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(2572) GPS

2572 points about 23 hours ago by todsacerdoti in 10000th position

ciechanow.ski | Estimated reading time – 58 minutes | comments | anchor

January 18, 2022

Global Positioning System is, without a doubt, one of the most useful inventions of the late 20th century. It made it significantly easier for ships, airplanes, cars, and hikers to figure out where they are with high degree of accuracy.

One of the most exciting aspects of this system are the satellites surrounding Earth. Here's a current constellation of active satellites, you can drag the view around to see it from different angles:

However, the satellites are just a part of what makes GPS possible. While I'll discuss their motion in depth, over the course of this blog post I'll also explain how the satellites help a GPS receiver determine where it is, and I'll dive into the clever methods the system uses to make sure the signals sent all the way from space are reliably decoded on Earth.

We'll start by creating a positioning system that can tell us where we are. Our initial approach will be quite simple, but we'll step-by-step improve upon it to build an understanding of the positioning method used by GPS.

Simple Positioning

Here's a small chunk of a world we'll be playing with. The little yellow figurine represents our position in that world – you can grab and move it around. You can also drag the landscape itself to change the viewing angle. The view on the right represents a map of that landscape – we'll try to evaluate where exactly the figurine is on this map:

This situation may seem a bit daunting, but notice that the landscape we're in has three little landmarks on the ground that are easy to reference on the map. Just by using these three reference points we can relate the figurine's position in the environment to an approximate placement on the map as show with the yellow shape on the right:

It's not hard to realize that if we're somewhere inside the triangle spanned by the three landmarks on the ground then we also have to be somewhere inside that triangle on the map. Notice that as we move around we get different degree of uncertainty as shown by the size of the yellow area. In fact, if we're standing exactly on one of the landmarks we know for sure where we are, but as we move away it gets a bit harder to accurately pinpoint the position.

The further away from a landmark we are, the larger the uncertainty, but the distance to a landmark itself also carries some information. If we attach a rope to a landmark and walk away holding the other end, it will at some point prevent us from going further. Moreover, if we keep the rope taut it will limit our motion to a circular path around that landmark:

Since the rope has a fixed length, every point on that circle is at the same distance to the landmark. Instead of using a rope we can attach a measuring tape to a landmark and track the measured distance as we roam around. A measured distance lets us draw an appropriately sized circle on the map, based on the map's scale. We know that we have to be somewhere on that circle, because all the points on that circle are equally distant to the landmark:

If we also keep track of the distance to the second landmark we know that our position is somewhere on the intersection of those two circles because the intersections are the only places that have the expected distances to both locations:

With two distance measurements there are only two possible positions on the map where we could be located. Measuring distance to the third landmark narrows down that location to just a single choice:

Notice that this third measurement is often redundant. We usually just "know" which of the two positions on the map makes sense given our position on the ground relative to the landmarks we see. In the demonstration below we're measuring distances to just two landmarks, unless we're almost inline with them, it's usually fairly clear which answer is the right one:

The process of calculating a location of a point using measurement of distances is called trilateration – that procedure lies at the heart of a GPS receiver. However, being tied to two or three measuring tapes is certainly not how any GPS device functions, so let's keep on making our primitive positioning system better.

Time of Flight

The only purpose of the measuring tapes was to measure distances, but there are other ways to figure out how far away something is. For example, when we drive a car at a more or less constant speed of 60 mph60 km/h we can easily calculate that after 15 minutes we've traveled a distance of around 15 mi15 km. As a side note, I'm using imperialmetric units here, but you can switch to the metricthe imperial system if you prefer.

Instead of driving from point to point we can fly a little drone around. In the simulation below you can control the progress of time with the slider. The clock marks the time between the drone starting and ending its journey with a blue arc:

In the bottom part of the demonstration I put a timeline that also tracks the duration of flight using a bit more compact representation – you can think of it as a clock unwrapped from an arc shape to a straight line. Notice that the length of the blue bar is directly tied to the duration of the flight, which in turn is directly tied to the traveled distance. When you change position, the duration of flight needed to reach the goal changes as well.

The constant velocity of a drone allows us to use time as a measure of distance, because that distance s is proportional to the time of flight t with drone's velocity v acting as a scaling factor:

s = v × t

Let's see how we can employ two drones to replicate the measurements we did with two tapes. In the demonstration below we're sending two drones at the same time, the slider once again controls the time:

As the drones arrive to their destinations we get the direct measure of distance to each landmark as shown by the length of their bars on the timeline. This allows us to draw the circles of range on the map which in turn pinpoints our position.

This method is less restrictive than the measuring tapes we've used, but having to fly drones to the landmarks to measure distances is still a bit ridiculous. However, the idea of using time of flight is very promising, we just need to come up with a faster and more convenient messenger.

Thankfully, we don't have to look too far. We can use the very same substance that allows drones to fly – the air itself. Instead of rapidly moving it around to generate lift for the little machines, we'll just make noises and let the air propagate sounds through itself.

Do you hear me?

While at close ranges the sound seems to propagate almost instantaneously, at longer distances we can certainly witness the limits of the speed of sound – you've probably experienced the delay between seeing a lightning bolt and hearing its thunder. There is even a convenient rule of thumb that states that the strike was another 1 mile1 kilometer away for every 53 seconds of delay.

We can use sound to measure distances with a very simple setup. We'll put a microphone and a light bulb at each landmark – when a microphone detects a loud sound the light bulb will turn on. To measure the distance to a landmark we'll make a noise – I'm visualizing the propagation of that noise with a dark ring. As time passes the sound wave travels further and we can mark how long it took for the lightbulb to turn on:

For now we can safely ignore the delay caused by the speed of light – at our limited scale it won't affect the measurement too much. If we mount microphones and lightbulbs at the other landmarks we can get a reliable system to measure distances, which lets us draw the circles on the map and mark our location:

This solution actually works well, but it has a fatal flaw. As soon as someone else tries to estimate their position we may have a hard time recognizing if the flash happened because of our or someone else's sound. Let's see what happens when a red figurine also tries to estimate its position:

Notice that we have no idea if we should stop the clock on the first or the second flash of a landmark, but regardless of the approach our measurements may be completely wrong. Even when we use the robust method of intersecting three circles we very often fail to converge to a single location. The more users trying to estimate their positions the more error prone everyone's range estimation would be, especially since they all can start making their noises at different times.

The problem with this approach is that we've created an active system in which the landmarks have to actively respond to users' requests to provide the needed information. As the number of users increases, the complexity of the system grows significantly. Even if we came up with some clever way for the landmarks to distinguish the incoming signals and emit different responses, we're guaranteed to find some number of users that would overwhelm the infrastructure.

Fortunately, we can solve this problem by flipping it on its head. Instead of the users sending audio signals to the landmarks, we'll have the landmarks emit the sounds and have the users listen to those sounds.

Do I hear you?

Let's rejig the landmarks to have a speaker that will emit a sound at every minute on the minute, that is when the second hand on the clock shows 0 seconds. When we hear the signal we can then check our clock to see how much time has elapsed and thus measure the distance:

It may seem that this solution works well, but it requires a bit more attention. Notice that we're actually dealing with two different clocks here, one in our hand, and another one, located in the landmark itself, that drives the sound emission. Those two clocks may not be perfectly synchronized with each other.

In the demonstration below you can see the current time as tracked by the landmark on the system clock, and as tracked by us on our clock which can be biased by some amount – it could be early or late. Thankfully, with two clocks side by side we can try to correct for that bias using the second slider:

Notice that the timeline at the bottom shows progress of both the system clock and the user clock – if the clocks are not synchronized they're not tracking the same time.

Unfortunately, when we're out in the open exploring the environment we don't necessarily have access to the system clock so we don't know how to synchronize our clock with the system clock. Even if we initially synchronize our clocks, they may drift apart over time. Our measurement of absolute time may be biased relative to the "true" system time.

This has dire consequences – a landmark always emits its signal on the minute on the system clock, but we think the signal was emitted on the minute on our clock. Our estimate of the actual start time may be incorrect. Depending on the bias of our clock, this can cause us to under or overestimate the time of flight:

For the sake of clarity I'm still drawing the blue bar on the timeline, but remember that we actually don't know what the current system time is. The system always emits the signal when the blue bar is at 0 seconds, but we think that the system emitted its signal when the red bar is at 0 seconds.

If we get lucky and our clock is synchronized with the system then what we consider the sound emission time will match exactly the actual emission time. If our clock is running behind, then when we think the signal has just been emitted it has actually been flying through the air for a while. Conversely, if our clock is running ahead, then when the signal is actually emitted we erroneously assume it's already been in the air for a while.

Because of that unknown time bias we're no longer calculating the true time of flight and therefore we're not measuring the true range. Instead, we calculate a so-called pseudorange. The length of a pseudorange depends on what we assume the bias to be. This distance uncertainty sounds like trouble, so let's see how the presence of bias affects our ability to draw circles on a map:

Notice that the circles on the map now change their radius with our attempts to account for the unknown bias. We can no longer rely on just two circles as their intersection points move around with different values of that unknown bias.

We're seemingly in big trouble, but there is an additional assumption we can make – we can safely expect the clocks in the landmarks to be synchronized with each other. Their location is stationary which means they can use large and very precise clocks that are continuously monitored to ensure synchronization. Since all the clocks in the landmarks have the same system time, this also means that the bias of our clock to each of the landmarks is exactly the same.

Because that bias is the same, all three of the measured distances are either too short, or too long by the same amount, and that amount depends precisely on the bias of our clock relative to the system clock. Here's where the third measurement becomes indispensable:

After we get all three signals and we try to guess what the actual value of bias was, there is only one value of bias at which all three circles intersect in one place – that's where we are on the map.

This is a monumental achievement. We're not only calculating the correct position, but also the exact value of the bias of our clock, so this setup also allows us to synchronize our clock with the time of the positioning system – we get a reliable source of accurate time. The only additional cost we had to pay for all of this is the need for the third emitter at a known location.

Moreover, the infrastructure we've built is completely agnostic to the number of users it services. The emitted sounds don't care how many receivers are listening, each one can perceive the sounds on their own without interfering with anyone else's measurements:

Leveling Up

So far our movements were restricted to just a flat 2D plane, but interesting things happen when we allow the figurine to get above the ground level. In the demonstration below you can control the user's vertical position with a slider. To make things simpler, let's go back to our original idea of using measuring tapes to evaluate the distances:

Notice that as the figurine gets above the ground level, the distances to the landmarks increase. We can no longer use the method of circles on the map, as they don't even converge on the same location.

When we allow movement in three dimensions, our transformations of distances to plain circles are no longer valid. Instead, a fixed distance defines an entire sphere around the marked point. For easier visualization let's first just put all three markers floating freely in a 3D space. A known distance to the first location puts us somewhere on the surface of that sphere:

With a second measurement we can narrow down the possible location to the circle created by an intersection of two spheres:

To account for the third measurement we need to add a third intersecting sphere – it lets us narrow down the position to two possible points where three circles intersect:

While we technically need a fourth sphere to differentiate between those two points, three ranges are usually enough to figure out the exact position – if the centers of the spheres are far enough apart, one of the two possible solutions would be underground or in space.

Let's see how those concepts fit onto our map. To visualize the spheres we can no longer keep its surface lying flat. To make things easier to reference, I made the map rotate in sync with the main view. Notice that the intersection point of the three spheres lets us pinpoint the position and altitude even as you drag the figurine around:

Throughout these examples we've been using the simple system of measuring tapes, so let's try to go back to the solution that used sound waves and pseudoranges. Recall that it didn't require the user to have the clocks perfectly synchronized:

Notice that the new dimension added a new complication. While in a flat case we could have just look for a single value of bias for which the three circles have intersected, there are a lot of different values of bias for which the three spheres intersect and we're incapable of precisely determining both the position and the altitude at which we are.

By analogy to the flat case, we need to add a fourth landmark to resolve this problem. We can then look for the value of the unknown bias that makes four spheres intersect at a single location:

This method of measuring pseudoranges to at least four emitters at known positions is exactly what GPS uses to calculate the receiver's position and the time bias of its clock.

Before we continue developing our simple system, it may be worth pausing for a second to show the math underpinning the hand-wavy sphere resizing we've been doing so far. We're dealing with four distances to four emitters and we end up with four equations:

(xx1)2 + (yy1)2 + (zz1)2 = v × (t1b)

(xx2)2 + (yy2)2 + (zz2)2 = v × (t2b)

(xx3)2 + (yy3)2 + (zz3)2 = v × (t3b)

(xx4)2 + (yy4)2 + (zz4)2 = v × (t4b)

The left sides of the equations are just distances between the unknown position of the receiver and each of the red, green, blue, and yellow emitters, calculated with 3D Pythagorean theorem. On the right side we have the four times of flight t from the emitters to the receiver, the unknown receiver bias b, and velocity of propagation v which so far has been the speed of sound.

We're ultimately trying to solve this system of equations to get the receiver's xyz position and its bias b, but for the rest of the article I'll keep using the more abstract description of the problem since the mathematical operations aren't critical for our understanding of GPS.

Higher, Better, Faster, Stronger

It seems that the infrastructure we've built allows us to correctly calculate our position and clock correction when we're close enough to the landmarks. If we want to make our positioning system work on the entire planet like GPS does we still have a few problems to solve.

Firstly, sound waves aren't the best way to send the signals around. Periodic loud beeping would be annoying to everyone around, but, more importantly, sounds get dispersed in the air quite quickly – you can't easily hear things that make sounds tens of mileskilometers away.

A good candidate for a better carrier would be light. Similarly to sound, it also has a limited speed of propagation which we can use to measure the traveled distance. The speed of light in vacuum c is absolutely enormous and it has the following exact value that, per its definition, I'm showing in metric units:

c = 299 792 458 m/s

It only takes light one billionth of a second to travel the distance of around 1 foot30 cm. Unfortunately, light gets easily obscured by some atmospheric effects like fog, dust, clouds, or smoke so instead of visible light we'll use another form of electromagnetic radiation – a radio wave of a certain frequency.

The second problem preventing us from deploying this system globally is related to visibility of the signal emitters. So far we assumed that our local environment is perfectly flat, but when a radio wave encounters a hill it gets blocked, which you can experience in the following simulation. In many cases the receiver will never get the signal unless we put the emitter high enough using the second slider:

By putting the emitter at an altitude we can thankfully mitigate that problem on a local scale. Unfortunately, we've also been ignoring another important obstacle – the curvature of the Earth itself. To see that curvature, however, we have to rise way above the ground and venture into the blackness of space.

In the demonstration below you can witness how the emitted waves are masked by the shape of the planet depending on the altitude of the emitter:

The Earth's curvature acts as a hill that obscures areas that lie beyond the horizon as seen by the emitter. Thankfully, the higher we put the emitter, the larger the area it sees. We can visualize that area in three dimensions using a cone:

Naturally, we can't build an arbitrarily tall tower, so to put an emitter well above the ground level we'll have attach it to a satellite that we'll place high enough that it sees a reasonably big section of Earth. One could naively hope that we can just put a satellite in any place in space and it will just stay there, but unfortunately things aren't that simple.


Let's see what would happen to an object if we could magically put it motionless in space somewhere around the Earth. In the demonstration below you can drag the yellow object around. Once you let it go it will get pulled by the Earth's gravity which I've symbolized with little blue arrows. As the object starts to move a yellow arrow reflects its current velocity:

Note that the strength at which the object is pulled towards the planet varies with distance. That force of gravity F pulling an object is proportional to the mass of that object m and mass of the Earth M, but it's inversely proportional to the square of the distance r between the centers of their masses:

F = G × m × M / r2

The constant G is known as the gravitational constant and it's very small – it takes an object of an enormous mass like that of the Earth for the force of gravity to be perceptible at our human scales.

Regardless of where in space we put a motionless object, it will eventually fall down on Earth, but interesting things happen when the object's initial velocity is not zero. In the demonstration below you can once again drag the object around, but this time it will have some initial velocity that was perhaps given to it by a rocket. Once you let go, the object will initially move in that direction, but the Earth's gravity will still keep pulling on it:

Notice that the movement of the object is much more interesting now – the gravity keeps redirecting the object towards the center, but it manages to stay ahead of that pull which results in an elliptical trajectory. Notice that the speed of the object, as shown by the length of the yellow arrow, varies over the course of its journey. When the object is far away from Earth the gravitational field is weak and it takes a while for gravity to change the object's direction of travel, but close to Earth the strong gravitation quickly accelerates it.

If the trajectory intersects Earth, the object will still fall down on ground, but in other cases it will instead orbit Earth on an elliptical path. You may have also managed to make the trajectory red – the object is on a hyperbolic trajectory and it will just fly away and never come back.

Naturally, we want the radio signal emitters to stay in the vicinity of the Earth so for our purposes only elliptical orbits are useful. I've discussed ellipses on this blog before, but it's worth doing a quick recap.

Before we continue, I need to note that some demonstrations in the following sections are animated – you can play and pause them by clickingtapping on the button in their bottom left corner. By default all animations are enabled, but if you find them distracting, or if you want to save power, you can globally pause all the following demonstrations.disabled, but if you'd prefer to have things moving as you read you can globally unpause them and have animations running.

The easiest way to draw an ellipse is to take two small pins and wrap a string around them. If we then put a yellow pencil inside that loop and keep the string taut while moving the pencil around we'll draw an ellipse. By moving the pins closer or further apart we can change the generated shape:

Notice that I'm painting sections of the strings with different colors. As we go around the curve, red and blue parts trade lengths, but the sum of their lengths is always the same which is the defining property of an ellipse. The small pins are the focal points of that ellipse.

The shape of an ellipse is determined by its eccentricity. In this string contraption eccentricity is the ratio of the length of the green section to the sum of lengths of red and blue sections. The size of an ellipse is defined by its semi-major axis which is half of its widest point, or half of sum of lengths of red and blue parts. When eccentricity is 0, an ellipse becomes a circle and it's semi-major axis is just the circle's radius.

Length of the semi-major axis of a satellite's elliptical orbit is one of its most important parameters. We've already seen how the area of the Earth seen by a satellite changes with the distance. More importantly, as discovered by Kepler and formalized in his third law, the length of the semi-major axis a is tied to the time T it takes a celestial body to complete a single orbit – the quantity known as orbital period:

a3 = T2 × G × M / 4 × π2

As a result, the further away the satellite is, the longer it takes to trace a full ellipse which you can experience in the demonstration below. Notice that the ellipse is embedded in a plane known as orbital plane, I've visualized it with a yellow disc:

For example, the International Space Station is very close to Earth and it orbits the planet in just under 93 minutes – roughly 15.5 times per day. Notice that there is only one orbit that takes 23 h 56 min 4 s – the length of a sidereal day during which the Earth performs a single revolution around its axis. Satellites with that orbital period are called geosynchronous. Let's look at them up close. The red dot shows a point on Earth where a geosynchronous satellite is directly above the observer:

Notice that after a single revolution of the Earth the satellite returns to the same position. You may have noticed that the red slider controls the inclination of the orbit which is the angle between the orbital plane and the plane passing through the Earth's equator known as equatorial plane. When that angle measures 0° the red point doesn't move on the Earth at all, the satellite is always present at the same point in the sky, and that orbit is known as a geostationary orbit.

A geostationary orbit sounds like a good choice for placing a bunch of satellites of a positioning system, as each one would have a fixed and known position in the sky and a receiver could just measure distances to the ones it sees. However, that approach has a few problems.

In the demonstration below, you can control the number of geostationary satellites that are evenly distributed across the orbit. Each satellite is visible to a different section of the planet, but as the number of satellites grows, some areas of the Earth see more and more satellites. The number of visible satellites from that location on Earth is represented using colors of increasing intensity:

With 10 satellites in place all parts of the Earth close to equator have visibility of at least 4 satellites required to calculate the position and time offset. Unfortunately, even with a huge number of geostationary satellites the areas close to the South and North Pole would never see any satellites making the system not completely global.

Another problem with geostationary satellites is related to any configuration where all satellites lie on the same plane. Let's look at one of those configurations in which the satellites are closer to Earth making things easier to see. In the demonstration below you can drag the red point around to change its position on the globe. The darker red lines show calculated distances to each of the visible satellites:

Notice that on the other hemisphere there is a white point that, due to symmetry, has the exact same distances to the satellites! If positioning satellites were arranged on the geostationary orbit we wouldn't be able to tell if we're on southern or northern latitudes using trilateration as the only cue because we can't determine which of the two possible options is the right one.

With those restrictions in mind, we can now discuss how the Global Positioning System solves these problems by using satellites that do not use geostationary orbits and as such do not have a fixed position in the sky for the observers on Earth.

GPS Orbits

Let's look at an orbit of a single GPS satellite around the Earth. The red point shows a location on Earth where the satellite is directly above an observer:

A single GPS orbit has an inclination of around 55 degrees and an orbital period of 11h 58m 2s which is a half of a sidereal day causing them to pass over the same place on Earth twice per day. This was particularly useful during GPS development when only a limited number of satellites was available, but their periodical visibility in the sky could've been consistently relied on.

GPS consists of 6 different orbits placed around the Earth. Originally, each orbit contained 4 satellites for a total of 24 satellites. However, these days there are 30 active GPS satellites which improves accuracy and ensures redundancy. In the demonstration below you can select each of the 6 orbits or show all satellites from the entire constellation:

Notice that within an orbit the satellites aren't evenly distributed. As Earth rotates and satellites move around the number of satellites visible from a point on Earth changes. In the demonstration below you can drag the red point on Earth to observe the satellites it sees:

We can also visualize the number of visible satellites from every point on Earth. Let's look at that coverage of by marking different regions of Earth with colors of different intensity – it once again represents the number of visible satellites:

While I'm not accounting for local hills or buildings, you can observe that each part of the Earth is easily covered by at least 4 satellites allowing the receiver to calculate its position and clock bias. We'll soon see that the more satellites visible, the better accuracy of the predicted position is, but not all placements of satellites are equally favorable.

With all those satellites moving in the sky you may wonder how a receiver can know where the satellites are. The solution to this problem is simple yet absolutely brilliant – each satellite tells the receiver where it is as a part of its broadcasted signal.

Keplerian Elements

There are many ways to specify a position in space, but traditionally six Keplerian elements are commonly used. The first two elements, semi-major axis and eccentricity, specify the size and proportions of the orbital ellipse. For satellites, Earth is one of the focal points of the ellipse:

GPS satellites have a semi-major axis of around 16503 mi26560 km and eccentricity of around 0.02 or smaller.

The next two elements, inclination and longitude of the ascending node, specify the orientation of the orbital plane relative to Earth and distant stars:

We've already seen inclination in action – GPS satellites operate at an inclination of around 55°. Longitude of the ascending node deserves a bit more explanation. Notice that the ellipse of satellite's orbit intersects the equatorial plane at two different locations known as orbital nodes – I've marked them with red and green dots. The green one is the ascending node, because the satellite rises up or ascends at that location – it moves north.

Longitude of the ascending node is the angle on the equatorial plane measured from a certain reference direction that is fixed against distant stars and doesn't follow the Earth's rotation. GPS constellation consists of 6 different orbits – their longitudes of the ascending nodes are evenly separated by 60°.

The last two elements, argument of perigee and true anomaly, specify the position of the orbital ellipse and the satellite itself:

Argument of perigee defines the orientation of the ellipse within the orbital plane measured from the ascending node to the perigee that is the point on the ellipse closest to Earth – I marked it with a yellow dot. The final parameter is true anomaly, which is the angle between the perigee and the satellite itself as measured at a specific time.

In an idealized scenario, that fixed set of six parameters would be enough to calculate the current and future positions of a satellite at any point in time, but unfortunately there are other effects at play. A satellite's orbit gets perturbed from pristine Keplerian pathways by other effects like the not perfectly spherical shape of the Earth, the gravity of Moon and Sun, and solar radiation. As part of the broadcasted message GPS satellites also include information of the rate of change of some of those parameters, which allows the receivers to calculate necessary corrections over time.

You may wonder how a GPS satellite knows all of these parameters. All GPS satellites are being tracked by monitoring stations on Earth. Those stations are part of the Control Segment of Global Positioning System which manages the satellites and the contents of messages they broadcast. Every two hours, updated orbital parameters and clock adjustments are uploaded to satellites, which ensures that the information sent from satellites to the receivers is as accurate as possible.

Knowing the position of a satellite on its orbit one can convert from Keplerian elements to xyz coordinates in a Cartesian system tied to Earth. The details aren't important here, but the calculations account for a lot of different factors including the rotation of the Earth within the short time between the signal emission and the signal reception. As we've seen before, the process of figuring out the location also requires accurate tracking of time, but that concept deserves a bit more elaboration.


Trilateration with time of flight as a measure of distance requires that the clocks on all emitters are synchronized, and that is indeed the case for GPS. Each satellite carries a precise atomic clock and additionally the control stations can apply corrections to individual satellites to keep them in sync. That unified time is known as GPS time which for technical reasons is offset from the "standard" UTC time by an integer number of seconds.

When it comes to the flow of time on those satellites, there are two important aspects related to Einstein's theories of relativity. Special relativity states that a fast moving object experiences time dilation – its clocks slow down relative to a stationary observer. The lower the altitude the faster the satellite's velocity and the bigger the time slowdown due to this effect. On the flip side, general relativity states that clocks run faster in lower gravitational field, so the higher the altitude, the bigger the speedup is.

Those effects are not even and depending on altitude one or the other dominates. In the demonstration below you can witness how the altitude of a satellite affects the dilation of time relative to Earth. The progress of time is tracked by two separate bars. When the yellow bar gets filled it means that one second has elapsed on the satellite. When the blue bar gets filled it signifies that one second has elapsed on Earth. Notice that at high altitudes a second on the satellite finishes faster than a second on Earth, but at very low altitudes a second on the satellite takes longer to finish. Since the actual dilation is minuscule, the difference of bar lengths is greatly magnified to make things easier to see:

Satellites at the GPS altitude travel at the speed of about 2.4 mi/s3.87 km/s relative to Earth, which slows the clock down, but they're also in weaker gravity which causes the clock to run faster. The latter effect is stronger which in total results in a gain of around 4.4647 × 10−10 seconds per second, or around 38 microseconds a day.

Unfortunately, this is where many sources make a mistake with their interpretation of that result. It's often erroneously claimed that if GPS didn't correct for these relativistic effects by slowing down the clocks on satellites, the system would increase its error by around 7.2 mi11.6 km per day as this is the distance that light travels in those 38 microseconds.

Those assertions are not true. If relativistic effects weren't accounted for and we let the clocks on satellites drift, the pseudoranges would indeed increase by that amount every day. However, as we've seen, an incorrect clock offset doesn't prevent us from calculating the correct position. The calculated receiver clock bias would also be correct, but that bias would be relative to the drifting satellite clock making it much less useful.

Moreover, the clocks on satellites don't have to be explicitly slowed down to fix the cumulative relativistic speed-up of time. As part of their broadcasted message a satellite emits three coefficients that allow the receiver to correct for any offset or speed change of that satellite's clock.

One area where we explicitly have to account for relativistic effects is caused by slightly eccentric trajectories of the GPS satellites. As a satellite orbits the Earth its distance and speed relative to the planet change, which then causes periodic variations in the satellites' clock speeds. Since the receiver knows the satellites' positions it accounts for that relativistic variation when calculating timing corrections.

Unfortunately, this is not the only source of complications for evaluation of the time of flight.

Signal Propagation

While for most of their journey GPS signals travel uninterrupted through the vacuum of space, at some point they encounter the Earth's atmosphere which affects them with two different mechanisms. In the upper part of the atmosphere known as the ionosphere, the solar radiation ionizes gasses, which increases the number of free electrons that slow down propagation of the coded message. The amount of free electrons and the slowdown depend on time of day and overall solar activity.

In the lowest part of the atmosphere, mostly in the troposphere, the larger density of gasses and water vapor increases the index of refraction, which also slows down the radio signals. The water vapor amount can be highly variable, making the delay in signal's time of flight unpredictable.

The strength of these ionospheric and tropospheric delays also depends on the length of the path that radio signals have to travel in the atmosphere, which in turn depends on the elevation angle of the satellite signal relative to the receiver. We can see this in this backlit view of the Earth:

As that angle increases, the signal from a satellite travels more sideways and its larger portion gets affected by the atmosphere. To account for this, GPS receivers ignore ranges measured from satellites at very low elevation angles.

While atmospheric effects are primary source of GPS inaccuracies, other sources of disturbances also exist. For example, the clocks on all satellites can't be perfectly synchronized. The orbital elements and their rates are also measured with some degree of uncertainty, so both the positions and timestamps received from satellites are not exact. On Earth the signal can bounce off different surfaces and take a longer path to reach the receiver compared to direct reception.

