only the appid extension is supported.
  • All CTAP 2.0 authenticator API except setPin and changePin.
  • USB, Lightning, and NFC transports are supported on capable devices.
  • U2F security keys are supported via CTAP 2.0 but not CTAP 1/U2F JS.
  • Like Face ID and Touch ID for the web, security key support is available in Safari, SFSafariViewController and ASWebAuthenticationSession.


In this blog post, we introduced Face ID and Touch ID for the web. We believe it is a huge leap forward for authentication on the web. It serves as a great alternative way to sign in, especially for traditional multi-factor authentication mechanisms. With the assistance of this technology, we believe multi-factor authentication will replace sole-factor password as the de facto authentication mechanism on the web. Developers, please start testing this feature today and let us know how it works for you by sending feedback on Twitter (@webkit, @alanwaketan, @jonathandavis) or by filing a bug.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

dividuum(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I toyed around with this on https://passwordless.dev/usernameless on iOS 14 and now I have two test users to choose from on the 'Do you want to sign in www.passwordless.dev' using a saved account?' prompt. I have yet to find a way to remove those test accounts again.

xfalcox(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Removing is covered in the article:

> Credentials can only be cleared for all via Safari > History > Clear History... on Mac Safari or Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data on iOS & iPadOS.

varbhat(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Is this only implemented in Apple devices Or is it cross platform ?

hprotagonist(10000) 1 day ago [-]

as far as i know both faceID and touchID require Secure Enclave, so that would be apple only.

Nullabillity(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Looks like it's 'just' another authn method for using the phone itself (or more precisely, the 'secure element') as a WebAuthn/FIDO2 dongle. So the specific UX is Apple-specific (although it could of course be replicated by others), but the API is generic (and already exists).

eldridgea(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This appears to be Apple's implementation of WebAuthn which is a standard specification. So while this page is about the specifics of this in Safari, the WebAuthn spec in general is widely implemented. If your device has a TPM/secure enclave/etc (most modern devices do) then it works already in Chrome/FF/Safari/Edge on desktop and Chrome on Android and Safari on iOS.

If you want to see it in action you can try out a demo at https://webauthn.io

blinkingled(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They are actually implementing the Credential Management API which is a W3C working draft - the underlying implementation on Safari/WebKit will allow using FaceID / TouchID as the Authenticator. Chrome 67+ and Firefox have already had WebAuthn support since some time - https://developers.google.com/web/updates/2018/05/webauthn, https://itnext.io/biometrics-fingerprint-auth-in-your-web-ap... - and they use fingerprint, windows hello, USB/NFC keys as the platform allows - see for e.g. https://www.xda-developers.com/google-chrome-supports-window...

fullstop(10000) 1 day ago [-]

If I can use FIDO2 on my yubikeys in more places, it would be fantastic.

0xCMP(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You can already use NFC and Lightning yubikeys on your iPhone. On iPad Pro there are issues using USB-C still in my experience. Being able to use FaceID on there now will be nice.

paul7986(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It's not supported by mobile or desktop Safari?

olliej(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It looks like it's a feature of the next release? Maybe the developer versions already have it?

mywittyname(10000) 1 day ago [-]

How does this work on laptop/desktop computers?

ArchOversight(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Like the laptops that Apple has built with TouchID built-in?

olliej(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Most (all?) new apple laptops have touchid, but I agree this seems most useful on iPhone/Pad which kind of makes sense as the majority of 2fa keys (yubi, etc) still plug in.

That would surely be more awkward than using the already built in SEP and authentication system.

oezi(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Does anyone know why Webauth does not support a message associated with the authentication? Shouldn't the user be informed in a secure way what they are authenticating for? Currently only site and user name are supported to be shown to the user. For payments (PSD2 for instance) it is a requirement to also provide information about the transaction for instance.

EtienneK(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Last time I checked, WebAuthN does not support UAF transaction signing yet - only via extensions and thus we don't see it in the browser implementations. Hopefully it gets added to the spec in the future.

ezekg(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Has anybody ever thought about how Face ID is pretty much a backdoor into your iPhone? Think back a few years to when Apple refused to open a felon's iPhone for the US government, because 'they couldn't.' If that happened now, they wouldn't even have to ask Apple, given the felon has Face ID enabled.

Edit: I'm kind of surprised by the downvotes, given I thought HN was pretty big on personal privacy. Just thought I'd stir up the discussion, that's all.

Edit 2: I personally think U2F is the way forward here, not Face ID or Touch ID or other biometrics.

dawnerd(10000) 1 day ago [-]

There's limitations. iOS requires a passcode after so long and after so many bad attempts or after a reboot. The time law enforcement would have to use your face to get in is pretty short.

dwighttk(10000) 1 day ago [-]

possibly, but they have to be quick about it:

>To use Face ID, you must set up a passcode on your device.

>You must enter your passcode for additional security validation when:

>The device has just been turned on or restarted.

>The device hasn't been unlocked for more than 48 hours.

>The passcode hasn't been used to unlock the device in the last six and a half days and Face ID hasn't unlocked the device in the last 4 hours.

>The device has received a remote lock command.

>After five unsuccessful attempts to match a face.

>After initiating power off/Emergency SOS by pressing and holding either volume button and the side button simultaneously for 2 seconds.

mcpherrinm(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The risks of forced unlocking with FaceID have been discussed, including in court: https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/01/14/face-id-touch-id-...

The main alternative to biometric ID is a PIN. Those are seldomly changed, and are relatively easily shoulder-surfed. I've seen children who can't even read yet learn their parent's iPad PINs. If you're afraid of the police, surveillance needs to be your threat model.

There's some ways to prevent being forced to use face unlock if you see it coming, by squeezing your phone: https://www.macworld.com/article/3236793/how-to-quickly-and-...

nomel(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The fingerprint sensor found on most phones doesn't always require intent, either.

jjcm(10000) 1 day ago [-]

These all seem to be examples that use faceID/touchID as a password. That's not what biometrics should be though, they should be the username. I hope that this is supported as a flow as well. Identify who you are with biometrics, and prove your access with a correlated password.

anang(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

I know I'm just repeating what a lot of other have said, but this is sort of missing how this works. To use SSH as an example:

What you're describing is essentially using a fingerprint instead of a private key or password for logging into a server via ssh.

The way this works is more akin to using a private key to login via SSH, but that private key is protected by a fingerprint instead of a password.

Ultimately the security comes from not sharing your private key, rather than the mechanism used to protect that key.

samatman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This is a good doctrine, and a bad dogma.

Under the hood, [bio]ID generates a one-time token with a signature that serves as a superior substitute to a password.

If your face or fingerprint don't happen to be around, you can always use the password for the same account to reset it. If you have legal concerns about being coerced into using a biometric system, you should disable it.

One of the problems 'biometrics shouldn't be a password' is meant to expose, is that you can't reset a biometric if it leaks. By keeping the biometrics inside a device at all times, the T2 system substantially mitigates this risk. I'm fairly certain you can remove a device from your Apple account, and the ID system will no longer work, even if provided with your face or fingerprint.

Polylactic_acid(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I might be wrong but I don't think thats how its working. It sounds like your phone saves a password/key locally and then when you load a website, faceid is used by your phone to unlock the keyring and sends the normal password to the website.

I'm not sure what the UX is when moving devices though.

arnarbi(10000) 1 day ago [-]

First, the model in FIDO is that it's the piece of hardware (in this case, your laptop or iOS device) that is your authentication factor. The biometric is a local facility for unlocking that device and approving that specific action.

Second, the primary threat identity providers (and their users) deal with are remote, impersonal hijacking of accounts, where the password is either guessed (because it existed in a leak) or the user was phished.

That's the primary value of something like this. Attacks where someone can lift your fingerprints or has your device are real but much much less common.

whereistimbo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Authentication and authorization

If the machine can prove that you are indeed you through biometric authentication, why take another step for authorization?

dlivingston(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Maybe (probably) I'm just ignorant of the actual state of the industry, but it seems to me that biometrics have always been about providing full user authentication. I'm not personally aware of any instance where an alphanumeric password is still required as a secondary authenticator to biometrics.

gumby(10000) 1 day ago [-]

But I like to use touchID to authenticate with multiple usernames on the same site. Using it as the username would reduce it to only working in a single case.

dustinmoris(10000) 1 day ago [-]

That doesn't make sense. Username + Password is a cumbersome workaround because (so far) machines couldn't use biometrics to authenticate a user. Now they can, so we can let go of that very problematic and often insecure model.

Think like this, when you go to visit your grandmother and knock on her door you don't have to provide a password. You don't have to provide anything, because the human brain is capable of determining your identity in less than a fraction of a second. This is why as soon as your grandmother opens the door she'll have a smile on her face and welcome you in. That IS biometrics. Now machines can do the same. It's the oldest and most secure form of authentication in human history.

Animats(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Should there be a non-anonymous option, for social media sites where you have to log in under your real name? Verified by face recognition and fingerprints?

jassany(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I cant tell if you're being sarcastic lol.

young_unixer(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I would never use this for anything sensitive.

Bad actors can get your face and your fingerprint. Some of them already have it (governments, banks, Apple, Facebook, etc). And changing your face or fingerprint is practically impossible.

reaperducer(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Apple has my face and fingerprint? I haven't heard this before and Google turns up nothing. Any source?

pgoggijr(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This wouldn't just require them to have your face and fingerprint though - This would require them to

1. Have access to your phone

2. Be able to spoof the phone's authentication mechanisms (whether that be fingerprint / face)

In this regard, it passes the 2FA test (something that you own, and something that you are).

While it's true that you can't really change your face or fingerprint, this facilitates moving away from the 'password repeated across multiple accounts' landscape of insecurity.

LeoPanthera(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Getting your face (and it has to be a high resolution 3D model of your face, not just a photograph) or your fingerprint is not enough. They also have to have physical access to one of your devices.

olliej(10000) 1 day ago [-]

what? Apple does not have your face or fingerprints.

FaceID and TouchID both record any data they need in parts of the enclave that can't be used for anything else, and cannot be extracted. The information that they do store is not a picture, and cannot be reversed even in the case where someone does manage to get that data.

They have repeatedly documented how these features work.

Similarly touchid and faceid aren't sending your touchid/faceid data to a third party (because again, even if they wanted to, they can't), they're simply gating access to credential data on successful local authentication.

mariomariomario(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm curious about 'Apple Anonymous Attestation'. Is Apple taking on any liability by providing this service or is this all done on hardware through private APIs?

ArchOversight(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It is only for Apple Devices, and all it does is allow them to easily disable attestation and thus (is this device used for auth secure) for a singular TouchID/FaceID.

Instead of with Yubikey where if the attestation key is compromised, and it is blacklisted, they disable every single last device manufactured with said attestation key.

fuzzy2(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Attestation is just a technical term in the WebAuthn API. Different authenticators can use different attestation data formats. Apple rolled their own, hence the name.

jiveturkey(10000) 1 day ago [-]

When this was pre-announced awhile back I highlighted the lack of anonymity, due to the Apple secure element (T2 on laptop/desktop; whatever the name is on mobile) lacking attestation capability. That comment was downvoted by folks that presumably don't understand the problem at hand.

In that pre-announce video Apple dared to insinuate that attestation by current devices is de-anonymizing, when that isn't universally the case. And that their flavor of such would be 'actually' privacy preserving. At the time, I figured this (a remote service) would be how they would address it, as the secure hardware probably doesn't have the burned in capability. Largely due to Apple needing to do it their own way.

Now of course, like the 'normal' U2F attestation, this is private between the client and the service. But in Apple's case, like DOH, it is not private between client and Apple. IOW, a decrease in privacy, but marketed as an increase! LOL, classic Apple!

They go even further in their blind denial by stating:

> this approach avoids the security pitfall of Basic Attestation that the compromising of a single device results in revoking certificates from all devices with the same attestation certificate.

without recognizing or acknowledging that there is still a single point of compromise, but now it's a cloud service which many engineers have access to and presumably isn't 100% impervious to outsider attack either. So yes, it may avoid the single device security pitfall (resulting in a largish group of devices requireing to be revoked), but it trades it for an even bigger pitfall of all devices everywhere needing to be revoked!

It's sad that the reality distortion field has to be extended to privacy and security. Apple could easily just present their take on it without confusing the issues for the sake of marketing.

Further, it's up to the site to decide whether to use an anonymous attestation or not. The user will not be informed either way. With 'standard' attestation, it's up to the user in their decision of what token (security key) to buy, and is always in effect. That said, a non-attested enrollment, if done correctly on the client side, doesn't give up privacy; just security.

To answer your question, it depends what you mean by 'taking on'. Yes, Apple is assuming some risk. They are not taking on any liability in the legal sense.

mrwnmonm(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Honest question, Why I feel I have to be an advanced programmer to understand all of that?

I see a lot of confusion in the comments, so it is not just me. Why the article couldn't be simpler?

Maybe I am just stupid, I don't know.

syspec(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

It seems like it's really written for potential implementers already in that field.

I love technical content that does not shy away from from going in depth

znpy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've come to appreciate DigitalOcean's approach on the matter.

Until you configure a 2FA device (TOPT in my case) they'll send you a temporary code to your email address.

So password alone is worthless, and mailbox ownership is verified on every login.

Also, I made a point never to use the 'login with X' feature, no matter what X is.

I always sign up with my own email.

lilyball(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I really hate the 'we're going to send a code to your email' approach because it so often breaks.

Case in point, I tried to log into Patreon earlier today, they insisted on sending a code, and it never arrived. I tried several times, no email. I have a record of every email sent to my address for the past several years regardless of spam status so I can be 100% positive they simply never sent it.

In the end I had to give up. I can't log into Patreon today, because of their insistence on sending me an email even though I'm logging in from a computer I've used many times before.

spondyl(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I would agree except I always had issues where I would never receive their TOTP emails. I was using Fastmail and had my spam settings set very leniently.

Fastmail Support claimed they never received any mail (ie it hadn't bounced) but DigitalOcean Support would insist I check my spam folder for the 500th time.

Ultimately, I just swore to never use their services, primarily because I... could never log in and actually use their services.

I think it's fixed nowadays but I wasted so much time on that issue.

6d6b73(10000) 1 day ago [-]

No. Thank you very much.

mttjj(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Care to elaborate?

_jal(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I predict logs of Face ID attestations will feature in divorce lawsuits within a year of them becoming commonplace.

charlescarver(10000) 1 day ago [-]


drexlspivey(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This comes 3 days after a leak that alleged that iPhone 13 will bring back Touch ID via in-screen fingerprinting https://www.techradar.com/uk/news/move-over-iphone-12-apples...

MobileVet(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Please please please be true. TouchID is objectively superior to FaceId, by a long shot. It is my soap box... but TouchID RARELY failed and could be activated BEFORE you had the phone in front of you. FaceID fails constantly and MUST be in view to start the unlock process.

TouchID has a single failure mode (and a half) that isn't that common. Wet / dampness. Solution, dry your finger, try again. Gloves are the 'half' mode as what can you expect, you can't access the finger.

FaceID has no less than 3 FREQUENT failures and a myriad of other smaller less frequent ones. Occlusion, distance and light.

Occlusion - Have your face resting on your palm... fail. Have a hat on, fail. Have a mask on...

Distance is an interesting one, but for those of us with terrible eyesight, it is constant. Phone call / text at night? Put the phone up to my face to see... FaceID fail (too close). I have to move it back away so I can't read it to unlock... hoping it did unlock before I move it forward again to read it.

Light - This really shows up when outdoors in the sun. The IR sensor gets washed out and can't work. It isn't that bad, but it does happen frequently enough to notice.

The other thing that is SO annoying about FaceID is that is has no idea WHEN you want to use it... see a face 'I must SCAN IT!' Oh, that is someone else, now you are locked out and need your password. Pick up your phone, SCAN! Oh, that is your pocket, now you need your password. The latter can be turned off, the former, not so much.