Although many of these factors can be to some extent accounted for, the measured distances to satellites will have some degree of error – we no longer deal with a single distance but a certain allowed range of distances. What this means is that the spheres we've been intersecting actually have some thickness and we'll never be able to get a perfect solution where a few spheres of ranges intersect at a single spot.

We can try to visualize this thickness with actual satellites but you'll probably agree that's it's quite hard to see what's going around on the draggable red point even though I'm trying to reduce the clutter by only drawing halves of the spheres:

To make things easier to see let's briefly drop down to a two dimensional case and consider a simplified scenario with signals from just three satellites. In the demonstration below, you can control two parameters: the uncertainty of the measured distance, which ends up corresponding to the thickness of the border of the circle of range, and the relative position of these satellites.

The receiver's position is somewhere in the intersection of these three regions – the smaller that region the better the accuracy of our position estimation. Naturally, large range uncertainty increases the ambiguity of position, but the relative position of the satellites also matters. If they aren't well spread, the exactness of calculated location also suffers. In this example we've also assumed that the uncertainty of measurement is the same for all satellites, but it usually won't be the case.

To account for all these issues GPS receivers try to find such a set of four solutions, three position coordinates and the clock bias, that will in some sense be a best fit that minimizes the error – this is where using data from more than 4 satellites allows a receiver to improve the accuracy.

The calculated clock bias may seem like a trivial companion to the much desired location, but it's very useful in many applications that require time synchronization – we literally get easy, albeit indirect, access to atomic clocks.

Since we're talking about a receiver on Earth, it's only appropriate if we come back from the darkness of space to the bright surface of our planet.

So far I've been fairly vague about the message that reaches a receiver, what that message contains, and how it's decoded, but those details there are fascinating – I'll discuss them in the last two sections of this article.

Navigation Message

The information sent by a GPS satellite is collectively known as a navigation message. I'll go over most of its pieces one by one, but first let's look at its structure. The entire message consists of 25 frames, each frame consists of 5 subframes. Each subframe, represented by a single row, consists of 10 words, and each word consists of 30 bits:

TLM HOW Clock corrections, health
TLM HOW Ephemeris
TLM HOW Ephemeris
TLM HOW Almanac/other – page 1
TLM HOW Almanac – page 1
TLM HOW Clock corrections, health
TLM HOW Ephemeris
TLM HOW Ephemeris
TLM HOW Almanac/other – page 2
TLM HOW Almanac – page 2
TLM HOW Clock corrections, health
TLM HOW Ephemeris
TLM HOW Ephemeris
TLM HOW Almanac/other – page 25
TLM HOW Almanac – page 25

The first two words of every subframe have the same structure. TLM, or telemetry word, contains a fixed preamble that's easy to recognize, and some bits intended to check the integrity of the message. HOW, or handover word, is vital for GPS functionality – it timestamps the subframe, which lets the receiver figure out when it was emitted.

The subsequent 8 words of each subframe carry different payload. The first subframe contains the satellite clock corrections and the week number of GPS time, which, together with the more fine-grained timestamp from handover word lets the receiver calculate the exact time the message was sent.

This subframe also contains a "health" bit, which describes if the navigation data is in a good state. When an orbit of a GPS satellite needs to be adjusted, the Control Segment will temporarily toggle that bit to let the receivers know that they shouldn't rely on the information from that satellite as it tweaks its position.

The next two subframes contain the already mentioned orbital parameters extended by velocity information which are collectively known as ephemeris parameters – they allow the receiver to calculate the satellite's position.

The first three subframes are always present in every frame and they contain data related to this satellite, but the last two subframes contain the coarse ephemeris data for all satellites – that collection is known as almanac. This lets the receiver approximate when a new satellite would rise above the horizon. The other information carried in these subframes include health of other satellites and some parameters that allow the receiver to try to account for ionospheric delay.

As you can imagine, this entire payload is fairly large, so it is split across 25 pages – a single frame contains only a single page placed in the last two subframes. The receiver has to gather all 25 frames to fully decode that supplementary information.

The data rate at which GPS satellites send their signals is astonishingly small – they transfer only 50 bits every second. At that rate sending just the text contents of this article would take almost 2.5 hours. This means that a single subframe consisting of 10 words, each occupying 30 bits, takes 6 seconds to transfer and a single frame is received over 30 seconds.

That 6 second granularity of timestamps in each subframe is very coarse, but, as we'll soon see, the way the bits of the navigation message are encoded and decoded carries with it a lot of additional precision.

GPS Signals

While at a high level the navigation message can be divided into frames, subframes, and words, it ultimately consists of individual bits of data, each equal to either 0 or 1. A GPS satellite emits these bits over time which we can represent on a animated plot. In the demonstration below when the bit of the source data has a value of 1 the plot jumps above the horizontal axis, but for 0 it simply stays on it:

The data payload is transferred over radio waves in a specific range of the radio spectrum that is not obscured by atmospheric effects and can reach the receivers on Earth regardless of the outdoor conditions. While modern GPS satellites emit signals at a few different frequencies, the primary civilian signal is broadcasted at 1575.42 MHz by all satellites. I will represent that base radio wave with the following sine wave:

On its own, a steady radio wave like that doesn't convey much information, but we will use it as a carrier wave that we'll modulate to make it carry the payload of data. There are many ways to do that modulation. We could, for example, multiply the carrier wave by the stream of data bits effectively turning the emitted signal on and off:

For transmission of its signals, GPS uses a different method known as binary phase-shift keying. Conceptually, the binary signal of ones and zeros gets adjusted to replace every 0 with −1, and then that signal gets multiplied by the carrier wave:

That multiplication by −1 ends up shifting the signal's phase which explains the name of the method. If we were dealing with just a single satellite this method of encoding would be sufficient as the receiver could just remove the carrier from the incoming signal and decode the data bits:

In reality things are more complicated. There are many satellites broadcasting at the same time, so the data bits from all of them overlap. Additionally, the GPS signals reaching Earth are incredibly weak and they get swamped with noise, which would make a bare data payload indecipherable:

GPS solves this problem by employing another binary code. This code repeats over time and consists of a predetermined number of so-called chips. In this example there are 6 chips in the code:

The chipping code changes at a higher rate than the source bits. To encode the signal the satellite multiplies the data bits of the navigation message by that code. Let's see how this idea works in practice:

In this example, for every bit of the data signal, we're repeating two sets of the same code. Notice that the negative value of data signal ends up flipping the coding signal as well.

The input data, the code, and the carrier wave are all multiplied together to create the final signal that the satellite emits:

I need to note that for the sake of clarity I'm using a visually compact example – each bit of the navigation message is represented by 2 lengths of the repeating code, each code consists of 6 chips, and each chip lasts 2 wavelengths.

In real GPS signals those numbers are much larger. There are 20 repetitions of the chipping code inside a single bit of the message and each chipping code consists of 1023 individual chips. Each chip then lasts for 1540 wave cycles. If we multiply all these numbers together we get 31,508,400 wave cycles per bit, which, at 50 bits per seconds, ends up as the exact 1575.42 MHz.

Moreover, we're actually dealing with an entire family of these codes – every satellite has a unique one. In the demonstration below you can see the first three of the so-called PRN codes that the GPS satellites emit:

Even though the codes look like a binary random noise, they're in fact pseudorandom which explains their name – PRN stands for pseudorandom noise. Each of those codes is well known and can be easily recreated.

The addition of the code may seem like a needless complication, but it's actually extremely useful. Those pseudorandom codes have two important properties. The first one defines how well a code correlates with its copy shifted in time. Let's see what this means in practice on a much shorter code of length 63. In the demonstration below you can slide a replica of the code and see the signal it generates when multiplied by the repeated original code:

The bottom section of the simulation shows the sum of the positive and negative areas of the product of the code and its replica as well as the difference of these two areas. Notice that when the replica is not aligned the difference of areas is relatively small, but when we manage to align the replica with the signal the difference shoots up greatly. The correlation of the code signal with a copy of itself, or auto-correlation, is very high only when things are aligned correctly, and that jump in the magnitude of difference lets us detect that alignment.

The second important property is related to cross-correlation, or correlation with coding signal from a different satellite. Let's see what happens when we slide a replica of code from satellite 1 against a code from satellite 2:

As you can see, when we slide the replica around the difference of areas comes up a little bit, but it never reaches the highly discernible peak we've seen for auto-correlation.

Those two properties unlock the magic that happens in the receiver. Let's take a look at a simplified version of those steps, at first using a clean incoming signal from just a single satellite. The receiver can remove the sinusoidal carrier wave and get the signal that is a product of the navigation message and the chipping code:

The receiver can then create the replica of the chipping code for a satellite it's trying to track, and then check if it can find a high correlation peak between the input signal and that replica as measured in the highlighted region. The receiver tweaks the offset until it finds high difference of areas which lets it know it found the correct offset value:

As you observe the difference of areas, that is positive area minus negative area, after the correct offset is found, you may notice that over time it flips between being positive and negative. Since the coding signal was originally multiplied by the sign-flipping data signal, the flipping we see on the plot is actually the decoded data – you can compare the plot of the difference of summed areas to the original data signal that I'm showing at the bottom for completeness. After the correct offset has been found, the receiver can just look at the sign of that difference to decode the data bits.

The time offset of the replica provides the receiver with additional timing information that lets it calculate the exact elapsed time of flight. Recall that each subframe of a GPS message is timestamped with a granularity of 6 seconds, which, on its own, would be atrociously low precision.

However, by keeping track of how many bits we've seen, how many code repeats we've seen, and the chip offset into the code we can significantly improve that precision. The receiver knows how much time each of these components occupies so it can add that duration on top of the timestamp encoded at the beginning of the subframe. We're effectively timestamping each chip or even its fractions. When the receiver is measuring the time of flight, this method lets it calculate that duration very precisely.

Finally, let's see how the cross-correlating properties allow the receiver to distinguish between different satellites. In the demonstration below, the input signal is a combination of the signals emitted by a few visible satellites as well as some noise. You can select which of the replicas the receiver is generating and adjust the offset to tune in to a satellite's signal:

After some tuning we can find the required time offsets to decode signals from satellite 1, satellite 2, and satellite 3, but we can't find a good match for satellite 4. This is a likely scenario as only some of all the 30 satellites are visible at once to a receiver.

I need to emphasize that this was a simplified analysis of signal processing intended to illustrate how the chipping code allows the receiver to recover the original data bits. The behavior of an actual receiver is more complicated than what I've described. One of those additional complexities worth mentioning is the velocity of a satellite relative to the observer on Earth. Due to Doppler effect this changes the frequency of the signal as seen by the receiver. To correctly acquire the signal the device has to tune in on both the time offset and the appropriate frequency.

Finally, it's worth reiterating that the receiver doesn't need to send anything to the satellites, it just listens to the signals that the satellites restlessly emit without knowing if anyone receives them.

Further Watching and Reading

GPS MOOC was an online course hosted by Stanford in 2014. Thankfully, the video recordings of the lectures are available on YouTube and I highly recommend them for a deeper dive into GPS workings. Both presenters are experts in their domains and do an excellent job explaining the topics.

The textbook Global Positioning System by Pratap Misra and Per Enge provides an even more detailed exposition of the discussed topics. It's a thorough, but very readable publication on GPS and satellite navigation – it was my primary source for this article. I particularly liked that the book does a high level overview of all the elements of the system at first and then explores them individually in depth in later chapters.

For a personal description of the history of GPS I recommend the interview with Brad Parkinson, who was the lead architect of the system. While the interview was conducted in 1999, still relatively early days of consumer GPS, Brad correctly predicted an upcoming explosion in widespread personal use.

Final Words

It's fascinating how much complexity and ingenuity is hidden behind the simple act of observing one's location in a mapping app on a smartphone. What I find particularly remarkable is how many different technological advancements were needed for GPS to work.

Just the satellites themselves required the development of rockets, mastery of orbital controls, and manufacturing prowess to build devices capable of withstanding the extremities of space.

Precise time tracking was made possible by the invention of an atomic clock, while advancements in radio transmission and clever coding algorithms allowed the very weak signal sent by satellites to be correctly deciphered on Earth by receivers, which were in turn dependent on microchips and the digital revolution.

It's hard not get inspired by the relentless drive of people who kept pushing science and technology forward. All of their work made GPS an indispensable tool in our everyday life.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

standardUser(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

On this topic, maybe someone can share the status of Galileo and the Russian and Chinese systems?

kristofferR(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

They are operational and very compatible with GPS.

Modern devices have them all, the iPhone 13 for examples combines satellite data from GPS, BeiDou, GLONASS & Galileo.

In practice, you get a 'super-GPS', with way more satellites (120 vs GPS' 35) and great coverage. Potential accuracy can be in the cm's, it is all about software optimization.


SamBam(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

This is very nice. Very clear, and the 3D interactives are excellent at guiding the explanation.

One thing that I thought was a little confusing was right at the beginning, when we were estimating the position of the figurine and there was an area of uncertainty shown by the yellow circle.

It isn't clear how you're estimating position, and why we have an area of uncertainty. At first I figured it was going to explain it using triangulation (measurement of angles) but there's no reason triangulation wouldn't be exactly as accurate as the tape measure method on a 2D surface, so wouldn't explain the area of uncertainty.

The description merely says:

> Just by using these three reference points we can relate the figurine's position in the environment to an approximate placement on the map as show with the yellow shape on the right.

I worry that having this ambiguity so early on might put some people off from reading the rest, because they figure they don't understand that and so won't understand the rest of it.

kenjackson(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

I had the same question. I moved on in the article, and its great, but this still puzzled me. If the author cleared this up, this article would be an absolute masterclass.

throwaway64643(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

Was taught in college that if we get stuck, just move on forwards, things ahead can clear that up. And it works in this case for me. That part really doesn't matter much. At the end of the day, our brain is not a linear programming interpreter.

thrdbndndn(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

After reading all the replies, I still have no idea what that part means.

thehappypm(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Literally left the article to come here to see if anyone addressed this yet. I can't figure out what it means.

justusthane(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

I think it's as though you were the yellow figure standing in the landscape, and you were trying to position yourself on the map by going 'Okay, the red landmark is quite close to me to the east, the blue landmark is a bit farther away to the north-west, and the green landmark is way over to the south-west. Now, where am I on the map?'

Bedon292(10000) 29 minutes ago [-]

Think about it as if you are standing somewhere in relation to the monuments and are trying to figure out where you are on the map. You don't have precise measurements of distances or angles, you only have the estimated distance / angle you are from each of them that you get by looking at them. And without precise measurements there is uncertainty in where you are located.

You probably know exactly where you are on the map if you are within a meter of a monument. As you move farther away from the monuments your estimation of the distance from each one becomes less precise. At least when I am estimating a distance things end up rough really quickly. At 10m I might be off by 1m. By 50m I am off by 10m, and so on. Now translate that into an exact position on the map. It not possible, there is always some level of uncertainty.

I didn't realize it at first, but all of the examples are interactive. You can move the figure around, I found that pretty helpful and fun as well. In the very first example: place the figure somewhere, and then try and point to where it is on the map. I found myself circling areas naturally, even though the scale is relatively small. Especially when viewing it from an angle. The second example is quite exaggerated as far as the circles go but it is representative of the idea.

jessriedel(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Yes, that section is poorly written.

More generally, the assumptions about what things were uncertain and what could be taken as exact were poorly motivated. The author should wither justify them with real-world constraints ('satellites can host atomic clocks but destroyers can't' -- not obvious!) or explicitly announce the assumptions as unjustified, but he shouldn't make it seem like the assumptions could have been reasoned to by the reader.

I also was disappointed the author used circles/spheres and guesses for the timing offset rather than the much more edifying choice of hyperbolas. Just as you can think of a sphere as points reachable by the end of a rope of fixed length tied to a post, you can think about a hyperbola as the points reachable by tying separate ropes to two posts and spooling out equal amounts of rope.

butwhywhyoh(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

I actually stopped reading the guide when I got to this point, and I have a lot of experience working with GPS.

My thought was, 'If the simple parts are this unclear, I don't want to spend time getting to the more complex portions'.

groggo(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

How are receivers sensitive enough for this to work? A GPS watch can tell the difference between a few billionths of a second?

> It only takes light one billionth of a second to travel the distance of around 1 foot.

zarzavat(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

1 billionth of a second is an age in the world of radio signal processing. That's 1 GHz. Wifi goes up to 6GHz. 5G gets up to ~30GHz!

cromulent(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

GPS is fascinating, especially the development period.

Due to the complexity of the signal processing (relativity means that the clocks onboard run faster than on earth) there was much scepticism. The story I heard was that they only let them launch 1 Block 1 satellite to prove that could work, and then the first block of 10 satellites was used to validate the system before spending enough to get the full 24 satellites needed.

jcadam(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

And the story about why the GPS satellites carry a NUDET payload (NDS) is a fun one too.

skzv(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Amazing work.

I work on the Android location team at Google, and I sent this article out to my team. GPS/GNSS is critical for accurate location/context, and there's still plenty of innovations happening in this field.

One of our directors is Frank Van Diggelen - none other than the professor who taught the Stanford GPS MOOC referenced by the article :) I'm sure he is going to appreciate seeing the course called out there!

rvba(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

How many satelites are tracked by a typical android phone? 4? Or more? Can it track both GPS and other systems like glonass at the same time?

mleonhard(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

There are certain streets in downtown SF where Android (and iOS) location always suddenly jumps to a block away. Navigation apps then direct drivers to make incorrect turns or even dangerous turns like turning the wrong way onto a one-way street.

It seems to me that your software could prevent this error.

eminence32(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

There's a lot of really great info in here. One random things I learned from this:

> As that angle increases, the signal from a satellite travels more sideways and its larger portion gets affected by the atmosphere. To account for this, GPS receivers ignore ranges measured from satellites at very low elevation angles. ... atmospheric effects are primary source of GPS inaccuracies.

(I know GPS has inaccuracies, but I didn't really know what caused them, but if I had to guess, the atmosphere wouldn't have been on my list of guesses for the top causes)

mnw21cam(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Not only that. You can use a ground-based fixed station to listen to GPS signals and work out how much they have been affected by the atmosphere. This then gets fed back into the weather prediction models used by many weather forecasting services.

ModernMech(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

For as long as this blog is, one thing that's missing is a discussion of multipath errors. Multipath errors are when the GPS signal reflects off of buildings or mountains, giving the illusion that the satellite is further away than it is. This is why it can sometimes be hard to get a precise location in cities.

throw0101a(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

This is also true for celestial navigation with a sextant and the light refracting in the atmosphere: the 'Altitude Correction Tables' give the combined correction for refraction, semidiameter, and parallax under standard atmosphere conditions.

* https://reginasailing.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Altitud...

* https://thenauticalalmanac.com/Altitude_Correction_Tables.pd...

* https://thenauticalalmanac.com/Altitude_Correction_Tables_fo...

JackMcMack(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Something not mentioned: the 'new' L5 signal at 1176Mhz, combined with the existing L1 signal at 1575Mhz, allows the receiver to estimate the atmospheric effects and reduce the uncertainty, allowing for a much better position fix. Think centimeters instead of meters.

One more thing I've wondered: the system depends on the sattelites knowing and broadcasting their exact position, but how do you determine this position? From ground stations, sure, but how exactly? What's the margin of error on that?

And to add to this, how do you bootstrap this?

Galileo had an outage from 2019-07-11 to 2019-07-18 [0]. I've not read much about the details what caused the outage, or why it took an entire week to get back up & running.

[0] https://www.gsc-europa.eu/news/galileo-initial-services-have...

myself248(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Ionospheric distortions are the largest source of errors in single-frequency solutions! And it's why the WAAS birds transmit a correction model, which all modern (post-2004 or so) receivers can apply.

Multi-frequency receivers can derive the corrections directly because the distortions affect the different frequencies in predictable ways, and they can work back to 'ionosphere-free' pseudoranges, and base the rest of the solution on those.

To your quoted comment, nicer receivers also tend to have a configurable 'horizon mask' aka 'elevation mask', so you can tune this rejection behavior. I could swear I've heard of some that let you configure the mask height _per azimuth_ but I can't find an explicit reference right now.

Elevation masking is tricky because if you crank it up too high, you force yourself into poor-DOP geometries. But if you relax it too low, not only do you get heaping piles of ionospheric distortion, you also invite ground-clutter multipath. I think it's primarily used by stationary timing receivers, because they know their position is fixed, they're less susceptible to GDOP.

jameshart(10000) about 1 hour ago [-]

There's an interesting chicken-and-egg problem there. You don't know what angle the signal is coming from (unless you have some kind of sophisticated multi receiver setup) - so first you need to estimate your position, then figure out whether the satellite is low in the sky, then you can determine whether to trust the timing of the signal from that satellite.

Toutouxc(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

So who else spent five minutes playing with the flexible rope?

FR10(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

I was totally inmersed in that animation. I only wish it was longer, It must've account for half of my total reading time. The author is genuinely great and every single one of their posts are terrific.

picture(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Gosh even the little drones are so adorable

jvanderbot(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

> Naturally, large range uncertainty increases the ambiguity of position, but the relative position of the satellites also matters. If they aren't well spread, the exactness of calculated location also suffers.

(see the excellent example in OP)

Fun tidbit, the resulting error is known for the system in closed form as Geometric Dilution of Precision, and is a 3x3 (edit: or 4+x4+ if you are estimating bias or quantities like time, thx brandmeyer) matrix that depends on all the locations of the visible sats, and your position relative to them.

GDOP is a general relationship for any estimator based only on the equations used to derive something from sensor remote sensor measurements. It's possible to derive GDOP for any sensing system using the Fisher Information Matrix (which is the inverse of GDOP). Some minor caveats apply, but in general this is a useful trick.

FIM is worth learning if you want to get into sensing & estimation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisher_information

Another fun thing: FIM can be derived a number of ways, and appears if you simply ask (mathematically) 'What is the most likely position of the gps sensor given sat locations' as the hessian matrix of the system that you use while answering that question using e.g., convex minimization.

All of sensing & estimation is just mostly convex optimization.

beerandt(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Geometric quality is easy to consider in terms of using trig and measured angles to solve for an (roughly) equilateral triangle vs a triangle with a very small measured internal angle.

Also, it's easier to understand variables vs uknowns of GPS if you consider that direct measurement is of velocity and/or acceleration, and position is the resultant derivative, after taking into account the probabilities of various solutions.

(Velocity and acceleration can be measured directly without making as many assumptions about various starting conditions.)

brandmeyer(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

The natural expression of the DOP matrix is 4x4, since the receiver is computing a solution in 4D space-time. Its pretty common for the dominant eigenvector to be along the time-vertical axis for a terrestrial receiver.

simsla(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

Do you know a good source to learn about the FIM?

(Postgraduate level stats/maths, mostly applied, tiny bit pure.)

jmnicolas(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

You and I have definitively a different notion of what is fun ;)

galangalalgol(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Interferometry isn't convex, even the kernel trick won't save you. I don't think...

mherdeg(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

I'd be interested to see an illustration of how selective availability works -- if your goal is to ensure that a position cannot be determined accurately, how do you alter the signals produced by your satellites to correctly introduce only the desired amount of error?

garaetjjte(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Selective availability worked by introducing pseudorandom variation into satellite clock used to generate C/A signal, which directly mapped into pseudorange errors.

http://www.nbmg.unr.edu/staff/pdfs/blewitt%20basics%20of%20g... (page 8)

genewitch(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Civilian GPS does this two ways, clock skew and how many digits of resolution the timestamp is.

SomewhatLikely(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

From the toy model it seems like if in addition to distance you could also get your angle to the landmark then you could get your position from a single landmark. Is that something which is practical? Knowing which angle a radio signal came from? It seems like if you had several receivers you could use the timings of when they receive a message to determine the approximate direction of the satellite in the sky. Given receivers have gotten much cheaper over time, is this a viable extra constraint to improve accuracy?

scrumbledober(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

then you're basically just doing the triangulation backwards. I'd think the accuracy would decrease the closer together your multiple receivers were

rzzzt(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

Assisted GPS in phones can augment GPS data with information coming from cell towers nearby. From a quick search, some are omni-directional while others operate in a specific direction. Depending on reported signal strength, you could get some hints on the angle as well.

jzwinck(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Using multiple receivers on the ground to improve accuracy is done, but the details are different to what you describe. See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Differential_GPS

gsibble(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

One of my favorite engineering tech interview questions is asking an engineer how they think GPS works. You won't believe how many people start with: 'Well, your cell phone sends a signal to the satellite.......'

Amazing that even engineers don't understand that GPS receivers don't talk to the satellites.

mellavora(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

You've received some flack for this, but I'm not sure the context. If most of the questions in this round are of this nature, then maybe it is a 'why are manhole covers round' thing.

But as a one-off, and if asked in a forgiving way to explore how they think, then I'd consider this question valid.

Maybe 'Have you ever thought about how GPS works?' if 'yes', then let them explain, if 'no', then make it easy for them to start reasoning about the system and then see how they might design it.

Seems to me as fair as asking 'have you ever thought about how a double-linked list works?' or 'a basic way to ensure database consistency when the DB is replicated at two different physical machines'?

It's not like GPS is something esoteric that they are unlikely to have interacted with, odds are they used it to get to the interview location.

littlecranky67(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Bonus/Followup question: Explain why GPS is not working very well to determine height.

Once you understand the signals are timecoded, this boils basically down on your ability to picture the intersection of multiple sphere in 3D space and it will become obvious (amongst other, very technical reasons that should not be an interview question).

jason0597(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

I don't quite understand how such questions help in the hiring process? It reminds me of the famous 'why are pothole covers round' question, still not sure what it achieves.

throwaway110535(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Unless you're hiring them to work in that domain, I don't understand why you'd ask that question.

u385639(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Not sure why you're getting flack it's a great question and you can learn a lot about your candidate as you work through it.

HeyLaughingBoy(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Why do you think it's a good question?

daenz(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

This is going to come across as harsh, but if that is your favorite interviewing question, and you are not hiring GPS engineers, then it is a ridiculous question to ask and serves no purpose but to 'haze' candidates.

ragona(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

I'm weirdly impressed by the 'switch to metric/imperial' button that updates the article text. It's just so helpful.

askvictor(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

I wish this was standard in recipe webpages. It really makes a difference, and shows the author is thinking about their audience.

seanalltogether(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

How feasible is it to speed up the bitrate used by GPS? This really helped explain why it takes so long to get a position based on how slowly these satellites are sending information.

mpmpmpmp(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

I think the slowness of the bitrate is about making sure any errors in transmission caused my the atmosphere can be detected and accounted for.

modeless(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Most receivers these days get that information from the internet so there is no need to wait minutes for the data transmission.

CaliforniaKarl(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

One of the things I love about GPS is: Since you know your exact position, you can pick a good GPS satellite (one of the satellite's you're using to calculate your position), look at the timestamp from that satellite, and use it as a highly-accurate time source!

Purpose-built GPS time servers (like those from Meinberg) give you an option to enter the length of the coax cable connecting the receiver and the antenna, so that it can correct for the extra time it takes for the signal to travel over the cable (for example, see https://www.meinbergglobal.com/download/docs/manuals/english... page 19).

withinboredom(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Then you'd have a Stratum 0 source for a stratum 1 NTP server!

jcrawfordor(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

It's a bit more complex than this, the entire GPS fix is 4D since position depends on time and vice versa. The time reported by a GPS receiver, once fix is attained, is not just the time from one of the satellites but the time resulting from the 4D fix in space and time. This eliminates (to within a certain precision) the latency.

A lot of discrete GPS receivers have some nonvolatile storage where they 'cache' fixes to reduce fix time. This has the amusing result that when you buy a GPS receiver and monitor its output immediately you usually find out the time and location where QA was performed, as the first fixes emitted without the quality flag.

floatrock(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

My car does this. Unfortunately, it's a Honda/Acura, and there's a downstream bug in the way the receiver sends the info to the clock display that this year, almost all older Hondas/Acura's are reporting the wrong time:


> Honda's head unit receives a GPS signal for date and time including a number representing a week, coded in binary. These digits count from 0-1024 and rollover to 0 after the completion of week 1024. Honda's head unit supplier did not code their head units to account for the rollover and, on January 1, 2022, reverted to a date and time 1024 weeks in the past [1024/52 = 19.7, so 20 years in the past or 2002]

So despite all the almost-magic level of engineering that has gone into the GPS system that has stayed consistent for 40-some-odd years, a classic integer overflow has ruined it all because some subcomponent test engineer didn't think to check the inputs against the expected lifetime duration of the car's equipment.

Another fun issue with these is DST databases. The satellites will tell you the time, but it's up to you know how your location translates into a DST zone. And if you have long-running offline equipment (say, a car), and the DST dates change, well, your smarts are only as smart as the update procedure.

causality0(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Considering GPS was originally created for military purposes, I find it fascinating that the largest holes are over the north and south poles. The northern polar region is where the US-launched missiles and bombers would travel. Does the lesser orbital coverage in that area not negatively affect GPS precision?

cronix(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

I don't believe ICBM's are using GPS. They're programmed like they always have been and follow a very predictable path and don't change course (unlike hypersonic missiles). It's the 'smart weapons' that are usually plane/ship dropped/launched that are gps guided as they are smaller munitions that have a much smaller blast radius and need to be more precise to be effective (as opposed to just carpet bombing the whole area). Those are 'close' range weapons. You don't need to be very precise with an ICBM to obliterate the target, as it's usually city-sized. A mile off here or there will still destroy the target. Planes can and do still fly without GPS. There also haven't been too many wars involving the poles as basically no one lives there except science teams and no one wants the 'land' as you can't do anything economically practical with it. Most of our ICBM's are still ancient Minuteman III's which were manufactured in the 1960's (my dad launched one in 68 out of Minot AFB, ND) and recently updated in 2015 to extend their useful life.

chipsa(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

ICBMs don't use GPS. The almost universally use a inertial guidance system. For example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Inertial_Reference_Sp....

Bombers use a similar inertial guidance system, but with updates from GPS and star trackers as applicable. The reduced precision from GPS doesn't matter too much, as the inertial guidance systems are pretty good now.

detaro(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

It does affect precision, but it also isn't needed that much in an area you travel over.

hwers(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

This person deserves to get filthy rich off of their patreon.

whiteboardr(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Not just filthy rich i guess.

Bartosz is a one of a kind explainer of things - no matter what topic he touches, he always manages to outright nail the communication of the core concepts in a manner almost anyone can understand.

Let alone the interactive visualizations.

There should be some sort of Nobel Prize for people that contribute to humanity's education - and methods therof.


nielsbot(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Thought I'd link Patreon, here: https://www.patreon.com/ciechanowski

marai2(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

This guy is a (inter-)national treasure!

DaltonCoffee(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Agreed, amazing content and presentation! The article covers much of what you'd learn in an advanced positioning course.

hwers(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

@dang Why was this suddenly pushed to the bottom of the comments? (After being second in rank.) Possibly a bot detection false positive. Hope this is fixed so the author gets the reward he deserves for this amazing work

drawkbox(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Yes what an absolute solid educational interactive, from presentation to code to writing and simplicity.

Additionally the code level, If you view the source you can see, nice clean, non-minified code that is clear and has no dependencies other than browser/render standards. The project simply has a base.js and a gps.js, base for common canvas tools and gps for the project/interactives.

Very nicely done and very refreshing to see and experience. We need to get back to this level, it was a simpler higher level with more innovation. Even HN's code is this way, partially why this site is great besides the contributors and curation.

Engineering/creative and good value creation is ultimately taking complexity and making it simple, this is right along those lines in every aspect.

Simple is beautiful and very difficult to achieve in a cluttered/distracting/dependency/minimal context overload world. This interactive nails it. Solid work Bartosz Ciechanowski!

AlexanderTheGr8(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

I never understood what motivates these people to spend so much time and effort making such an amazing blog to educate so many people in such a nice way....It's incredible!

ranit(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Likely out of love to educate. And/or if you are inclined to look for less altruistic reasons, just his blog presence in HN could bring him a lot of visibility. Every of his amazing posts appeared on first page (disclaimer: I have seen and enjoyed a few, I don't know that for certain.)

anonporridge(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]


Organization and presenting information in a uniquely useful way can cement your life as having a major impact on the memetic evolution of human colossus, to a much greater degree than making babies ever will in most cases, even if no one ever knows or remembers your name.

There's a certain satisfaction in knowing that you've made an impact on millions of minds and that that impact will ripple into the future for as long as the light of consciousness burns.

whiteboardr(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Bartosz is a one of a kind explainer of things - no matter what topic he touches, he always manages to outright nail the communication of the core concepts in a manner almost anyone can understand.

Let alone the interactive visualizations.

There should be some sort of Nobel Prize for people that contribute to humanity's education - and methods therof.


HeyLaughingBoy(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Some people really like teaching and are very good at it.

mavci(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

As someone who learned about GPS and was impressed by its structure, I used to tell my friends around me, whenever I had the opportunity, how great GPS was.

Now I saw this article and I got goosebumps, well done, thank you very much! It's really fantastic. From today it will be enough for me to just share this article with my friends, or I will tell along with this article.

pauldavis(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

What a debt your friends have to OP! :)

taubek(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

If all of the teaching materials would be so good... I've encountered first GPS devices back 1997.i remember when my coulegues were explaining them to me. At that time you wouldn't get precise measurements right away. You had to wait for correction factors or something like that. The GPS signal was scrambled at that time.

myself248(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

That's post-processing, and it's still done. Here's why:

The satellites only know their own position to a certain precision, and there are only so many bits to express it in the data packet. More bits wouldn't make sense because the measurements aren't that good in the first place.

So what you get 'live' is naturally limited by both of those things. Single-frequency unassisted solutions are usually good to a few meters, dual-frequency to a meter or so.

But ground stations can determine, after observing the satellites for a long time, where they _were_ to a much higher accuracy. It's a complicated process involving a whole network of ground stations, whose own positions are precisely surveyed, etc.

The product of that network is known as 'precise ephemeris', and it's available in an 'ultra-rapid' (3-9 hours later), 'rapid' (24 hours later), and 'final' (13 days later) version. With these data, the initial observation can be post-processed to get very good solutions. Down into the millimeters.

The RTKLIB manual has a lot more detail if you're curious.

jandrese(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

In order to determine where you are you need to know where all of the satellites are. For a standalone receiver this involves downloading a almanac of the satellites from the signal, but GPS receivers have small antennas and the satellites don't blast out at tremendous power so the available bandwidth is very low. This means the effective bitrate of a GPS signal is only 50 bits per second so it takes twelve and a half minutes to transmit the entire list.

Cell phones get around this by downloading the almanac from the internet. Standalone receivers also keep the almanac in nonvolatile storage, but the almanacs eventually go stale if you leave the receiver off for too long.

modeless(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

The article explains the delay. The satellites transmit their ephemeris data and other important data very slowly, 50 bits per second, so you have to listen to the signals for a long time to get all of it. Not explained in the article is that modern GPS receivers in phones download this data separately from the internet, so they can calculate positions instantly without waiting for the data to finish transmitting.

kccqzy(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Modern cell phones use A-GPS (Assisted GPS): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assisted_GNSS I also remember back in the early 2000s we were using a GPS-quipped PDA as a turn-by-turn navigation device, and for the first ten minutes the device simply asked us to wait.

At that time the signal was intentionally degraded in a process called Selective Availability (https://www.gps.gov/systems/gps/modernization/sa/). I didn't have any experience with that.

gfd(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Dumb question, but how does this deal with security? Can't anyone broadcast valid but malicious data on 1575.42 MHz? (e.g. to crash planes/missiles etc)

EDIT: found wiki from some quick googling https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoofing_attack#Global_navigat...

myself248(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

Yes, and there are moves in the next generation to add cryptographic signatures to the satellite streams. Someone could still jam it, but they couldn't spoof it.

Tons of info starting here: https://berthub.eu/articles/posts/galileos-authentication-al...

Continued here: https://berthub.eu/articles/posts/galileos-authentication-al...

And finally here: https://berthub.eu/articles/posts/galileos-authentication-al...

ridgeguy(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

One security measure effective against a simple class of GPS spoofing is to check against the satellites' epheremi.

For example, if your RX tells you that bird #7 is part of your location fix, but it knows from prior valid ephemeris data that that bird is currently below your horizon, the bogosity indicator will flash red. Ditto with certain pull-off spoofing methods.

ezconnect(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

It's illegal in most countries to jam or transmit on that frequency.

ncmncm(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Military aviation systems often have their GPS antenna designed to receive signals only from above.

masswerk(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

However, I do like the role GPS plays as a plot device in all kind of stories, where it's an active device, with GPS-enabled devices giving away position or there's no GPS in the wilderness, as mobile connections fail. So there are two versions of GPS, the popular plot device and the actual navigation device.

(The more sinister version is that this has actually been planted as a cover-up for more realistic electronic intrusions, as this is also a trope in popular media and news.)

FabHK(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]


When I fly, I like to cache a map of the region I fly over on my phone, particularly the airport region at the destination. Then, you can hold your phone to the window for a few minutes and get a GPS fix, even if in airplane mode, because as you say GPS is purely passive.

Then you can follow along nicely where you are, at the resolution you want. (Sure, many airlines have moving maps, but they're not as good as Apple maps or Google maps.)

beerandt(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

There are way more (real-world) versions than two, with quite a few arrangements that can cancel out some of the systematic error, both with and without inputs requiring a data connection, and with some augmented solutions passively broadcast as 'one-way' data.

The funny thing is that the James Bond/ Tomorrow Never Dies plot device has turned out to be the most realistic, but doesn't actually require the theft of some encoding device, with various record and delay replay attacks.

Other underused plot device: lots is made out of over reliance on GPS and what would happen in the event of an attack on the system. But most ignores the fact that the US NAVSTAR GPS constellation is multipurpose, and is also a (confirmed) primary component of worldwide nuke detection, with some (afaik unconfirmed) claims of a missile launch detection capability, as well.

Rebelgecko(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

The original study by Woodford and Nakamura (which laid the foundations for what eventually became NAVSTAR/GPS) has a really fascinating slide where they consider the tradeoffs of alternative configurations. What if GPS receivers had transmitters? What if the mathy computation was offloaded to a nearby ground station? What if every GPS receiver had an atomic clock? Or just a cheap quartz clock? How does that impact the quality of the signal and the number of satellites you need to get a fix?

I think we're really fortunate that they made the choices they did. If they hadn't take the route that was the most complicated technically, GPS wouldn't have become as ubiquitous as it is today.

jakub_g(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Auto-upvoted based on domain name. See all submissions from Bartosz: https://news.ycombinator.com/from?site=ciechanow.ski

masswerk(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Yes, great educational content and great interactive animations!

(Also, a constant reminder to learn WebGL. ;-) )

zeeb(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

GPS applies the theory of relativity directly to your everyday life... pretty cool!

jandrese(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

GPS is great because it has to take into account both special and general relativity. Very few consumer goods can make this claim.

vladstudio(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

If you have not yet seen the other articles by Bartosz, I am jealous :-)


copperx(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Why are you jealous of someone not reading the other articles? Are they factually incorrect? I found them to be amazingly accurate.

coryfklein(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

It's so depressing that – at some point in the future – I'm going to want a really clear and precise explanation of how GPS works and the likelihood that an internet search directs me to this excellent, clean, and ad-free blog is essentially nil.

rasz(10000) about 1 hour ago [-]

Its not all that bad, for example googling 'GPS FPGA receiver' will give you equally excellent http://www.aholme.co.uk/GPS/Main.htm

BatteryMountain(10000) about 7 hours ago [-]

Make a bookmark for it, let it sync to all your devices.

skim_milk(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

IMO the best place to find in-depth documentation of existing technologies is the patent office. A while ago I programmed a way to locate the source of gunfire with microphones and drew a lot of inspiration from GPS patents because I couldn't find anything in-depth on the subject on Google (finding the time and position of the source of a shockwave is basically just inverse GPS multilateration)

brandmeyer(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

My own recommendation is NIST Technical Note 1385 'Global Positioning System Receivers and Relativity' by Ashby and Weiss[0], and the GPS ICD for the L1 and L2C signals IS-GPS-200[1].

They are aimed at the practitioner who actually needs to solve problems. TFA is entertaining and pretty, but insufficient to actually get work done.

[0] https://tf.nist.gov/general/pdf/1274.pdf

[1] https://www.gps.gov/technical/icwg/IS-GPS-200K.pdf

amelius(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

I searched for an excellent, clear and precise explanation of GPS that is clean and ad-free, and landed on your comment.

sva_(10000) about 7 hours ago [-]

The HN search will probably quickly direct you to this post, and you'll remember where you saw it.

juxtaposicion(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

How are these interactive visualizations made? As a senior machine learning engineer (with only rudimentary JS skills) it would be fantastically fun to make something like these.

pahn(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

not what he/she uses, but if you are interested in these kind of things, check out https://cables.gl/ .

it provides you with an in-browser, graphical, node based interface where you can just connect boxes together and it will output js-code ready to implement in your website.

(disclosure: i know the dev plus am a huge fan!)

openfuture(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Someone told me that apparently they aren't made, they are discovered.

onion2k(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

It's WebGL in a <canvas>, written by hand by the looks of the source - https://ciechanow.ski/js/gps.js

tiborsaas(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

The author wrote his own WebGL library. If you don't have much knowledge about 3D, then https://threejs.org/ is a fantastic library to learn. It abstracts away much of the tedious part.

Not sure what's the best starting point to learn, but there's lots of videos on YT to help you get started.

supernova87a(10000) about 7 hours ago [-]

Of all the reasons, I was stunned with how much detail went into the work at seeing the little globe/Earth in the satellite orbits section -- the Earth has the weather patterns and clouds running in animation as you spin the globe around!

tfsh(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

What an interesting read, it feels like a privilege to have free and open access to such well presented curiosity-led work.

spicybright(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

For every handful of crappy sites people use as examples for why the modern web sucks, we get fantastic sites like this one.

There's amazing stuff out there, you just have to spend time looking around!

(2008) Microsoft to Acquire Activision Blizzard

2008 points 1 day ago by totablebanjo in 10000th position

news.microsoft.com | Estimated reading time – 12 minutes | comments | anchor

Legendary games, immersive interactive entertainment and publishing expertise accelerate growth in Microsoft's Gaming business across mobile, PC, console and cloud.

Microsoft announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard, a leader in game development and an interactive entertainment content publisher. The planned acquisition includes iconic franchises from the Activision, Blizzard and King studios like "Warcraft," "Diablo," "Overwatch," "Call of Duty" and "Candy Crush."

REDMOND, Wash. and Santa Monica, Calif. – Jan. 18, 2022 – With three billion people actively playing games today, and fueled by a new generation steeped in the joys of interactive entertainment, gaming is now the largest and fastest-growing form of entertainment. Today, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI), a leader in game development and interactive entertainment content publisher. This acquisition will accelerate the growth in Microsoft's gaming business across mobile, PC, console and cloud and will provide building blocks for the metaverse.

Microsoft will acquire Activision Blizzard for $95.00 per share, in an all-cash transaction valued at $68.7 billion, inclusive of Activision Blizzard's net cash. When the transaction closes, Microsoft will become the world's third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony. The planned acquisition includes iconic franchises from the Activision, Blizzard and King studios like "Warcraft," "Diablo," "Overwatch," "Call of Duty" and "Candy Crush," in addition to global eSports activities through Major League Gaming. The company has studios around the word with nearly 10,000 employees.

Bobby Kotick will continue to serve as CEO of Activision Blizzard, and he and his team will maintain their focus on driving efforts to further strengthen the company's culture and accelerate business growth. Once the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming.

"Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms," said Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO, Microsoft. "We're investing deeply in world-class content, community and the cloud to usher in a new era of gaming that puts players and creators first and makes gaming safe, inclusive and accessible to all."

"Players everywhere love Activision Blizzard games, and we believe the creative teams have their best work in front of them," said Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming. "Together we will build a future where people can play the games they want, virtually anywhere they want."

"For more than 30 years our incredibly talented teams have created some of the most successful games," said Bobby Kotick, CEO, Activision Blizzard. "The combination of Activision Blizzard's world-class talent and extraordinary franchises with Microsoft's technology, distribution, access to talent, ambitious vision and shared commitment to gaming and inclusion will help ensure our continued success in an increasingly competitive industry."

Mobile is the largest segment in gaming, with nearly 95% of all players globally enjoying games on mobile. Through great teams and great technology, Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will empower players to enjoy the most-immersive franchises, like "Halo" and "Warcraft," virtually anywhere they want. And with games like "Candy Crush," Activision Blizzard ́s mobile business represents a significant presence and opportunity for Microsoft in this fast-growing segment.

The acquisition also bolsters Microsoft's Game Pass portfolio with plans to launch Activision Blizzard games into Game Pass, which has reached a new milestone of over 25 million subscribers. With Activision Blizzard's nearly 400 million monthly active players in 190 countries and three billion-dollar franchises, this acquisition will make Game Pass one of the most compelling and diverse lineups of gaming content in the industry. Upon close, Microsoft will have 30 internal game development studios, along with additional publishing and esports production capabilities.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and completion of regulatory review and Activision Blizzard's shareholder approval. The deal is expected to close in fiscal year 2023 and will be accretive to non-GAAP earnings per share upon close. The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Activision Blizzard.

Advisors Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC is serving as financial advisor to Microsoft and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP is serving as legal counsel. Allen & Company LLC is acting as financial advisor to Activision Blizzard and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is serving as legal counsel.

Webcast details

Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella; Bobby Kotick, CEO, Activision Blizzard; CEO, Microsoft Gaming, Phil Spencer; and Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood will host a webcast for investors and media on Jan. 18, 2022, at 6 a.m. Pacific time/9 a.m. Eastern time regarding this transaction.

There will be a recording of the conference call available shortly after the call until Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, at 5 p.m. Pacific time. To access that recording:

  • S.: (877) 660-6853
  • International: +1 (201) 612-7415
  • Conference ID: 13726291

For more information, please visit the blog post from Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming. Related imagery is also available. For broadcast quality b-roll and audio, please contact [email protected]

Fast facts on gaming

  • The $200+ billion gaming industry is the largest and fastest-growing form of entertainment.
  • In 2021 alone, the total number of video game releases was up 64% compared to 2020 and 51% of players in the U.S. reported spending more than 7 hours per week playing across console, PC and mobile.
  • 3 billion people globally play games today, which we expect to grow to 4.5 billion by 2030.
  • More than 100 million gamers, including over 25 million Xbox Game Pass members, play Xbox games across console, PC, mobile phones and tablets each month.


About Microsoft Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT" @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

About Activision Blizzard

Our mission, to connect and engage the world through epic entertainment has never been more important. Through communities rooted in our video game franchises we enable hundreds of millions of people to experience joy, thrill and achievement. We enable social connections through the lens of fun, and we foster purpose and meaning through competitive gaming. Video games, unlike any other social or entertainment media, have the ability to break down barriers that can inhibit tolerance and understanding. Celebrating differences is at the core of our culture and ensures we can create games for players of diverse backgrounds in the 190 countries our games are played.

As a member of the Fortune 500 and as a component company of the S&P 500, we have an extraordinary track record of delivering superior shareholder returns for over 30 years. Our sustained success has enabled the company to support corporate social responsibility initiatives that are directly tied to our franchises. As an example, our Call of Duty Endowment has helped find employment for over 90,000 veterans.

Learn more information about Activision Blizzard and how we connect and engage the world through epic entertainment on the company ́s website, www.activisionblizzard.com

Forward-looking statements

This presentation contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the "safe harbor" provisions of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 with respect to the proposed transaction and business combination between Microsoft and Activision Blizzard, including statements regarding the benefits of the transaction, the anticipated timing of the transaction and the products and markets of each company. These forward-looking statements generally are identified by the words "believe," "project," "predicts," "budget," "forecast," "continue," "expect," "anticipate," "estimate," "intend," "strategy," "future," "opportunity," "plan," "may," "could," "should," "will," "would," "will be," "will continue," "will likely result," and similar expressions (or the negative versions of such words or expressions). Forward-looking statements are predictions, projections and other statements about future events that are based on current expectations and assumptions and, as a result, are subject to risks and uncertainties. Many factors could cause actual future events to differ materially from the forward-looking statements in this presentation, including but not limited to: (i) the risk that the transaction may not be completed in a timely manner or at all, which may adversely affect Activision Blizzard's business and the price of the common stock of Activision Blizzard, (ii) the failure to satisfy the conditions to the consummation of the transaction, including the adoption of the merger agreement by the stockholders of Activision Blizzard and the receipt of certain governmental and regulatory approvals, (iii) the occurrence of any event, change or other circumstance that could give rise to the termination of the merger agreement, (iv) the effect of the announcement or pendency of the transaction on Activision Blizzard's business relationships, operating results, and business generally, (v) risks that the proposed transaction disrupts current plans and operations of Activision Blizzard or Microsoft and potential difficulties in Activision Blizzard employee retention as a result of the transaction, (vi) risks related to diverting management's attention from Activision Blizzard's ongoing business operations, (vii) the outcome of any legal proceedings that may be instituted against Microsoft or against Activision Blizzard related to the merger agreement or the transaction, (viii) the ability of Microsoft to successfully integrate Activision Blizzard's operations, product lines, and technology, and (ix) the ability of Microsoft to implement its plans, forecasts, and other expectations with respect to Activision Blizzard's business after the completion of the proposed merger and realize additional opportunities for growth and innovation. In addition, please refer to the documents that Microsoft and Activision Blizzard file with the SEC on Forms 10-K, 10-Q and 8-K. These filings identify and address other important risks and uncertainties that could cause events and results to differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements set forth in this press release. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made. Readers are cautioned not to put undue reliance on forward-looking statements, and Microsoft and Activision Blizzard assume no obligation and do not intend to update or revise these forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

Additional information and where to find it

In connection with the transaction, Activision Blizzard, Inc. will file relevant materials with the SEC, including a proxy statement on Schedule 14A. Promptly after filing its definitive proxy statement with the SEC, Activision Blizzard will mail the definitive proxy statement and a proxy card to each stockholder entitled to vote at the special meeting relating to the transaction. INVESTORS AND SECURITY HOLDERS OF ACTIVISION BLIZZARD ARE URGED TO READ THESE MATERIALS (INCLUDING ANY AMENDMENTS OR SUPPLEMENTS THERETO) AND ANY OTHER RELEVANT DOCUMENTS IN CONNECTION WITH THE TRANSACTION THAT ACTIVISION BLIZZARD WILL FILE WITH THE SEC WHEN THEY BECOME AVAILABLE BECAUSE THEY WILL CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT ACTIVISION BLIZZARD AND THE TRANSACTION. The definitive proxy statement, the preliminary proxy statement and other relevant materials in connection with the transaction (when they become available), and any other documents filed by Activision Blizzard with the SEC, may be obtained free of charge at the SEC's website (http://www.sec.gov) or at the Activision Blizzard website (https://investor.activision.com) or by writing to Activision Blizzard, Investor Relations, 3100 Ocean Park Boulevard, Santa Monica, California, 90405.

Activision Blizzard and certain of its directors and executive officers and other members of management and employees may be deemed to be participants in the solicitation of proxies from Activision Blizzard's stockholders with respect to the transaction. Information about Activision Blizzard's directors and executive officers and their ownership of Activision Blizzard's common stock is set forth in Activision Blizzard's proxy statement on Schedule 14A filed with the SEC on April 30, 2021. To the extent that holdings of Activision Blizzard's securities have changed since the amounts printed in Activision Blizzard's proxy statement, such changes have been or will be reflected on Statements of Change in Ownership on Form 4 filed with the SEC. Information regarding the identity of the participants, and their direct or indirect interests in the transaction, by security holdings or otherwise, will be set forth in the proxy statement and other materials to be filed with SEC in connection with the transaction.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, Assembly Media for Microsoft, [email protected]

For more information, financial analysts and investors only:

Brett Iversen, General Manager, Investor Relations, (425) 706-4400

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All Comments: [-] | anchor

haunter(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Honest question, how much longer until they try and buy Valve to get Steam? I mean at this point that's the next logical step

ThalesX(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

As long as they're on a shopping spree, might get Epic also while they're young.

anticensor(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Should we expect a Steam Xbox?

Tiktaalik(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Feels like we're getting to the point where this could be anti-competitive.

Even if CoD remains cross platform, if it's free on GamePass well that's a pretty severe competitive edge to the Xbox platform.

k8sToGo(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Free? Game pass was never free.

sergiotapia(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This just solidified my position as a hardcore Sony fan. How can I support a gigantic megacorp merger like this?

DynamicStatic(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Even after this acquisition Sony is still the bigger fish in terms of games.

awill(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Microsoft is not building the future of gaming, they're buying it. Seeing a bunch of excellent third-party cross-platform games become xbox-exclusive is really sad for gamers.

Microsoft has not been making money on xbox. They're not investing money made with xbox. They're using Office/Windows/Azure funds to boost Xbox, and it's not a fair fight. Sony and Nintendo don't have that kind of money.

I get Sony has acquired studios too, but by comparison they seem carefully planned. They're usually studios already making (mostly) playstation exclusives (e.g. devs of Returnal, Spider-Man and Dark Souls).

taf2(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

I don't know age of empires 4 seems pretty good to me...

benlumen(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

> Microsoft has not been making money on xbox. They're not investing money made with xbox. They're using Office/Windows/Azure funds to boost Xbox, and it's not a fair fight. Sony and Nintendo don't have that kind of money.

Torn on this. On the one hand I completely agree. I doubt there'll be any anti-trust action, first because that doesn't seem to be a thing anymore and second because I can't imagine the American authorities getting in the way of Microsoft's competition with what are, at the end of the day, Japanese companies.

As a gamer who's loved Activision's franchises since childhood, they've run them all into the ground and if Microsoft can do better with them then let them try.

Side thought - maybe Nintendo and Sony will finally join forces to compete, as they almost did in the 90s.

lopis(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

I'm still surprised that to this day Minecraft Java was allowed to survive (albeit just so slightly behind Minecraft Bedrock, but still with some extra features).

octodog(10000) about 5 hours ago [-]

> Microsoft has not been making money on xbox. They're not investing money made with xbox.

Source on this? They have said in the past that they lose money on xbox unit sales but are very profitable from software/game sales. As far as I know there is no public information to suggest otherwise.


raxxorrax(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Also the tactic to use scandals for a drop in market cap before acquisition is quite common in IT. Last year they were valued for 30bn more.

Activision/Blizzard certainly had a big sales tag on their forehead.

no_wizard(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Doesn't Sony have an insurance / financial business subsidizing their operations[0]? Not to mention a movie studio that rakes in the cash, especially since riding the backs of Disney with Marvel[1]

The interesting one here for me has always been Nintendo, they are a still a pure gamers play, and have managed to thrive in a world of shifting sands, sometimes bucking entire trends in the industry with success, like going all in on the Nintendo Switch form factor (a lot of the industry people thought mobile gaming consoles were dead in the water)

I think there's a lot of competition in this space still, and while I don't like consolidation either, its also hard to say Activision Blizzard is a well managed company at this point

[0]: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/28/business/global/sonys-bre...

[1]: https://www.cbr.com/spider-man-no-way-home-sony-most-profita...

screye(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Microsoft just purchased a bunch of has-been IPs that still have great amount of nostalgia.

When Zenimax was acquired, it was coming off a couple of failed fallout games, a meh ESO and delayed Elder scrolls 6. Similarly, Activision-Blizzard has been in the midst of COD and Overwatch losing their gaming monopoly to Fortnite, Blizzard failing to create a good game for about 5 years and the big workplace lawsuit.

It feels like Microsoft is taking on the challenge of reviving these companies back to being the powerhouses of old. In that sense it is a big challenge and not as simple as just buying the future of gaming.

If they wanted to do that, they'd probably try to buy Naughty Dog or Fortnite.

It's like acquiring Fiat Chrysler or General motors. Still big names, but clearly not the 'brands of the decade'. You wouldn't buy them to form a monopoly. You'd buy them to revive the brand.

k12sosse(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Microsoft didn't invent (video game) platform exclusivity, they merely have perfected it. Thank Sony and rockstar games or Activision, ironically, for this, going all the way back to.. GTA San Andreas, or Tony Hawk franchise.

phendrenad2(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Any economic statement can be turned around and stated in the reverse way. Maybe it's the gamers who are unwilling to pay enough for games, so the only companies that can afford to make games are console vendors?

shadowgovt(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Honestly, there are so many games these days, I no longer notice when something goes exclusive.

I hear Horizon: Zero Dawn was great. Didn't play it. Didn't pick it up when it stopped being an exclusive because it was no longer new by the time it hit PC.

My dance card is so full of Steam Early Access that I don't even have time for exclusives these days.

mdoms(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

> Seeing a bunch of excellent third-party cross-platform games become xbox-exclusive is really sad for gamers

What are you talking about? Microsoft is embracing PC and cross play more than ever.

torbital(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

sounds like AWS funding everything else Amazon does that isn't profitable, this isn't a new strategy

Server6(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Sony spent 20+ years building up and planning their 1st party studios. Microsoft could do that too, but it would take 20 more years. They don't have the time for that and acquisition is really their only option. I don't like it either, but that's the reality of it.

salamandersauce(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Wow. No wonder Microsoft wasn't willing to shame Activision like Sony and others, they were in talks to buy it. Ridiculous.

danso(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think it'd be problematic for a buyer to take public actions in devaluing its target amid takeover talks. Not just for Activision — but it'd be impossible to see Microsoft's denunciations as principled rather than profit-motivated

martini333(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Not shaming is not the same as condoning. Imagine actually expecting a company to comment on every story.

pdpi(10000) 1 day ago [-]

If they were already in talks to buy, how much of it is a case of 'wasn't willing', and how much is it 'wasn't allowed'?