I ALMOST bought an 8 instead of a Xs when I finally upgraded, but OLED pushed me over the edge. I do love the screen, but I scorn FaceID daily and was hoping for TouchId to return to the 12. Fingers crossed for the 13, lol.

madeofpalk(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Hasn't this been leaked for like the past 3 years?

judge2020(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Neither sync nor keychain is mentioned in this post or in the WWDC presentation, so I'd like to ask if the credentials are synced between devices whatsoever, or if they're transferrable. While it'd be more secure to run it through a device's T2, a syncing/keychain-backed key would save a lot of the re-enrollment hassle for users who end up transferring their data to a new phone or need to enroll each of their devices for all of the web services they use.

0xCMP(10000) 1 day ago [-]

For simplified login situations (e.g. not requiring two factors for authentication) you'll probably have some kind of password or password-less (email) login flow where you can login at first and then enroll the FIDO2 device.

Otherwise there is no way to login from any other device.

An alternative is that you can authenticate a new device from an existing device along with a re-auth on that device to verify it's them. Discord has a feature similar to this with it's QR login system.

dwaite(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They are no synchronized between devices. This is generally considered to be a no-no with FIDO (although Apple has not publicly announced whether they intend to be FIDO certified)

Zaheer(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You can change a password but you can't change your fingerprint / palm / etc. Am I missing something? How is Face / Touch ID more secure that user + pass? What happens when biometric data is leaked?

kalleboo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> How is Face / Touch ID more secure that user + pass

Because the password that the average user is using is shared among 100 sites and has been leaked 10 times over, and meanwhile there is nobody dusting their leftover coke can for prints.

zeepzeep(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

It's not.

notatoad(10000) 1 day ago [-]

you're right that using biometric data for authentication is bad, but that's not what's happening here. faceid/touchid stores a private key on your device, and uses your biometrics to unlock that private key. it's the same idea as using a yubikey or something where you have to press the button on the 2fa dongle to prove it's physically in your posession and unlock the private key stored within it, but it goes beyond just pressing a button by doing some biometric identification.

the concern isn't what if the biometric data is leaked, because the biometrics are only used to allow local access to your phone. the concern is what if the private keys stored in your phone are leaked. and the secure enclave makes that as close to impossible as any other existing solution.

atty(10000) 1 day ago [-]

As far as Apple devices are concerned, biometric data never leaves the Secure Enclave, so risk of data leak is non-zero, but sufficiently low for everyday life. Compare that to the massive number of people who use password123 as their password for every account across the web, and yes, biometrics are far more secure. :) More secure than a random 30 character string? Probably not.

And if you're targeted by individuals who are sufficiently motivated to steal your biometrics and the physical device, then neither the password nor the biometrics will be enough to protect you.

wmf(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Biometric data is never leaked because it never leaves the secure enclave in the device.

saagarjha(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> What happens when biometric data is leaked?

Like when someone takes your picture? Nothing.

Razengan(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I was just thinking: Could we replace CAPTCHA with Touch ID/Face ID when browsing a website on Apple devices?

That would be a pretty quick and painless way to verify that I am, indeed, a human, with no unpaid labor involved.

alexmingoia(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Potentially, yes. Authenticators can provide a public certificate, so servers can accept attestations created through whitelisted authenticators.

This would mean being forced to use proprietary hardware or closed-source authenticators, because that's the only way to control authenticator certificates.

blintz(10000) 1 day ago [-]

So happy Apple decided to go with an open standard here rather than something proprietary. This is good news for the FIDO2 ecosystem and I hope this leads to far greater support for FIDO2 authenticators of all types.

There is another world in which Apple just pushed 'Sign in with Apple' and created yet another federated identity provider rather than true, 'secure element'-based FIDO2 authentication.

brightball(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Really excited about this too. When we were adding 2FA options at my company we pushed to use Webauthn instead of just a QR code/OTP approach.

News like this where we can tell people 'it already works because we made the right decision' is fun.

yegle(10000) 1 day ago [-]

'Sign in with Apple' requires a developer account with Apple.

Having saw Epic's developer account terminated by Apple, I would definitely stay away from any 'Sign in with Apple'.

(FWIW, the only 2fa with 'Sign in with Apple', if you don't own any Apple hardware, is SMS.)

robomartin(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Having just devoted about 12 hours to helping my wife migrate to a password manager from an ad-hoc collection of access control approaches (you don't want to know), I emerged horrified by the range and domain of what I can only call incompetence and a total lack of common sense and UI intelligence.

I wrote about it here (long post):


I haven't quite processed this entirely yet. Part of me feels one or more adults on the world stage need to get behind what I will call a canonical approach to login, authentication, account recovery, password policies, etc.

In some ways I equate this mess to what happened back when fire hydrants were not compatible with every hose coupling fire departments used. In other words, it was a mess and people got hurt.

Standardization is good. Or can be good. After this weekend I can't help but think that this is another area where the web needs to seek standardization. I get the feeling that every n-th developer is rolling their own approach and the result is an absolute mess.

Not advocating for an Apple solution, just saying that I had a revelation this past weekend and what I learned does not speak kindly of how this important aspect of online life is being handled.

madeofpalk(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This doesnt really surprise me - Apple has a history of implementing, or moving to, standards for their platform features in Safari.

I think about Apple Pay for web - it started out as a proprietary API, and then the Payment Request API standard was developed and they added support for that.

It's in Apple's interest to help develop and support standards like this because they mean more adoption of their platform features.

rektide(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I dunno. I mean, I do, it feels good. But it also is a very different kind of FIDO2 than what we've seen before. In a way that FIDO was designed for, that we hoped would happen. But it's still not entirely joy & mirth that we're here for me.

It feels like a little like the first day we start to understand how 'Big Tent' (in the OpenStack sense) FIDO2 ecosystem is. You can do whatever, make anything, and call it FIDO2; it's all duck typing: looks like a duck, quacks must be a duck. No implementation details are required, no transparency is needed, everything can be totally vendored way way up, and the standard will welcome you. Your platform is welcome here. This post is about how to use & prefer that platform, over the more common means available.

For sure this is overwhelmingly a good thing. It's by design that we allow platform authenticators in WebAuthn. Apple is allowing their closed, proprietary security technologies to seamlessly work on the web without making webdevs jump through hoops. It's a good thing, and this will really help Web Authentication for sure.

Still I have some wistfulness. It's a good user experience, it's great. It's a win for devs, it's a win for users. Still there's some larger context I can't quite put my finger on, when I see 'authenticatorSelection: { authenticatorAttachment: 'platform' }'. The web is letting more of the native platform shine through, and that's good, but it also forgoes some of the knowability & commonality that resounds on so much of the rest of the web, and while the immediate impact is extremely good, I still think there's some kind of hard to describe ultra-slow-motion civilization-scale loss that's also passenger to this successful commingling of web and platform.

bjt2n3904(10000) 1 day ago [-]

If passwords are the original sin, then Face ID and Touch ID are Sodom and Gomorrah.

Authentication is something you KNOW. Strong authentication is something you KNOW, and something you HAVE.

Something you ARE is great for identification, but terrible for authentication. Something you are cannot be changed like a password.

robinson-wall(10000) 1 day ago [-]

In this case Face/Touch ID represents something you have (the iOS device with a persisted credential in its secure enclave), and something you are (fingerprint/face).

ericpauley(10000) 1 day ago [-]

At least, in the case of biometric authentication on device, the ability to use biometrics expires automatically when the device is turned off (and other times), so biometric credential theft has a limited window of vulnerability. This contrasts with many fixed biometric authentication systems that aren't used as often as a cell phone.

ryukafalz(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The "something you have" is the key stored in the secure enclave/yubikey/whatever. That's the real authenticator in this scenario. That it's (maybe) unlocked biometrically is nice, but secondary.

zxcvbn4038(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Last I checked Apple only supported U2F and similar in Safari - the WebKit exposed for the other iOS browsers use can't access those features. Did that change in iOS 14?

sitharus(10000) 1 day ago [-]

According to the article

> Like Face ID and Touch ID for the web, security key support is available in Safari, SFSafariViewController and ASWebAuthenticationSession.

mortenjorck(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The UI probably needs to be more explicit about what's going on.

I would imagine most non-technical users aren't well-versed in how Apple's Secure Enclave (or other competing solutions) manage authentication, and so I wouldn't be surprised if 'allow example.com to use TouchID' would give many the impression that the website is asking to access their biometric data.

Ideally, the prompt should reflect the actual model, though I'm not sure how one might pose that in an accessible and succinct way.

djrogers(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> I wouldn't be surprised if 'allow example.com to use TouchID'

This is already a very common pattern on ios devices - every app that wants to allow touch or face ID based login uses such prompts, so users are used to it.

easton(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They could just have it say 'example.com wants to use Touch ID to sign-in. Biometric data is not shared.' with a help link that goes on to explain in laymens terms how your iPhone basically sends a password-ish thing to the website after you use Touch ID (similar to how Apple Pay sends a one-time use credit card number to a merchant).

dochtman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Hope this will finally put some pressure on Mozilla to build TouchID support:


outworlder(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Provided there's still someone still working there that's capable of implementing it.

AshleysBrain(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It's a shame they have a messy pile of API-specific hacks to propagate the 'user gesture'. Chrome solved this problem with a change to the spec (which they called 'User activation v2' [1]). It's basically two flags and a short timeout, and it covers basically all cases. Safari's approach means you have very specific codepaths, and if you do something async outside of that, tough luck, you can't use the feature and will have to nag the user to touch the screen again. This already affects APIs like clipboard (want to copy something that takes async work to generate? tough luck), limits APIs like OffscreenCanvas (want to move your game engine to a worker? tough luck, you lose access to all user gestures), and this too. Hopefully Apple can consider aligning with Chrome on this.

[1] https://www.chromestatus.com/feature/5722065667620864

Razengan(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

> It's a shame they have a messy pile of API-specific hacks to propagate the 'user gesture'. Chrome solved this problem with a change to the spec

If Safari had changed the spec that comment would probably have begun with 'It's a shame they had to change the spec...'

> Safari's approach means you have very specific codepaths, and if you do something async...tough luck

I'm no expert on it but this sounds more secure, no?

> APIs like clipboard (want to copy something

On a side note, I really wish non-explicit copy/pasting/clipboard snooping would die.

iOS 14 has exposed a bunch of apps that read your clipboard without any explicit paste action. It's creepy and we can only hope that it's not malicious. A bunch of big names including Discord are guilty of this.

dzhiurgis(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Cmon apple, just add NFC to macbooks already. Fido cards are the most obvious solution to this.

anuila(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't know what I'm talking about, but isn't the Secure Enclave already a solution to this? Fido cards just sound like an external solution that all iPhones and new MacBooks already have integrated (T2)

Nextgrid(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This would also open the door to actually secure online card payments by just tapping the physical card (or Apple/Google Pay) instead of relying on static card numbers & hacks such as 3D Secure.

can16358p(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Why does it exactly show a popup saying 'website wants to use Touch ID'?

It could just say 'Touch ID to login' on the Touch Bar and wouldn't it be enough? If the user prefers otherwise, they simply won't touch. Doesn't the popup create extra friction (unless I'm missing something)?

thejsa(10000) 1 day ago [-]

My understanding is that the permissions popup is used for the registration flow (generating & enrolling a key into the Secure Enclave), and after that if there are existing credentials, it's just 'Touch ID to login'.

user396492(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Any bullying or power abuse situation may easily exploit biometric authentication against the victim. Kids bullying other kids, domestic abuse, authorities etc.

Now, if biometric authentication becomes the norm, how will a wife suffering domestic abuse justify using a password?

askvictor(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I agree with you, but am not sure a password works too well in such situations either - the abuser would presumably just beat the victim until they enter their password?

obilgic(10000) 1 day ago [-]

What will Chrome do?

oarsinsync(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Probably the same as what they did with Apple Pay, and (re)launch a comparable function with Android?

lern_too_spel(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Other platforms have supported this for a long time. https://www.zdnet.com/google-amp/article/windows-10-says-hel...

rektide(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> What will Chrome do?

Develop & give away a verifiable, open-source hardware & software solution for a silicon root of trust, with a focus on security through transparency[1]. Google will organize & make available the world's information on how to secure systems well.

Yes, this is intended for, among other uses, implementation of a FIDO2 universal 2-factor security key[2].

[1] https://opentitan.org/

[2] https://github.com/lowRISC/opentitan/pull/1125/files#diff-6d...

timdorr(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This is a part of the Credentials Management API / WebAuthn API: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/API/Web_Authent...

They already support this for things like FIDO hardware keys and other biometric hardware. It's also supported by Firefox.

mkl95(10000) 1 day ago [-]

How secure is this?

young_unixer(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The s in 'face ID' stands for security.

Historical Discussions: Congress should invest in open-source software (October 15, 2020: 690 points)

(691) Congress should invest in open-source software

691 points 6 days ago by gilad in 10000th position

www.brookings.edu | Estimated reading time – 8 minutes | comments | anchor

In response to past crises, investments in physical infrastructure have helped the United States recover and thrive after significant challenges. After both the Great Depression and the Great Recession, for example, increased investment in transportation infrastructure was a key part of bringing the American economy back from disaster.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant economic crisis requires a similarly significant response, but it also asks of lawmakers to consider what is next. We can't just invest in highways—we also need to invest in the technology underpinning the information superhighway. To rebuild from one of the greatest challenges of our time, the United States must invest both in physical and digital infrastructure to secure its recovery.

For the last few years, both Democrats and Republicans have called for major infrastructure investments, only for them not to materialize. These efforts to fund infrastructure investment have focused on the physical world—highways, railroads, bridges. While those are important areas for investment, we must not forget the equal importance of digital infrastructure, especially the free and open-source software (FOSS) that is built mostly by volunteer labor and underpins the digital world. FOSS is even working its way into the physical world, as it is built into our phones, cars, and refrigerators.

FOSS began in the 1980s as an effort to give developers the ability to tinker with and alter software, which was prevented by most software vendors at the time. This led to the "free" in FOSS being defined as "Free as in Free Speech, not as in Free Beer," although frequently the software was also free of costs. For years, FOSS was primarily the domain of hobbyists, but as computing and the internet became a larger part of daily life, so too did FOSS. The untiring efforts of countless volunteers collaborating remotely eventually led to a robust FOSS ecosystem. Now, FOSS underpins the entire digital economy in the form of operating systems (Linux, Android, etc.), databases (MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, etc.), and big data and artificial intelligence software (Hadoop, TensorFlow, etc.). Multi-billion dollar companies are regularly built on the back of FOSS. Even Microsoft, whose leadership once called Linux "a cancer" and equated it to communism, has now embraced FOSS and uses it as the core of its Azure cloud computing offering.

As the pandemic has highlighted, our economy is increasingly reliant on digital infrastructure. As more and more in-person interactions have moved online, products like Zoom have become critical infrastructure supporting business meetings, classroom education, and even congressional hearings. Such communication technologies build on FOSS and rely on the FOSS that is deeply ingrained in the core of the internet. Even grocery shopping, one of the strongholds of brick and mortar retail, has seen an increased reliance on digital technology that allows higher-risk shoppers to pay someone to shop for them via apps like InstaCart (which itself relies on, and contributes to, FOSS).

The core infrastructure of the digital world now needs major upgrades. Thirty-five years ago, the federal government invested heavily in the National Super Computing Centers (NSCC), which led not only to advances in computer hardware, but also in software – including the Apache web server, now one of the most widely used web servers, and which helped spur the construction of the internet we know today.

These kinds of investments in digital infrastructure tend to see major returns. Our research has shown that NSCC investments saw a rate of return of at least 17% for the Apache software itself, let alone the billions of dollars of technology and commerce that have since been built on top of it. This is more than double the federal government's commonly used baseline expected rate of return of 7%.

Although such direct investment is one way to encourage positive, effective outcomes, there are additional cost-effective methods that require less upfront capital outlay. For example, my recent research has shown that changing federal procurement regulations that favor FOSS over proprietary software can have numerous positive spillovers to the private sector, including increases in company productivity, the number of technology startups founded, and the size of the technology-related labor force. This research shows that the passage of such a law in France led to as much as an 18% increase in the founding of French IT-related startups and as much as a 14% increase in the number of French workers employed in IT-related jobs.