For all the flak ActiBlizzard deserves for this situation, I'd be happier if it were illegal for Microsoft to publicly give them shit about while already in talks to buy. There's just way too many ways to abuse that for leverage.

vkou(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

They weren't shaming them publicly, they were shaming them privately to drive the purchase price down.

It's self-serving, but more effective, as it actually got Blizzard to do another round of cleaning house.

rad_gruchalski(10000) 1 day ago [-]

What about this is ridiculous, exactly?

raxxorrax(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I guess the price had already been settled but they probably wanted to distance themselves from the accusations against the company.

Rebelgecko(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Lose-lose situation. If Microsoft talked shit about ATVI in the months leading up to the acquisition, people would accuse them of doing it in bad faith to hurt the share price and make the acquisition cheaper.

blooalien(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Gotta love that headline including the phrase 'to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone, across every device'... I'ma have to cry 'bullshit' on that 'every device' part. They mean 'every device Microsoft can control' or 'every device Microsoft approves of'.

andrewxdiamond(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

I don't this is as likely as many people in these comments seems to. MS will still profit hand-over-fist on games sold on the Switch and the PS5. Many people even buy the same title multiple times across platforms happily!

They have no reason to pull out of those markets.

EtienneK(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Can you imagine Call of Duty becoming an Xbox exclusive? Big hit to Sony!

freeflight(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Wow, has MS gotten that profitable or has Acti/Blizz been doing that badly to be considered a „good deal"?

Tho, it certainly fits what MS has been going for with its gaming division; Game pass ultimate has a weird lack of „third party aaa" titles in certain genres.

For example EA Play is included in game pass ultimate, but by now all the new EA stuff is locked behind "EA Play pro".

Having the whole Acti/Blizz lineup in there would be quite the offering. Particularly all the Call of Duties were never really sold in a "get all of them!" way. Now all of them might end up for "free" on game pass.

JohnWhigham(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Nadella transformed a company that was at risk of turning into the next IBM into the 2nd most valuable company in the world. Where have you been the past 9 years of his tenure?

s3r3nity(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Congratulations to Phil Spencer, who started out leading an upstart team at Microsoft for a new game console called 'Xbox' and is now 'CEO of Microsoft Gaming' - a Microsoft Senior Leadership position.

Oh, and he now leads the third biggest gaming company on the planet:

> When the transaction closes, Microsoft will become the world's third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony.

It will be interesting to see in the medium-term if Satya and the Board spin off gaming into an independent company at some point. But for now it's wild to think about the fact that Microsoft owns the Call of Duty franchise.

raxxorrax(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think for gaming this is pretty negative that everything is consolidated under large developers. I also don't think that the atmosphere under Microsoft will be better than under Activision.

I hope PC gaming can detach from Microsoft as soon as possible to be honest.

bogwog(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Very impressive indeed. He was backed by a multibillion dollar behemoth and, against all odds, and despite the commercial failure of the Xbox One (something that would've bankrupted any other company), he managed to keep the company afloat long enough to launch another product.

Spending ~$70bn to acquire another company is also impressive. Sure, Microsoft has limitless resources, and using acquisitions to hurt the competition is something they love to do, but still.. He did it. This is his win.

jonny_eh(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

> Phil Spencer, who started out leading an upstart team at Microsoft for a new game console called 'Xbox'

According to Wikipedia[0]:

> Spencer served as general manager of Microsoft Game Studios EMEA, working with Microsoft's European developers and studios such as Lionhead Studios and Rare until 2008

He came to be in charge of Xbox via his experience managing their internal studios. How's Lionhead doing these days btw?

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Spencer_(business_executi...

jahlove(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The series Microsoft recently put out on Youtube about the history of Xbox is surprisingly good:


intended(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I would hope so, I dont see activision blizzard being a great acquistion.

d3ckard(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

Phil Spencer is my favorite executive. His work since he had taken over has been splendid and I like his calm manner of discussing competition. He doesn't make it into war. He seems like a genuinely nice guy and I am happy to see him succeed.

madeofpalk(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think there should be more (gaming) companies, and (gaming) companies should not be owned by the platforms, so I see this as a pretty big negative for the industry and customers.

Congrats to Phil on his resume bump I guess.

4e530344963049(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Does CoD become an Xbox/Windows exclusive?

bitwize(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Microsoft owns CoD, Doom, Quake, Minecraft, Fallout, Elder Scrolls, and soon Warcraft, Starcraft, and Overwatch.

They're becoming the Disney of gaming, which is scary, but hey, Microsoft gonna Microsoft.

apatters(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Sounds lovely for the suits.

As a longtime Blizzard fan and a former Microsoft employee, maybe I'm just getting too old for this shit, but there's really only one thing I care about:

Will they finally start getting the fucking games right again?

blibble(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I wonder if he realises what 'fun' he's going to have over the next years cleaning out the cesspit that is Blizzard

femiagbabiaka(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

Talk about failing upwards.

echelon(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> [...] if Satya and the Board spin off gaming into an independent company at some point.

I certainly think this should happen.

The trillion dollar giants should not span multiple industries. They have absurd monopoly power and can make growing your own niche impossible.

Why does a cloud computing / operating system vendor / hardware manufacturer / business software / developer tooling company also own the third biggest gaming outfit?

Why, for that matter, are Amazon and Apple also movie studios (and soon to be game studios)?

This is ridiculous. These companies never have to compete with you. It's easy for them to funnel money into any effort and clone your product. You can struggle to grow revenue and they can simply allocate an engineering team and marketing budget.

You'll probably also have to buy your competitor's products or pay their taxes at some point.

macilacilove(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

> spin off gaming into an independent company at some point

Unlikely without regulatory intervention. The added value for MS shareholders here is that MS has now more leverage to gently heard gamers towards their platforms.

ekianjo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Congratulations to Phil Spencer, who started out leading an upstart team at Microsoft for a new game console called 'Xbox' and is now 'CEO of Microsoft Gaming' - a Microsoft Senior Leadership position

You forgot to mention he started with billions of dollars backing him up. It was not like a small startup or something.

BiteCode_dev(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Suddenly, the reason for the recent employee purge seems more clear. They never fired anybody for bad behavior before, and now, just soon to be aquired, they do.

koheripbal(10000) 1 day ago [-]

20 employees out of 9500 employees is not significant.

You are reading too much from too little.

exikyut(10000) 1 day ago [-]

From the link in the sibling comment:

> A summary of those personnel actions was scheduled to be released by Activision before the winter holidays, but Chief Executive Bobby Kotick held it back, telling some people it could make the company's workplace problems seem bigger than is already known, the people familiar with the situation said.

̄\_(ツ)_/ ̄

Asmod4n(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm awaiting the inclusion of Diablo and StarCraft as Easter eggs in Excel and the like. Or Warcraft Minesweepers.

ece(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

Microsoft Mahjong has Halo backgrounds, so let's get on with the tie-ins.. I'll take SC2 Mahjong tiles.

brobdingnagians(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Activision Blizzard has been seriously mismanaged. They have very nice IP and a fanbase that is still somewhat loyal because of the glories of the past, but Microsoft would need to revitalize the management and the creativity.

- Overwatch hit the ground running to massive success, but hasn't materialized Overwatch 2 and has stagnated.

- Warcraft III Reforged is a total disaster and abandoned.

- WoW has a wide following of people in its vanilla form (i.e. taking things awy from what it has become), and the extensions aren't bringing a lot of value. There is speculation on whether it has hit its peak and is in decline.

- The Starcraft Remaster is basically the same game but with a bit nicer graphics.

- Diablo 3 seems to have done well.

I do hope it gets revitalized and the IP gets new life with better management, but Blizzard has been struggling.

shadowgovt(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

The conspiracy theorist in me suspects this acquisition is a way for a disgraced ownership and upper-level management to golden-parachute out of the company without having to just quit.

Simply quitting would be seen as a sign of failure and would leave a lot of their performance-based compensation behind... But getting bought, that's a different story.

birdyrooster(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

lol how was the Diablo 2 re-release. Seriously has been upsetting to watch their fall.

pram(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Theres no speculation on WoW, it has been dying since Cataclysm which was released a decade ago.

ThatPlayer(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

>The Starcraft Remaster is basically the same game but with a bit nicer graphics.

At least with that, I think that's exactly what the audience wanted. Anyone who wanted a different (and mechanically easier) game has Starcraft II.

yalogin(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Will the DoJ jump in? Only two gaming consoles in the world and one of it is buying one of the biggest game developer for both platforms. Very good reason for DoJ to jump in

EtienneK(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The Nintendo Switch waves hi...

fasteddie(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

As much as the HN crowd dislikes to hear it, the biggest gaming console in the world is the smartphone. PC Gaming is almost as big as the entire console market, bigger than any individual platform. Any publisher-focused antitruster would have microsoft leaning very hard into those facts.

Narishma(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This is the second big publisher they're buying recently, after Bethesda.

Saturdays(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Nintendo would like to have a word

nottorp(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'd shed a tear for Blizzard, but Blizzard died years ago. First it started dying slowly when they figured out they can print money with world of warcraft, then they ruined that like 3 expansions in.

So no loss for the gamers here, move along...

throaway46546(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

It can really only get better. I almost want to hope it will, but I'm tired of getting burned.

nixass(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Microsoft continues brute force drive into gaming industry, with zero creativity but outright buying whole gaming companies, and probably locking out competitor out of IPs

awestroke(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This is a good thing. Fools run Activision Blizzard; let MS go in and take over.

rvz(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

I mean with everyone jumping for joy on this news, this is Microsoft's 2022 definition of 'Extinguish'. It's clever but a reheated version in the 1990s, with a new twist:

1. Buyout the company / developers and they now report to Microsoft.

2. Use a subscription model (game pass) to reduce and undercut the game, SaSS price close to free.

3. Sell the game on other platforms for the RRP.

In the case of software like GitHub, the best tools are now free forever on a near unlimited scalable cloud which many competitors cannot compete with, especially free. Squeezing the competitors to reduce prices and exit entirely. (Extinguish)

OpenAI is next up on this.

somehnacct3757(10000) 1 day ago [-]

So now I'm boycotting Microsoft products? What a weird purchase to make. Did they not know this company is the current star of the gaming industry's long-standing workplace harassment issues?

Fnoord(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I have been boycotting Microsoft since the Halloween documents, and now I have to uninstall Hearthstone from my computer.

Joking aside (I got over my Microsoft hatred when they started to finally embrace Linux and FOSS, YMMV (though I was salty about Nokia ditching Maemo!)), I have a deja vu:

Microsoft + Elop -> Nokia + Elop -> Nokia + Elop = Microsoft.

Microsoft + Ybarra -> Blizzard + Ybarra -> Blizzard + Ibarra = Microsoft.

Sure, I don't mention Kotick. I don't give a shit about Activision's IP, so no problem for me there. Its Blizzard's IP which I like, or perhaps rather, liked. Cause its gone downhill.. ehh.. 'somewhat'.

zamalek(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Microsoft tries to have an inclusive culture, and generally succeeds far more than their peers. Once Kotick is out I may well end my Blizzard boycott.

Aissen(10000) 1 day ago [-]

IMHO they new and it probably drove the acquisition. Kotick gets to cash-in an insane amount of money and retire in 6 months - 2 years, MS gets the biggest independent game company out there and sends Sony a(nother) message they won't forget.

ThalesX(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Microsoft has all the pieces in place to make the great next gen MMORPG.

They now have the IP to do whatever they want with our mind, they have the distribution channels, they have the capacity to run servers and also the technology to create truly immersive worlds; their planetary rendering engine, GPT-3 for NPCs, Minecraft, for example.

There is a market for it, the latest awesome release in the space has been World of Warcraft, Amazon's New World is turning out to be a major flop and there's also free publicity in terms of Meta's metaverse.. I'm rooting for Microsoft to create the next gen gaming entertainment experience, however that might look.

oneepic(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

They'll certainly market their titles as the next great gaming experiences. I am skeptical that it will come out that way. I personally predict there will be some elements of a great product but not entirely. the ultimate focus is on money and business value, not the product.

At least we have the xbox game pass which is absurdly underpriced.

rytill(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm excited for what this could mean for undervalued IP like StarCraft and Diablo.

bob1029(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

I feel like the larger a developer/publisher becomes, the more mundane their titles are (because they are trying to saturate more global markets).

Diablo 4 being pushed back until Microsoft could oversee its development and release is pretty much a death sentence in my book.

ramoz(10000) 1 day ago [-]

If anyone has a chance at a legit "metaverse experience" it's a tech giant who develops video games.

jmiskovic(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't think so. Microsoft development is too entrenched to pull off something that requires so much synergy. Currently I'd say Fortnite and Roblox are serious metaverse contenders, but one that takes the cake will probably be some new viral product made by fresh blood. Microsoft might buy them, though.

rockbruno(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Curious if WoW's business model will change after this. The whole monthly game time thing is really outdated.

AlexandrB(10000) 1 day ago [-]

What does this mean? It's outdated if you mean modern games ditch it in favour or more predatory methods such as gambling and pay-2-win micro transactions. It's pretty nice if you're the customer and you want to know up-front what the experience is going to cost (unless the publisher double-dips like Blizzard has started to). Notably FFXIV still uses a monthly subscription.

faisal_ksa(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

I hate to see a monopoly in the gaming industry. Controlling the content will prevent any competition both in gaming consoles and in PC gaming. Forget about gaming on Linux or any new platform. Forget about sony's PlayStation and Nintendo. We are going to see the real face of Microsoft. What do you think Microsoft will do next? Buy unreal engine and unity and have control over the content and the tools to make them? We NEED open source game engines (Godot, Bevy) more than ever.

cududa(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

You can run gamepass on Linux, so when all these games hit gamepass (which they will) it's a net positive for Linux gamers.

nivenkos(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Seems they're more likely to target the games than the engines though?

They have so much money they could easily buy Ubisoft, EA and Take-Two and make all major games Xbox and Windows 11+ exclusives.

oneoff786(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

I think no chance that Tim Sweeney sells Epic.

Unity is a public company and I think would benefit immensely from being acquired by Microsoft.

danhab99(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

I'm worried that the gaming industry is on a decline. Some of the biggest games are >5 years old, I can't think of a big franchise that started in the last 5 years, the steam greenlight program is a pile of shit, and new games are getting held to the standard of existing games which discourages new-comers.

I almost wanna throw my hands up and give in, like how big can a problem be before it stops being a problem.

TameAntelope(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

A real monopoly in video gaming isn't nearly as valuable as it first seems.

Firstly, 'video gaming' is really competing against things like reading a book, walking your dog, board games, etc., so it's not like Microsoft can just start jacking up prices and people will have nowhere to go with their time.

Secondly, creating and releasing new games has never been easier. So many small indie game companies are creating great games to compete with blockbusters like CoD and LoL, the ecosystem for game development is plenty healthy, with or without Activision belonging to Microsoft.

Thirdly, they haven't done what you're saying with the games they have released; you can play Minecraft on the Switch [0]. Maybe wait for Microsoft to actually do the thing you're worried about before criticizing them for it! They have had opportunities to be exclusive and they haven't taken them, so it's not so simple as to just assume they will no matter what.

I'm not worried about the industry, but I am cautiously optimistic about what Microsoft will be able to do with some IP that I've loved for most of my life.

[0] - https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/minecraft-switch/

lysecret(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I mean it can only get better right?

lvass(10000) 1 day ago [-]

There is nothing so bad that it couldn't be made worse.

Tempest1981(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

> This acquisition will accelerate the growth in Microsoft's gaming business across mobile, PC, console and cloud and will provide building blocks for the metaverse.

Just like that -- they're in the metaverse!

viktorcode(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Can't wait until metaverse will fail to lure gamers. The hype is on par with NFTs, in both vitality and lack of substance.

jprd(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

== MS acquires formerly preeminent corporation for 30% discount ==

MS announced today that it was acquiring Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI). This news comes on the heels of a year filled with government lawsuits, internal leaks, low morale and poor performance. Many analysts have commented that years of failing to invest in their IP and a string of poorly-received sequels have diluted customer and stockholder faith.

The past year has seen ATVI stock plummet after it was made public that the company was not being managed or governed in any meaningful way, down approx. 30% prior to today's announcement.

kgersen(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

I don't see any discount. They're bying at $95 per share. Look at YTD and 5Y prices.

The 30% prior isn't the price they're bying at.

Kelteseth(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Can somebody please explain to me, why is it allowed for a company like MS to buy all of their (indirect) competitors?

jackling(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I guess since there are so many competitors in the gaming market, the US government doesn't care. Not like this acquisition with make Microsoft have a majority share in the entire gaming industry.

JohnWhigham(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Because the federal government doesn't stop them, quite plainly. They fear it would stifle innovation and competition. It's the same reason why egregious white collar crimes rarely get punishments. I wish I was making this up.

sbarre(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Even after this purchase, Microsoft's gaming division is still smaller than Sony by revenue..

There are still lots of other large publishers out there.. EA, Take Two, Embracer, Tencent, Epic, etc... I'm sure I'm forgetting some big obvious ones even.

They are definitely not 'buying all their competitors' as you put it.

micromacrofoot(10000) 1 day ago [-]

this will only make them the third largest gaming company

ChuckNorris89(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Why wouldn't they be allowed to? Companies acquire smaller companies and competitors all the time, it's called consolidation.

One party want to sell, the other wants to buy. As long as the deal doesn't breach any anti-trust laws, it's good to go.

koheripbal(10000) 1 day ago [-]

In our legal system, actions are legal unless there is a law making them illegal.

If you are referring to anti-trust laws preventing this, then MS would need to be buying a huge number of companies to monopolize the gaming market, not just Activision, in order to be in violation of this law.

phasersout(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

This deal has to be approved by a lot of regulators before it will go through. AB is a global company. MS thinks it will take at least 12 to 18 month before the deal will happen. Or not, since regulators are a bit iffy with big-tech these days.

But overall even though it's a big acquisition both together will still remain one amongst a few big gaming companies.

shp0ngle(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Finally, Candy Crush can be fully integrated into Windows.

hbn(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

I recall already finding that preinstalled on my Windows 10 machine in the past

donkarma(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

this could easily be the worst part about the acquisition

andrewstuart(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

>> 'to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone, across every device'

Should say 'to bring the joy and community of gaming to XBOX AND WINDOWS USERS, across every MICROSOFT device'.

doikor(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

If your device runs a somewhat modern browser and you have a reliable internet connection you can just stream from the cloud.

United857(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Will Activision drop support for Sony and Nintendo platforms eventually?

dageshi(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Game by Game basis I expect. I doubt they'll pull CoD from Playstation, it would be terrible PR and they can sell a positive in having it for free in GamePass.

atlasunshrugged(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I wonder if this will trigger any antitrust lawsuits. I know Microsoft isn't that of the 90's but it seems like the political situation is ripe for politicians to go after 'big tech' and this is a pretty major acquisition that will help Xbox be the dominant player in terms of content.

glanzwulf(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Nothing will happen as we live in the post-Disney/Fox merger.

giorgioz(10000) 1 day ago [-]

ahah very appropriate comment given your nickname mention of Atlas Shrugged!

boppo1(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Politicians need something meatier than gaming content. I'd expect google or FB under that lens.

MangoCoffee(10000) 1 day ago [-]

the article say Microsoft will be the third largest gaming company behind Tenecent and Sony. how antitrust going to trigger if Microsoft doesn't have the entire market. if antitrust didn't take down Apple just force Apple to allows third party payment option. i don't see how this will trigger antitrust

ddtaylor(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I doubt it. There are much bigger monopolies in the webspace / ecommerce space than the gaming space.

panick21_(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Anti-Trust is not magic, its no longer a tool politicans can wield like a club against things they don't like. The courts have a definition and you actually have to prove abuse for those law-suits to do anything. Doing so if you can do it at all takes decades.

Unless politicians make major changes to the anti-trust law its unlikely to be effective. And doing so would require major action in congress.

The president could use non anti-trust actions as well of course. But rather unlikely.

ece(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

If moderate democratic senators could be bought with handouts to toe the party line (anyone remember those times?), perhaps closely examining mergers like this would be a higher priority. There are bills moving through congress though, and eventually with more authority, perhaps the FTC could make meaningful market changes. Like: making MS offer games on other platforms, or at-least not actively stopping them from running by offering good anti-cheat support on all platforms.

me_me_mu_mu(10000) 1 day ago [-]

No way. The politicians are also bagholders now.

fredthomsen(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Seems like the social and commerce aspects are drawing scrutiny. I think MS will escape unscathed here

curiousllama(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It's wild how Microsoft has been able to vertically integrate gaming.

They now own the distribution (Xbox Cloud Gaming, Xbox Game Pass), the games (Call of Duty, WoW, Starcraft + what they owned before), the OS (Windows, Xbox), the hardware (Xbox, many PCs), and the back end compute (Azure). The only thing they're missing, the network bandwidth, is mostly a commodity anyway.

That's a heck of a moat.

cletus(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

This is an overly rosy view of Microsoft's moat (and acumen) IMHO.

For one, Microsoft completely missed out on the mobile revolution.

For another, look at Mixer. This was there attempt to clone Twitch. They threw a bunch of money at it and quickly gave up. To me this was insane. Streaming has shown to be great marketing for games and I never thought they'd give up so quickly and right before the new Xbox launch.

Imagine if Mixer streamers had early access to the new console and titles? And drops? Viewers absolutely love drops.

What if the Xbox Game Pass included a Mixer sub like Amazon Prime does with Twitch Prime?

To me this just showed they have absolutely no idea what they're doing.

I mean, look at how much money they've thrown at Bing.

anaganisk(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

Guess this was what Steve Balmer meant when he said, DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS.

unsigner(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

The only thing they're missing is hardware design capabilities.

polishdude20(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

And their windows game store is still full of bad UX and random bugs and glitches that make it look like it was built by amateurs.

jpablo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Isn't that basically the same Nintendo and Sony? Save for the cloud platform.

pelasaco(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Unfortunately they didn't support their own game engine as they could: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_XNA

Stardew Valley and Terraria were actually IMO the best games produced with that

u2077(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This is what I'm worried about. With them owning both the games and the OS that they are played on, we could be forced into a subscription. Paying to own may be a thing of the past.

mathattack(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

People may be flooding into vertical integration, though the history of that isn't great. (Look at AOL/TimeWarner or Verizon/AOL/Tumblr/Yahoo)

All it takes is missing one generation and the house of cards gets written down. Someone can create the next generation blockbuster for a lot less than $69bln.

To argue against myself, they've become a lot better at picking trends since Balmer left too.

andrewparker(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Creation layer of the stack: Unity or Unreal.

devmunchies(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

another strategy piece is linkedin for competitive analysis. They are able to see industry data for where all the top talent is working and when they are on the market.

StreamBright(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

>> has been able to vertically integrate

MS for a long time had such opportunities which it missed almost every single time.

On the other hand, Apple had similar opportunities and succeeded almost every single time.

The MS list:

- Windows Mobile

- Zune


The Apple list:

- iTunes

- iMessage

- iCloud

- iOs (some more)

aeortiz(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They still don't own the graphics cards and displays (monitors &/or googles)

zitterbewegung(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Activision-Blizzard was the worst performing gaming companies during COVID so it stands to reason that this would be the best gaming developer considering how well Bungie did as an acquisition for Halo and the acquisition of mojang.

There is so much IP that is tied up with Activision-Blizzard that it seems like a good deal.

onlyrealcuzzo(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

DirectX, too.

AdmiralAsshat(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

I mean, isn't this basically how it used to work when the console manufacturers were also the game developers? Like Sega and Nintendo.

kungito(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They are still missing a mobile platform and that's why I believe they will retry within the next few years

muttantt(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Give it a few months, and they will acquire Subspace.

tytrdev(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

They still rely extremely heavily on Nvidias ability to create more and more powerful hardware. I recently found out that like 70% of the world's supercomputers are powered by nvidia GPU compute. People often talk about the tech power of different countries (personally I've heard a ton of people talk about China in this way), but at the end of the day they are still reliant on the hardware manufacturers. Who am I to say that China or X country doesn't secretly have something that far outclasses nvidia hardware, though?

Between gaming (the biggest form of media), supercomputers, science computation, crypto nonsense, etc. It's really looking to me like nvidia is actually one of the biggest power players across the globe. Makes me really wonder about the tech they aren't flashing to the public. I was personally astounded when I saw their announcement to purchase ARM. I've seen a few instances of people saying the dead acquisition is stifling innovation. Honestly I'm kind of happy it didn't go through. Probably just a lack of vision on my part, though.

goldfeld(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

It is quite wild. The only thing missing is good will.

seanalltogether(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Blizzard was the one game company that I bought all of their games no questions asked. Part of me is sad that this day has come, but the other part of me is kinda hopeful that this will allow for more dedicated focus on traditional Blizzard IP.

sovnade(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Back in the day sure, but the blizzard of 20 years ago is long gone. Diablo 3 is an abysmal followup to D2, every CoD is just an annual rehash, hearthstone is an absolute moneygrab, and HotS is the most watered down moba I've ever played.

Overwatch is cool though.

edit: and oh my god, let's not forget the absolute dumpster fire of warcraft 3 reforged.

phgn(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Now, that's curious. Microsoft can't allow itself [0] the kinds of culture scandals Blizzard still seems like it doesn't care about.

[0] At least if they want to maintain all the government work they do.

brailsafe(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

As if a former CEO of Microsoft hasn't engaged in similar behavior

999900000999(10000) 1 day ago [-]

As someone who spent a good time in gaming, I'm perplexed and sad.

Consolidation always leads to job loss, the industry is very very small. At the same time, legacy publishers have a very different role now.

If I'm an indie dev, I don't need you to print the discs or box things up. The only 2 things publishers really do are QA and Marketing.

QA, for projects with a good community, can be free or very cheap.

Marketing, with again a good community,can be free or cheap. I think about the hikikomori game Pull Stay.

Nothing stops that game from selling millions.

The big publishers are much weaker now.

One could argue that Apple's actually the world's biggest game publisher.

They have the final say as to if your game reaches the masses

f6v(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

> QA, for projects with a good community, can be free or very cheap.

Battlefield 2042, GTA Definitive Edition, Warcraft Reforged, and Cyberpunk 2077 beg to differ.

015a(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

Everyone here is talking about how this is great for gaming, or bad, or how they're becoming a monopoly...

The only emotion I can feel is disgust. Disgust that Microsoft would tacitly approve of Kotick's decades of harboring, encouraging, and protecting sexual assault within his companies. The man allegedly, and settled out of court, for telling his secretary he was 'going to have her killed'. He hid internal sexual assault allegations from the board. They threw parties with strippers & DJs telling the women to drink more so their male coworkers could have more fun. They passed around a nude picture of a female coworker, leading to her suicide. An awesome person was promoted to be head of Blizzard, before leaving just months later, telling the board that she had experienced years of sexual misconduct working there, and there was no hope for them to ever change their frat-boy culture.

This isn't old information. It came to light just weeks before Halo Infinite was released. Phil Spencer & Microsoft had to be well into discussions at this point; and it didn't phase them. They didn't stipulate that he would have to leave; they instead leave him in charge of the company post-acquisition. They fire, what, a couple dozen people? In a company of tens of thousands?

Just... disgust. Maybe a little hope that Microsoft can improve their culture, but without signaling a fundamental change in leadership, that hope is dim. But at least they'll make some money.


namlem(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

It's already been announced that Kotick is expected to leave after the transition period. I would be shocked if MS didn't address the culture issues at Activision Blizzard.

rubyist5eva(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

How about chill? The deal isn't even going to be completed until next year, and the news is barely 12 hours old at this point and you're already flaming MS for not tossing Kotick to the curb in an announcement blog post? That's not how reality works buddy.

z16a(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

You're making far too many assumptions. Perhaps the whole situation played to MSFTs advantage, perhaps him leaving is now baked into the deal.

majormajor(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

I think it's a lot more likely that the culture gets overhauled under MS than without an acquisition.

This is likely good for current employees who might otherwise be likely future victims.

kooshball(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

> Phil Spencer & Microsoft had to be well into discussions at this point; and it didn't phase them. They didn't stipulate that he would have to leave; they instead leave him in charge of the company post-acquisition.

You're getting worked up for no reason. Maybe wait until Kotick actually sticks around before the outage?

RandomBK(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

I don't see the same issues.

1. It's been reported that Kotick will leave once the acquisition is finalized (i.e. when MS actually owns the company). If and when that doesn't happen, _then_ I'll join in on the criticism. [edit: based on WSJ reporting, not official statement]

2. Kotick is the de-facto ruler of ABK. The acquisition's not happening unless you play ball. If getting ABK under new management and kicking Kotick out requires playing along for a while, then so be it.

3. A big part of MS's investment thesis here seems to be 'ABK's assets are worth more than $69B, but their scandals are suppressing their valuation. We can fix the scandals and better realize the IP's true value'. MS will be stupid to let ABK keep going without decisively handling the scandals.

acrump(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

I am very sure that to get the deal done Microsoft would have had to work with Kotick. I am also very confident that they do not support him and that he will be gone way before the end of the year.

Edit: It seems it's not expected to close until 2023 so maybe it takes MS longer to get him out.

eezurr(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Its also possible this is collateral (except it happens first) to building a better company from the ashes. I'll be wrong if this person stays at blizzard after a year. I think they want the IP and brands foremost.

shp0ngle(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

Where is that suicide information from? It's the first time I hear about that. (Not disputing that, just did not see that before anywhere.)

edit: ah the WSJ article

>The board of directors was blindsided by the California lawsuit's allegations, including that an Activision employee killed herself after a photo of her vagina allegedly was circulated at a company party, according to people familiar with the board.

And here

> But here is where it gets even worse. A former female employee who hasn't been named publicly committed suicide while on a business trip with one of her male supervisors. The unnamed supervisor apparently brought sex toys and lube on their trip, and the state investigators believe this and a previous event where the female in question had a photo of her vagina shared around the office Christmas party led to her taking her own life.


judge2020(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

Microsoft might completely upend their entire leadership eventually, but the easiest way to kill a merger between publicly traded companies (in which a majority of shareholders from both companies must approve) is to announce sweeping leadership changes the same day as the acquisition announcement.

Laremere(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

Everything I've read is he's only still in charge until the merger completes. Big sales like this don't happen overnight. ABK is keeping him in charge because MS doesn't own them yet. Once they do, it sounds like it's going to get split up into individual segments directly reporting to MS' gaming CEO.

coldpie(10000) 1 day ago [-]

These acquisitions are ridiculous. How long till Disney buys Microsoft? Why even bother having more than one company in the US?

Quillbert182(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think Disney might struggle to buy Microsoft, given that Microsoft has 10x the market cap.

jpeter(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

We are going for the Cyberpunk future. But instead of Arasaka, Kang Tao, Militech and Biotechnica, we get Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Facebook

micromacrofoot(10000) 1 day ago [-]

how do you think the laws should be changed to prevent this?

wayoutthere(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Microsoft is 10x the size of Disney, so more likely they buy Disney than the other way around.

no_time(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They are long overdue for a break-up. I guess the US elite thinks otherwise.

micromacrofoot(10000) 1 day ago [-]

If you want them to break up you'd first need to get the law changed. There are larger game companies still.

mrkramer(10000) 1 day ago [-]

All cash deal. Yup. Inflation is going to eat all of your cash pile Microsoft so you better spend it fast.

But my thinking is that they should've acquired Valve which controls digital PC gaming distribution not big gaming studios like Zenimax and Activision Blizzard.

giorgioz(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I was also thinking about inflation! How will the company/person receiving the 68.7 billions dollars protect them from inflation? Will they get swapped immediately for ETFs?

bombcar(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Valve is 50% owned by Gabe; you can't buy it without working with him. AB was publicly traded, much easier to buy (up to and including a hostile purchase if necessary).

Ekaros(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't think Gaben will sell... And why would he, he has company he build over the years to do what ever he wants. With very robust income streams just by existing and occasionally releasing crap for Dota 2 and CSGO... Or continuing to sell other peoples games and taking 20-30% cut in process...

Already personally likely making more than enough money for him. I can kinda see point of selling when you want to do something for your dreams, but if company is doing your dreams what is the point.

goldcd(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

I'm not sure how good a deal this really is.

I can definitely see why MS bought up publishers and developers to add to their stable - they can now, like Netflix, sell a monthly recurrent service that will keep their customers entertained with 'free' releases available on day#1, plus a leased library.

But (to me at least), they were already there. I'm there on PC and think the sell is even easier on Xbox. Buying Activision seems a bit pointless. Sure they can now fold in wavering CoD lovers, but the franchise is already looking a little wobbly - but they're paying for a company that's valued as selling a game every year for $50 to lure in the subset of customers who now think game pass is now worth it with CoD. (That's a shitload of new subs they need, or the price is going up)

My larger concern is that when they bought Zenimax or even minecraft, they'd paid well for 'good bones' they could build on. Activision is really just a pile of slightly rusty franchises (https://www.denofgeek.com/games/activision-blizzard-microsof...)

Now maybe they can revive some of those - Doublefine knocking out episodic Gabriel Knight makes me moist, or simply Guitar Hero with new weekly tunes - but MS could have done similar for a lot cheaper.

If I'd had the money in my bank account, I'd have maybe just had a slush fund to pick up and promote new talent/IP.

If they really wanted infra, Steam is still out there. If they wanted IP, Sega.

shudza(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

except that Blizzard has the best IP, and the only viable MMORPG today

parkingrift(10000) 1 day ago [-]

No acquisition of this size should ever be allowed. This is way too much consolidation. Microsoft is buying their way to becoming the #2 or #3 gaming company in the world. They should have to innovate and compete their way to the #2 or #3 gaming company in the world.

Who is going to be able to compete with Xbox Game Pass?

MangoCoffee(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Disney? it own all the media and franchise IPs like Star Wars, Marvel...etc.

unethical_ban(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Counterpoint: It's gaming. It is a space with a low barrier to (indie) entry and it is not part of some critical infrastructure. Maybe it is lamentable, but I am not sure antitrust would be my way to go for this.

loceng(10000) 1 day ago [-]

One counterweight mechanism that might work really well is a higher % tax for these massive organizations - of which then ideally direct that funding to support and fund creativity/competitors, etc. Whether that accounts for and counters all the potential pitfalls of companies with such gravity and power, I don't know?

bombcar(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Disney already owns some huge percentage of all entertainment, we just need to wait for them to buy Microsoft's gaming division now.

syshum(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Idiocracy and Demolition Man were both prophecies

drannex(10000) 1 day ago [-]

My god I hate monopolies, MS has been on a buying spree and someone needs to stop them, but it will likely never happen.

fourseventy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This acquisition makes Microsoft the third biggest gaming company in the world... Not even the biggest, and far from a monopoly...

agd(10000) 1 day ago [-]

With these kind of acquisitions, other companies are going to find it very hard to compete with Game Pass.

I think we'll look back in 10 years and wonder why antitrust regulators did nothing, but it may be too late by then.

Taylor_OD(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Gamepass will be the netflix of game... rental? Sharing? Streaming? Whatever you want to call Gamepass. I'm surprised it didnt happen sooner.

jimbob45(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Blizzard is dead weight compared to the incredible profitability of Skylanders + CoD. I'd be willing to bet Blizzard gets spun off within a year.

palijer(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I looked around for a while, a d I can't actually find a list of any mergers that antitrust regulations actually prevented.

I'm assuming some survivor bias is involved here and we don't hear about the ones that stopped early, but it seems that what I and most folks assume antitrust regulations do is different than what actually happens.

I remember the Sirius/XM merge and how those were the only two players in the market, and it was wild to me how that was allowed to happen.

paulpan(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

It'll depend on the perspective.

For the gaming industry, this seems to push Microsoft into 3rd place (by size) behind Sony and Tencent. So hardly a monopoly and akin to T-Mobile's acquisition of Sprint a few years ago. It makes Microsoft much more competitive against Sony and even Nintendo since it'll likely bolster their 1P offerings in the future.

But if Microsoft uses their ownership to favor their own game subscription services (aka GamePass) as well as platforms (aka Windows 11, Xbox console), then certainly that'll be monopolistic behavior. Interesting to note that they're probably #1-#2 in either of those sub-industries. It's possible to end up with an 'Internet Explorer-esque' antitrust scenario if Microsoft removes or heavily discourages Activision and Bethesda from making their titles cross-platform.

encryptluks2(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Game Pass has major issues still. No integrated backup mechanism; only 3 changes to your home PC per year... Imagine reinstalling more than 3 times to find out that you can no longer play offline; absolutely horrible download speeds... Compared to Steam which maxes out bandwidth; and the interface for Xbox Game Pass on PC is terrible.

danity(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Very true, just like when Google bought DoubleClick. I couldn't believe that went through.

bduerst(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

You could say the same thing about Disney, Netflix, HBO, Apple TV, Amazon prime, etc.

The thing about subscriptions is that consumers tend to buy multiple.

ren_engineer(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

my question is whether Microsoft was fanning the flames of all the controversy surrounding Activision recently and how much that dropped the acquisition price.

999900000999(10000) 1 day ago [-]

As a GamePass subscriber, I mildly disagree.

Saw an indie game last night and felt like buying it.

Steam Deck is Valve opening up an alternative to Microsoft land.

Although I will admit I'm tempted to cancel my pre order since I'm worried it won't run well.

dmead(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

the government will look the other way if there is a competitor to tencent.

YXNjaGVyZWdlbgo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

At this rate it's going to be Tencent vs Microsoft and if I have to choose I pick Microsoft.

thfuran(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

I'm already wondering why these trillion dollar companies are allowed to make pretty much any acquisitions at all, let alone ones pretty clearly aimed at vertical integration.

neogodless(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

> other companies are going to find it very hard to compete with Game Pass

I haven't really ever used it. I used to buy everything Blizzard made (OK that's an exaggeration, but I was all about WarCraft/StarCraft/Diablo...). Before Steam, I bought lots of games on disk. Now I buy most things on Steam. And I haven't bought anything Blizzard since Diablo III.

Why wouldn't Steam continue to be competitive against Game Pass?

(I'm just one person, but among the people I know that play PC games, I don't hear about Game Pass much. One person mentioned he's on a 14 day $1 trial - that was the extent of it.)

JAlexoid(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

Not really.

It's only an issue if this negatively. affects the competitive market. And since games are a creative market - there's hardly any reason to fear that Microsoft can restrict access to new players.

This is not like a utility, that could technically force something on you. One company can buy all of game developers/publishers and still not make a dent in competitiveness of the games market.

koheripbal(10000) 1 day ago [-]

There are so many gaming companies and platforms... An Anti trust case would be very hard to make.

nvarsj(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

We're way past the point where government is meant to be a check on unchecked capitalism. Mega monolith corps are the now and future.

_notathrowaway(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Honestly, why should any regulator bother with this? It's video games, it is clearly not any kind of essential infrastructure/software.

xhrpost(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

I have to wonder how much investing in some of today's tech behemoths comes down to viewing them more as a holding company / investment firm and less about their original core products. Microsoft has lost tons of desktop share over the last decade, this should have been a death signal for them but instead amazing acquisitions like Mojang, GitHub, ActBliz have pushed them to an amazing market cap. Similar with FB loosing use as a social media platform but staying in business with Instagram/WeChat etc.

shadowgovt(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

In a rapidly-changing marketplace, a certain level of diversification helps increase the odds of survival (it can be overdone; too much diversification, and a company finds itself in charge of a host of projects in industries it doesn't know enough about to compete, which is what put Marvel on the rocks so badly that Disney was able to snap them up back in the day).

Not unlike in nature, a monoculture corporation lives and dies by their business being at all relevant in general, and the market (especially in the entertainment sector) is fickle.

zjaffee(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

This is truthfully not a big problem in the tech industry when compared to other industries, the big exceptions to this in the tech industry are the much older tech giants like IBM, Cisco or HP whose entire growth model is acquisitions. Compare tech to big pharma, and you'll see one industry still innovating inside big companies and another which is totally acquisition driven.

Nbox9(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

I hold Microsoft shares because I think they have a special talent for doubling down on a good investment. Microsoft has no problems investing $$$ into risky but plausible product lines. They bombed Windows Phone, but their sass offerings were in a perfect place to take advantage of 2020.

jmnicolas(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Facebook own WeChat?

kristjansson(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Once you have billions and billions in profits to reinvest there's hardly a choice, is there? At some point, the firm has to invest in new product lines to support or supplant its tentpoles, and restricting the space of investment opportunities to those generated internally unnecesarily limits its options (viz. AAPL with more cash that it can spend)

gogopuppygogo(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Losing market share on the desktop is by design to shrug off regulators while they flex into new growing markets. Their cloud has been a boon to their bottom line extending their reach into government/corporate clients while Xbox has kept Sony from dominating the living room/home.

Diversification is good for any large entity not just an investment firm.

etempleton(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think Game Pass is a great service at a great price and I think Microsoft's overall direction for gaming has been really positive and forward looking; however, I do worry about the consolidation of gaming. Activision Blizzard was fairly user hostile in their business practices, so I don't think this will be a net loss for consumers.

What I am starting to worry about is Microsoft squeezing Sony out of gaming entirely. For a lot of casual gamers Call of Duty was the game or one of a few games they play and have played for years. A lot of those casual gamers own a Playstation. While Microsoft hasn't announced if Call of Duty will be exclusive or not, making the game PC/XBOX exclusive would be doctrine. The only example I can think of where they don't do that is Minecraft, so it is possible.

KTallguy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I can't imagine a scenario where Sony gets to have COD on their platforms in say... 2-3 years. Bethesda is also now only PC and Xbox. Microsoft is playing hardball because other than the fantastic deal that is Gamepass, they don't really have a lot of hype building titles (Halo launched to a very mixed reception).

I personally prefer more companies rather than fewer. I also anticipate a large brain drain at Activision studios, like what has already happened at Blizzard. But the Activision brands are established enough (and formulaic enough) that it probably won't matter either way.

1_player(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The most important question I have is: will they replace Bobby Kotick?

EDIT: 'Bobby Kotick will continue to serve as CEO of Activision Blizzard. [...] he and his team will maintain their focus on driving efforts to further strengthen the company's culture.'

Shame on you, Microsoft.

mesaframe(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Read the whole paragraph. Once the deal closes Activision will report to Phil.

mercy_dude(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Or May be the whole woke uprising thing was to drive the market cap down so Microsoft could get a better deal. As usual the media doing the bidding for the big tech.

zadjii(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Literally the next sentence:

> Once the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming.

So no, they aren't keeping him around. Good call.

Ekaros(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Probably keep him until they restructure the Activision Blizzard somewhat. Like Separating Blizzard and studios under Activision if needed.

b3lvedere(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Maybe they can't get rid of Mr. Kotick yet..

nobodyofnote(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I share your dismay. Even if you're someone who doesn't care about the issues that have come to light over the past year, the blatant mismanagement (dare I say running into the ground) of the once golden Blizzard portfolio has been painful as a long-time Starcraft 2 fan.

For a moment, I was truly hopeful that we might see some reinvigoration for blundered projects like the Warcraft III reforged.

Perhaps even some hope that Microsoft might breathe new life into Starcraft II, which still stands as an incredible game.


bredren(10000) 1 day ago [-]

No way Microsoft lets this guy stick around. This is the best soft landing the board could possibly provide for the ceo.

Bayart(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Does anyone has any doubts it's anything but a transitional position ?

overcast(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Bobby 'Culture' Kotick

rkalla(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I would _guess_ that ousting a CEO AND acquiring the core company at the same time are expensive propositions - I'd also guess that MSFT fully plans to address the leadership issue there (Kotick) but going to give him a year to age out of the newly acquired company and take his golden parachute elsewhere.

Smaller M&A where it's easier to swap the leader (like a startup - which most of us are used to) is MUCH easier/cheaper/faster than swapping out an established CEO of a public company.

They'll do it because he's a liability and they want to make a statement to the new company - but it'll be slow.

this_user(10000) 1 day ago [-]

If you take over a company, you don't necessarily want to plunge it into even more chaos than the acquisition will create already by immediately getting rid of the CEO. It's entirely possible that they will get rid of him after a transition phase.

tallanvor(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Honestly, this is the sort of thing they have to say right now - the deal isn't closed yet, and saying they're going to dump him might lead to shareholder lawsuits, especially if the acquisition is blocked.

Realistically, there's a high chance that within a few months of the acquisition being completed he'll be expected to leave quietly.

arketyp(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Can you supply some context to this denounciation?

cableshaft(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Stephen Totilo shared this back in June of last year. Apparently Bobby's got an agreement signed that if he gets terminated he makes $292 million off of it, double what he made last year.

So that might be part of it.


sbarre(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This can't be permanent. I bet this is to keep the markets happy in the short term while this gets absorbed, and then Kotick will 'retire' at some point in the next year.

g051051(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The reason he's still there is because this deal has probably been in the works for a while, and they weren't going to cut him loose until it settled. I'm sure that as soon as it's possible after the acquisition that he'll suddenly decide to spend more time with his family, pursue other interests, or get sent to the farm to play with the other dogs, whatever euphemism you like.

raxxorrax(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I remember a Starcraft II fan map named Bobby Kotick TD. If he hits you, you loose money. If you hit him, you loose money too. It was banned after a short time.

To be honest, I think Microsoft and Activision deserve each other.

baal80spam(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Activision's value skyrocketed under Kotick, not sure why they would want to replace him.

nemacol(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I dread the day they switch the Blizzard app launcher to a MS account. You just know it is going to be a nightmare to sort out.

Beyond petty nonsense - Sure wish we had some antitrust laws in this country. The consolidation of every industry gross.

me_me_mu_mu(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Maybe it actually works

duckmysick(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I always wondered, what are the exact steps between announcing to acquire and actually acquiring.

Especially this:

> Microsoft will acquire Activision Blizzard for $95.00 per share, in an all-cash transaction valued at $68.7 billion, inclusive of Activision Blizzard's net cash. When the transaction closes, Microsoft will become the world's third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony.

What exactly happens between now and 'when the transaction closes'? How long does it take? Is there anything that would make it not close?

sofixa(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They need approval from shareholders and regulators in every country they operate in, and then do a bunch of legal work. It's not unusual for such big acquisitions to take years to be finalised ( for instance a regulator might impose divestment or limitations), or even to fall through ( e.g. Boeing-Embraer, Alstom-Siemens, Nvidia-ARM).

raldi(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The main one is that the shareholders get to review the terms, and if more than 50% of either company's don't like them, the deal is off.

h2odragon(10000) 1 day ago [-]

So was all the bad press Activision got recently in spite of, or driven by, acquisition plans? What better way to put pressure on a company to give up its independence than public shame and infamy?

Prolly knocked a few bucks off the price at least.

koheripbal(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It might have made it cheaper, but I still think it's a bad deal for MS.

Activision doesn't create very much new IP these days, and that's where the talent is that brings new games and gamers to your platform.

michaelbuckbee(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think that Microsoft's Game Pass has really changed the gaming ecosystem.

If you're not familiar it's basically 'Netflix of Videogames' where for a low monthly price (compared to buying a game at full retail) you get access to whole downloadable/streamable library of games.

It's such an outsized value that it's a big reason to choose an Xbox console over a PlayStation and it's pretty clearly the driving force behind these acquisitions. More games in the library -> More Game Pass subscribers -> More Profit.

minerva23(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Can you imagine if they make it so Game Pass covers your WoW subscription? WoW could see a comeback.

trymas(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

I guess it's just business at the end of the day, but IMHO this model in the end could not be the best for consumer after all.

For example tv streaming, where if your favorite movies/tv series maybe spread over dozen services and you need to pay subscription to all of them. Or it could happen that copyrights get bought by different providers and thus migrate from service to service. I will not be surprised if piracy will have a comeback for movies or tv-series.

So with gaming it will either be the same (too many providers to choose from), or reverse - if you'd like to play AAA title, you will be locked in with Microsoft.

KaoruAoiShiho(10000) 1 day ago [-]

How does the exclusive game work now? It's okay to have exclusives to compete with the big boys but surely the rules are different once you get to this scale. When you get close to a monopolistic position using exclusives to lock out competitors is abusive. Though MS is still not quite in a monopolistic position yet... they're getting close.

smileybarry(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Sony already locks out competitors with exclusives, whether via studios they acquired or games they pay to make exclusive.

Not to mention that ATVI is a behemoth but their catalog isn't the same 'everything-store' as 2000s ATVI (or current EA), it's a few (big) franchises. Hell, the Bethesda deal had more franchises involved.

alsaaro(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

This move is a hedge against Apple and is not about gaming as much as it is about maintaining Windows client side hegemony.

Apple is almost certainly planning to release AR/VR headset in the near future, this raises the question; what hardware is going to be used to power this headset; I'd bet Apple is working on a console like iDevice, or probably more likely an external GPU, that can be used with any Apple device.

Now imagine if Apple decides, admittingly in a very un-Apple like fashion, to allow anyone to run MacOS on their iPads, and iPhones; what that would do to consumer Windows market share.

This primarily establishes a moat against Apple, not Sony, and protects consumer Windows, not Xbox.

LanceH(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

I can't imagine anyone losing any sleep over an AR/VR powerplay.

_ph_(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I wonder what this means for the classic IPs of Blizzard, like WarCraft, StarCraft and Diablo. Especially StarCraft could use an update - I would immediately buy a SC III for the Mac. Unfortunately, there was no update since SC II was ported to Metal some years ago.

sovnade(10000) 1 day ago [-]

There's not likely to be any more mac x86 development from anyone going forward, and I think M1 is enough of a branch that it makes it difficult to justify it.

MangoCoffee(10000) 1 day ago [-]

a lot of comments seem to be concern about the antitrust.

Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard just put them in number 3 slot. Tencent and Sony are far bigger in gaming. if Apple lawsuit didn't take down Apple store just forced Apple to allows third party payment option. i don't think Microsoft will get slap with a antitrust. Microsoft isn't even number 1 in gaming.

Tiktaalik(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

In terms of the 'console war' competitive landscape, Tencent is not relevant as they're not a significant stakeholder in that market.

The evaluation is between Sony and Microsoft and this shifts things pretty significantly toward Microsoft.

cestith(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Tencent doesn't have one of the major consoles nor the vast majority of desktop operating system installations. If someone was going to encourage the government to stop the merger I'd expect them to try defining the market along terms different from just 'size of gaming revenues'. They'd target more the synergies that could be used to anticompetitive advantage and limit customer choice.

Not to say that will happen. Just that if it does, it wouldn't be on dollar size in game sales alone.

sabertoothed(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The name Blizzard is still magical to me. As the maybe 15-year old playing Warcraft II and drawing strategies on a piece of paper. I don't play computer games anymore. But it was magical.

yreg(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They were good citizens of macOS too. Up until Overwatch.

SloopJon(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Even outside of the recent scandal, I've long had mixed feelings about Blizzard: harassing independent servers, always-connected DRM (I got booted out of single-player CoD: MW so many times), and milking franchises with remasters. I will say, though, that after a several year hiatus, a friend and I have discovered StarCraft 2 co-op with weekly mutations, and it's a lot of fun.

SC 2 recently went free-to-play. If the rest of their catalog is added to Game Pass, that will be something. Blizzard games have been stubbornly expensive years after release. I wonder what this means for Battle.net?

akmarinov(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They've now fallen so low, it's like it's a completely different company.

theandrewbailey(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Back in the day, Starcraft was my thing. I didn't get into Diablo too much, but I thought it was cool. I remember playing the original up to the final level. A few years ago, I played and beat it on my retro PC, and it was exactly as fun as I remembered it.[0] I tried Warcraft, but I didn't get into it.

[0] https://theandrewbailey.com/article/180/Diablo

speg(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Indeed. I remember drawing my own maps on paper before we had a computer at home. It seems so simple looking back.

MrJagil(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The old Blizzard always seemed much closer to Apple than Microsoft in culture. An incredible attention to detail and the onboarding experience, clean, fun and friendly design and a slightly rebellious attitude expressed through their willingness to enter new markets.

The 'new' Microsoft though, really is different than the old and might actually do quite well in stewarding this supposedly sinking ship into fairer waters.

But as a die hard Apple user with an active WoW subscription I can't help but feel slightly dismayed that the Apple x Blizzard deal never will (or probably could have) happen(ed).

snotrockets(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

The rampant sexual harrasment is more in line with Microsoft's alleged culture.

bogwog(10000) 1 day ago [-]

What a bizarre view of the world. It's like teenagers gossiping about celebrity relationships, but with corporations instead.

A Microsoft acquisition of this company is bad, and an Apple acquisition of this company would be bad.

When mega corporations like this consolidate, consumers always lose. Microsoft couldn't win customers through product and service quality, so they bought one of the largest game publishers in the world so that their competition can't sell those games anymore.

animanoir(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The Apple of gaming is Rockstar Games.

sto11z(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Apple doesn't have a gaming division. Why would they be interested in acquiring Blizzard?

raxxorrax(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Not sure if an image campaign is enough to convince me that they have changed. They had to embrace open source to some degree because developers were plainly fleeing their environments en masse. Today it is extremely hard to find an expert for hard technical problems. Perhaps everyone is hiding somewhere, but I haven't found them yet.

jrockway(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Does this mean that Blizzard engineers get a FAANG salary now?

psyc(10000) 1 day ago [-]

No, they'll have to settle for Microsoft pay. Still probably a moderate bump for them, though.

chaoz_(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They might create an employee retention fund.

krelian(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Apparently the price tag is $68.7 billion. How long until they recoup the investment?


martini333(10000) 1 day ago [-]

That's not how it works.

ho_schi(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Competition oversight?

Probably dead since Regan? After they stopped controlling AT&T the UNIX-Wars happened, impcompatiblity, lawsuits, closed-source has become a normal thing and proprietary software locked users in and competitors out.

What platform will Microsoft support? Likely not:

  * Linux
  * BSD
  * MacOS
  * Nintendo
  * Sony
Does anyone miss id Software? Native ports on Linux, incredible source-code and impressive games? I use this opportunity to thank Gabe Newell and Valve and the people there for their work :)
JAlexoid(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

What does this have to do with competition?

Console platforms have not competed for games to be on their platforms for.... ever.

lowbloodsugar(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

I will miss Starcraft on macos, but I guess I already gave that up with my M1 purchase. Couldn't give two shits about any of their other games.

Trasmatta(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

> Does anyone miss id Software? Native ports on Linux, incredible source-code and impressive games?

I don't miss id software, because they're still here, continuing to make amazing games. The last two Doom games were excellent.

...incidentally, Microsoft also owns them now.

skohan(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

I honestly think behind climate change, the current state of anti-trust enforcement is one of the biggest issues facing Americans right now. It's disappointing that it's not even expected for anti-trust action to happen anymore.

dmead(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

I'm sorry. does gabe produce games anymore?

xahrepap(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Blizzard's (not sure about Activision games) ongoing support for most of those platforms has been pretty crap recently anyway. Diablo2 Resurrected removed mac support but they did add consoles.

OW only support Windows.

I guess SC2 and D3 had support for many platforms, but not Linux.

It's a crap situation that I don't think is being improved or worsened here.

simlevesque(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

What platform does Nintendo support ? It has always been like that.

LynxInLA(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Microsoft seems likely to support at least Nintendo. With Game Pass and Minecraft, they've leaned more towards gaming as a platform. Some Switch games have full MS support including Achievements, which was surprising.

tempestn(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

I'd love if they might breathe some life back into Starcraft 2, or even start working on 3. Normally I'd be worried when the company that owns my favorite game gets acquired, but it'd hardly be possible to do less with it than they already were.

redisman(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Warcraft 4 please. They made Age of Empires 4 happen too

phgn(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Mobile is the largest segment in gaming, with nearly 95% of all players globally enjoying games on mobile. Through great teams and great technology, Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will empower players to enjoy the most-immersive franchises, like "Halo" and "Warcraft," virtually anywhere they want.

So long for immersive PC and console games.

schleck8(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

Most likely via xCloud, cooperations will always opt for subscriptions.

pradn(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

There's still plenty of money in PC and console games, especially AAA ones. It's a good thing that games expand to mobile. My little cousins in India have no consoles or PCs to play on, but they happily play PUBG or Minecraft with their friends on their parents' phones. Of course, for every wholesome mobile game, there's a 100 slot machine games with no merit.

smileybarry(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

That's probably a reference to Xbox Cloud Gaming, though.

Aissen(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Upon close, we will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard's incredible catalog. [Xbox PR]

> The acquisition also bolsters Microsoft's Game Pass portfolio with plans to launch Activision Blizzard games into Game Pass [MS PR]

In case anyone still doubts that Microsoft is all-in on Game Pass.

aaronsimpson(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Diablo 4 on Game Pass definitely makes for an interesting value proposition. Maybe login will actually work this time at launch :p

freeflight(10000) 1 day ago [-]

If they want to be all-in on game pass, then they should actually go all in.

As somebody who just got game pass, I feel kinda cheated for what I get; All the games offered there are the "f2p" versions, even MS first party titles like Halo only offer the "default" versions to play "for free" when paying a monthly subscription.