While some FOSS contributors are paid by their employer to contribute, most contributions to FOSS are made without direct compensation. Therefore, another option is to provide tax credits to the people who volunteer their free time to help create and maintain FOSS. A bill for such a credit has been introduced in the New York State Assembly every legislative session since 2009 but has never made it out of committee. If passed, this bill would provide a $200 tax credit for expenses related to FOSS development, which would help incentivize more individuals to contribute, likely leading to spillover benefits for the state of New York similar to those from the French procurement regulation.

All three of these levers for FOSS—direct funding, procurement regulation, and tax incentives—should be included in the next infrastructure bill.

Although the $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill recently passed by the House of Representatives includes $100 billion for increasing access to broadband in underserved communities, that only solves the problem of today—it does not lay the groundwork to solve the problems of tomorrow. Our work through the Core Infrastructure Initiative, a joint project between Harvard's Laboratory for Innovation Science and the Linux Foundation, has shown there are significant vulnerabilities in the core infrastructure of the digital economy that, unaddressed, could lead to significant problems down the road. These vulnerabilities include: a heavy reliance on FOSS components that are outdated or not regularly maintained, a lack of both transparency and consistent naming conventions, making it difficult for companies to update their software properly, and a lack of project governance safeguards, which could allow malicious actors to insert backdoors into FOSS projects.

To understand the magnitude of the vulnerabilities contained in widely deployed open-source code, consider the Heartbleed bug in OpenSSL, which affected nearly 20% of secure websites on the internet. In 2012 a bug was mistakenly introduced into the project's underlying code. Heartbleed went undiscovered for two years, partly because the project was being maintained by only one full-time engineer and a few part-time volunteers. The Core Infrastructure Initiative was launched in response to Heartbleed, and major technology companies like Google, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft donated millions to better support OpenSSL and other critical FOSS projects. Firms that normally compete against each other realized that FOSS is so critical to the digital economy that they need to work together to help secure it.

FOSS projects are too vital to modern commerce and communications to rely on the benevolence of the private sector alone. The federal government also needs to play its part. Future infrastructure bills should also include new funding and incentives for FOSS development and maintenance. For our economy to recover and grow tomorrow, we need to invest in our open-source digital infrastructure today.

Frank Nagle is an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. His research is supported in part by the Linux Foundation.

Google, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft provide financial support to The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit organization devoted to rigorous, independent, in-depth public policy research.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

alexgmcm(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If it's paid for by the people, it should belong to the people.

Open-source meets this requirement, proprietary software doesn't.

dsabanin(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's paid for by the people of United States, but if made Open Source in the conventional sense it's going to belong to people of all the countries?

People of all the countries are not a problem, but governments that are in political opposition to the US can be. I could imagine them using the source code to target technological and social structures of the country. They could do it now as well, but with much more effort than cloning stuff from GitHub.

jburwell(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Unless the software is classified, the source code is available via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

throwawaygh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> While some FOSS contributors are paid by their employer to contribute, most contributions to FOSS are made without direct compensation. Therefore, another option is to provide tax credits to the people who volunteer their free time to help create and maintain FOSS. A bill for such a credit has been introduced in the New York State Assembly every legislative session since 2009 but has never made it out of committee. If passed, this bill would provide a $200 tax credit for expenses related to FOSS development, which would help incentivize more individuals to contribute, likely leading to spillover benefits for the state of New York similar to those from the French procurement regulation.

It's like Hacktoberfest, but instead of a free t-shirt it's $200.00 off your tax bill. What could possibly go wrong?

easton(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Hacktoberfest learned the lesson, just have the project agree to participate. (Or say that you only get the credit if the development was for a foundation, like Apache or Mozilla)

jqpabc123(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Asking for government support is really an admission of failure.

It is an admission that the open source concept cannot survive on it's own merit in the marketplace.

It is asking government to pick winners and losers by way of funding, instead of the marketplace.

What could possibly go wrong? Everyone knows that government lives on the cutting edge of technology and will always respond instantly to the open source community --- rather than say corporate donors and lobbyists. They would never demand things be steered in their direction.

As they say, be careful what you wish for --- you just might get it.

jedbrown(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Requesting federal funding for interstate highways is really an admission of failure.

It is an admission that the transportation infrastructure concept cannot survive on its own merit in the marketplace.

elicash(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Lots of things couldn't survive on their own, but aren't failures at all.

For example, we're currently subsidizing multiple vaccines for COVID-19 because it's important that we collectively take on the risk that a single one might fail. Those billions in spending to pay for something that might be worth $0 is worth it because it's likely at least some of the vaccines will be safe and effective.

Sometimes things start out as unprofitable and then only later, because of those dollars invested, become profitable. Space, for example. Government investments in solar power have also been super important.

Or, more relevant to Hacker News, how about ARPANET being funded by the military, and then later that funding going to the National Science Foundation? Eventually, of course, it got privatized.

bluedevil2k(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The government has shown time and again that it's terrible at investing. Most people/entities are when they're spending other people's money. This would result in the same issues as all government spending does - the powerful Reps and Senators will funnel money to open source projects in their districts and to their donors. We'll see a lot of open source projects in Kentucky get funded because of McConnell. Liberal & Democrat based projects will see little funding as Republicans block their funding. It would be a mess.

sethish(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Debatable. Venture capital in the technology market hasn't shown consistent return on investment in terms of revenue. Contrawise, the interstate system and the CCC were effective government investments.

thwllms(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This would be a very big deal in my industry - civil/environmental engineering. In the river/stream flood modeling space, the US Army Corps of Engineers' HEC-RAS program [1] is king. It's a critical part of FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program. HEC-RAS is free, but it's not open source, and USACE doesn't appear to have any plans to make it so.

HEC-RAS is a Windows-only GUI application. Supposedly USACE has an internal Linux version, not publicly available. HEC-RAS has a limited COM API, but it's not officially documented. I suspect that the API was exposed unintentionally. Most of the input files are text, but the format is very strange (very old-school), again with no official documentation. I spend much of my days reverse-engineering HEC-RAS file formats in order to make the process of building flood models more efficient and less error-prone. Other developers like me exist at competing civil engineering firms, working on similar reverse engineering projects and secret sauce tools for HEC-RAS.

If HEC-RAS was made open source, it would be a game changer. We'd be able to accomplish so much more. If the input/output files were officially documented, it would be a game changer. FEMA would benefit tremendously.

[1] https://www.hec.usace.army.mil/software/hec-ras/

boris-ning-usds(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Hi, I sent an email to the team in the listing to see if they can provide additional information about the file formats involved in HEC-RAS. Finger-crossed.

The following link does include a Linux download, but with little support - https://www.hec.usace.army.mil/software/hec-ras/download.asp....

Also doing some digging on Github, I did find an reverse engineered version of a python version of RAS via win32com control - https://github.com/mikebannis/rascontrol, there's also projects of varying degree across Github - https://github.com/search?q=hec-ras.

dimmke(10000) 6 days ago [-]

For what it's worth, there is a lot of movement in the Federal government to open source code that is written for the government. The GSA, which is the kind of meta agency that helps other federal agencies do stuff talks a lot about this. They also have a site called https://code.gov/ that lists open source projects created for the Federal government. A lot of their own repositories are completely open source and they do development in the open.

I work on a contract for the CDC and we open sourced an older version of the software we display data on maps in: https://github.com/CDCgov/CDC-Maps

I'm working on switching our development to open so we use the same codebase that is available to everybody and adding other visualizations. It's slow going but there is movement there. I do agree it would be beneficial to fund open source projects, likely by including some requirement in contracts.

I think them funding projects directly with cash could cause a lot of problems though. The increase regulations that would need to be added would probably not be worth it for open source projects. People who get funding would likely need to submit a lot of documentation, there'd also probably be weird rules about non U.S. citizens etc... and laws would need to be passed.

kfrzcode(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The work we do for the VA is open source! I am a contractor working alongside the US Digital Service - there are a TON of projects out in the wild and lots of movement in the 'Government should build open source software' direction.


Join us at https://oddball.io/jobs

jhardy54(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Big +1.

I found a small bug in a GSA site (plainlanguage.gov) and was able to PR a fix that was merged almost immediately. It's a shame that we can't do the same with all of the bugs in other government websites.

gunsch(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I work on a contract for the VA, which includes open-source repos [1] for VA.gov's frontend + backend systems. We work closely with USDS [2], who has been a huge ally in advocating for doing our work in the open, including our project management. It seems like GSA does a lot of similar advocacy work, though I haven't interfaced with them directly.

One interesting thing we've run across is that Public Domain source code is not considered 'Open Source' in terms of OSI licensing [3]. This isn't usually relevant, but has blocked use cases like software services offering free use for OSI-licensed projects.

(To other readers: If you're interested in chatting about working on modern, open-source projects in the federal space, drop me a note! Email in profile).

[1] https://department-of-veterans-affairs.github.io/va.gov-team..., repository links at the bottom

[2] https://www.usds.gov/

[3] https://opensource.org/node/878

dalbasal(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Say, for the sake of argument, that you had $100m pa to invest in open source. What/how would you do?

godelski(10000) 6 days ago [-]

For what it's worth a large amount of the DOE work (where they have the super computers) is open source. You got ORNL (with Summit and soon Frontier)[0], ANL[1] (soon to have Aurora), and LLNL[2]. I think what needs to happen is that things could be better organized, for example ORNL has [3] which still open sourced but not grouped under the ORNL GH. Also if we got to code.gov and search 'ORNL' and 'C++' we only see DCA++ which isn't on the GH but here[4].

I think as long as code isn't sensitive to national security (LLNL...) it should be open source. But I think the big problem is that organization and discovery is very difficult. code.gov is an attempt to solve this, but it doesn't do it well.

[0] https://github.com/ORNL

[1] https://github.com/argonne-national-laboratory

[2] https://github.com/LLNL

[3] https://github.com/ornladios/ADIOS2

[4] https://github.com/CompFUSE/DCA

kobe_bryant(10000) 6 days ago [-]

yup, I'm working on a contract for HRSA and open source is a requirement

mtalantikite(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's definitely becoming more common. Many agencies have organizations up on GitHub where development of various products are done out in the open (for example, https://github.com/cmsgov).

toomuchtodo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> I think them funding projects directly with cash could cause a lot of problems though. The increase regulations that would need to be added would probably not be worth it for open source projects. People who get funding would likely need to submit a lot of documentation, there'd also probably be weird rules about non U.S. citizens etc... and laws would need to be passed.

I think 18F's modular contracting methodology is highly effective for this sort endeavor, if you can take the opinion that they're the sponsor and benevolent dictator driving that part of the codebase (and the code developed is open sourced upon confirmation acceptance criteria has been met).

Thank you for switching to an open development model. A rising tide lifts all boats.


an_opabinia(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Brookings seems to be advocating funding open source IT projects that already exist, for example a big ($10m+) check to the Apache Foundation. Apache already has the compliance competency.

It may be more efficient to use existing grant writing for universities. The Apache Foundation can redistribute the money it can't hire programmers competently the way a university research department can. However it would be bigger impact to write smaller checks for many tools.

The real problem is that single purpose / single feature IT software tends to be the best at what it does but is the hardest to fund this way.

The compromise will probably be funding people to write and evangelize standards. This is too bad, because people who apply for grants aren't Google, they aren't standardizing an existing, widely deployed real piece of successful engineering without any economics brakes. They're people writing things like SOC 2 or ISO 27000xxx that arguably do not provide any meaningful value at all - standards that could vanish overnight and absolutely nothing about a single person's daily life would change at all.

18F or whatever publishes a lot of stuff like this. Markdown policy documents. I think it's profoundly wasteful, it is taking talented people's intellectual energy and diverting it to something that not only hardly anyone will use, but perpetuates the worst aspects of government - the belief that text and bureaucracy and the way lawyers do things is intrinsically valuable, as opposed to something normal people routinely completely and utterly ignore.

mensetmanusman(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is an interesting point.

If congress invests in open source, it subsidizes all software development for the world.

If congress invests in software from companies (like MS or Amazon), it subsidizes software development for these U.S. companies to compete on the global stage.

I can see the first case being in the best interest of humanity, and the second case being in the best interest of the U.S.

What would you do?

visarga(10000) 5 days ago [-]

'These U.S. companies' are not the U.S., they have international shareholders and employees. The rest of U.S. would benefit from better open source just like the rest of the world, especially now that so much of the technology stack relies on it.

Communitivity(10000) 6 days ago [-]

A huge move would be to standardize on Mastodon instead of Teams, and invest in making Mastodon secure enough for FOUO work.

duskwuff(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Huh? Microsoft Teams is a centralized real-time text/video chat service, not a federated microblogging service like Mastodon. They aren't even remotely similar.

danschumann(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Congress should write laws which are like open source software.

Branches.. revisions.. being ran through a legal interpreter to ensure there are no logical errors.

There is a movement for plain english bills, which the average user(citizen) could read. I'm for that too.

ddingus(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Can you imagine a parser from the near future?

SB 1101

Legislation failed self consistency checks against:

HB 1203, SB 32

Renders sections in statute redundant:

33.401, section A 31.22, section D

Renders sections in statute moot:

31.101, all sections. 32.4, section B

Gaps in enforcement found (loop holes)

SB 1101 Section A, has incomplete coverage of peoples...

DavyJones1983(10000) 5 days ago [-]

How would that work with Common Law?

Life isn't software engineering where anyone can just contribute. I literally had a conversation today with someone that thought Common Law was 'Christian Law' and then called me Dumb when I explained where that didn't really make any sense.

marcosdumay(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Branches.. revisions..

That's the normal law creation workflow (nearly everywhere, for a century or so already). They don't use automated tools, but the features are there.

lmeyerov(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've been a proponent of something here for awhile. For context, currently, gov requires something like 1% of budget to go to 'small' business (where small is < 500 employees!). Doing 1% to OSS would be huge, and get around the problem of NSF/NIH/etc. having to fund novel research but largely failing at common data infra.

The main sticking point I struggled with here is around beltway contractors. They already largely prevent good software from making it into gov. Today, they prefer to write their own crap or live on OSS without really giving back. Most proposals I thought about here would result in beltway bandits getting the OSS contracts without doing real passthrough to the actual devs. They're the ones with the contract relationships and can tell funders their OSS value-add layer is the part needing funding to make it gov-ready. Most folks in this community are nice as individuals, but due to the lengthy & uphill nature of pushing a contract through, they've locked down the system, and it'd take a tight policy & strong org to work around them. I'm not a fan of Linux Foundation, Apache, etc. as financial stewards either, so it's tough.

infinite8s(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

Isn't this lock-in partly what the US Digital Services was meant to overcome?

AtlasBarfed(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think this would backfire. The cash cow contracts will be viciously defended, and OSS will invariably be labelled 'socialist' or 'communist' (at it is socialist at a fundamental level).

Essentially it will politicize it, probably to a degree it has not been publicly subjected to.

And OSS has little to no professional PR to defend it, at least in relation to the vendors that will employ armies of PR flacks.

Ericson2314(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That might have been a problem 10-20 years ago, but I'm quite willing to take the risk and win big today.

Remember we need something like this to counter the 'breaking up FAANG is bad for national security' narrative.

WalterBright(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The open source software community is doing just fine. Having the government step in will likely change its nature, and not for the better.

cryptica(10000) 5 days ago [-]

As the author of a moderately popular open source project, I have to agree. Whenever the government intervenes, they tend to distort markets and cause a huge amount of suffering.

They will end up funding low quality competing projects which will harm my project by using money and media coverage to steal attention.

That's basically the story of my career. The government, working with corporations have been ruining my career so far.