It's like those free versions Epic hands out; They are playable, but they usually lack any and all of the "extra DLC content" that too often are needed to make a game actually fully fleshed out.

viktorcode(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Are you sure everything that Activision / Blizzard publishes will be on GamePass day one?

megumax(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't really understand these acquisitions made by Microsoft, first Mojang, then Bethesda and now Activision. Is Microsoft trying to revive these companies or it's just trying to leech of the market? At this moment, Activision is living out of in-game purchases, not making good games. Bethesda was almost dead when they bought it.

>Legendary games, immersive interactive entertainment and publishing expertise accelerate growth in Microsoft's Gaming business across mobile, PC, console and cloud.

I wonder what this 'cloud' means. Is Microsoft planing an alternative to Google Stadia?

sofixa(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> I wonder what this 'cloud' means. Is Microsoft planing an alternative to Google Stadia?

They already have it, Xbox Cloud Gaming. It's mostly a steaming pile of crap that can't handle billing or multi-language users without cryptic useless errors. Quality and latency are pretty bad too, and the games are meh and console versions only ( so it's poor for strategy games for instance).

gfd(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Mojang turned out to be a brilliant acquisition compared to what roblox is valued at nowadays.

fullstop(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>I wonder what this 'cloud' means. Is Microsoft planing an alternative to Google Stadia?

This already exists [1]. I sometimes play Sea of Thieves with my kids on a Linux laptop through a browser. The only thing missing is haptic feedback / controller vibration, which makes both steering the ship and fishing difficult.

1. https://www.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-game-pass/cloud-gaming

ThalesX(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

If the hype for the metaverse is a fraction true, and their distribution channels hold, these acquisitions will have been peanuts compared to the value they'll produce.

aaronsimpson(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Mojang owned Minecraft, one of the best-selling video games of all time, even when it was in a 'downtrend' because of Fortnite.

Microsoft didn't just acquire Bethesda. They acquired the entirety of ZeniMax, so Elder Scrolls Online, Fallout Shelter, Doom, Wolfenstein, Prey, Dishonored. Clearly not dead by any stretch of the imagination.

Activision Blizzard, despite the sexual harassment allegations, has Overwatch, World of Warcraft (still a profitable title), Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2 launching SoonTM. From a business standpoint, I'd say they've made the acquisitions of a lifetime.

activitypea(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

They're building the Netflix of games with the catalogue to match. Seems like short and mid term, they're focused on owning as many brands/IP as possible, and predictably, efficiently releasing solid games that don't rock the boat too much. See Gears Of War, Forza and Halo. With Bethesda and ActiBlizz, they have enough IP under them to release 3-4 okay games every year, which will make Game Pass a good value proposition when third party support eventually dies out.

taubek(10000) 1 day ago [-]

If they don't buy it, someone else will. This way they probably get a bunch of games in their catalogue, they get brand names, people, players, etc. I would say that they don't want to be left out and over run by other players.

redisman(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Revive? Bethesda will have two best selling games out in the next two years in the fairly empty AAA RPG landscape. Minecraft is a evergreen with kids with over a 100M monthly players

Historical Discussions: Do svidaniya, Igor, and thank you for Nginx (January 18, 2022: 323 points)

(1267) Do svidaniya, Igor, and thank you for Nginx

1267 points about 18 hours ago by nrvn in 10000th position

www.nginx.com | Estimated reading time – 6 minutes | comments | anchor

In the spring of 2002, Igor Sysoev began developing NGINX. He watched the meteoric growth of the early Internet and envisioned a better way to handle web traffic, a novel architecture that would allow high‐traffic sites to better handle tens of thousands of concurrent connections and cache rich content such as photos or videos that was slowing down page loads.

Fast forward 20 years, and the code that Igor created now powers the majority of websites running on the planet – both directly and as the software underlying popular servers like Cloudflare, OpenResty, and Tengine. In fact, one could easily argue that Igor's vision is a key part of what makes the web what it is today. Igor's spirit and values then shaped the company NGINX, Inc., fostering a commitment to code excellence and transparency powered by open source and community, while simultaneously creating commercial products that customers loved.

This is not an easy balancing act. That Igor is held in such high esteem by community and developers, enterprise customers, and NGINX engineers is a testament to his leadership by example with humility, curiosity, and an insistence on making great software.

So it is with sadness, but also gratitude, that we announce today Igor has chosen to step back from NGINX and F5 in order to spend more time with his friends and family and to pursue personal projects.

A Brief History of Igor and NGINX

Igor came from humble beginnings. The son of a military officer, he was born in a small town in Kazakhstan (then a Soviet republic). His family moved to the capital Almaty when he was a year old. From a young age, Igor was fascinated with computers. He wrote his first lines of code on a Yamaha MSX as a high schooler in the mid‐1980s. Igor later graduated with a degree in computer science from the prestigious Bauman Moscow State Technical University as the early Internet was beginning to take shape.

Igor started working as a systems administrator but continued to write code on the side. He released his first program in assembly language in 1999, the AV antivirus program which guarded against the 10 most common computer viruses of the time. Igor freely shared the binaries, and the program was widely used in Russia for several years. He started work on what would become NGINX after he realized that the way the original Apache HTTP Server handled connections could not scale to meet the needs of the evolving World Wide Web.

In particular, Igor sought to solve the C10k problem – handling 10,000 concurrent connections on a single server – by building a web server that not only handled massive concurrency but could also serve bandwidth‐hogging elements such as photos or music files more quickly and efficiently. After several companies in Russia and abroad began using NGINX, Igor open sourced the project with a permissive license on October 4, 2004 – the 47th anniversary of the day the USSR launched Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite.

For seven years, Igor was the sole developer of NGINX code. During that period, he wrote hundreds of thousands of lines of code and grew NGINX from a web server and reverse proxy into a true Swiss Army KnifeTM for web applications and services, adding key capabilities for load balancing, caching, security, and content acceleration.

NGINX rapidly gained market share, even though Igor spent zero time evangelizing the project and documentation was limited. Even with a missing manual, NGINX worked and word spread. More and more developers and sysadmins used it to solve their problems and accelerate their websites. Igor didn't need praise or promotion. His code spoke for itself.

NGINX Goes Commercial But Stays True to Open Source

In 2011, Igor formed the company NGINX, Inc. with co‐founders Maxim Konovalov and Andrew Alexeev, in order to accelerate development velocity. Even though Igor understood that now he and his team needed to figure out ways to make money, they made a vow to maintain the integrity of the open source version of NGINX and to keep its permissive license. He has been true to his word. Under Igor's direction, NGINX has consistently improved its open source product in more than 140 releases since the company's founding. Today NGINX software powers hundreds of millions of websites.

On the road raising venture capital for NGINX, Inc. – (from right) Igor, CEO Gus Robertson, co‐founders Andrew Alexeev and Maxim Konovalov

In 2011, the idea of adding functionality to a commercial version in the form of proprietary modules was novel thinking; today, numerous open source startups follow this path. When that commercial version, NGINX Plus, launched in 2013, it was warmly received. Four years later, NGINX had over 1,000 paying customers and tens of millions in revenues, even as NGINX Open Source and the NGINX community continued to grow and prosper. By the end of 2019, NGINX was powering more than 475 million websites and in 2021, NGINX became the most widely used web server in the world.

Always looking to the future, Igor has overseen the rapid development of other popular NGINX projects, including NGINX JavaScript (njs) and NGINX Unit. He also architected a new implementation of the sendfile(2) system call which was incorporated into the open source FreeBSD operating system. And as the ranks of NGINX engineers have grown and the company has joined F5, Igor has remained a steady behind-the-scenes presence, providing vision and guidance that has kept NGINX on the right path.

Carrying On Igor's Legacy of Excellence

Today, our paths diverge with Igor stepping back for a well‐deserved break. Fortunately, his spirit and the culture he created are not going anywhere. In great companies, products, and projects, the DNA of the founder is persistent and immutable. Our approach to products, community, transparency, open source, and innovation have all been shaped by Igor and will continue with Maxim and the NGINX leadership team.

The ultimate legacy of Igor's time with NGINX and F5 is, of course, the code itself. Igor wrote much of the code that is still in use today. The test of time will be whether we can continue to write code as timeless and create products as useful and widely respected as Igor has. It's a high bar, but Igor has left us in a good place to live up to these aspirations. Igor – thank you so much for all the years working with us and we wish you the very best in your next chapter.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

granshaw(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

I remember the days circa 2009 when the Nginx docs pages still had lots of Soviet-style graphics... those were the days :)

mmaunder(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

Yeah that was great. I think we all felt like we had a secret superpower few others knew about.

nathansherburn(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

I'd love to see this if anyone has a screenshot from this era!

scotty79(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

> Do svidaniya

I wonder if using English letters to write Russian phrases is acceptable practice for native Russians.

Does it sound respectful, neutral or like a mockery?

I don't mean in context of that post, which obviously is respectful, but in general. Especially when unicode is a thing and you could just write до свидания

lostmsu(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

That depends on the person who is listening/reading.

mongrelion(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

It's common practice amongst Russian/Ukrainian/Belorussian/Bulgarian speakers to write in Latin alphabet when Cyrillic is not available. I know for a fact that this is taught at school in Russia. Not sure if in other countries.

forkerenok(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

I think it depends :)

Back when texting (SMS) was still a big thing, you had a choice to either write in English letters and enjoy 140 char limit per message or write in Cyrillic and have it reduced to 70 chars. Many were doing the former. I assume many other countries with non-latin alphabet had the same.

ilya_m(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

Native Russian speaker here. It is a perfectly acceptable and common practice when one wants to include Russian phrases in an otherwise non-Cyrillic text. 'Doveryai no proveryai', etc.

atemerev(10000) about 2 hours ago [-]

While it is a little more difficult for us to read transliterated text, it is pretty common, and the only way to write something in Russian without a Cyrillic keyboard. So no worries, it is quite acceptable.

xxs(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

Transliteration is extremely common in all Slavic speaking countries.

Flip note: the letters are not 'English', they are Latin (or Roman).

orthoxerox(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

What if he was Japanese? Would you prefer to see 'Sayonara' or '左様なら'?

schoolornot(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

It still surprises me that NGINX beat out Apache so quickly even though Apache had way more modules and was/is entirely free vs. NGINX which is more or less 'open core' with some nice features requiring commercial licensing.

ianbicking(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

I think the modules were Apache's curse, they made it possible to bring down Apache. Speed is great, but Always Responding is a more important feature. I'm sure most Nginx configurations could have been done with Apache without any real performance issue, but Apache hurt its own reputation by doing extra things poorly.

qbasic_forever(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

The web changed. We moved away from static HTML pages and CGI scripts to monolithic application servers in java, ruby, python, etc. Apache excelled with these static content sites and simple auth scenarios (remember .htaccess files?) but became painfully complex proxying application servers. Nginx was doing exactly what was needed at exactly the time it was needed.

snowwrestler(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

We added Nginx to our hosting environment in front of Apache and knew a bunch of other folks who did the same. The outwardly visible adoption of Nginx was not necessarily zero-sum with Apache's footprint at first.

In my case we scaled Drupal and Wordpress sites by using Varnish as a reverse proxy cache in front of Apache. But then we wanted to go HTTPS across the board, which Varnish does not handle. So we terminated HTTPS in Nginx and then passed the connection back to the existing Varnish/Apache stack. I know other folks just skipped or ripped out the Varnish layer and used Nginx for both HTTPS and caching.

At the time both Drupal and Wordpress (and other popular PHP projects) depended on Apache-specific features for things like pretty URLs and even security. Over time, the community engineered away from those so there was little reason to prefer Apache anymore.

jasonhansel(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

I'm reminded of how Linux beat GNU Hurd, or how systemd is slowly replacing SysVinit. Highly modular systems often lose out to more monolithic ones, since they tend to be slower, more complex, and harder to use in practice, despite their theoretical advantages.

f311a(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Which modules do you miss in nginx that are free in Apache?

masklinn(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

On the other hand, the unreadable weird-ass pseudo-XML configuration files of Apache made anyone touching them wish for something better.

I also expect ngx_lua did a lot for adoption, the fact that you could always 'shell out' to lua if you needed was a huge boon even just for peace of mind.

mise_en_place(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

I remember in the early 00s WAMP/LAMP was the stack of choice in getting quickly setup for writing web applications, but configuration was often painful, especially on the Apache side. At that time I was working on hobby projects like one private server I used to administer. When Rails came out it was just a breath of fresh air compared to PHP and I distinctly remember switching to that. NGINX was also picking up steam at that time as well

yesbabyyes(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

To me, it coincided with async (long polling/comet/SSE), more live, web applications. Apache had a horrible story around this, with one thread per connection (I believe Apache 2 may have had an optional execution model, which was also uncomfortable for some reason).

I used lighttpd for this, mentioned in another thread, rather than nginx, which was a similar breath of fresh air coming from Apache -- not only for the event loop model built around epoll and friends, but also the configuration and general deployment.

SkyPuncher(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

For me, the simplicity of Nginx is what beats it out over Apache.

I've always felt like Nginx 'just works' by default and creating configurations is relatively easy.

larrywright(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

At the time time there was no commercial Nginx, only open source. Also, Apache was a huge pain to configure for anything other than configuring static files. Nginx config was a delight to deal with by comparison.

dano(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

It should be remembered that NGINX is used as a reverse proxy for a lot of servers behind the scenes. That NGINX is the web server identified up front doesn't mean as much as it might because of this architectural construct. I use NGINX to front a sites that have Apache on the back end and as a result, the Internet spiders think my websites are running NGINX rather than Apache. NGINX is incredibly easy to configure as a reverse proxy, image router, and SSL front-end. Thanks Igor.

lstodd(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Back when the Apache was beaten there was no commercial licensing in Nginx.

Also the Apache that was beaten was Apache 1, which was fork-only, and that was the whole reason Nginx was written in the first place.

Then Apache did Apache2 with mpm modules and badly missed the mark. After that Apache was doomed. No async support == dead. It was that simple.

taf2(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

Back in 2005-6 , nginx was so far ahead a generation of engineers adopted it... it's use of signals to zero downtime upgrade (USR2) - still is one of the best features few other servers get right.

The syntax to configure is clear enough while not being super verbose...

colechristensen(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

Nginx always worked better and didn't need to be tuned like Apache until you got to really enormous scales which were rare while even a little load on apache would require tweaking settings and experimentation.

madrox(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

I don't know how surprising it is, considering ease of use and 'just works' beats all other considerations every time. If it didn't, we'd still all be using Novell.

jacquesm(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Convenience is often worth a lot more than the ultimate in flexibility.

This is why email is now more or less the domain of a couple of very large companies.

hericium(10000) about 6 hours ago [-]

I can't help having bad feelings about this. The first thing I could think of was what Google has become during the post-Brin-Page era.

I hope I'm wrong but this could be an indicator of some changes F5 is about to introduce.

sbarre(10000) about 3 hours ago [-]

I mean, as soon as F5 bought nginx you could have predicted that.

nkozyra(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

I really take for granted how well Nginx works across a number of web backend functions.

Some of the container/orchestration world has tried to supplant the need for it as a reverse proxy, but you get so many goodies out of the box just by sticking this in front of your app, and for very little overhead.

I remember the pre-Nginx days and all of the struggles people routinely ran into with options like Apache or other reverse proxy tools.

stormbrew(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

I mean there was lighttpd before nginx and they have/had pretty similar structures, weights, etc.

I feel like I knew at one point why it got so thoroughly supplanted by nginx but I don't remember now why that happened.

indigodaddy(10000) about 7 hours ago [-]

I'm sure that when it was only Nginx and Apache for reverse proxy options it was the only way to go, however, these days for rev proxy, I prefer HAProxy for enterprise and Caddy for personal stuff..

lifeisstillgood(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

I know this is massively off-topic (have a good well paid 'retirement' Igor), but I assumed that it would be written as

Dos Vidaniya

instead of (the correct)

Do svidanyia

My Russian studies is limited to listening to Sean Connery in The Russia House, and I guess I took Dos from the latin languages. Odd.

jt2190(10000) about 2 hours ago [-]

The process is called "Romanization of Russian" [1], and there are various standard ways to do it.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanization_of_Russian

buybackoff(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

It's worse than that, the first thing that I scanned in the article is if he is alive. A title like that without a pre-defined context more often, in my native Russian perception, could mean much worse that just leaving a company. I'm glad he's doing well, I really enjoy NGINX as a casual user. It is a great gift to people. Удачи (good luck) or всего хорошего (best wishes) would not trigger such a reaction to scan the article for me.

I've just counted: only on the 13th paragraph I could get the answer.

xxpor(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

I had the same thought. I think it's more Slavic vs Germanic/Romantic. 'sv', without a vowel, doesn't exist in any word I can think of. However, in Russian, consonant clusters like that are pretty common. See also, from the article, Sberbank. I'd bet there's plenty of examples in reverse too.

c7DJTLrn(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

I thought it was a typo and meant to say 'to'. Why not use Cyrillic here? Bit odd.

jjtheblunt(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

do (till) svidaniya (seeing, i think it's called gerundive in english grammar)

piskov(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Do (до) is basically "till"

Svidaniye (Свидание) has several meanings:

- most common modern single-word usage is for date as in "romantic date"

- archaic is for "meeting" that remained in this goodbye form.

So "do svidaniya" is literally for "till we meet again" :-)

AzzieElbab(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Dos Svidanya would be a great cocktail name.

univalent(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Oh my gosh, I thought he passed away.

YPPH(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

Same. An editorialised title may have been preferable, but I understand the rules here generally don't allow that.

achillean(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

In January 2021, Nginx took over Apache as the #1 web server on the Internet that users can install:



I'm a bit surprised it didn't happen earlier as it feels like it's been the dominant choice for tech people.

vallavaraiyan(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

Wordpress had some say in this i think.

oefrha(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

Too many shared hosts with LAMP not updating their stack in ages, I suppose.

mmaunder(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

"Igor has chosen to step back from NGINX and F5 in order to spend more time with his friends and family"

I wonder what this is really about.

Either way Nginx is the reason myself and many others were able to survive without raising venture capital because we didn't need a massive horizontal cluster of Apache servers consuming 20 to 100Mb per concurrent connection. Personally I scaled above 100k current connections on a single front end nginx box with 6 Apache application servers on the back end in 2007 thanks to Igor's incredible work. He really has made a massive contribution to the fundamental plumbing of the Web and should be recognized for it.

anyfoo(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

> I wonder what this is really about.

Maybe just that? That's pretty much what retirement is about, also. Doesn't say that Igor won't work on personal or even non-personal projects at all, just that more time will be available for, well, friends and family.

jcampbell1(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

I think he was detained recently by the police because there is a claim that he started Nginx while employed at another company. Seems like some sort of shakedown by politically connected people.

bpodgursky(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

It's been 20 years, it could be true.

Usually not, but that's the nice part of this kind of letter; it's always plausible.

harikb(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

With Almaty, Kazakhstan in the news recently because of protests [1] , I thought this part was interesting

> Igor came from humble beginnings. The son of a military officer, he was born in a small town in Kazakhstan (then a Soviet republic). His family moved to the capital Almaty when he was a year old.

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-59927267

gostsamo(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

All the soviet republics are former imperial Russia territories and have substantial russian minorities. Of course, Russia would never admit doing colonization like its western counterparts, but just spreading culture and civilization around.

jakub_g(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Fun story time: a few years back I worked at a major EU 'traditional' (non-FAANG) IT company, and they were using Apache for handling web traffic. Rumour was that nginx, being already a backbone of half of internet, was dismissed as 'too new' :) (we're talking mid-2010s)

philliphaydon(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Haha that reminds me of a company I worked at that used some MS library for .net.

I think it was like Microsoft.WebMatrix.Data

It essentially was a micro ORM written using dynamic but had no caching so it performed terribly with all the reflection. It was a drop in replacement to use Dapper. But dapper was dismissed due to it being "Demoware" despite it running stackoverflow. I left that place 2 weeks later.

INTPenis(10000) about 6 hours ago [-]

This story really shows the hype of nginx. It wasn't the backbone of half the internet until 2021.

Don't get me wrong, I am an nginx user now for the past decade at least but when it first came out I was very skeptical. People were saying apache was too bloated but you could already run apache with as few modules as possible so that was a false argument.

Then there was the c10k challenge of course. Basically, a lot of hype for nginx but it came out on top in the end so I guess it doesn't matter.

lmilcin(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Waiting for everybody else to test the product before you migrate is perfectly common sense strategy. Especially if that product does not give you any special edge over competition.

graderjs(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

I'm an experienced dev with a deep knowledge of full stack web as well as infrastructure but I've never put nginx in front of any app. I want to but I honestly avoided it because I thought it was difficult. This may not be the right place to ask but is there a good guide for someone who's deep into nodejs who just wants to set up nginx on Debian in front of a node server with https? and just see how it goes.

saberdancer(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

Given your experience, it should be extremely simple, especially if all you want to do is drop NginX infront of your NodeJS server. All you have to do is install it and add a line in the config that points traffic to your NodeJs instance. Btw often times people use Nginx as SSL termination and use http to the backend (if on the same instance).

Let's Encrypt can automatically add lines to the nginx config that enable SSL, but in some cases it doesn't work properly and the config is malformed. In any case not hard to fix.

kkiinnpptt(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

It's not that hard. DigitalOcean has good guides.

fdfsdfasdfd(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

I'm just a fool on the internet, but if your appserver is NodeJS, you might want to consider HAProxy over nginx (I say this as a fan of nginx).

The reason being that (unless my information is stale), NodeJS will happily accept all the connections thrown at it, eventually causing each connection to be starved of compute capacity and finally falling over. HAProxy is able to keep a connection queue and feed a maximum of (for example) 4 concurrent requests to the backend(s), thus providing back-pressure to incoming requests. Makes it a lot easier if you need to eventually scale your app horizontally, too.

davidzweig(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

NGINX course on https://acloudguru.com/ is good.

eliseumds(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

People need to stop with this Cloudflare captcha madness. I literally accessed nginx.com a few hours ago and now it hit me with a captcha again.

yjftsjthsd-h(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Also... It's nginx.com, owned by F5. Am I the only one who thinks it's a little weird, borderline embarrassing, that they're not fronting traffic themselves? 'We make the best load bouncers and web server. That's why we ... Outsourced our ingress to another company that doesn't use our load balancers and which only uses our web server as part of their stack. Let the experts deal with heavy traffic, y'know?'

Suchos(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Are you using Safari by any chance? I used to get a lot of these on Safari, but issue is almost gone on Firefox. I think it's connected to how Safari handles cookies.

shadowgovt(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Cloudflare uses a heuristic trust model where it pulls multiple trust signals from the client. It can use several things (including stable IP address, cookies, and I think even a bit of JavaScript grabbing a nonce from local storage).

If you run with a lot of 'identity fuzzers' (browsing through Tor, JavaScript off, cookies banned), Cloudflare can't build its trust heuristics and needs to challenge-response more often. I suspect there's overlap between HN readers and use of those sorts of tools, so I think there is a disproportionate number of people around here who run into this issue (whereas most 'regular' folk almost never see a Cloudflare challenge / response).

javajosh(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

But is it pronounced 'Ee-gore' or 'Eye-gore'? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyU99BCNRuU

orthoxerox(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

Ee-gor, with r a palatalized alveolar tap.

shadowgovt(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Impressive. I thought the only way you were allowed to quit working on an open source project was to commit a new version where you delete everything and introduce a chunk of code to put clients into an infinite loop. I'm impressed Igor was able to find an alternative. /s

(More seriously though, his work is impressive and I hope his next adventure is at least as fulfilling).

er4hn(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Igor and the rest of the Nginx team achieved commercial payments by offering premium modules. Later on they were acquired by F5 networks. He achieved the goal.

aprao(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

Can someone summarize what allowed nginx to surmount the C10K problem? Was it some clever trick or just good software design?

vishnugupta(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

IMO Ngnix takes advantage of the fact that most of the web workload is I/O bound. It's tight loop main thread coupled with asynchronous delegation enables it to stay single threaded. It doesn't spawn new thread per request which means it doesn't need additional memory to handle new requests.

This is a very good article which goes into details, highly recommended


taterbase(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

If memory serves me, nginx succeeded by relying on epoll primitives for handling many connections rather than spinning up a thread per request by default like apache did at the time. That was the big difference back then. These days I imagine Apache has adopted/honed these same techniques.

tommiegannert(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

I was working on adding custom sharding for a reverse proxy in Nginx ten years ago. The code was absolute bare-bones. No comments, no tests. And still it worked really well. Scary and cool, were my thoughts at the time.

There are three things I think stood out (not tied to C10K):

1. The configuration format is light-weight. Compared to Apache, lighttpd and others at the time, you could build a static file server or a reverse proxy in just 3-4 lines of configuration. It lowered the bar of entry, and is probably what led to wide adoption.

2. The core of Nginx was (is?) an async data pipeline. The individual modules (proxy, file system) defined how the pipes tie together, but the actual pumping of data was done in a kernel. You never had to care about epoll(2) and the like; you just defined the DAG. And that was easy to do correctly even in bare-bones C. This was a good architecture.

3. Single-threaded IIRC, which might be the C10K answer you were looking for. Apache had the complicated configuration where you had to decided to use prefork, or threads, or...

Lastly, it was fast. Probably because of (2), and a prerequisite for (3).

devy(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

It took a good 5 minutes read of the entire blog post to understand that 'Do Svidaniya' is actually 'До Свидания' (Russian), meaning 'until next time/Goodbye'.

ianai(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

I thought maybe it was somebody's name and just a really horribly formed sentence. Because, ya know...

jacquesm(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Listen to more Zemfira...

leeoniya(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

i speak russian fluently and still parsed the title as 'Do' + <indian name>

contravariant(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

Is the title a reference to hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy or is that too far-fetched?

bigdict(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

Ha, I didn't read it like that but now I see it totally could have been a reference.

mwcampbell(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

> a novel architecture

Is this simply referring to event-driven I/O (using select, epoll, or the like), or something else? I'm pretty sure event-driven, as opposed to forking or thread-per-connection, web servers were well established by 2002, though perhaps primarily in commercial products like Zeus.

vbernat(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

There is also the worker model and the zero-impact reload (but I don't know if Zeus had that too).

uticus(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

I also wondered this. Similar:

> In particular, Igor sought to solve the C10k problem – handling 10,000 concurrent connections on a single server – by building a web server that not only handled massive concurrency but could also serve bandwidth‐hogging elements such as photos or music files more quickly and efficiently.

...I'd love to hear more details

tryauuum(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

I remember watching a video from some conference where Igor participated. As soon as he says 'Hello, I'm Igor Sysoev, creator of nginx' the audience bursts with extra-long applause. He even had to tell them 'Come on guys, you haven't heard my presentation yet'

a_c(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

Would love to see that talk!

mobilio(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

To non-russian speaking users: 'Do Svidaniya' means 'Goodbye'.

smarx007(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

To add a bit more, 'svidaniye' means a date, and 'Do svidaniya' literally means 'till [our next] date'. In English, 'see you' or 'see you later' translates closest to the original phrase in Russian.

app4soft(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Here are relevant Russian discussions on OpenNET[0] & LOR[1].

N.B. From Nginx company history on Wikipedia:

> On 12 December 2019, it was reported that the Moscow offices of Nginx Inc. had been raided by police, and that Sysoev and Konovalov had been detained. The raid was conducted under a search warrant connected to a copyright claim over Nginx by Rambler—which asserts that it owns all rights to the code because it was written while Sysoev was an employee of the company. On 16 December 2019, Russian state lender Sberbank, which owns 46.5 percent of Rambler, called an extraordinary meeting of Rambler's board of directors asking Rambler's management team to request Russian law enforcement agencies cease pursuit of the criminal case, and begin talks with Nginx and with F5.[2]

[0] https://www.opennet.ru/opennews/art.shtml?num=56535

[1] https://www.linux.org.ru/news/opensource/16745652

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nginx#History

avrionov(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Was the case resolved? Wikipedia doesn't provide any further information?

nimbius(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

unrelated but ive always thought the F5 acquisition of NGINX made little sense. I think F5 saw the writing on the wall a little late, panicked, and bought the first competitor they could come up with that showed up in a Gartner quadrant.

so much of the NGINX product that aligns with F5 as a competitive element is essentially already implemented and free by people who are already completely competent in load balancing. unless companies seek to reduce risk by bolting on a support contract...why F5 at all?

can someone from the biz side of the HN house chime in perhaps?

oneplane(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

I mostly see it in businesses that aren't very competent and/or have a support/licensing partner that presents them a tunnel vision they cannot deviate from. F5 specifically is usually also just 'what they always had', or part of a bundle.

merps(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

Well, if may offer a view.. your are correct in your second paragraph the aspect that most people miss is that F5 is not only an enterprise product but primary systems (energy/gas/etc) and Telco (3/4/5G). The acquisition of NGINX is to complement that footprint. Just a different view.. be well yeah..

iolo(10000) about 5 hours ago [-]

F5 was very much a hardware company in a world of software vendors. The high and low end of the hardware market has shrunk rapidly as cloud has taken over. At high end, cloud providers like Amazon, Facebook and Google are building their own hardware[0] and at the other end, companies are increasingly just using those cloud providers.

For any large company, the easiest way to enter a new market is to just buy some of the competition. Of Nginx's competitors, most are either not 'enterprise-y' enough (Caddy) or are already part of the CNCF (Traefik, Envoy). Really, I think the only other option could have been HaProxy.

[0] https://www.geekwire.com/2017/amazon-web-services-secret-wea...

snowwrestler(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

I will say that as someone who managed a leased hosting environment years ago, we dropped our expensive F5 device once it became clear we could do the same load balancing in Nginx for the cost of a virtual server. Even with a small support contract from Nginx it was way cheaper.

nick__m(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

iRule are the things that makes the F5 appliance special, it enables you to run TCL on a variety of events (ex: HTTP_REQUEST, CLIENT_CONNECTED...). Some typical uses are requests and responses modification, logging, bug fixes on closed source web applications... I also the F5 device support various permissions levels to enable delegation/separation of administrative privileges.

codermojo17(10000) about 5 hours ago [-]

They had no integration plan, so I assumed they bought it to get some street cred for the push to become a modern devops software company (instead of hardwar) and also to kill nginx as they were beginning to win sales. I used to work at nginx and F5.

blunte(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

I started with Apache long ago, and then I moved to Nginx. 15+ years have passed.

Why did Apache never become a real competitor? I didn't A/B test with Apache and Nginx - I just read slashdot and later HN, and I trusted people who ran much bigger sites. But how could Nginx take such a lead that Apache could never catch up to?

vmurthy(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

>I just read slashdot and later HN, and I trusted people who ran much bigger sites. But how could Nginx take such a lead that Apache could never catch up to?

I read that in the last 10 years or so, this is what has happened to other successes like Slack etc : The users are becoming the decision makers as opposed to CXO handing down tools. I think developer advocacy was one of the major reasons.

toast0(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

You can do a lot with the the one process per connection model of Apache 1.3 and 2.x mpm-prefork, but there are some limitations. But I think the code reorganization to support all the different mpms was a lot of work, and not a lot of benefit for everyone, so some organizations stayed with 1.x. There's a lot of jack of all trades in Apache, but if you want to handle specific conditions, you really need to tune it properly. And some of the out of the box stuff was just wrong.

If you're pre-forking, you really shouldn't scale the number of children up and down, it should always run the maximum number you want to run (whatever that is). Because a connection ties up a child, you need to do a bunch of stuff to limit the time you need apache to be touching the request; you really should run an os with accept filters, and not touch the connection until the request is ready; you need a large socket buffer so you can write the whole response and close the socket and let the OS finish sending it while Apache works on the next request; you also need to disable http-keepalive (or do something crazy; Yahoo had a 'cheapalive' daemon that would pass client sockets back and forth with (y)apache --- when the connection was idle, pass to cheapalived which puts it into a select (or kqueue/epoll, I don't remember) loop; when a socket had data to read, it would be sent back to (y)apache to process the request.

But the apache documentation wouldn't guide you into any of this, really. You'd try a normal seeming config, get things that worked, until it got busy, then spun up too many children and ground to a halt, probably swapping excessively on the way. Or just had too many people trying to do keep-alive and have 0% cpu and doing nothing. Or maybe spinning your wheels trying to get threaded mpm's to work (but they don't work with most of the popular mod_X's anyway). The market seems to be telling us that a big kqueue/epoll is the solution we want, but well tuned pre-fork can also do a lot; it kind of depends on if your bottleneck is the http server or if your bottleneck is your application code. If you've written your application code well enough that the http server is the bottleneck; congratulations! (or you might be a static content server, but then your bottleneck might well be your NICs or your OS TCP stack)

ZoomZoomZoom(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Wow, you usually don't start a headline with 'do svidaniya', unless it's for an obituary.

Glad to see everything's fine.

rzzzt(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

My heart also skips a beat if I see a news article starting with '<First> <Last>, <occupation>'.

Historical Discussions: PayPal faces lawsuit for freezing customer accounts and funds (January 14, 2022: 810 points)

(811) PayPal faces lawsuit for freezing customer accounts and funds

811 points 5 days ago by I_am_tiberius in 10000th position

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

Three PayPal users who've allegedly had their accounts frozen and funds taken by the company without explanation have filed a federal lawsuit against the online payment service. The plaintiffs — two users from California and one from Chicago — are accusing the company of unlawfully seizing their personal property and violating racketeering laws. They're now proposing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all other users who've had their accounts frozen before and are seeking restitution, as well as punitive and exemplary damages.

Lena Evans, one of the plaintiffs who'd been a PayPal user for 22 years, said the website seized $26,984 from her account six months after it got frozen without ever telling her why. Evans had been using PayPal to buy and sell clothing on eBay, to exchange money for a poker league she owns and for a non-profit that helps women with various needs.

Fellow plaintiff Roni Shemtov said PayPal seized over $42,000 of her money and never got an acceptable reason for why her account was terminated. She received several different explanations when she contacted the company: One customer rep said it was because she used the same IP and computer as other Paypal users, while another said it was because she sold yoga clothing at 20 to 30 percent lower than retail. Yet another representative allegedly said it was because she used multiple accounts, which she denies.

Shbadan Akylbekov, the third plaintiff, said PayPal seized over $172,000 of his money without giving him any explanation why the account got limited in the first place. Akylbekov used the account of a company his wife owns to sell Hyaluron pens, which are needle-less pens that inject hyaluronic acid into the skin. After the money disappeared from the account following a six-month freeze, PayPal allegedly sent his wife a letter that says she 'violated PayPal's User Agreement and Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) by accepting payments for the sale of injectable fillers not approved by the FDA.' It also said that the money was taken from her account 'for its liquidated damages arising from those AUP violations pursuant to the User Agreement.'

PayPal has long angered many a user for limiting accounts and freezing their funds for six months or more. One high-profile case was American poker player Chris Moneymaker's who had $12,000 taken from his account after six months of being limited. Moneymaker was already in the process of asking people to join him in a class action lawsuit before his funds were 'mysteriously returned.'

Part of the complaint reads:

'Plaintiffs bring this class action against Defendant PAYPAL, INC. ('PayPal') to recover damages and other relief available at law and in equity on behalf of themselves, as well as on behalf of the members of the class defined herein... This action stems from Defendant's widespread business practice of unilaterally seizing funds from its clients' financial accounts, without cause and without any fair or due process.

PayPal places a 'hold' on Plaintiffs' own funds in their own PayPal accounts. PayPal has failed to inform Plaintiffs and members of the class of the reason(s) for the actions PayPal has taken, even telling Plaintiffs and members of the class that they will 'have to get a subpoena' to learn the simple information as to why PayPal was holding, and denying Plaintiffs, access to their own money.'

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

rpaddock(10000) 5 days ago [-]

They did this to my late wife's account. They demanded that I prove she was dead, as if I didn't already have enough grief. See the documentary Pain Warriors about that saga.

How do I sign up to be part of this suite?

navbaker(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Did they ask for something more than a death certificate or something similar? That should have been enough, right?

datavirtue(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Why doesn't this fall under the CFPB? The money is held in a bank account which ultimately belongs to the PayPal customer.

When I was in the prepaid card industry we held money for people in our bank account just like PayPal does. The bank held us to account for each of our customers. We accidentally prevented some people accessing thier finds for a few days due to a software glitch and had our asses handed to us. As we should have.

One lady was prevented from accessing her $200 for a few days and her lawyer extracted our maximum arbitration amount of $8000 from us.

dragonwriter(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Why doesn't this fall under the CFPB?

Who said it wouldn't? Government action to vindicate consumer rights is generally complaint-based and not exclusive of private rights of action, so a private class action isn't evidence that a thing is not also within the enforcement jurisdiction of a government agency.

YXNjaGVyZWdlbgo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I went to visit the US and transferred just 500 Dollars to a friend for our shared Airbnb. The account got suspended because of 'unusual activities' I called them and told them it was myself transferring funds and it still took them two weeks to reinstate the account...

lkxijlewlf(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I had a CC lock my account once when I went on a trip to several places in a quick amount of time. I called them and worked it out. Their algos thought it was someone had stolen my card.

Now, before I go on vacation or make a large purchase, I call them and tell them what I'm going to do. I've never had a problem since doing that and it's a very quick call, actually.

I wonder if anyone has tried same with PayPal.

tjpnz(10000) 5 days ago [-]

All I had to do was login to be suspended a few minutes later for 'suspicious activity'. Fortunately I didn't have any money in my account. Fuck PayPal.

FireBeyond(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I paid my PayPal credit card with my PayPal balance (which was 'cleared funds'), $700 or so, and that triggered a three week hold on both my card and my balance.

tootahe45(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Governments need to ban 'shotgun KYC', which is where they let you put funds in the account before they freeze it and make you do KYC, rather than making you do KYC directly on sign-up. You're effectively forced to give away your info or lose the funds. Sites like Paypal don't want this to happen because registrations would drop off majorly if you had to KYC on sign up.

Sargos(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Governments encourage and are the ones pushing shotgun KYC so I would maybe phrase your comment more like 'Citizens need to rebel against 'shotgun KYC'.

bastardoperator(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This has been happening to folks for ages. I'm looking forward to understanding why Paypal thinks it can steal from it's customers without facing repercussions. I wouldn't do anything serious with Paypal for this exact reason.

kragen(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Because they've been doing it since last millennium, and the competing services that didn't steal from their customers went bankrupt because of fraud and reversed payments.

throwaway2474(10000) 5 days ago [-]

In my (quite extensive) experience with the company, one should only ever use PayPal as an extremely temporary means to accept payment for clients who can't pay any other way, and then immediately withdraw the funds to a real bank account.

The company absolutely cannot be trusted, and will do everything in their power to take your money and not give it back. I do not know a single person who uses PayPal regularly for a business who doesn't absolutely hate the company, because they do this type of thing so regularly.

Recently, when you log into a business account, there is a giant alert that looks like an important warning, that actually says you're "eligible for a business loan". You have to dismiss it every single time with the little non-default no thankyou button. And then beg them to give you access to your own money, because apparently you can't be trusted.

I for one would love to see a lawsuit like this land.

danlugo92(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> and then immediately withdraw the funds to a real bank account.

If you link your bank account, you're at risk of them pulling funds from your bank account due to [reasons].

There's been such cases.

tehwebguy(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I would add that folks should have a bank account connected to PayPal (etc) that is separate from your day to day accounts.

Not only will it localize any problems[0] but it will limit snooping[1].

[0] If PayPal wrongly deducts money from an account that has basically no funds in it you'll be able to deal with the problem without having your actual funds locked up.

[1] Seems like basically every non-bank is switching from ACH deposit verification to a service called Plaid that requires your bank username & password, which then screen scrapes your financial details. There's no reason to hand over your real life financial data when you can just use a dummy account.

patio11(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Prior to going to work for a direct competitor (which I was also a heavy user of), I fed my family out of a Paypal account for approximately 10 years, and had good experiences throughout. Total processed through Paypal on order of $X00,000 mostly in $30 chunks; I don't own the business anymore so can't SQL the breakdown by processor.

The one time my account was limited was after moving $3k immediately following a new apartment move in Japan. Total time to resolution: 2 minutes after calling them.

There, now you know one.

acomjean(10000) 5 days ago [-]

"using PayPal to buy and sell clothing on eBay, to exchange money for a poker league she owns and for a non-profit that helps women with various needs. "

I can see one of those things causing an issue (poker league)

We use PayPal for membership fees for our nonprofit. This year they're limiting us to 2000 a month transfer out which is annoying to us, but we're small enough to get by.

Cederfjard(10000) 5 days ago [-]

So they're preventing you from accessing your own money?

Cthulhu_(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Well if that's in their T's and C's that's fine, to a point, but they can't just silently close an account and take money from people. They need to return the money - it's not their job to play police and judge and seize illicit gains, a court has to decide whether it IS illicit and what happens to it first - and to give an explanation as to why they no longer want to do business with them.

I mean not wanting to do business is every business and person's right. But taking someone else's money without a court order or mandate is theft.

CaptainZapp(10000) 5 days ago [-]

If they don't like that their service is used for poker activities they are free to dump the customer.

What they are not free to do is to freeze his account and just keep his money.

leviathant(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Every time I've read about someone making a fuss about PayPal freezing their account, as you get into the details of their business, it quickly becomes apparent that knowingly or otherwise, they're doing something risky enough that it triggered something related to terms and conditions that they didn't bother to read. I realize that's just my anecdote, but when you're working with money, there's a lot of boring reading you should do. Quickly becomes apparent why that opportunity to fill a seemingly obvious hole in a market isn't the opportunity you thought it was.

ddtaylor(10000) 5 days ago [-]

PayPal closed an account of mine after 20 years without explaining anything because I logged in one day while still connected to my VPN.

ComodoHacker(10000) 5 days ago [-]

We should legitimize using VPN like we legitimized and then adopted e2e encryption.

mdavis6890(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is devastating to those users affected by this, but I believe that the blame doesn't lie solely with PayPal. Unfortunately there are many laws they must comply with that delegate enforcement to private companies like PayPal rather than where is belongs - the government.

From the article: PayPal allegedly sent his wife a letter that says she 'violated PayPal's User Agreement and Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) by accepting payments for the sale of injectable fillers not approved by the FDA.'

If PayPal DOESN'T freeze the account and hold the money, they can get in far larger trouble with the government. Why should PayPal be involved in this enforcement at all? If the FDA doesn't like what this seller is doing, let the FDA themselves go after the seller and leave PayPal out of it. But the law doesn't work that way.

I had $10k's in an account with BofA that was frozen and nearly killed the closing on a house I was buying at the time. Because they had a mailbox address on file for me, rather than my home address. It was horrible for me, but that's what the says that they had to do, and if they didn't the could end up in trouble with the feds facing huge penalties.

Let's try to empathize with all parties and think rationally about the incentives and constraints that they face.

kweks(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I have (almost) no issue with accounts being frozen. At the end of the day, it's a private company, they can chose if they want to do business with you or not. Likewise, holding for 180 days is aligned with most credit card chargeback limits, so they protect themselves. (There are other ways to go about this, which most other processors handle in a frictionless fashion, ie Stripe).

Having an account frozen is more than annoying, but it's their choice.

However seizing (stealing) funds is completely unacceptable, no matter how it's dressed up. Hell, even if they gave seized funds to charity it'd be slightly more palatable than lining their pockets from proceeds they deemed as 'risky'.

shkkmo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> It was horrible for me, but that's what the says that they had to do, and if they didn't the could end up in trouble with the feds facing huge penalties.

Except that most likely isn't true. The law does not require banks to have your home address. The law does require banks to verify your identity, but there are many ways to do this without requiring a 'home address'.

The 'home address' rule is self-imposed by banks and is yet another way that our country makes life unnecessarily difficult for homeless or itinerant people.

Edit: This is regarding USA law, and I realized I am not where you reside. I assumed USA because of the FDA mention but I realized that was referencing the article so may not be a good clue.

throw10920(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> think rationally about the incentives and constraints that they face

The incentives never justify unethical behavior, ever.

stronglikedan(10000) 5 days ago [-]

No sympathy here. They've been steali..err..seizing funds for decades, and dodging the lawsuits by leveraging their clout. Sure, maybe they have some regulations to follow, but they willfully choose to ignore the folks they're stealing from, instead of helping them to understand the process of getting their stolen money back, and prevent money from being stolen from them in the future. I hope they're squeezed hard on this one.

logicalmonster(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The thing that's surprising to me isn't that big corporations will do their damndest to rob people blind, it's that within minutes/hours/days after reading this thread, there will be a horde of people who read this article and smugly decry crypto saying there's no use case or purpose for it.

finiteseries(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Seizing funds without explanation or restitution is a well known use case for cryptocurrencies at this point.

miohtama(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The problem is that usually anti-money laundering laws give the operator and the compliance officer an infinite protection even on a suspected money laundering. As long as the compliance process is followed, no matter how stupid the process is, there is no legal basis to go after account freezer and the company is protected. Thus, the company has no incentive to be reasonable with account freezes.

johnebgd(10000) 5 days ago [-]

PayPal has worked hard to not be a "bank" so they are long overdue for being sued about this. I know countless vendors who have had their funds stolen.

perlpimp(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Am at paypal this is every year in compliance videos, there must be terrible and inept bureaucracy - not sure what is that side of the story. but i can see them no wanting to invite ire of regulatory punishments. go to small claims court if its a small sum. you should not keep large sums at any online outfit, paypal, coinbase or others. Even bank account is a suspect space, better stow money in money market funds for quick liquidity, its super easy to defraud it.

manbart(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Freezing the account or booting the user from the service is one thing, but seizing the money as a result without any due process seems pretty messed up IMO

notch656a(10000) 5 days ago [-]

AML/KYC laws are a travesty to a free society. Wealth transfer shouldn't be illegal. Prosecute the underlying crimes and let the judicial process seize proceeds of crime after due process. In the meantime, various electronic systems continue to provide adequate avenues for those seeking minimized exposure to KYC/AML.

kweks(10000) 5 days ago [-]

We are Europe's largest site for RFID and pentesting hardware (lab401.com)

We are in the exactly the same situation. PayPal has conducted a personalised, manually executed war of attrition against our company and shareholders.

Eight months ago, PayPal froze our account, seizing 15kEU. They refused to give any justification for the action, despite discussions with C-level staff.

After the 180-day 'withholding' period, we were informed that they would not release the funds, for undisclosed reasons.

We immediately engaged legal counsel. PayPal refused to interact with our counsel, and so a C&D was issued. Within one week of the C&D, PayPal did the following:

- Froze the account of our sister company (in Hong Kong), seizing 35k EU

- Froze the personal accounts of all shareholders of the EU and HK corps (~1,5k EU)

- Froze the business accounts of all shareholders by name search (different corporate entities, different businesses) - 5kEU

- Froze the business accounts that the shareholders held (again, different corps, different businesses) - another 5kEU

Our policy is to empty accounts on the 28th of each month. PayPal froze and seized funds in all accounts on the 27th of the month. Based on the time-stamps of the emails, and the order in which the accounts we closed, it's obvious that it was a targeted, manual process (2 - 3 minutes between closing each personal account, 15 minutes to find the next company account, 3 - 5 to close the personal accounts, and then 10 - 15 minutes for the next company accounts).

We engaged secondary legal counsel in Luxembourg (PayPal's EU headquarters). Again, PayPal refused to disclose any reason, justification or proof, replying with typo-ridden copy-pasted document from a low-level legal peon, concluding that no funds would be returned, the businesses and personal accounts were deemed 'illegal', and as such, PayPal would confiscate all funds.

All KYC was performed. All accounts had been 'audited' by PayPal (when you reach the 5k, 50k, 100k+ processing tiers).

Needless to say, operationally - we have shipped 50kEU of hardware to customers, and face losses of the hardware, and costs of replacing stock. I agree with the standpoint: this is purely racketeering - an online equivalent of Civil Forfeiture.

For extra context, as the points have been raised in other comments:

- In a perfect world, no merchant would use PayPal. In our experiments, disabling PayPal cuts revenue by ~30% in our industries.

- Pentesting products could include illegal products: keyloggers, etc. We sell no such products for obvious legal and compliance reasons. All the products we sell are sold by countless other resellers that use PayPal. We have processed Visa/MC with Stripe for over 6 years with no problems (legal, chargeback, etc)

- We empty accounts regularly, to minimize fallout. However, you have to keep a healthy minimum in accounts when dealing with large volume, or accounts get limited automatically (presumably to avoid merchants pulling cash to avoid chargebacks / refunds)

- We have already 'invested' over 20k in legal fees. I justify this cost in (perhaps falsely) believing that we could establish some case law that could benefit other merchants.

It's unfortunate that we cannot join the class action in the US, or we'd be into it. With that said, if anyone merchant in the EU has similar issues, it could be interesting to investigate if a similar action can be mounted in the EU. Feel free to reach out: simon at sn dot cm (not a typo).

throw10920(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> - Froze the business accounts of all shareholders by name search (different corporate entities, different businesses) - 5kEU

> - Froze the business accounts that the shareholders held (again, different corps, different businesses) - another 5kEU

Shareholders? Not execs, but shareholders?

If true, this is one of the worst things that I have ever seen a company do, and this should probably be the top comment.

kmlx(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> We immediately engaged legal counsel. PayPal refused to interact with our counsel, and so a C&D was issued. Within one week of the C&D, PayPal did the following:

- Froze the account of our sister company (in Hong Kong), seizing 35k EU

- Froze the personal accounts of all shareholders of the EU and HK corps (~1,5k EU)

- Froze the business accounts of all shareholders by name search (different corporate entities, different businesses) - 5kEU

- Froze the business accounts that the shareholders held (again, different corps, different businesses) - another 5kEU

how can any of this be legal? aren't there laws prohibiting such actions from PayPal?

jackson1442(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> In our experiments, disabling PayPal cuts revenue by ~30% in our industries.

I'm curious- have you considered adding other third party gateways (Apple Pay/Amazon Pay/something else)? I personally try to avoid entering my card number, so my general order of precedence is Apple Pay > Amazon Pay > Paypal > card entry.

pdimitar(10000) 5 days ago [-]

So why not use (Transfer)Wise, I wonder?

Kaze404(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Enterprise Wise accounts are not available worldwide.

voltagedivider(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yeah, I don't get it either. Never had any problems with Wise and their rates seem fair. Maybe people use PayPal just for the escrow service?

b8(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm happy that this is happening. Small buisness owners, Twitch streamers etc. can get their PayPal account locked pretty easily for 'suspicious' activity (i.e chargebacks or a few thousand dollars). Then PayPal locks their account for 180 days with little to no recourse. The big Twitch streamers register an LLC which PayPals gives more leniency to AFAIU.

foxfluff(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yeah... I've been hearing these horror stories about paypal for a very long time now and it makes my blood boil knowing that nothing's ever been done about it. I really hope that a big change is about to happen.

johndough(10000) 5 days ago [-]

'AFAIU' stands for 'as far as I understand'.

(So those who have never seen this acronym do not have to google for it.)

theplumber(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Recently I've been suspended from an 'online bank'. It's a traumatic experience, especially if you need the money held in that account.

Fortunately the amount I had there was not that big but the abusive procedure is trumatic. I can't imagine how someone would feel like to have all his rent money blocked in an online bank.

Basically you are told that unless you provide whatever documentation they want you loose the access to your own funds. Of course providing them documentation is no guarantee they will lift the restrictions. The support is via email only. The boarding and verification process it's really just a bite and switch scheme. I don't know how someone would feel safe to keep money in such a bank after they put your account/transactions on hold for days.

I start to like the 'crypto currency' concept of owning your money more and more.

clusterfish(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Your 'online bank' does not sound like an actual bank (much like PayPal isn't one).

perlpimp(10000) 3 days ago [-]

send photos of your passport etc and and append a form filled out saying that you are filing a complaint with FDIC, they wake up real quick, fines are substantial there.

jedberg(10000) 5 days ago [-]

When I worked at PayPal, some of the execs would say 'we don't make money by giving it back to people'. These were the execs that worked directly with Theil and Musk and I'm sure they're long gone, but it was definitely Theil and Musk who pushed for these types of policies right from the start (well Musk agreed when he showed up, he wasn't a founder of PayPal despite what he wants you to believe).

digisign(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Well there it is, Netcraft confirmed it.

AniseAbyss(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The concept of directly paying someone from your bank account seems completely impossible in America. There always has to be some middleman parasite- who conveniently charges a nice transaction fee for the privilege.

cuteboy19(10000) 5 days ago [-]

A UPI like system would completely solve these problems.

patio11(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The payment volume over Zelle, which is instantaneous, free, bank-to-bank transfers, was about $307 billion in 2020. For ACH transactions, it was about $62 trillion (not a typo). Wire transfers are also a thing. So are, for that matter, checks, which by ancient custom are free for all parties but the banks (at least for retail users).

That the payment industry exists when all of the above is true is a fascinating topic. I should probably cover it in a newsletter sometime.

skeletal88(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yes, why doesn't the US have something like our SEPA where we can just transfer money to someone's account?

ahefner(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The funny thing to me is that you can't always even pay money to the government itself without involving some middleman parasite that takes 1 or 2% for themselves.

dm03514(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm so happy to see this. I am working on publishing a book on leanpub, and leanpub disburses payments using paypal. Yesterday, I logged into my paypal account and I remembered that this happened to me and my funds and account were frozen since 2010 (something I must have put out of my mind :p).

I was searching for this issue and found this lawsuit and cannot wait to be part of it.

Dealing with Paypal during the time was borderline abusive and I felt helpless every step of the way. In 2010 when they froze my account they mailed me a physical letter with an activation code which took weeks, and when I called to confirm my account I was told that the code was incorrect...

I had very very little money in my account < $100 and I can't imagine how frustrating it would be for someone who needed paypal for their income.

I'm happy to be in a position where I can choose to never use paypal again and I hope they are punished for the way they treat their customers.

mcv(10000) 5 days ago [-]

For over a decade I've heard tons of stories about PayPal freezing accounts for questionable reasons. I've heard of events that were cancelled because the organizers suddenly couldn't access the money people paid to the event, and PayPal wouldn't release the money until they could prove they'd organized the event for which people paid, for which the organizers of course needed that money.

I will never ever use PayPal. Everything I've heard about them makes them sound like an extremely unreliable payment provider.They're not an organization you should trust with your money.

meonly123(10000) 3 days ago [-]

They frozen my account at Christmas. How do I get in Involved with this

kmlx(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> leanpub disburses payments using paypal

generally speaking, is it more complicated for these kinds of payments to be done via wire/swift/etc versus paypal?

designium(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Don't worry.

You won't have that money after they've implemented the inactivity fee last year: https://www.paypal.com/be/smarthelp/article/what-is-the-inac...

mickotron(10000) 4 days ago [-]

HN hates cryptocurrency.

And yet, all the comments on this thread are about banks/paypal freezing funds or transactions.

Decentralised digital money does have value and a use case. It's interesting that most here don't see that this kind of thing would not happen with crypto.

Invictus0(10000) 4 days ago [-]

PayPal is trying to stop fraud; crypto is literally the currency of fraud.

gk1256(10000) 5 days ago [-]

PayPal has the fraud problem. Every next payment platform who aims to become the next PayPal also suffer from it.

libertine(10000) 5 days ago [-]

IF they choose the path of not having humans interact with their customers, and give bot replies, then yes, such platforms will suffer from it.

If they want to invest in proper human customer service, at the cost of decreasing their margins, then maybe part of that problem will be solved.

pizza234(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That a problem of any banking institution.

Differently from Paypal though, the last time that there was a suspected fraudulent transaction in my bank account, I had a physical and factual meeting at a bank branch, rather than having my account frozen and given a stock answer.

rad_gruchalski(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Sure, but it's not up to paypal to decide what's legal and what's not legal. Definitely not their responsibility to seize money from locked accounts. That's plain theft.

ckastner(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Lena Evans, one of the plaintiffs who'd been a PayPal user for 22 years, said the website seized $26,984 from her account six months after it got frozen without ever telling her why.

Wait, what? They're actually taking the money? I thought the article was just being careless with the terms 'frozen' and 'seized'.

On what power are they doing so? It's understandable when the relevant authorities (be it a tax authority, or a financial supervisory authority, or a court, or whatever) seize money, but they are not an authority.

Furthermore, if the money in question actually were illicit, then by what fantasy argument would they be allowed to keep it themselves rather than having to hand it over to the goverment? The entire point is that the money is dirty and nobody may keep it.

gruez(10000) 5 days ago [-]

>They're actually taking the money? I thought the article was just being careless with the terms 'frozen' and 'seized'.

but that's also the plaintiff's claim, so I wouldn't exactly call that reliable.

sam0x17(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> if the money in question actually were illicit, then by what fantasy argument would they be allowed to keep it themselves rather than having to hand it over to the goverment? The entire point is that the money is dirty and nobody may keep it.

I don't know what fantasy they operate under, but back in the 2010s I observed Google doing this numerous times with 'seized' click fraud revenue -- one of my sites was a victim of a click fraud attack as an attempt to get my AdSense account banned, and my friend's site at the time was advertising on my domain via AdWords and he didn't see any kind of refund despite the $800 that was taken from me (which was the entirety of my revenue for that month). Google just keeps funds they seize I'm pretty sure, or at least they did back then.

kweks(10000) 5 days ago [-]

See my comment below: they just seized (not frozen, seized) 50k EU from us in a targetted attack against our company and shareholders because we took legal counsel when they froze the accounts.

mdek(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Per the article, Paypal is seizing the money as damages:

> It also said that the money was taken from her account 'for its liquidated damages arising from those AUP violations pursuant to the User Agreement.

nikanj(10000) 5 days ago [-]

On what power? "We are big and have money. You are small and have no money".