I would be much better off if VCs and governments had stayed out of our industry entirely.

imglorp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think one piece in federal scope would be school courseware. How many poor schools fork out for something to do forums, grades, homework submission, lesson notes. There's a ton of duplication and there's no point. Get one decent cloud implementation, host it, and scale for several million users. Then give all schools and students free access.

It's no-brainer infrastructure, like highways.

throwawaygh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Moodle is GPL. The expensive part is training, not the license fees. Lots of teachers really need extreme amounts of hand-holding, even younger ones who have been using websites for their entire lives. (And you can replace 'teacher' there with any other profession, including 'programmer'.)

EvanAnderson(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm not saying that yours is a bad idea, but the lobby for companies who make the existing software in that space would likely disagree with that position.

untog(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The government should make open-source software, paying developers handsomely to do so.

I know I live in cloud-cuckoo fantasy land here, but I know plenty of developers that would love to work on projects for the civic good, but they don't because they also want to earn good money so that they can live comfortably, raise a family easily, etc. etc. So they go and work for Facebook and Google, etc.

There's an inbuilt assumption that government can't or shouldn't ever compete with tech giants for salary. But look at the incredible sums of money wasted on contracts with borderline useless consulting shops. You can't tell me that money wouldn't be better spent on hiring smart developers and project managers and just getting stuff done.

I know it'll never happen, but a developer can dream. There's no actual reason why it couldn't.

zapita(10000) 6 days ago [-]

For what it's worth I agree 100% with you.

jeffbee(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There are USDS and 18F, that were initially populated with ex-Googbooksoftlix engineers. Of course, everyone with a brain left USDS after Trump was elected.



hanniabu(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That's the ideal situation, but anybody that has worked in the public sector can tell you the outcome. You'd have an office full of incompetent people that are making $150k/yr just because they're a friend or relative of someone. That's a really big problem in government and there's no simple solution here. Even if you started doing background checks and not allowing partners/relatives of current employees to be hired, they would just get picked up as favors by other districts. A sort of friend hiring exchange program if you will.

nhkcode(10000) 6 days ago [-]

How does the licensing work? According to the GPL FAQ[1] code written by government employees is public domain and can't be licensed with the GPL. I'd imagine similar restrictions would apply to other copyleft licenses.

[1] https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en.html#GPLUSGov

thinkmassive(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Most code written for government use is not written by government employees, but by contractors. Here's the second paragraph from the section you linked:

'However, when a US federal government agency uses contractors to develop software, that is a different situation. The contract can require the contractor to release it under the GNU GPL. (GNU Ada was developed in this way.) Or the contract can assign the copyright to the government agency, which can then release the software under the GNU GPL.'

DoofusOfDeath(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't have hard statistics to back this up, but my impression is that Congress has a habit of adding strings and restrictions on whatever they fund.

I would hesitate to accept that Faustian bargain.

eximius(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Accessibility would probably be the biggest difficulty that might be legally required through poorly interacting laws.

(Not to say that things shouldn't be accessible, but we've already seen good-will gestures ruined because of this case. Some university posts lectures online to be nice, forced to take them down because they aren't accessible.)

umutisik(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Also worth considering is open source software grants for academics. This would increase the number of people in academia who are major contributors to open source projects. Added benefit would be that, as practicing software engineers, those people would be good at teaching software engineering to their students.

sitkack(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I love this idea.

There are already processes and procedures in place, it piggy backs on a lot of existing relationships. NSF?

diego_moita(10000) 6 days ago [-]

For a non-American, it is amusing to see Americans believing that their Congress are the people's servants.

Unlike other developed democracies, the U.S. is a country where bribing the Congress is actually legalized, in the form of campaign donations. In fact, the main work of most congresspeople is to run after money to finance their next campaign. Therefore they will serve primarily the ones that pay them, not the ones that elect them.

When open source bribes politicians then they'll pay attention.

jcranmer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Unlike other developed democracies, the U.S. is a country where bribing the Congress is actually legalized, in the form of campaign donations.

That's not remotely true. It is illegal to actually give any gifts to any government official (including elected officials). This extends in practical effect to 'we have to charge the DoE for coffee when they're doing a site visit.'

You can donate to political campaigns--just as you can in every democratic country I'm aware of. Candidates can solicit donations--just as they can in every democratic country I'm aware of. What's atypical in the US is that the party structure is incredibly weak (which means you get less relative funding from party sources, and therefore candidates have to get more funding from fundraising), and elections are so eye-wateringly expensive that you need to spend more time fundraising to be competitive.

Siira(10000) 6 days ago [-]

As someone who doesn't live in the US, I should tell people here that legalizing 'bad' actions can be a net good. The lobbying market is big, and you can't extinguish it; You can only make it a black market. This makes the laws more suited to the interests of 'shady elites.' Consider that Google serves the whole world a very valuable service; What do the corrupt beneficiaries of most other countries do? They have near zero output.

xondono(10000) 6 days ago [-]

As a european, to me it's amazing the amount of disinformation we've been fed about how the US works.

Spend enough time in both continents and you'll see that the proposition that the US is somehow more corrupt is not only disingenuous, it's also probably dead wrong.

unishark(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Just to be clear about the law, there is a limit of a couple thousand bucks on campaign donations under the federal election campaign act.

The issue is under the first amendment, the government is not allowed to curb speech by people or organizations advocating for a candidate as a third party (which people can contribute to instead).

xrd(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If I could donate all my karma points to you for this single comment, I would.

shuntress(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Campaign finance transparency is a complex problem.

Of course, having a president who equates civil fines for late paperwork with criminal prosecution for dispensing hush money as equally benign 'process crimes' is a major problem as well.

tyler2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This won't work. It will create another layer of grant writing bureaucrats that shovel the money towards their favorites and cash in on the process.

Corporate money already has a bad influence on software freedom. This will be worse.

What would work is UBI, so persons who are willing to live frugally for a couple of years can create software, no strings attached.

DavyJones1983(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Who would do this when a Software Engineer can get paid £400 a day working in the private sector and live well while saving money up for things like property or a new vehicle?

That is before we get into the potential problems of UBI itself. Which there would be numerous.

R0b0t1(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This sounds good as a soundbite, but how? Knowing how federal bidding works in general I can't imagine the funds being used constructively, it would end up as some kind of popularity contest.

sidlls(10000) 6 days ago [-]

FOSS is already to some extent a popularity contest.

dTal(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is that any different than any other 'government funds X' proposal? If this is a consistent problem, then government is just plain broken. Which is of course a problem, but an orthogonal one to software funding specifically.

johnmaguire2013(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The article mentions three ideas for how:

> All three of these levers for FOSS—direct funding, procurement regulation, and tax incentives—should be included in the next infrastructure bill.

ebiester(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You could run it like NSF grants.


Put 10 million a year for 5 years as an experiment. It takes an extra administrator and some part time experts in the field who are compensated for the work.

robertlagrant(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Money will likely to go those who employ people who are good at writing convincing grant applications. 'Twas ever thus.

Historical Discussions: How Discord Won (October 19, 2020: 601 points)

(605) How Discord Won

605 points 1 day ago by ivanagas in 10000th position

ianvanagas.com | Estimated reading time – 8 minutes | comments | anchor

It has been a big year for realizing the limits of technology for interacting with people. Gamers have known this for a long time. Lag, disconnections, and coordination issues were problems in gaming since the start. There is a platform that has gone a long way in solving those problems: Discord.

Discord allows people to talk and chat online. Servers are created by anybody to talk about anything, usually, it is a friend group or a shared interest. They contain chat channels (kind of like Slack) and voice channels that are always on and allow people to join and leave whenever they want.

The competition between internet communication platforms is fierce. Discord wasn't early to voice channels or group chats. They weren't unique for targeting their offering to gamers. Other platforms have the same features as them. Yet they are a multi-billion dollar business. How? To borrow an idea from Sarah Tavel, they built a 10x better product AND capture more value from it.

10x Better

Voice chat sucked for a long time. Skype, which was long the most popular option, was a mess. It forced you to call people. Servers went down often. The application crashed. Chats were all over the place. There is a good reason people do not use Skype and it is because it sucks.

There were other competitors like IRC, TeamSpeak, Mumble, Ventrilo. All had basically the same features, voice calls, and chat. Each suffered from a combination of problems like:

  • Complicated setup process. Any new member must also go through a setup process.
  • Paid hosting. No one wanted to pay when there were free options. Especially true as servers grow.
  • Unclear benefits. Convincing one person was not enough, you needed to convince your whole group of the benefits of switching.
  • Weird ideological reasons. Your platform was your tribal affiliation, switching means abandoning your tribe. Everyone looked down on people who didn't use the same platform as them (even if it was jokingly).

Discord launched in May 2015, long after the competitors listed above. They are now more successful than those same competitors. They did so by making the experience 10x better:

  • Discord requires nearly no setup. Starting a server on Discord takes two clicks. Creating channels is two clicks. It works instantly and all the time.
  • Discord is free.
  • It is easy to switch to Discord. Inviting people is two clicks and a paste. Joining a server (once you have an account) is two clicks. It is so simple you don't even think about it.
  • Non-core features like emoji support, reactions, bots, integrations, video calls, and screen-sharing all work as well as you could ask.
  • Big community servers for games, fanbases, organizations, hobbies, and more.

Improvements in each of these areas add up to a 10x better experience than other platforms. I complain about Discord way less than I complain about Skype. There are benefits for everyone on Discord, which makes it a 10x experience both for groups and individuals.

On top of being 10x better, the core features are free. This causes an obvious business problem, how do you make money? There isn't an obvious place to put ads. Competitors often charge by the member, but that incentivizes against growth. Discord figured out a way to incentivize growth while capturing value from large and small groups.

Sell Status to Capture Value

It took Discord a long time to figure out monetization (and they still are figuring it out). Venture capital allowed them to experiment with ideas such as selling games and membership. Neither worked perfectly, but they pointed in the right direction. Forbes estimated they are "on track to top $120 million in sales this year (2020)... up from around $70 million last year."

To understand Discord's monetization, look at their history. The founders previously started game companies and were inspired by free-to-play games like League of Legends. Games like League of Legends sell status. It is free-to-play but you can buy "skins" to make your character look different. If you have a cool or expensive skin, it means you care more about the game. It raises your status. Discord does the same.

Discord allows users to raise their status through a subscription called Nitro. It provides quality improvements (file size and video quality), special profile upgrades (more emojis, animated profile photos, custom tags), and most importantly, the ability to "boost" a server.

Boosts raise a user's status in both small and large servers. They allow you to either improve your friend's online hangout and your communities' experience by unlocking custom emotes, cosmetic features, and quality improvements. For users, it puts an icon next to their name saying they contribute and gives them a special booster role on the server. In short, it is a way for someone to pay to stand out.

Server Boost Perks

You can buy boosts separately from Nitro at $5 per month or $50 per year. Perks come in uneven tiers: Level 1 is 2 boosts, Level 2 is 15 boosts, Level 3 is 30 boosts. It is unlikely "friend group sized" servers get past two boosts, but large servers often pass thirty. Some examples:

Name Boosts MRR (@ $5 per boost)
Minecraft 165 $825
Kanye 75 $375
Fortnite 165 $825
r/LeagueOfLegends 201 $1005
Animal Crossing: New Horizons 412 $2060
r/Overwatch 85 $425
Rocket League 116 $580
Fall Guys 215 $1075
Anime Soul Discord 323 $1615
Kenny Beats 50 $250
Musicians (Turkish) 730 $3650
English 94 $470
Python 44 $220
CallMeCarson Discord Cult 1153 $5765

Here are 14 popular servers accounting for nearly $250,000 in revenue per year. There are tons more, all with varying amounts of boosts. People are willing to pay to stand out, even when there is no obvious benefit. This is universal.

Every community needs a place to communicate online. Discord has the best offering, and it is free. Other platforms either force you to pay by the member or have a flat rate paid by the community host. Discord doesn't require either. Servers can grow as large as they want for free, moderators and admins don't have to pay, and Discord still makes money.

As communities continue to grow on Discord, the money Discord makes from those communities goes up as well. Flat rates and tiers limit this. Communities want to grow, Discord provides them with an easy and effective way to do that. Users want status, Discord gives them a shortcut. This aligns incentives better than advertising or paid memberships do.

Discord won by building 10x better spaces for communities. By selling status, they have also managed to capture more value from those communities than other platforms.

Discord won the competition for the gaming chat platform of choice, and now it wants to be the platform for all internet communities. This means they will be competing with the "big dogs" like Slack, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, and Epic. Their free-to-play, pay-for-status monetization model is a competitive advantage.

Discord is a successful company. The question becomes how successful can they become? The key is the number of internet communities who choose Discord as their home. By creating a better product than competitors and being free for growth, Discord puts itself in an excellent position to continue to succeed moving forward.

Follow me on Twitter or sign up for my monthly newsletter.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

koffiezet(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

I'm more of a casual gamer these days, but a friend of mine was (and still is) a pretty hardcore gamer. I encountered discord somewhere in it's early days before anyone really knew about it, and recommended it to him at a time when he was complaining that one of his gaming groups was falling apart. He then introduced discord to that group which revived it completely, and afaik, they're still pretty active. He's also paying for the nitro stuff and a pretty happy user.

I think the core reason for their success is a deep understanding of the problems their core audience - gamers - was facing. Gaming is organised in communities, and it was built around that. It solved multiple issues for them, mostly - it made interacting fun and easy. It supports emoji, is meme and web-friendly, organising to play games together is made easier, you can see who's playing what, built-in voice-chat, moderation, ... Barrier of entry was also very low, you could just use the web-client, no need to install. But it also works on mobile, which makes it work for console gamers too.

Until discord came along, you could do all these things by combining different tools, but never as good, and having to deal with multiple tools made the barrier of entry way too high. When I was younger, a gamer had to be someone somewhat technically skilled. IRC, ip addresses, dedicated servers, ... made it all a lot harder to get into. Gaming however is very mainstream these days, and it keeps surprising me how small the the average gamer's technical knowledge is. And that's no a bad thing imho, gaming in the end is something to be enjoyed, no need for gatekeeping.

pityJuke(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

>when he was complaining that one of his gaming groups was falling apart.

Speaking of this, I think Discord also conquered one more application in relative secrecy, and that's the gaming community forum. reddit took on regular forums, but for smaller communities I think reddit fails at this.

Discord gives you multiple channels to talk in, which allows conversation grouping like sub-forums, and extensive chat histories with search, removing the non-permanence of other chat options.

cblconfederate(10000) 1 day ago [-]

As much as they have made a really good app, it's chat. The moment discord starts becoming expensive , people will switch to mattermost or zulip or ircV3 by that time (ps or matrix). The privacy issues are real and the moat to exit is shallow. We already switched our community to mattermost because , discord doesnt seem sustainable for long term, and we also have control that can't be taken away. It would be really nice if these teams focused on creating an interoperable standard for chat instead of trying to lock in users. Basic protocols like chat should be decentralized, and will probably end up being so.

wsowens(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> It would be really nice if these teams focused on creating an interoperable standard for chat instead of trying to lock in users. Basic protocols like chat should be decentralized, and will probably end up being so.

Have you heard of Matrix? Because it sounds like you're describing Matrix almost perfectly.


julienb_sea(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Privacy issues don't outweigh convenience and familiarity, and are provably not a barrier to massive scale and longevity (see every large social network with 1B+ users). I don't think you appreciate how convenient the single-account, cross server approach is. Discord has made its way across a ton of communities and likely will continue to do so. It held up to scale and scrutiny especially in early covid times.

The problem with basic protocols is they are inherently very slow to develop and iterate, so problems stick around for a long time. UX can vary widely across different clients for the protocol. SMS has had huge longevity and will stick around for a good while longer, but I don't think anyone is arguing that SMS is actually better than the internet based closed systems that exist today.

hombre_fatal(10000) 1 day ago [-]

But it's not just chat. It's a community.

People don't want to 'switch'. They don't want to host software. They don't want to register for a bunch of different communities.

They just want to click 'Join' and build relationships. Or click 'Create' to create one. You can't just try to solve chat and protocols (IRCv3), you need to solve community.

I certainly agree with what you're saying. But so far our attempts at decentralized social systems are clearly early on in the experimentation process, to put it the nicest way possible. Open protocols are a great idea, but that is the easy part that we like to fixate on. The hard part is a compelling experience that people will want to use so that you have people to chat with.

And so far we're still trying to figure out what that solution looks like.

bstar77(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've been trying to figure out if Discord is actually a competitor to Slack as I've never seen anyone use discord for anything but gaming.

That said, the experience is pretty fantastic for what I've needed it for. Slack is fantastic as well, especially the paid version. If Discord can pivot into the 'professional' space, I would certainly try it out.

The problem I have is that all of my work situations are tied to MS Teams and that's likely to never change within the ORG I'm contracting for. Teams is absolute trash compared to Slack. Between downtime, the way channels are organized, the way files are organized, the way discussions are organized, the way notifications are presented, I just can't get any comfort level with it. No one at my company even uses Teams for voice/video conferencing because it's so poorly performing (I've not experienced this tho), we all have to use Zoom.

I never thought Discord was going to do more than what something like Teamspeak did, but they have really done an incredible job. They have pretty much single handedly made native game voice chat irrelevant.

Xavdidtheshadow(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Anecdata, but I find Discord great if you're dealing with a big group of people that need to be moderated; it's got great tooling for that. There's multiple access levels, permissions, etc. exactly geared for that. When you're dealing with a trusted, invite-only group, you don't need many (if any) moderation features. Then, Slack shines for its ability to have organized, opt-in discussion. I really hate that you can't leave text channels on Discord.

I've been trying to move friend groups more towards Slack and it's been a huge improvement over group texts / Facebook chat / etc.

(of course, for our gaming group, discord voice chat is still superb. But, we only use it once a week and all the rest of our chatter/discussion happens in our new Slack team)

ufmace(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't play video games at all, and I'm on a dozen or so Discord servers for various open-source projects, meetup groups, private projects, Reddit subs, groups of friends, etc.

rcurry(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I can't comment on Teams vs Slack, or on its other productivity features but I've been using Teams on a daily basis for some fairly large meetings and it's never faltered - way more reliable than Skype was at least.

dboreham(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Discord (and matrix) is often used as a support/comms channel by more 'gritty' software projects: blockchain and that neighborhood.

keithnz(10000) 1 day ago [-]

we swapped from slack to discord at work. It's been good. It pretty much is the same as slack, the UI, if you compare side by side is very similar ( but look different ). Discords easy voice channels was a deciding factor. The downsides, without paying, is screen sharing is 720p, which Slack doesn't have, and file uploads are small ish, where in slack you can upload relatively big files

cyrialize(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I use Discord for mostly non-gaming interests. I'm part of a bunch of music specific discords for example. Lots of specific genre subreddits (/r/rnbheads, /r/popheads, /r/hiphopheads, etc) use Discord.

foobarian(10000) 1 day ago [-]

My main nit with Discord over Slack is lack of threading. After that, the voice/video did not feel suitable for a business setting - the PTT format works for coop play but it's annoying to have it on constantly at work. I prefer explicitly scheduled video calls there.

Beyond that, there is a somewhat long tail of little features like integrations, LDAP, etc.

impendia(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm an academic mathematician who has used Discord professionally, in at least two contexts:

1. Once the pandemic set in, some Discord groups popped up, associated to branches of math. For example I'm a member of 'The Algebraic Geometry Syndicate' and 'Modern Number Theory and Algebraic Geometry'.

The activity includes: technical math chat; people giving each other advice (e.g. on the job market or online teaching); advertisements of online conferences; some other stuff.

2. I've also been on Discord forums attached to weekend online conferences. These were sort of similar, but short-lived -- and we also encouraged everyone to introduce themselves. We had a 'math memes contest' and organized a board games night for all who were interested. Basically, it was an attempt to replicate some of the social aspects of conferences.

It seems like Slack is designed for groups of people who all work at the same company. Discord worked well for us -- where participants work/study all over, and where it's super easy to join.

dylz(10000) 1 day ago [-]

As-is I don't consider Discord a competitor to Slack without massive fundamental changes. Chat and content is heavily censored, you risk permanent bans, incredibly privacy invading, unencrypted, all that.

It is pretty much fluff chat en masse the way it is now without huge contractual and infrastructure modifications.

stjohnswarts(10000) 1 day ago [-]

There is slight overlap but for personal use Discord is far better (family, friends, gaming). It's fun to have a Discord family room where people can drop comments and share stuff as opposed to Facebook using that data for their evil machinations.

kevsim(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm a founder of a company making Jira/Trello competitor [0] and we actually just released a Discord integration this week (we've had a Slack one for ages) because we had a number of customers and potential customers ask for it. So a small N, but it does seem to be gaining in popularity inside companies, at least smaller ones.

0: https://kitemaker.co

iEchoic(10000) 1 day ago [-]

To add a competitive perspective: I'm the founder of Guilded, which is (afaik) the only VC-funded startup in direct competition with Discord.

Discord was (and still is) a great product. But those that used it in the very early days will remember - as users in this reddit thread[1] do - that the early days were pretty rough, and not quite the '10x better' described here. Yet still, it grew. Why?

In startup mythology there's a belief that you need to build a '10x better' product in order to get people to switch to it. This is generally good advice, because in most spaces it's hard to get people to try your product at all, and it's even harder to get people to actually switch to it.

Gaming is different, though. Gaming communities aren't generally using your product for business-critical functions, are generally extremely receptive to trying new things, and are often led by enthusiast early adopters. As a result, gaming communities have uncharacteristically low switching costs. This explains why Discord was able to move gaming communities far more quickly than could ever be done with (for instance) corporate customers.

My hypothesis: Discord built a compelling product, and succeeded at talking to their early users and improving the product far faster than competitors. Because they built it for gamers, they didn't need to be 10x better right away: they just needed to be faster (and to stay alive in the meantime).

If the above is true, the risk is that - especially as they move away from gaming and as they continue to move much more slowly than before - they can also lose that community to a better product very quickly, in exactly the same way.

Only time will tell if this is true or not, but since we launched our chat product in May we've been seeing support of it in the form of accelerating growth and in the form of entire large communities migrating from Discord to Guilded every day.

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/discordapp/comments/j8siby/discord_...

porb121(10000) 1 day ago [-]

i disagree, as a very early adopter of discord. early discord was rough around the edges, but it was still 10x better than any competitor because of how atrociously bad teamspeak/mumble/skype/ventrilo were. using skype was one of the worst communication experiences i have had on a computer - the fact that discord voice connections were semi-stable, not a complete hassle to set up, and had individual servers as well as DMs already made it better than any of its competiotors.

xmprt(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You're entirely correct about Discord but it will be difficult to switch over completely unless you make it almost a drop in replacement for discord (eg. supporting discord bots). I can imagine moving over some of the small servers with just a few friends but getting bigger communities to switch is a hard problem and unless you do that, almost everyone will still have a reason to stay on discord.

quickthrower2(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Nice insight, so gamers are (or at least were?) the 'early adopters' persona that a new product loves to have. I see this a lot in startup lore though, the idea of finding an audience where you are solving a big specific pain, rather than trying to make everyone's life a tiny bit better (but less than they care).

Justsignedup(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Oh man, I'm still excited about the prospects of guided. The threading alone is a feature I dearly miss.

The problem has been getting everyone on voice chat in guided. It just didn't work as well as discord and our group more or less abandoned it. Getting a hundred people organized and trying a new tool is a pita. Also the lack of bot support made it a big downgrade for us. I'm sure it's improved in the few months since.

It's definitely a catch up game now. :( :( :(

But I have faith it can work out.

ZephyrBlu(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Interesting insights. Guilded looks super cool. Good luck with the product :).

keb_(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't mean to be dismissive, but I do have a few nitpicks:

> Complicated setup process. Any new member must also go through a setup process.

> Paid hosting. No one wanted to pay when there were free options. Especially true as servers grow.

To my group at least, the ability to self-host is a major bonus and provides peace of mind. For the record, I do use Discord for text channels. My group primarily uses and prefers Mumble for VOIP, and it is plenty cheap to host. Setting up a Mumble client as a user is not complicated, based on my experiences inviting folks to our server.

> Unclear benefits. Convincing one person was not enough, you needed to convince your whole group of the benefits of switching.

> Weird ideological reasons. Your platform was your tribal affiliation, switching means abandoning your tribe. Everyone looked down on people who didn't use the same platform as them (even if it was jokingly).

How is Discord any different on these points? I'm really not seeing it.

mholm(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This will all be entirely anecdotal, but Discord has provided great value to my group.

> Setup

How so? New account setup is extremely simple. Are you thinking of how some servers require some advanced setup for your account? Adding a new member to a server is also just sharing a link.

> Paid hosting

While I do wish a self-hosted option were available, I can't see it being a draw for the platform, especially as it would mean releasing a server application to end-users who might not have a good understanding of how to correctly run it. At this point, I'd gladly pay for Discord Nitro if there were any benefit I could get from it.

> Unclear benefits

Most of these are going to be situational based on where your group is coming from, but Discord was the only competitor that really worked for my group. Cross platform, message reactions, reliable, intuitive. Personally, we switched from Facebook Messenger, which despite facebook's atrocious policies, is the most usable/convenient chat application in the world (imho).

> Weird ideological reasons

It was upsetting to lose the functional benefits of being on a facebook platform (real names, communicating with nearly anybody I know on the fly), but we all disliked facebook on an ideological level. That made the switch easier, in the end. Other than that, competitors like Skype and Teams are software dumpster fires, while Slack, Signal, and Telegram are extremely restrictive to users who don't care too much about their particular features.

dylz(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Setting up a Mumble client as a user is not complicated,

This reads like the Show HN: Dropbox thread; UI/UX for Mumble is typical of engineer-design. Setting up a client as a user and being told to set up client certificates for mTLS and export your certificates with a strong passphrase to not lose access to your server is an insanely high bar for casual gamers, though a lot more secure.

The mumble wiki literally has the sentence 'For more information about certificates, see the Wikipedia entries on Public key Certificates.'; PKI is barely well understood by many engineers. The last time I used it, setup also suggested that instead of a self-signed cert, you got an email-verified mail signing certificate from an actual CA.

For comparison, Ventrilo and Teamspeak are heavily DRM encumbered, your servers go offline randomly when the licencing servers go down due to frequent attacks as they phone home and get no response, have utterly insane ToS that near totally shuts down community servers [you aren't permitted to run your own, Ventrilo will not even sell you a personal licence, TeamSpeak shut down their non profit licence thing and revoked all of them], forbid you from self hosting on your own infrastructure and tell you to buy from their 'hosting partners paying per slot', but you just get an admin password at first start of the daemon.

tester756(10000) 1 day ago [-]

* 'serverless' aka no IP grabbing and doxx

* voice + chat (with emojis, images, videos) + easy desktop sharing

that's all I guess, no other software did offer that.

Ventrilo, TeamSpeak, Mumble and so on.

nickysielicki(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> * 'serverless' aka no IP grabbing and doxx

So long as you don't join a voice channel, right? As I understand it all the voice and video is webrtc, so p2p.

Nuzzerino(10000) 1 day ago [-]

If I had to choose between exposing my IP, and exposing my user account ID, user account name, and profile photo (that I've used on literally every other Discord community), I'd go with the former. At least in the case of the former, you can fix that with a VPN. If you use a VPN with Discord on the other hand, they're more likely to disable your account for phone-number verification.

mordymoop(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I can "handle" Twitter, Facebook, etc. These services are part of my life, contained, separate. I cannot "handle" Discord. Discord is far worse for me. By default, the interface bombards me with either notifications or "soft" notifications that change the color of channels to make you wonder what's going on in there. I've come to loathe it. I recently quit Discord, despite the fact that I run a Discord community of several hundred people. Basically just abandoned it. It was killing me. Twitter is like a pleasant minor distraction compared to this quagmire.

BelleOfTheBall(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Couldn't you just stick to Discord on mobile and only open it when a notif comes? That way you don't see any changes in the icon, like on desktop. Plus, the notification settings in general are pretty flexible, one of the few things I genuinely like about Discord.

TameAntelope(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You can make it completely impossible for a server (or people) to notify you in any way whatsoever through settings.

That's one of the positive features that keeps streamers and communities using it -- you can't bother people who don't want to be bothered.

saluk(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Mute everything. I solves most of these issues.

grishka(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've never liked neither Discord nor Slack. Besides them being Electron apps that throw every single system UI idiom out the window and behave like they're something else, they are just too easy to misuse and suck tremendously if they aren't something you use every day but only check occasionally.

One thing that I don't like in Discord in particular is that if you haven't launched it for a month, you're in for a bad time. First, it's going to update like 7 times. Then, everything has a red badge on it. EVERYTHING. It's absolutely impossible to navigate through this mess of useless 'server announcements' and other crap with @all in it.

Also message replies are about as awkward as one could've made them.

MaulingMonkey(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> First, it's going to update like 7 times.

I just use the website versions. No installs, no updates. Also means no global keybinds for voice chat, no automatic 'currently playing ...', and no electron-specific XSS bugs - but that's fine by me.

> Then, everything has a red badge on it. EVERYTHING. It's absolutely impossible to navigate through this mess of useless 'server announcements' and other crap with @all in it.

The per-server notification settings in Discord can let you mute these. The defaults are admittedly annoyingly permissive, resulting in a repeat annoyance that will eventually crop up every time I join a new server.

holtalanm(10000) 1 day ago [-]

really love seeing news about Discord being successful. It is a product I use daily, and rarely have issues.

their tech blogs have been pretty cool to read, talking about the various problems of scale they have had while leveraging the BEAM vm.

I'll be honest that one of the things I find most interesting is that Discord is probably the most well-known company in the world whose core technology is built with Elixir, which is still one of my favorite programming languages.

Nuzzerino(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>I'll be honest that one of the things I find most interesting is that Discord is probably the most well-known company in the world whose core technology is built with Elixir, which is still one of my favorite programming languages.

I remember looking through their engineering job postings once recently, and not one of them mentioned Elixir, making me wonder how much they are really committed to it.

quwert95(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Discord has not yet 'won' for me. Until I can host it myself, use my own certificates, and control the server bitrate and logs I won't use it.

For now, Mumble serves all my needs and works great. It is by far the lightest and fastest voice system out there right now.

daptaq(10000) 1 day ago [-]

All it needs is a more intelligent setup-system, and possibly a (better) web version.

minimalist(10000) 1 day ago [-]

One thing I don't see mentioned is marketing. All of that investment allowed discord to purchase an obscene amount of advertisement. Heavy advertisement of a 'free' product targeted toward children seems like a prerequisite for adoption, but I'll admit that this take is as light on actual analysis as the parent blog post.

I have mixed feelings. On one hand, it seems like the more toxic (to borrow the phrase) IRC users have moved over to discord, however it also breaks my heart when I find a FOSS development community that uses discord exclusively, as it's not currently possible to use it without giving them a phone number.

Gaelan(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> currently possible to use it without giving them a phone number

I haven't created a discord account in a long time, so I'm not sure what the flow is, but my recollection is that phone numbers are required iff the specific server (community) turns that on as a security feature

phendrenad2(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Discord won because the competition sucked. What are the alternatives? Let's break it down:

XMPP - Stuck in the past, lacks modern basic features like 'If I leave my laptop open and receive a message, it doesn't disappear into the ether and I can still read it on my phone'. And if you do manage to configure it to match modern messaging services, you just spent hours in config-file land, which 99% of users aren't interested in attempting.

Hipchat, Slack - So now at work, when you present in meetings, and show your Slack window, everyone will see that you're in 'Dave's Sexy Game Server' as well as BigSeriousCorp? No thanks.

Google Hangouts - In typical Google fashion, they've taken the perpetual-MVP approach to this product. Somewhere, someone inside Google is arguing that removing chat functionality from their chat platform is the best way to simplify the product and cut costs. Oh okay. I'll describe it. It's a 200px by 200px window of sadness with no searchable chat history.

Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger - Mobile-first experiences.

Forums (PhpBB etc.) - Better for offline communication, mobile sucks, hard to keep track of new messages to conversations.

porb121(10000) 1 day ago [-]

not a single one of those were or are the alternatives to discord, except for slack now.

the actual competitors were teamspeak, skype, mumble, and ventrilo.

fomine3(10000) 1 day ago [-]

IIRC Hangouts chats are searchable from Gmail. It works well like Gmail.

the_jeremy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't think any of those were alternatives for gaming, which is what it was (still is?) marketed for.

If you wanted to play a game and do voice chat with a group of friends, TeamSpeak, Discord, and Mumble were the only options that were group-first (easier to do lobbies than single-person calls). Discord's UI is 2 decades ahead of Mumble / TS, and it's free.

raiyu(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Discord won because they found a unique purpose and focused all of their efforts on it while, making sure that all secondary features were also well crafted.

What sets them apart is their voice quality and chatroom voice features. This is something that lends itself naturally to gaming but their real success was getting the quality so high that it feels like you are carrying on a conversation in real life.

Everything else was secondary, but essential, it's like getting the toppings right on the pizza. Essential, but secondary.

Because gaming has this unique use case and the fact that there are millions of gamers, created a fantastic beachhead which continues to expand.

However, outside of the core demographic of gaming it certainly hasn't gained much exposure.

ivanagas(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I agree. The core reason to switch for me (and I assume many others) was because the core features were better than competitors and it was free. On exposure outside main demographic: servers that are gaming adjacent like anime, content creators, and programming already see large numbers of members. A promising sign.

ryankrage77(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I actually switched away from Discord to Mumble, for higher audio quality & lower latency.

EamonnMR(10000) 1 day ago [-]

With the impending sunset of Google Hangouts, I've been using discord for family communication. It is nice that the barrier of entry is low enough that you can actually get people to use it, and that you can use it on desktop (otherwise you'd just use SMS)

HeadsUpHigh(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Pretty much every single subreddit out there has a discord server at this point. Still very tech-related but much more broad than just gaming at this point.

jjcm(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm truly amazed at how well discord got down their invite-to-server flow. It's honestly the best I've seen. I get annoyed when I have to join a separate slack org, but joining a discord server has practically no barrier at all. It means that setting up individual servers per person is totally viable. Joining someone's server feels like going over to their house to hang out.

hombre_fatal(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It's also truly amazing how bad Slack messed their server joining flow. Not sure it's different now, but back when I was joining Slack servers everyone was using a free-tier Heroku app to host a textfield that would send you an email.

A server joining flow so bad that people have to host another server just to let people join it.

esfandia(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Is it reasonable to consider using Discord as an online forum for residents of a condo building? I'm looking for something cheap/free, easy to use and to set up.

hombre_fatal(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Yes, as long as people would actually install it and care to use that medium at all. Like I think everyone my age (30s) would do it, but I know my parents wouldn't.

But as an easy social/community tool for a small group when you want something more than just a WhatsApp group, it's great.

The downside is that it's just chat and thus any important info being discussed can be hard to link, find, and centralize. I'm part of some organizations that handle this by having a Facebook group as a lightweight forum and landing page of the organization along with the Discord for more hangout and meet each other vibes.

progval(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Discord requires nearly no setup. Starting a server on Discord takes two clicks. Creating channels is two clicks. It works instantly and all the time.

What? I just tried, and it took about 4 recaptcha challenges just to create an account, 12 clicks (excluding the clicks on recaptcha challenges), and 4 more clicks to create the server

colesantiago(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Compared to IRC, where do I start?

irrational(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've never used Discord. What is it? What other things is it similar to?

yborg(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Slack for gamers.

umaar(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've always struggled to log into Discord.

1. Try to log onto a channel, but get presented with a 'We've detected something out of the ordinary going on. To continue using Discord' where my only option is to verify by phone, which I don't want to do.

2. Occasionally, I'll figure it's worth a try in incognito. I get a step further, only to read 'New login location detected, please check your e-mail.'. Go back to non-incognito, check email, open the verify link in an incognito window.

3. Instead of finally signing me in, it says 'IP address authorized' and 'If you followed this link after trying to login on the desktop or mobile app, please go back and try again.'.

4. Fair enough, time to log in, again. Submit credentials, get presented with the bizzarely slow fade-in recaptchas. Fail twice, succeed on the third time. Horray! I can see the channel!

5. Finally try those other organisations invite links (in the form of discord.com/invite/org), but get 'This invite may be expired, or you might not have permission to join.'.

smileybarry(10000) 1 day ago [-]

That sounds like your originating IP is linked to abuse, like accounts banned for ToS or botting. Slow-fade, harder captchas are another symptom of that (and could indicate Google/whatever-captcha-they-use also don't trust your IP). Is this over a VPN, Tor, or residential IP?

LockAndLol(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Same here. It's because everything is always incognito and I have uBlock installed. I avoid Discord as much as possible partially due to that.

But also the idea of sharing my life with yet another American company is really not appealing to me. I want to be able to express myself without the fear of it being recorded for whatever reason. Can't wait for Signal to introduce encrypted group chat...

lebaux(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I recommend reading https://www.swyx.io/slack-fumble

We are devs or small SEO plugin for WordPress and we use discord for all our comms, despite the fact w.org is using slack. And that they will move to matrix. Because they invested in it.

swyx(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

thanks for the shoutout!

echelon(10000) 1 day ago [-]

$120M in annual revenue from server boosts and nitro subscriptions? That seems crazy.

I'm in a couple of mid-sized servers and nobody pays for that. Granted, they aren't gaming related, and we may not be the target demographic for buying status.

n3dm(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>$120M in annual revenue from server boosts and nitro subscriptions?

Are you sure that's not also including the data they are selling of its users?

will_pseudonym(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The free service is really featureful, and people really like the 'accoutrements'† that you get from Nitro as well as supporting the server(s) they like.

Linguistic tangent below if you are interested:


† I know that 'accoutrements' isn't the right word to mean 'add-ons', and 'accompaniments' would technically be the word you'd use to metaphorically describe the benefits that the user gets from Discord Nitro as being similar to add-ons to dishes of food. But, words change in meaning over time, and I have only ever heard 'accoutrements' being used metaphorically in this way, and so 'accompaniments' didn't seem to match the linguistic milieu present today.‡

‡ I don't know if there is a term that means what I am intending by 'linguistic milieu present today', and that's the best guess I came up with that sounded good and somewhat conveyed the concept. To precisely describe what term I'm thinking of, I need to lay a baseline.

Language change is something that has happened, will happen, and is happening now. [0] Given that that is the case, there exists a relationship between time and language change, and thus, specific languages and time. The language as being used ('sending' and 'understanding' both happening), not the language as described by teachers/books on that language.

The concept I mean above, that I tried to describe as 'linguistic milieu present today' is, 'the current state of The English Language As Actually Used By Speakers/Writers, and Not Necessarily The English Language As Taught/Described In Books/Schools'.

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

judge2020(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Discord has 300+ million users (based on the forbes article). Even if everyone were paying for the cheap $5/mo nitro classic (which is worst case scenario for revenue, but best case scenario for # of paying customers) subscription, that's 24 million paying subscribers, which is less than 10% of their user base. Seems pretty reasonable given that the free tier includes so much.

julienb_sea(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It's common in gaming discords, mainly for hi-res streaming. For other communities I suspect the status of boosting and the feeling of 'supporting the community' is popular, in a patreon-like way.

asdfasgasdgasdg(10000) 1 day ago [-]

As someone who is not by any means a discord power user, and who doesn't generally pay for skins, even I have been tempted to buy boosts just so that I can use emojis from some servers on other servers, because I think they're funny. If discord can tempt even me to buy, I have no trouble believing they can close the deal with many others.

alchemism(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It is nothing compared to the money that flies around inside Twitch broadcast chats. Someone buys everyone a subscription to gain the favor of the host. Someone else donates $xxx to get their name on-screen. And it happens pretty far down the long-tail.

mopsi(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Nitro is a status symbol in some teen circles. Things like animated avatars make you stand out.

sk2020(10000) 1 day ago [-]

There are probably several other monetization strategies in play, unless a tiger (Jason Citron) can change his stripes https://archive.org/details/OpenfeintComplaint

Generally, any highly polished service with glowing media reviews that's also free is something I regard with great suspicion.

anderspitman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't think Discord has ever even tried to get me to pay them money. Granted I only use it very casually, but the tab is always open.

eska(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This analysis completely misses the mark and spreads a lot of untruths.

The two major points are:

1. Discord makes money by letting users elevate their status, while offering core feature for free.

2. It is 10x better than other offerings.

Regarding 1, immediately after making that statement, the author lists perks such as bigger upload file size limits, better audio quality, screen sharing resolution, etc. These features are not about status, they are core. I therefore do not accept the premise that Discord is 'free to play' like the mentioned League of Legends. Ironically, live game coaches for League of Legends will tell their customers to not share the screen on Discord, but on Skype, due to better quality and latency, for free.

Regarding 2, the 10x factor is obviously marketing speech for 'significantly better', but even that is factually wrong. As mentioned in 1), a lot of core features such as audio and video quality are limited, unlike rivaling software. Even IRC offered unlimited file sharing of even gigabytes in size (and therefore had a community around it). Meanwhile Discord will not even allow you to share short video clips less than a minute of length due to file size. Skype is being criticized, but what's conveniently being left out is that Skype rose to fame before it was bought by Microsoft and had its architecture changed from peer-to-peer to server-client. Skype used to be much better than it is now and used to have less limitations, and was give-or-take better or worse than Discord. Certainly no 10x here.

The real point IMO, and other commenters have written about this in great detail already, is the ease of onboarding. The article only talks about the ease of joining a channel etc. and compares that to Skype for example, but calling somebody in Skype is also only 2 clicks. It's really account creation and server joining (click a link). And the fact that competitors drove their software into the ground.

Slartie(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

This comment is spot-on.

Discord hasn't been 10x better than competitors - before Discord, there were numerous competitors offering large group voice chat at better-than-Discord quality (not talking about Skype here, but Teamspeak and Ventrilo) and with better-than-Discord administrative control over groups (especially Teamspeak had this nailed, with very extensive rights management that's even suitable to the largest and best-organized gaming guilds). What Discord nailed is ease-of-setup, especially of the server part: by offering free hosting that imitated the 'one server = one guild' structure well-known to gamers while actually implementing a much-cheaper hosting structure serving thousands of users from one physical server they eliminated one of the typical pain points with existing solutions, which all depended on either having one technically-savvy gamer hosting the server on his own hardware (mostly virtual private servers were used here), or someone paying for hosted versions. This structure provided an opening for Discord: since gamer clans and guilds come and go in quick succession, each time this happens, the continued use of 'classic' voice chat solutions like Teamspeak etc. depended on whether 'the guy with the server' would continue hosting the voice server for the new guild. Often enough, the new guild simply wasn't lucky enough to have that guy, so they look out for solutions, and Discord offered them one: a free 'server' providing a good-enough group voice chat solution.

With regard to monetization one could even argue that Discord failed a lot in that department. The attempt to sell games was largely unsuccessful, and besides the Nitro program they didn't really find anything that works. And even the Nitro program had to be made into an actual 'premium' program in order to lead to significant-enough adoption, offering better quality on core features of the service instead of purely cosmetic status-boosting, which is AFAIK not what they originally intended to do with the program.

emerged(10000) 1 day ago [-]

What's fascinating to me is that I've been a developer for more than 20 years and have never used Discord. It's very popular obviously, but how have I managed not to be sucked in? I haven't made any effort to avoid it.

kakkan(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I guess if you're in a crowd that is into gaming and gen-z culture, you'd get sucked in in no time. Most of the time, how I ended up joining discord communities was while searching for something like 'Community for X' or while going through a subreddit and they had a Discord channel. But most often, you only stay if you have friends who are active on there and uses the voice chat feature frequently.

293984j29384(10000) 1 day ago [-]

As soon as the author claimed IRC was a competitor to Discord or Skype I had to stop reading.

newsclues(10000) 1 day ago [-]

When I started gaming we used irc, then xfire... and eventually those led to Discord

colesantiago(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Tell that to Mozilla.

necrotic_comp(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Why ? To me, Discord seems like a more fully featured IRC. What am I missing ?

chrisacky(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Why? Factually they are...

Case in point.. I used to run game servers for maybe over 1000+ guilds over the years I was active. Even talking 10 years ago, people were still using Skype for connecting to games... just because it doesn't fit your use-case doesn't mean the market wasn't competing.

IRC was also in the space. Look at the dozens+ IRC servers which had communities built around them... they've mostly migrated to Discord.

I'd love to know your counter point to such an absolute-claim though... because I positively agree with the author.

est31(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Why? In open source, many communities now have moved from IRC to discord, a very sad move if you ask me. I think it will also become increasingly relevant for professional networking in the CS world.

matsemann(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Some still rely on Discord for the community, finding players etc., but use voice chats from elsewhere. For instance lots of CS players I know used to use IRC to plan games and then Teamspeak for voice chat during the match. Those I know still do the same, they have just moved from IRC to Discord, but TS remains.

chrisjc(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Just when I thought I finally had a better understanding of what discord was you go and make this statement! Do you mean that it goes further than merely providing text based communication?

duckerude(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've seen multiple small online communities switch from having 'an IRC [channel]' to having 'a Discord'.

ducaale(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I really like how the WYSIWYG editor in discord is implemented. For example, if you try to write a block using backticks, that block will be highlighted and the backticks will not disappear.

Meanwhile, I am still unable to how understand how slack's WYSIWYG works.

saagarjha(10000) 1 day ago [-]


anilakar(10000) 1 day ago [-]

There's something fishy with the sign-up UX, though. I constantly keep seeing new users accidentally creating two accounts (the record being four!) when they join a server for the first time.

szhu(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've seen this happen quite a lot with servers that I'm in.

I've this this happen when someone is not logged into Discord in their browser and is logged in in the Discord app. When they click the server join link, Discord creates a new dangling (no-email-attached) account. However, since they are logged into the Discord app, their real account also joins the server when they launch the app from the browser.

I'm pretty keen on sharing this knowledge because I recently realized I've done this myself, and it took me way too long to figure it out. I 'started' using Discord a few months ago, and in one of the servers I joined, I saw an account with an oddly-familiar username that joined a server about a minute before I did. And then I saw the same thing happen in another server! After a few weeks of having a weird feeling about this, I finally found out that in my browser, I was logged into a dangling account I created back in 2018, before I really knew what Discord was. (I think back then I thought Discord was just a voice chat service without permanent accounts.)

I would love for Discord to solve this and a few other identity management-related issues!

chrisacky(10000) 1 day ago [-]

As I hyper-casual gamer now, I also like that I can drop into any of the servers I've joined and those communities still know who I am. I maybe play 10 games of Dota a year, and I'm still on first name terms with the people I play with. Disord is just hands down the unifying glue that brings together any type of gaming community, it attacked the problem by always offering a better experience to alternatives, and providing tight integration to the platforms that helped it grow. Every single game chat voice just sucks compared to Discord.

Back in 2006, I used to run a game server hosting company, approximately 400~ game servers at the peak excluding voice (battlefield, css, gmod). I hosted Teamspeak and Ventrillo, and they were nice 0.25 'per slot' servers per month, but the process was so cumbersome.

n3dm(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>every single game voice chat just sucks compared to discord

I disagree wholeheartedly. Discord uses 250mb+ minimum in RAM to handle simple voice chat, whereas alternatives like mumble in this example use 20mb. The voice codec and quality is arguably better and with less down time. Discord servers often go down and I've found myself having to switch to central or whatever to get it to work.

ve55(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've been becoming increasingly concerned that Discord is winning a little too much, and will basically end up becoming the Facebook of the next generation if things go right for them. Right now they're still in the fun phase - they've built a product that users love, have extreme growth, have a lot of money to spend, and are agile and young.

Generally the fun phase of a consumer-facing social company does not last forever though, and I'm not looking forward to the phases that often seem to follow. We can look at anything from Reddit to Youtube to Facebook to see the types of issues that lead social products to become increasingly user-hostile over time, and I'm not confident that Discord can avoid the pitfalls that have led to the decline in quality of most similar products.

The issues that often lead to the increase in user-hostility have many different causes and manifestations, but they often start with an increase in monetization, often with vast troves of user data, of which Discord is obviously not lacking in. As the platform grows and controls the social lives of hundreds of millions, there becomes increased demands for censorship, not just of political and ideological nature, but also for the purposes of copyright and IP, and the from multitude of governments that they must work with (obviously including, but not limited to the US). Discord already has very strong network and gate-keeping effects in many communities, and social ostracization is faced by users that contemplate not using it; losing network effects once you have them is generally not very easy, so it will likely be the dominant player in its area for a long time.

I don't want to just sit here and spread negativity about potential issues, but seeing an entire generation of people use yet-another-social-product, it does have me concerned from time to time. I really do want people to be able to communicate directly with one-another, without multi-billion dollar companies sitting in between users, reading and storing their logs, every click they make, and gate-keeping access to begin with. We've seen some of the places this can lead, and many of them aren't very pretty.

Regardless, Discord has made a great product that strongly beats its present and past competitors (which is what I'd add to the full article above - competitors like Skype were really bad! From excessive ads to laggy calling to leaking user IPs, which it still does), and for that I'm grateful that there's such a better software alternative for communities and friends to get together with. But I would definitely love to see pro-active work and assurances from Discord that help to convince me that they will be a unique force of Good in the consumer social space rather than regress to the mean that we see exists today.

hombre_fatal(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> I really do want people to be able to communicate directly with one-another, without multi-billion dollar companies.

It's just really hard to imagine what this could look like in practice while remaining a compelling experience.

Downsides aside that we both agree with, it's just hard to compete with centralization. You register @ve55 on Discord and you click 'Join' on any server and anyone can find you and it's not confusing.

Meanwhile, literally every discussion of a federated system like Mastodon on HN is full of confusion, even among us the tech savvy crowd.

Example, just yesterday this was posted to HN: 'You may be using Mastodon wrong' https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24819387 and the comments are full of confusion. And it's just a Twitter clone, the simplest social app possible, that isn't even trying to solve real-time chat and voice.

And the traditional siloed bulletin board model (vBulletin, phpbb) had massive downsides too like fragmentation and having to 'host it' just to start a community (not something everyone can do), which is why they struggled to compete with, say, Reddit.

It's hard to pin what a Discord would look that maximized the ideals that took us away from a centralized corporation controlling it. Seems we're still in the very early stage of experimentation, or maybe centralization will always have this sort of advantage that lets it dominate social spaces?

fredrickd(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think you're right but you're wrong.

The thing that Discord is missing and is failing at is that it doesn't have any sort of a friend graph or social structure. Discord users want this sort of Reddit anonymity where people are semi-social but not really.

Discord isn't a social app and Reddit looks like where Discord will grow to, not mass market, not super data heavy because there's no friend graph and structure.

est31(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Agree with all your points. Couldn't be express it better myself. Just recently I tried to access reddit from my phone while being logged out, and got a 'community preview, view this in app' kind of screen. Terrible. On a similar note, Github is slowly auth-walling off parts of its website. I can't access github actions logs on my phone, nor can I access 'hidden' outdated etc. comments/discussions without an account, even though I'd like to view what is inside.

For the real time chat space, my personal hope is that Matrix will eventually take off. Currently it is still in a phase where there is lots of development and technological improvements, but I hope that eventually there will be an ecosystem of compliant clients as well as a large user base. Another good alternative to matrix is zulip, although it's hard to maintain which discussions one wants to stay up to date with vs which discussions to ignore.

daptaq(10000) 1 day ago [-]

If I am honest with myself, I have to admit that I am resentful of Discord. I hate that it exists, I hate that it is used, and most of all I hate that it is popular. It's irrational hatred (I think distate is legitamate), but I can't deny it. I don't know if it's my general aversion to gamer culture, or the fact that it's an electron application, or that it just came out of nowhere, and suddenly was everywhere. I decide not to use it, but still feel left out. I'm glad and sad. I go out of my way to ensure that my contacts don't use Discord. At the begining of the pandemic, my friends wanted to use it (the TeamSpeak server we used to use was full), but it didn't work on my end, AFAIK because of strict browser policies. Luckly we swiched to mumble, and it works great. The effort to configure it at first it greater, and the defaults can be improved, but I'm far happier this way, without being sucked into another horrible service.

f1refly(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

I don't think your hatred is irrational. I, too, hate discord and everything it stands for. Your points are very valid indeed, but I think the main reason I hate it is because it really showed me that I am in the grave minority when it comes to caring about the issues you listed. Nearly* all people I know don't give a fuck: They don't give a fuck that it's a web browser with web widgets and humongous spacing everywhere. They don't care that it cannot be customized. They don't care about who runs the whole operation. They don't care where the money comes from. They don't care that I (I know, I know) have to fill out about 15 captchas every time I want to interact with the thing. They don't care that other clients are forbidden and a bannable offense.

Every time someone invites me to discord, it shows me that the world indeed couldn't care less about the values that are central to me when evaluating software. But I wouldn't expect that from the gaming community anyways, those guys never cared. The true pain comes when I find some free software project where all developement talk is on discord. Because it shows me that even the people I'd expect to care at least a tiny little bit about all those points, are okay with this.

I also want to add that I want to punch an executive every time someone calls his discord space a 'server'. It's not a server. It seems that fight is lost as well. Discord servers are what people think of now when the word server is used, and this change of meaning will not be reversed.

*Except my two best friends, who continue using a self hosted teamspeak/mumble with me and of whom one shares my grief about the whole discord situation.

Nuzzerino(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I feel similarly but for different reasons. It effectively killed forums, and the context-switch-heavy UX design enables more people to do drive-by, low-quality posting, rather than more deliberate and thought out discourse. Gaming culture has been severely downgraded as a result.

paxys(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It's a bit premature to declare Discord a winner or loser. Let's at least wait till it stops relying on VC funding to operate.

karmakaze(10000) 1 day ago [-]

That's a title tweak, even as 'Why Discord is Winning' would be the same interesting content.

ve55(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They have the market and the network effects, so the game is over, regardless of how profitable they are, if they get acquired, etc.

saalweachter(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't know about everyone else, but I also seem to be moving to different chat ecosystems every two or three years. From Campfire to Hangouts to Slack to Discord.

I miss IRC.

Vishnevskiy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Who says we require it now ;)

est31(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It's a winner for the early investors. A winner for later stage investors including the IPO ones? Who knows. People love moving from one social platform to another. Discord might just disappear in a few years just like ICQ disappeared.

chmod775(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> It is easy to switch to Discord. Inviting people is two clicks and a paste. Joining a server (once you have an account) is two clicks.

This is kind of missing an elephant in the room.

Because even creating an account on discord after clicking a 'join server' link only requires you to put in an username. No pointless e-mail requirement, not even a password, no nothing. Put in an username and you're good to go.

This might look particularly weird to some of the HN community who are fond of optimizing the conversion rate of their pointless landing page -> sign up flow and like to subscribe people to mailing lists that 97% of their users will find fucking annoying.

I've been doing a similar thing to discord on a site I run where users don't even have to choose a name. They get a randomly assigned name which they can change later if they want. A new user needs to perform 0 clicks to begin using the product.

This was especially helpful in the beginning, because the first few people who stumbled upon the site immediately became users and started interacting with each other. By adding stupid landing pages, sign up flows, analytics (which then requires me to get permission from my users), and whatnot the site probably wouldn't have gotten off the ground half as fast.

loosetypes(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Any good resources you'd recommend for reading further on this approach?

mustaflex(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This. it feels like entering a room, speaking with like-minded people, getting the information you want and walking out. No one asking anything and trying to reel you back in after.

guzik(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Seconded. We've made a product in fitness&health niche when all of our competitors (and so we did) think it's essential for users to create an account, fill long questionnaires etc, yet we managed to skip all those things making them optional. Conversion rate skyrocketed on iOS - now we are making same switch on Android app.

tgsovlerkhgsel(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Not anymore unfortunately, at least not reliably. I picked it because of this ease of use, but I was forced to enter and verify an e-mail before it let me use it. And they reject mailinator.

Osiris(10000) 1 day ago [-]

How does the user log back in from a other device?

n3dm(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>Because even creating an account on discord after clicking a 'join server' link only requires you to put in an username. No pointless e-mail requirement, not even a password, no nothing. Put in an username and you're good to go.

What are you talking about? I've tried to create an account before it and would not let me without giving them a non-voip phone number.

YMMV should be included in that statement.

nashadelic(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

We've come full circle back to IRC: no registration required, guests get a guestXYZ generated username.

jmnicolas(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

I like the concept but how do you manage malicious users though?

layoric(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It is a pretty smooth process but my partner got stuck in a failure mode due to removing friction like confirming email before you can start engaging with the app. A typo in the email and a password manager failing to save the generated password. This problem wasn't noticed for days while chatting in various communities, when it was, even though their phone was still authenticated, no option but to abandon the account was available.

I'm sure it is a pretty small percentage of users this impacts but I think confirming an email address as real before allowing access avoids this wasted sunk cost and probably more importantly to small communities, avoiding troll accounts/harassment.

nsajko(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This is quite wrong. To log in to Discord, I have to provide my e-mail address, be logged into a Google account (because of reCAPTCHA), and possibly even open my mail box to confirm to Discord that I am, in fact, me.

This is the Web experience at least, on mobile they presumably already have all of this (or the equivalents) right after installing their app.

EDIT: to add to this, I once created a Discord account associated with a fake e-mail. After a while they presumably figured that out, but instead of, e.g., letting me log in and change the e-mail, they just locked me out.

will_pseudonym(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It's been a long time since I was a new user to Discord, so I didn't remember what steps I had to take to get started.

The process you described sounds super similar to the low friction involved with getting started on IRC!

petre(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Jitsy Meet is even easier to set up, no account required. Just visit a web page, create a channel/meeting and you're good to go. I love it compared to Zoom which is quite annoying. The audio is also better. No idea why everyone uses Zoom, most meetings are less than 10 people. I also hear it on news channels in interviews since the pandemic, robotic Zoom voice.

asdff(10000) 1 day ago [-]

for most discords you do need a verified email to chat.

j1dopeman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I just tested this on android and it requires an email and password to register - no getting around that. It also asks for my birthday. Then it forces verification by either email or phone. I wish it was just enter a username and go.

Edit: this was for an invite on a server I control and allows unrestricted access. It is not a server requirement; it is a discord requirement.

mrtksn(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't understand why people even ask for account creation. Now days the devices are personal, you don't have to have accounts to be identified, they are only good to sync between devices(like multiple devices and account restoration). Especially with apps, the moment you install the app you have your details there for good and they don't go away accidentally like with the browsers.

I assume it's about tracking but now I'm beginning to suspect that it's simply a cargo cult mentality where no body asks why are we doing this.

I don't proceed with anything that requires a form to be filled without having a good reason. I'm actually positive that I have a bank account that doesn't have a login info, when I need to sign in from another device I would simply scan a barcode from the app to let me in.

Yet, there are apps asking me more questions than an immigration officer to let me use it.

xgbi(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]


This morning I left my daughter at home until noon. Not knowing how to stay in touch with her 'just run case', I tried to set up a Google Meet that I could join at work to see what she was up to.

Cue 15 minutes of:

- trying to create a meet without an account => fail.

- use my account to create a meet, take link, pull it up on daughter's computer.

- need to create account for daughter on Google so that she can join.

- creation of children account requires me to login because children not >18.

- create family with my account.

- back to creating account for child.

- strong password entered.

- google requires a payment setup, picks up my credit card (??) from my account to add to daughter's account.

- cannot dismiss payment option, stuck there..

Then I thought about Discord:

- Go to Discordapp.com

- Click on 'open app', enter chilren first name, server is created

- copy paste link to my computer and go to children server

- Done

This is just fantastic. I just abhor the user story on anything else now, this is just so easy, and solves so many issues.

ehnto(10000) 1 day ago [-]

That has been my onboarding ethos too when it makes sense, if they need an account at all.

On one app that did require an account, a user can use the app up until the point they need to save something, which is when I take their email address and password and then they are in.

Email is only for password resets. But I don't think I will even require that by default in future. Perhaps a prompt that the user can add their email address just in case they forget their password, but not require it.

s1k3s(10000) 1 day ago [-]

We've spent weeks debating whether to ask users to create an account or not for our app. Going for no auth would've decreased our development costs by a lot, while also increasing conversion because once installed you'd get right into using all the features. But then we realized people abuse the service (it's a B2C SAAS that's free for the C side) and we need a way to ban the abusers from using the platform.

Going for auth impacts everyone because you have to provide (and verify) your info to us, and this translates to 99% of the users being impacted by the other 1% who will not play by the rules. Sure, you can blame companies for not coming up with smarter options for eliminating the abusers that hurt everyone else, but when we're offering a free service without asking for anything back from your side I find it hard to justify investing months of development into this. And this is why you create an account with your email or phone number, and if you make the life hard for everyone else you go out of the platform and let everyone else enjoy it peacefully.

hardwaregeek(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I run a small mentorship program for students. We use Facebook Messenger for all of our communication. This is despite quite a few valid complaints (privacy, not everybody has Facebook, lack of custom rooms, etc). Why? Well currently the onboarding process is this: person expresses interest, person gets added to Messenger group. With another platform, it becomes person expresses interest, we give person a form to create an account. The difference is push versus pull.

Facebook is nobody's favorite platform and yet it's the one most people have.

hobby-coder-guy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>an username


young_unixer(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> a 'join server' link only requires you to put in an username

While that's good, it would be better if they added an option to 'log into an existing account'.

I created 3 different discord accounts that way. There was no way to realize that I was creating a new account rather than just creating local name for an existing account.

ivanagas(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You're right. Even I underestimated the impact of the one click to join.

I don't remember the last time I joined a community or Slack where I had to enter a bunch of info, but I see in my Discord a bunch of servers I've joined because it is so easy.

simonw(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've seen all sorts of problems with services that don't require a validated email address in the past.

Seems like a great idea... until a few years down the line you run into an issue for which you need to send a message to your users. And you can't.

These are often legal issues. Needing to forward on take-down notices, changing privacy laws (remember all of the emails that were sent out when GDPR came into effect).

Legal issues aside, the killer challenge is account recovery. People forget their passwords. How are you going to give them back access to their account without a verified communication mechanism?

whiddershins(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Lots of stuff used to work this way I think.

Anyway, that's great. Do this. Maybe more people can do this.

neop1x(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> even creating an account on discord after clicking a 'join server' link only requires you to put in an username. No pointless e-mail requirement, not even a password, no nothing.

That's how I ended up with three Discord accounts with no way to merge them and I am not alone [1].

[1] https://support.discord.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/3600531...

Evidlo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> No pointless e-mail requirement, not even a password, no nothing. Put in an username and you're good to go.

Not for me. I was forced to give away my phone number to create an account.

laurentb(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

I was curious and surprised you didn't link to your site at all so I looked at your submission history and I believe you're referring to this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6670113 ? This links to https://volafile.org/ which I have to say is pretty damn awesome as a concept! Simple yet effective.

curious why you didn't choose to charge a fee for registering an account in the end?

Are you monetizing the service in any way? I assume hosting files up to 20GB doesn't come for free right?

discreditable(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

There is something magical about this onboarding flow. Discord join links make it very easy for outsiders to hop in. My introduction to Discord was playing League of Legends several years ago. People would send links to their voice channels so teams could communicate. I clicked and voice chatted (in my web browser no less!). After doing that a few times I felt Discord was pretty cool so I registered and installed the Desktop client.

pm90(10000) 1 day ago [-]

So. Much. This.

For non technical users, the friction involved in setting up new accounts is a bit too much.

Anecdotally: my tech-handicapped friends all used hangouts. I suggested discord, but everyone wanted to continue using something they were familiar with. Once they did get Discord and discovered how easy it was to start conversations.... nobody went back to hangouts.

jscheel(10000) 1 day ago [-]

100x this. It's so annoying to join a slack channel. Discord feels much more free-flowing, like IRC (yes, yes, I know).

Aaronstotle(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Yep, if you demo an app and you require a sign-in, you should re-think the demo.

zamalek(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Because even creating an account on discord after clicking a 'join server' link only requires you to put in an username.

I also want to add: you don't have to install a thing either. I played a few games that heavily encouraged community coordination and still remember people backing out of VOIP because of the download ('I'll do it when I log off' and then never do). In addition, because of a central API, users can be authenticated with in-game/game account info and automatically assigned a role, instead of sitting about waiting for an admin.

Discord removes every barrier of entry possible.

> to mailing lists that 97% of their users will find fucking annoying.

This lets you measure engagement. Discord trusted their product enough to know engagement would happen.

jeffchien(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Anecdata/opinion from me: Discord's infinite chat history and search [note 1] is a winning feature for me, and it's frustrating for me that other services I still use don't have that. For example, FB's Messenger app still doesn't have message search, even though the desktop version does. Why?!

[Note 1] However, Discord's message search seems to be quite finicky when it comes to searching links. For example, if someone posts a link with 'www.twitter.com/user', it wouldn't show up with a 'twitter.com/user' search, but it would show up for 'twitter.com' or 'www.twitter.com/user'. Room for improvement.

ivanagas(10000) 1 day ago [-]

My Messenger app has message search, although it is hidden. Conversation -> info button in top right -> 'Search in conversation.'

anuila(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Facebook Messenger app does certainly have message search both global and for each user, at least on iOS.

EamonnMR(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Discord wins because it allows you, the member of an existing community to set up a new subset of that community over which you have power. For a while I thought discord was paying people to create communities for everything but then I realized, they don't need to; the joy of being in charge is enough.

Nuzzerino(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Are you really in charge though? Discord has deleted servers over political speech. It sounds nice and agreeable and all when you're calling them out for being 'Nazis', but the fact is that there's no due process or chance of a fair appeal if you're arbitrarily labelled as one of these 'Nazis'. You have the illusion of being in charge but are ultimately a feudal serf.

Anyone actively and freely communicating on an actual independent platform is instead seen as a liability to the public because there's no implied threat or leverage over their community.


blibble(10000) 1 day ago [-]

xfire won too

unless it stays private: at some point it'll be loaded full of ads and then their fickle audience will move onto the next thing

athorax(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Ah, man. I had totally forgotten about xfire. Used it a ton back in vanilla wow and CS 1.6/source days. RIP

jjice(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Discord really is a high quality service. I remember a friend of mine in either late 2015 or early 2016 told us to give it a shot instead of Skype. This is the same friend that tried to get us to use Mumble and Teamspeak in the past, but we were dissatisfied with the audio quality. We gave it a shot and never went back.

Now, however, I've been very interested in open source alternatives. Not to make them take over, but as a backup option to have around. I think Matrix with Jitsi Bridge for video and audio is the current leading self-hosted alternative, but nothing beats the convenience of Discord.

If there comes a time where Discord gets hit with some anti-privacy/serious censorship issues, then I'll really dive into the alternatives, but for now, they really do a great job (not to mention their medium blog is very interesting).

n3dm(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>Discord really is a high quality service.

-Lots of server downtime -Obnoxious amount of system resource use -Crashing -Bugs -Forced updates -Privacy concerns. (Scans your open processes, etc)

Some of us can agree to disagree.

Shared404(10000) 1 day ago [-]

My D&D group and I have been very satisfied with Element/Matrix/Jitsi, YMMV of course.

judge2020(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Matterbridge[0] is also a good solution for backing up your text chats to a service of your choosing.

0: https://github.com/42wim/matterbridge

krm01(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've analyzed the interfaces of Discord and all other chat/community apps as part of research for the UI/UX work we do for clients [1] and from my perspective, the Interface seems to be a big part of the winning factor. It may be just one of the many reasons why Discord does so well, but it's often overlooked.

Discord stayed miles away from looking or feeling like enterprise software.

Their playful approach makes it fun to be there.

Features are often brought forward as the reason why apps succeed or fail. But humans are emotional beings and how a product looks or feels contributes a lot to the company's success (or failure).

[1] http://fairpixels.pro

anchpop(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Discord has so many features that make it feel like it was made by and for gamers. Like the 'currently playing' statuses, or 'streamer mode' that hides identifying info when you have OBS open. It also works better than anything else for large communities with its roles/notifications system. It has a good design but I don't see it as particularly playful, just really well executed

panorama(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Yeah, Discord still impresses me with how clean the interface _feels_ to put it simply. I remember only being on the Discord web client for a long time and remarking how much I enjoyed the interactions despite not being a native app. Then I loaded up the console and was pleasantly surprised to see it was all built in React. I suddenly felt very insecure about my own skill with React :p

Razengan(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Their playful approach makes it fun to be there.

This right here was one of the biggest reasons for the popularity of the Mac and Apple's other early stuff.

They're not so playful right now, but the aesthetics are still a big part of why so many people love to "be there", while other people can't understand that and deride it as "form over function" and blahblah

ma2rten(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Can you be more specific? It seems to that Discord is very similar to slack.

madeofpalk(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It's interesting - I think i find the opposite to be true, but that's still the appeal.

I used Slack before I used Discord, so I compare the two a lot. I think Slack is more polished and playful while remaining mildly professional.

Discord I think has a more nerdy and less polished interface, which I think is a part of it's appeal.

brundolf(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The playfulness is endearing, but there's something about the way the UI is structured that always feels a bit disorienting to me, even after having used it for years now. It's generally easy to find what you're looking for, but you're always 'figuring it out'; it's hard to pin things down as having a concrete, spatial location. You never quite have a stable notion of 'where you are'. I don't know how else to describe it.

It's worth noting that I don't feel this way about Slack (mostly). It has a clear visual hierarchy of Servers > Channels/DMs > Messages [> Threads]. Discord has things linked every-which-way; someone will start a group call and it's somehow separate from the shared server you're on, living in a whole separate subtree of the interface.

Maybe the difference is that Discord accounts are cross-server? So you have conversations that live in a server, and conversations that live outside of any particular server?

p0nce(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

+1 it's all about the UX. It's just an incremental improvement against any competitor of the times (infinite logs, efficient search, multi-server, easy bots, audio chat rooms that work better...). It's pretty clear Discord has talented _designers_. And better UX has made Discord increasingly useful to conduct business on.

matsemann(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Their playful approach makes it fun to be there

When lockdown started the huge company I am contracting for decided to try Discord. It was a hilarious clash between corporate culture and gaming culture for a month. I think they've toned down some of it now? (We ended up with teams)


debaserab2(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Now that Discord has taken such a strong foothold I wish they would offer an 'enterprise' skin or something like that because I would love to replace my work's Slack chat with Discord. Discord is miles ahead of Slack in terms of stability.

hnick(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I find playfulness great but it can backfire when a serious problem crops up. Then it starts looking like unprofessionalism.

This might be why Discord themselves have said not to use it for serious business in companies (I can't find the quote and don't know if they say that anymore, but they definitely used to).

I think it's an amazing piece of software. Every single day that I have to use Lync or MS Teams at work I miss the easy copy/paste interface and all the rest. My only gripe is that notifications are unreliable and spotty on my phone. I tried making a chatroom with a couple of friends but they had similar issues so we all moved back to Whatsapp. Maybe they've fixed those in the last year or so.

Kaze404(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Really? As someone who's been using Discord since 2015 the interface is by far the worst aspect of it in my opinion. The desktop client has a minimum width, the channel list is not resizable, Ctrl+K for some reason doesn't prioritize channels in the current server, no tabs, you now need 2 clicks to reach your mentions instead of 1, if you don't have access / don't want to use a scrollwheel the server list is literally unusable (and even then, it feel awful reaching for the last servers), the client lags insanely hard if you're in a voice chat (Linux 5.8.14 with RX 5700 XT), virtually no accessibility features (besides TTS, which admittedly was there from the start)...

These are the UI complaints I have that I can list from memory. There's a bunch more regarding to how the service is operated (especially support), but it's overall not really a good experience for me. Definitely better than Skype, though that's a very low bar.

Edit: Oh, and no threads. That's Slack's best feature by far.

formerly_proven(10000) 1 day ago [-]

A big difference between Discord and almost everything else is that server admins aren't real admins and see no more account data than everyone else on the server. This means people can freely join 'hostile' servers and servers with untrusted admins, which is important for gaming, considering the toxicity of many communities.

swiley(10000) 1 day ago [-]

geese I can't stand the UI. The worst part is dealing with muting servers/channels because most admins don't seem to set up reasonable settings (ex: have the main channel always send notifications to everyone on every message.)

I never had these problems with IRC in pidgen.

otras(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Is Discord profitable? An estimated $120M sounds like a hefty chunk of change, but I wonder what their expenses look like, especially if they're relied heavily on VC money in the past to subsidize having the servers be free.

ivanagas(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Probably not, they just raised another $100M in June. Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/06/30/discord-now-has-a-3-5b-val...

pippy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It's a shame that the old guard refused to modernize. Talk to IRC or Jabber fans and they despise basic things like emojis, let alone important things like preserving offline messages and ease of access. There are hills to die on, and they died on too many hills.

anthk(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Jabber fans and they despise basic things like emojis

We had those for sure before you ever have been in a school.

> let alone important things like preserving offline messages

Jabber is federated, that's up to the service or client. Also, Jabber is extensible, it could be implemented in a breeze.

bognition(10000) 1 day ago [-]

My child uses discord to coordinate play across multiple platforms, Xbox, mobile, and switch.

Her friends are spread all over the country and they are constant on discord chatting, sharing memes, and messing around with bots. It's a pretty wild thing to witness.

As a life long techie that got started on BBSes, AOL punters, diablo over dialup I've always thought of myself at the cutting edge. Now I watch as kids adopt tech en-mass that I'm not the target for.

Discord hasn't "won" but they've built an extremely strong and sticky offering.

electriclove(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Are there different servers for her games? Is it with friends she made in person in the past or are these friends she made via these online communities?

golemiprague(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I see the same thing with my kids, in some way it is the new basic, they do their first steps in setting up servers, bots and decorating which is very appealing for girls. Inadvertently I feel like discord is doing much more to attract girls to the field than a lot of other well meaning initiatives.

Nuzzerino(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I guess I'll be the one to say it. Discord has a serious privacy problem. And I'm not talking about the potential eavesdropping by the company on your private messages.

Your username, user ID, profile photo, mutual friends, and mutual servers are always visible to anyone. Something you said years ago could potentially come back to screw you over at any time. Changing your username does not help, as the messages you posted back then will be displayed under your new username.

Want to start a serious game project as a developer? That clan you posted drunk messages in 5 years ago might still have someone in it who can then use those messages against you, for little or no reason at all. Gaming communities can be savage.

Sure, you can make a brand new account, but that's easier said than done, because:

1) You can't be logged into two accounts at the same time on the desktop. You must use different browser profiles or a similar sandboxing method. Definitely out of the question for mobile.

2) No way to transfer your old servers, friends, roles, etc, to a new account.

3) Making a new account isn't always a reasonable option even if you are willing to lose all of your old data. Moving from one role to another to another in a gaming career often is done gradually through connections and community (but that doesn't imply you should have to be forced to expose your system username and user id to everyone everywhere).

4) Even if you do make a new account, that new account might get disabled automatically until you provide a phone number. Throwaway numbers don't work.

MeinBlutIstBlau(10000) 1 day ago [-]

There are dozens of mod related issues I've found with discord that seem simple but just haven't been implemented. A lot of people on discord forums voiced their dissatisfaction as well.

The moment I stopped being a mod though these problems seemed void to me.

CalChris(10000) 1 day ago [-]

LLVM uses Discord as an alternative to IRC. Discord has a modern pleasant interface. Discord is to IRC as Uber/Lyft are to a taxi company phone number. It however has a weird copyright agreement for user's content.

bregma(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Discord is to IRC as AOL was to Usenet.

mikenew(10000) 1 day ago [-]

IMO one of the core innovations that Discord brought was the way voice works. There's no 'calling' or any sort of 'person A would like to talk to person B, person C may or may not be welcome' sort of thing. People just click on a voice channel and they're in.

Other services have tried the same thing I guess (Hangouts did something kind of similar), but everything adds up to a completely different feeling around voice chat. It feels more like walking into a room with people hanging out than it does dialing someone's number and all the low-level anxiety that goes along with it.

ve55(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Do keep in mind with Discord's original market (gamers), a lot of existing software worked just like that, including teamspeak and ventrilo.

bhauer(10000) 1 day ago [-]

But that wasn't an innovation. Teamspeak, Ventrilo, Mumble, they all work that way.

duskwuff(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> There's no 'calling' or any sort of 'person A would like to talk to person B, person C may or may not be welcome' sort of thing.

There is, actually -- you can call a user who you're friends with, or create a call for a group DM. It's just separate from group voice chat.

dualboot(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Discord wins in a lot of ways. A few that jump out to me as important are :

* Cross-Platform - You can reliably stay up-to-date on discord from basically every device you own with reliable notifications

* Excellent group voice chat quality and controls - Every user can control the volume for each chat participant(You control your own mix.) This is something Teams doesn't have and god I wish it did...

* It's Slack for friends. Discord basically does everything Slack does (rich-media real time chat with a specific group of contacts.) It's far easier to crank out a new discord for your friends and you don't get slammed with the 'Free Organization' restrictions that come with Slack.

There are lots of things it does right, but these were major selling points for me.

xtracto(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Discord basically does everything Slack does

Except message threads and drawings while screen sharing. Two features we use in Slack a lot in my current team.

WorldMaker(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> It's Slack for friends. Discord basically does everything Slack does (rich-media real time chat with a specific group of contacts.) It's far easier to crank out a new discord for your friends and you don't get slammed with the 'Free Organization' restrictions that come with Slack.

This is what I often point to in Discord's favor. Slack's business model is at the 'team'/'group' level and makes the most sense for organizations with a strong cohesive identity over time, whereas Discord's business model is at the individual user level and allows for a lot more ephemeral friend groups to flow in/out of 'servers' (teams/groups/what have you) as makes sense to them.

nurettin(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Discord basically does everything Slack does

There is a simple reason why we are on slack. Drawing on someone's screen. And it doesn't even work on linux, but we are still on it until someone makes a voice chat app that lets us type threaded messages and draw on someone's screen.

falcolas(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Excellent group voice chat quality and controls

Discord is still miles behind Ventrillo for this. There are still participants on every server I've been on who can't be heard at 100% boost on my end. On vent, I could just set up a compression/normalization chain and never have to worry about any participant being too soft or too loud ever again.

Maybe sound plugin chains are an advanced feature, but I really, really wish it was offered in Discord.

dcm360(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Cross-Platform - You can reliably stay up-to-date on discord from basically every device you own with reliable notifications

Until there's a client update. When the client detects that an update is available, it asks to apply the update without any way to start without the update. So far, I had 2 weeks this year without the desktop client, waiting for the update to appear in the package repositories.

ivanagas(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Good points. Didn't think of cross-platform.

ryanSrich(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Discord has the best chat UI and experience of any similar tool. Slack is a close second, and Teams a distant third. If Slack can figure out their infrastructure issues, and undo many of the poor UX decisions from the past 12-18 months, they can beat teams. However, if Discord decides to move into the business world and offer a competitively priced product, I could see that doing very well. I honestly don't know why they'd do that, but a business version of Discord is very attractive to me at least.

tenryuu(10000) 1 day ago [-] </