This has been a reliable source of power for at least a century

Jiro(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Link to actual lawsuit: https://aupdamages.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/PayPal_Fil...

(I had to Google this and find it in a Reddit thread, so it's not directly from the court's website. If anyone can find that it'd help)

kingcharles(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It took a bit to find it because PACER's search is awful. Plus you have to PAY for every search.

I bought all the current docket entries and added them to RECAP so you can download them for free:


EDIT: From PayPal's AUP in the Complaint.. yowch! 'You acknowledge and agree that $2,500.00 U.S. dollars per violation of the Acceptable Use Policy is presently a reasonable minimum estimate of PayPal's actual damages - including, but not limited to, internal administrative costs incurred by PayPal to monitor and track violations, damage to PayPal's brand and reputation, and penalties imposed upon PayPal by its business partners resulting from a user's violation - considering all currently existing circumstances, including the relationship of the sum to the range of harm to PayPal that reasonably could be anticipated because, due to the nature of the violations of the Acceptable Use Policy, actual damages would be impractical or extremely difficult to calculate. PayPal may deduct such damages directly from any existing balance in any PayPal account you control.'

Ekaros(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That took way way too long... How is it possible that this happens only now and not shortly after PayPal launched?

toast0(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I can recall reading many PayPal horror stories, but as I recall, they were all accounts frozen and then usually closed and paid out 6+months later. This story and others in comments suggest PayPal has decided not to pay out the frozen accounts anymore. Damages from freezing the money for 6 months are real, but may not be realistically legally actionable; damages from not paying the funds are clearly actionable.

thebiss(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Before Paypal launched, only companies had relationships with payment processors and could directly accept major credit cards. Individuals had basically nothing.

Paypal was a huge catalyst for online auctions and small business, and it took took time for behavior like this to develop. And as others have said, they worked hard to not be a bank.

antihero(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Thing that amazes me is that people leave huge amounts of money in their PayPal instead of withdrawing it regularly. Why not just withdraw it, and then PayPal has nothing to seize!

boring_twenties(10000) 5 days ago [-]

In the past at least, PayPal has also been known for simply taking funds from your linked banked account.

So maybe it's better to not link a bank account at all, which means leaving funds in your PayPal account until you can spend them (since you have no way of withdrawing).

tootahe45(10000) 5 days ago [-]

They offer the worst currency conversion rate imaginable when you go to withdraw to your non-US bank, so some people prefer to keep it in PP as a USD spending account i guess.

genocidicbunny(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Sometimes PayPal institutes transfer limits on accounts, so its entirely possible that they don't let you transfer out the money fast enough.

sharemywin(10000) 5 days ago [-]

If you move 50k a week it could still be a problem.

creshal(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Paypal still makes it hard for you to automatically transfer out money, so you have to remember to do it manually every so often. And then they'll block you anyway because you tried to transfer out

- too much

- too often

- too seldomly

- too little

Or any combination thereof. The only winning move it to not use it in the first place.

Historical Discussions: The curious case of the Raspberry Pi in the network closet (2019) (January 17, 2022: 795 points)
How I found the home address of the culprit who put a RaspberryPi in our Network (January 03, 2020: 3 points)

(795) The curious case of the Raspberry Pi in the network closet (2019)

795 points 2 days ago by BayAreaEscapee in 10000th position

blog.haschek.at | Estimated reading time – 7 minutes | comments | anchor

Last week I got a message from my dad (who works with me at a client) with an image attached.

Message from dad

I asked him to unplug it, store it in a safe location, take photos of all parts and to make an image from the SD card (since I mostly work remote). I have worked on many Raspberry Pi projects and I felt confident I could find out what it does.

At this point nobody thought it was going to be malicious, more like one of our staffers was playing around with something.

The parts

There were 3 parts:

  • A Raspberry Pi b first generation
  • a mysterious USB dongle
  • a 16GB sd card (a fast one)

USB dongle and SD card

First thing to do: Ask everybody who can access this network closet

The number of people who can access this small cabinet is very limited. Only 4 people have a key for this room:

  1. The manager
  2. The groundskeeper
  3. My co-worker
  4. Me

None of them knew anything about this so I asked my IT colleagues and they were as baffled as I was. I heard of people getting paid to put things like this in places they shouldn't and for this reason I was very interested in finding out what it actually does.

What is that USB dongle though?

To help me solve this mistery I asked reddit and surely enough they identified the dongle as a microprocessor, almost as powerful as the Rasberry Pi itself: the nRF52832-MDK. A very powerful wifi, bluetooth and RFID reader.

The nRF52832-MDK usb dongle

This was - no doubt - to give the old Raspberry Pi a wifi and bluetooth connection. Great so now this thing has wifi too..

Time to dissect the SD card image

The SD card has a few partitions. Most ext4 (linux) and one fat16 (boot)

GParted view of the image

Great, time to mount it.

My debian box told me the first big clue: It's a resin installation

Resin partitions on the SD Card

WTF is Resin?

Resin (now renamed to Balena) is a paid IOT web service where you can generate images for IOT devices, deploy those devices and get updates and data from and to resin.

Resin also installs a VPN on the device so the collected data is transferred securely. Obviously this device was meant to be picked up again since it leaves a trail as the service is a paid one.

Closer look at the partitions

First partition is called 'resin-boot'

See something that catches your eye? We got a config.json. Quick jackpot?

config.json on the resin-boot partition

What we can extract from this file:

  1. The application deployed to this resin device is called 'logger'. Not a good sign
  2. We got a username. This seems to be the username for the resin account associated with this device
  3. Confirmation that the device used a VPN via Port 443
  4. A registration date. It was registered (or first deployed or set up?) on May 13th 2018

About that username..

When I googled the username found in the config.json file I found a person in the same town where this Pi was found. The company then checked their records for this person but found nothing.

Oddly enough I found a website from 2001 where parents of 'gifted children' write articles about them and for some reason sign those articles with their home address and phone numbers. So I have a name and the address of this whole family.

Not the actual site but a similar one

This could be a wrong lead as usernames tend to be used by multiple people but let's just keep that name in mind.


The data directory didn't have any data stored (as in: collected data) but there was a nodejs app which was heavily obfuscated and to this day I can't tell exactly what it was doing. It seems to talk via a serial connection to the dongle but I can't extract what data is actually collected. I can only assume that it collected movement profiles of bluetooth and wifi devices in the area (around the Managers office) and maybe raw wifi packets.

But I found something much more interesting: a LICENSE.md file

Screenshot of the LICENSE.md file

Odd.. Why would this nodejs app include a confidential piece of software? I googled the company from the copyright header and guess what?

The guy from the username I found in the config file is a part owner

It is beyond me why a co-founder of a company would distribute these devices around town but well..

Getting the attackers home address

Another very interesting thing I found was a file on the third partition (resin-state) in the path /root-overlay/etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/. The file is called resin-wifi-01 and guess what it contains?

It contains the wifi credentials to the wifi that was used to set the device up (or to test it). Definitely not the wifi of the company. And what do we do, when we want to find out a location associated with a wifi name? We go to wigle.net, enter the SSID (=wifi name) and it tells us where on the world it is found.

not the actual name and not the actual location

And guess what? The address we found of that gifted persons parents? That's exactly where our Pi was set up according to Wigle.net


How and when did the Pi even get there?

I checked the DNS logs and found the exact date and time when the Pi was first seen in the network. I checked the RADIUS logs to see which employee was at the premises at that time and I saw multiple error messages that a deactivated account tried to connect to wifi.

That deactivated account belongs to an ex employee who (for some reason) made a deal with management that he could still have a key for a few months until he moved all his stuff out of the building (don't ask..).

What now

Legal has taken over, I did my part and the rest is over my pay grade.

For me it was a very interesting challenge and I'd like to thank every person on reddit who helped me with one piece of the puzzle.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

can16358p(10000) 2 days ago [-]

That one really felt like a written-version of a Mr. Robot episode.


smoldesu(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This[0] is probably what you had in mind:

[0] https://youtu.be/XTN_-pRZjoU?t=415

ranma42(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> they identified the dongle as a microprocessor, almost as powerful as the Rasberry Pi itself

Well, its more like an order of magnitude slower than the Pi (and with a lot less RAM as well)

> A very powerful wifi, bluetooth and RFID reader.

It's 2.4GHz, but only BLE and custom protocols (2 Mbit max, GFSK modulation). The SoC can do RFID, but you have to connect a transmitter coil to use it, which doesn't seem to be the case from the photo.

I'd guess this was just used as a remote control backup connection if LAN is not working?

HeyLaughingBoy(10000) 2 days ago [-]

That puzzled me too. I didn't remember the 52832 having WiFi, but I figured it was just faulty memory.

I think the dongle might just be Nordic's cheap evaluation board.

cf141q5325(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Maybe a 6lowpan interface for maintenance. This way he could interact with it from inside the room without having to access the closet.

magicalhippo(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Reminds me of this[1] good old quote from the IRC days

<erno> hm. I've lost a machine.. literally _lost_. it responds to ping, it works completely, I just can't figure out where in my apartment it is.

[1]: http://bash.org/?5273

heelix(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I've had something similar happen to me. I was freaking out that there was something I did not know on my network, as I was going through some router configurations. Searched my office, Bride's office, asked my kid - nothing. Had a pie connected to the back of a TV, drawing power and connected to my network. It bothered me for months that _something_ was there, in my house - that I had completely forgotten was mine. Christmas time rolls around and we try to plug the kid's new console into the wall mounted TV... and there it is taped to the back of the monitor.

giraffe_lady(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think the modern version of this is forgetting where a script, cron, lambda or whatever is running from.

I have something that sends me an occasional email. I haven't needed it in years, but it's not in any of the AWS regions I remember ever using. Nor in the obvious places I might have put it playing around with azure or google cloud or whatever. I'm sure I could find it if I really tried but t only emails me once or twice a year so I just let it be.

barrkel(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This is surely pretty commonplace now, with all the wireless devices we have.

GravitasFailure(10000) 2 days ago [-]

When I first read that back in the day I thought how absurd and improbable it sounded because of how big computers were at the time. Now that raspberry pis and arduinos with wifi are a thing it seems almost inevitable.

EvanKnowles(10000) 2 days ago [-]

We had a prod case where a server was being flooded with requests, and a downstream server kept falling over. We figured it was an attack of some sort and investigated, eventually traced it back to a computer inside our own network (we're a big computer, five floors of computers).

It had an open file share, containing some Delphi books and from which we got the computer name too. So we walked over to the Delphi team's side, and kept yelling the computer name until some dude said 'Hey, that's me!'

Turns out he was running a test-case, in an infinite loop until it worked (because that's how test cases worked), and he thought he was pointed at QA, but he somehow had it set up to target Prod.

Our job was done at that point, we left the rest to management (who made sure he didn't get fired but didn't do it again).

wink(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I've also had this problem once, on a university campus though.

'net send <host> 'If you can read this, please call IT SUPPORT at ... and tell us''.

It worked :)

cortesoft(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I work for a company with around 50k machines globally... one time we discovered a machine that was supposed to have been decommissioned five years prior still sitting on the network, just waiting to do its job. We ended up scanning our entire IP space and finding 10-20 other machines in the same state.

We now have a process that routinely scans our entire IP space for machines that somehow get lost from our inventory system.

soheil(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I honestly think instead of the username if an email was found and published the author would be receiving so many offers for work from Silicon Valley companies. There aren't that many talented engineers even in SV who could pull something like this off. Sad to see amoral behavior from otherwise smart creative people who're stuck in shitty jobs with shittier bosses.

HeyLaughingBoy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Are you serious?

Monitor BLE traffic, filter it to a known device (his boss') and update an IoT server with that information when it changes?

On an RPi, that's not even an afternoon of work. I mean, it's cool and I would definitely want to interview someone who did this, but it's hardly 'hire this person now!!!' material.

boringg(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Thanks OP - great read. Seems like a very sloppy network logger - I mean there's a whole raspberry pi for physical evidence! True there are probably a lot of other network hardware so it could hide in plain sight. Either way fascinating that they thought they could get away with it.

mabbo(10000) 2 days ago [-]

While the device itself is sloppy, for many organizations it's probably easier to install and less likely to be detected than a software-based attack.

How frequently does IT run scans of what software is running on the server vs how often does IT physically inspect the server? Remember, one of those things means I have to get up out of this chair and the other does not.

mrtesthah(10000) 2 days ago [-]

You have to wonder why they didn't rather create a transparent bridge on the network whose traffic they were trying to log; such a device could've even been hidden along a network cable.

marcodiego(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> [...] I got a message from my dad [...] I asked him to unplug it, [...] and to make an image from the SD card [...]

What a technical dad you have!

tlamponi(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> What a technical dad you have!

Working for over 35 years for IBM and inspiring BASIC/REXX to ones child may do the trick -> https://blog.haschek.at/about/

jokoon(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm rather curious, why can't the RPi have soldered flash memory? How much would it cost to add 2, 4, or 8GB of flash memory on it? Because I would gladly pay for a Rpi with such memory if it added 10 dollars.

I'm suspecting it would require for them to make a new SOC, breaking compability?

TaylorAlexander(10000) 2 days ago [-]

You can have this today. Raspberry Pi sells the wonderful Compute Module 4 with the normal Pi CPU on it, and it optionally comes with built in EMMC memory. You can plop it on a carrier that gives it a normal raspberry pi form factor. I use the CM4 in my projects and it's lovely.

Sorry these are two different distributors, but the CM4 is hard to find right now and the PiTray mini is cool, just couldn't find them at the same place. PiTray mini is also at Digi-Key I think.



michaelt(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Using an SD card means you can reset the Pi to factory settings by swapping the card for another; and undo the reset by swapping the cards back.

This is substantially simpler for beginners than using network boot, or messing around with a bootloader via serial console.

numpad0(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Compute module has eMMC, and they haven't been excessively costly because of it or reportedly unreliable in the way SDs are. But either way I suspect that the Foundation design team has some issues in designing power circuits rather than that SD cards being unfit or people are throwing in cheap ones.

BlueTemplar(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Thus tripling the cost of the cheapest Pi - which costs $5.

tlrobinson(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'd rather have onboard USB serial. No more trying to find a USB serial cable laying around, or enabling SSH and hunting down the IP address.

It already has the USB port for power, surely they could have gotten Broadcom to include USB serial in the SoC for negligible cost by now?

gambiting(10000) 2 days ago [-]

>>Because I would gladly pay for a Rpi with such memory if it added 10 dollars.

That's the problem with the entire RPi ecosystem - there's a lot of things people want 'even if it only adds another few dollars'. Another ethernet, proper m.2 port, better audio, so-dimm slot etc etc etc....

The Rpi is meant to be cheap. Yes it means that it might not include the feature that you want. And no, 'just making it a little bit more expensive' is not the solution here. It's already gotten way too expensive for what is was meant to be originally.

And if you really want a Pi with built in flash, then the compute module has that:


jpindar(10000) 2 days ago [-]

If your goal is to avoid using an sd card, have you considered a Beaglebone?

andygroundwater(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Was working with a NOC technician who was responsible (along with some others) for a pretty large EMEA mobile network, with many millions of subscribers. There was an RFP to update their SMS/MMS system and a certain Israeli company came in to do a site survey, or installation or something in the network data center.

Anyway the long and the short of it was one of their technicians was caught with the previous vendor's SMS-C prized open and some USB device insert into it. Similar response to this, a lot of hollering and hair pulling, but ultimately no contractual or legal implications.

I guess it happens higher up the food chain too.

WelcomeShorty(10000) 1 day ago [-]

PR makes it possible.

I have personally identified more than a handful of employees who'd use their work computers for... let's say 'access to inappropriate content'. All of them where invited by HR & legal and let go with a more then decent deal.

Absolutely everything was done to prevent the company being associated with anything nasty.

mypastself(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Gripping! Would love to read more articles in this "genre".

I'm wondering if there was an easy way for the attacker to encrypt or obfuscate some of these configuration files, so that defenders can't extract settings even when physically connected to the device.

soldeace(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The investigative work in that piece reminds me of this old case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAI8S2houW4

fmajid(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Read The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff Stoll. An oldie but a goldie.

8192kjshad09-(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Some malware will store the executable and all configuration encrypted on the disk and will only decrypt in memory with a key downloaded from the internet.

Ofcourse you can still defeat this if you dump the memory or reverse engineer the process to get the key yourself. Makes it a bit harder but still not impossible.

goodpoint(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Reminder (from a security guy): what the author did is risky. If you are really worried about a compromised server or a suspicious device call security consultant / forensic experts.

aembleton(10000) 2 days ago [-]

What are the potential risks around what he did?

mschuster91(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I do wonder when the first 'smart SFP' with embedded wi-fi appears - an unlabeled RPi in a junction box raises alarms, but a SFP module that's just a bit longer than the rest? Many would rather assume on first glance that accounting bought some cheaper crap due to delivery chain issues.

(For those OOTL, see https://blog.benjojo.co.uk/post/smart-sfp-linux-inside - it made the rounds on Twitter and HN a couple days ago)

BlueTemplar(10000) 1 day ago [-]


This reminds me of a discussion I've seen... when the Pi first came out I think ? About how we could soon make whole electric kettles or even keyboards (and Pi recently did it !) with whole spying (on wireless) computers built into them, unbeknownst to people not aware of that 'extra functionality'.

(IIRC with the context of potential Chinese spying ? The current reality is a bit more prosaic : USA can likely just use the backdoors (they likely have) in Intel CPUs (or Windows), and the Chinese - in Huawei's networking gear.)

JKCalhoun(10000) 2 days ago [-]

So, not just a Pi-Hole as I immediately first assumed.

2Gkashmiri(10000) 2 days ago [-]

now i guess a smaller pi zero can do this with a much smaller footprint

anonymousiam(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Something like this is less likely to be noticed: https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/03/the-p...

amelius(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Same category as those keylogger USB plugs.

azalemeth(10000) 2 days ago [-]

That's a very obvious and very obviously bad way of planting a network exploit. Very rookie and rather sad.

In entirely unrelated news, this guide details how to set up an encrypted boot process on a raspberry pi, with it waiting for you(r forked login agent) to ssh in and provide the LUKS password: https://github.com/ViRb3/pi-encrypted-boot-ssh

egypturnash(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The whole part with it being tracked back to a site for G/T kids makes it sound like this was a young person somewhere in the range between 'script kiddie' and 'beginner hacker', so 'rookie' sounds about right. Bored teen or twentysomething with time to kill and an interest in computers.

suifbwish(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Without reverse ssh wouldn't you need to be directly on the same network to do so?

geek_at(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Author of the article here. Since I first published this blog post I was getting messages from people asking how it ended.

Sadly it's pretty anticlimactic as the owner of the place had a meeting with the guy who put the Pi there (without me as he didn't want the Pi-dropper to feel ambushed) and in the end decided not to escalate it to legal and just basically told him to pack his things and get out.

So no legal after play and just a slap on the wrist

rheophile(10000) 2 days ago [-]

post the nodejs in a git repo so we can see what he was doing.

perfopt(10000) 2 days ago [-]

As I was reading this I was hoping for modern day Cuckoo's Egg. But it was not to be.

Great write up. Thanks for sharing.

gwd(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> So no legal after play and just a slap on the wrist

The problem with this is you have no idea what harm the guy actually may have caused; nor what other RPis he may have set up around the company or around town. Next time he may be more careful with his username, set up the disk to be encrypted w/ a network key, &c, making future exploits more difficult to track down.

makach(10000) 2 days ago [-]

omg, that guy got of the hook easy. he should play the lottery considering how lucky this was.

causality0(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Shoot, with the info you got I'd have least called his parents and tattled on him. If you can't put him in jail at least embarrass the shit out of him.

Chris2048(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> told him to pack his things and get out

I though the suspects were an ex-employee, and some guy that didn't work there (the part-owner), so was an actual current employee implicated in the end?

kumarvvr(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Seem pertinent to atleast get an affidavit from the ex-employee detailing what he as done, agree to hold on to the hardware as evidence, put liability on the employee for any time-bombs that might have been stored, ask him explicitly to give in writing all the activities he performed, etc.

Just to have a thread to pull on, in the future, when something might go wrong.

cerved(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> cat config.json | jq

cries in UUoC

helsinkiandrew(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Would have been interesting to see what they were doing - nRF52832-MDK doesn't have wifi - perhaps the person was scanning/logging bluetooth devices.

qngcdvy(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Did you ever find out what it did there exactly? Like, what it collected and what the 'gifted person' wanted to do with that data?

edit: Thanks for the write-up btw. Was a nice read, although a bit short (which is the story's fault I guess)

amelius(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Heard a story about some ethernet device cemented into a wall, perhaps on HN. Good luck finding that ...

Jolter(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Once upon a time when Zigbee was the latest hype, a friend worked on a project to cast cheap hygrometer sensors into concrete and have them report via a mesh network. Apparently sensors were predicted to be cheaper than to have an engineer walk the site taking readings to ensure it's ok to start covering it up.

eertami(10000) 2 days ago [-]

>And what do we do, when we want to find out a location associated with a wifi name? We go to wigle.net, enter the SSID (=wifi name) and it tells us where on the world it is found.

I've always enjoyed having unique/personal SSIDs, but had never seriously considered this consequence. I wonder what the worlds generic SSIDs are.

greg5green(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This feels like something that's 'security by obscurity' vs. 'security by obscurity.' Would you rather be obscure because you have the same SSID as everyone else so no one guesses which is yours or obscure because you have the same SSID as everyone else and no one knows which is yours, but it's easier to see what is going on inside the network?

One comes with more easily identifying you/your network while the other comes with being more easily hacked by readily available rainbow tables (I think, but am not sure, that WPA3 fixed this, but WPA1/WPA2 use the SSID as a salt for the password)

jon-wood(10000) 2 days ago [-]

If you're ok with people's devices making attempts at connecting, eduroam, or some variant of Starbuck's Wifi might be good options. There'll be APs broadcasting those SSIDs all over the world.

Hamuko(10000) 2 days ago [-]

'Home' returns quite a lot of results in my area on Wigle.net despite the fact that English isn't an official language here. You can probably pick and choose any generic Wi-Fi router manufacturer name. 'Linksys' paints the map pretty well.

tgsovlerkhgsel(10000) 2 days ago [-]

There's a good chance he could have also recovered a MAC from logs etc.

What's more important is that you don't set your SSID to hidden: Someone needs to broadcast the SSID for the connection to work, and if it isn't the AP, it will be your mobile device broadcasting it everywhere you go!

egypturnash(10000) 2 days ago [-]

A little browsing around wigle.net brings me to a page listing SSIDs and manufacturers: https://wigle.net/stats#ssidstats

xfinitywifi is the top, with 2% of the routers seen having that name; it's followed by XFINITY (.73%), BTWiFi-with-FON (.38%), linksys (.37%), BTWifi-X (.35%), <no ssid> (.31%). The next one is AndroidAP at .28% and that feels like a good place to stop copying data, go look at the page if you wanna see more of the world's generic SSIDs. Basically 'manufacturer name' and 'internet provider name' dominate.

CGamesPlay(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Consequence of the generic SSID is that your device will try to connect to any instance of this SSID and re-prompt for a password when it fails to do so.

pantalaimon(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The nRF52832-MDK has neither WiFi nor RFID capabilities

barbegal(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The chip has 13.56MHz RFID capabilities but obviously needs to be attached to an appropriate antenna which this dongle does not have.

Historical Discussions: More than 1M fewer students are in college, the lowest numbers in 50 years (January 13, 2022: 713 points)

(713) More than 1M fewer students are in college, the lowest numbers in 50 years

713 points 6 days ago by Takizawamura in 10000th position

www.npr.org | Estimated reading time – 14 minutes | comments | anchor

More than 1 million fewer students are enrolled in college now than before the pandemic began. According to new data released Thursday, U.S. colleges and universities saw a drop of nearly 500,000 undergraduate students in the fall of 2021, continuing a historic decline that began the previous fall.

'It's very frightening,' says Doug Shapiro, who leads the research center at the National Student Clearinghouse, where the new data comes from. 'Far from filling the hole of [2020's] enrollment declines, we are still digging it deeper.'

Compared with the fall of 2019, the last fall semester before the coronavirus pandemic, undergraduate enrollment has fallen a total of 6.6%. That represents the largest two-year decrease in more than 50 years, Shapiro says.

The nation's community colleges are continuing to feel the bulk of the decline, with a 13% enrollment drop over the course of the pandemic. But the fall 2021 numbers show that bachelor's degree-seeking students at four-year colleges are making up about half of the shrinkage in undergraduate students, a big shift from the fall of 2020, when the vast majority of the declines were among associate degree seekers.

'The phenomenon of students sitting out of college seems to be more widespread. It's not just the community colleges anymore,' says Shapiro. 'That could be the beginning of a whole generation of students rethinking the value of college itself. I think if that were the case, this is much more serious than just a temporary pandemic-related disruption.'

Graduate program enrollment, which saw an increase in the fall of 2020, declined slightly, down by nearly 11,000 in the fall of 2021.

Overall, enrollment in undergraduate and graduate programs has been trending downward since around 2012, but the pandemic turbocharged the declines at the undergrad level.

Many were hopeful that would-be undergraduates who chose to take a year off in 2020 would return in 2021, especially given the expanded opportunities for in-person learning. But the pandemic gap year appears to be a myth: The National Student Clearinghouse found that of the 2020 high school graduates who chose not to enroll in college after graduation, only 2% ended up enrolling a year later, in the fall of 2021.

'The easiest assumption is that they're out there working,' says Shapiro. 'Unemployment is down. The labor market is good. Wages are rising for workers in low-skilled jobs. So if you have a high school diploma, this seems like a pretty good time to be out there making some money.'

Wages at the bottom of the economy have increased dramatically, making minimum-wage jobs especially appealing to young people as an alternative to college. In December, for example, jobs for non-managers working in leisure and hospitality paid 15% more than a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That could be the beginning of a whole generation of students rethinking the value of college itself. Doug Shapiro, National Student Clearinghouse

'It's very tempting for high school graduates, but the fear is that they are trading a short-term gain for a long-term loss,' Shapiro says. 'And the longer they stay away from college, you know, life starts to happen and it becomes harder and harder to start thinking about yourself going back into a classroom.'

It's hard to give up a paycheck

For Brian Williams, who graduated from high school early in the pandemic, the long-term plan is to go to college.

He postponed enrolling in 2020 because he was tired of remote learning; instead, he got a job at a Jimmy John's sandwich store near his home in the suburbs of Houston so he could start saving up. When it was time to enroll in fall 2021 classes, he postponed again — he says he was more interested in finding a job that paid more than in giving up much of his paycheck to go to school. In August, Williams left Jimmy John's and got a job at an Amazon warehouse; his hourly earnings jumped up by $4.50.

'I feel more secure within the money I'm getting,' he says. To get to and from his new job, he bought a car, which he's working to pay off.

For Williams, enrolling in college means he'll have to cut back on hours and earn less money, while also spending more money to pay for classes.

'It's so hard,' he says. 'I'm just like, 'Wow, if I go to school, I'm going to take time off and I'm not going to have any money for things I need.' '

He had toyed with the idea of starting community college in the new year but is now thinking he'll start next fall, to give himself another eight months to save up.

He knows he doesn't want to work at Amazon forever.

'Even though this job does give me the money I need, it's not enough for what I want, for what I see [for] myself or what I want for myself. So I have to put myself through college.'

The short-term benefits of a high hourly wage vs. the long-term benefits of a degree

A dramatic drop in college enrollment could spell trouble for those Americans who are opting out, as well as for their families. Research has long shown that getting even some post-secondary education leads to higher wages, lower unemployment and greater lifetime earnings. In one study from Georgetown University, bachelor's degree holders were found to 'earn a median of $2.8 million during their career, 75% more than if they had only a high school diploma.'

'It may be great that people are finding jobs in the short term,' says researcher Tolani Britton, 'but an 18-year-old who is living at home and helping his family with the minimum wage that he's earning — if he's still earning that wage 15 years from now and has a family of his own to support, what are the implications in terms of socioeconomic mobility for that individual, for their children?'

Britton, who studies the economics of higher education at the University of California, Berkeley, says a host of other benefits have been linked with higher education, including an increased likelihood of civic participation, lower infant mortality rates, better maternal health and a decreased likelihood of being unhoused or experiencing food insecurity, among other things.

Many of those social benefits stem from a lifetime of higher wages and increased financial stability — long-term payoffs that can be hard to prioritize over short-term wins, like having a little more money right now.

'At the end of the day, the wages that you're getting today are one thing, but in 10 years from now they might be really similar,' Britton explains. 'There may not be the growth that you would expect when people get post-secondary education.'

But Britton also understands that it can be hard to make decisions about your future needs when you're also trying to meet the needs of today.

'People are in hard economic situations,' she says. 'The [pandemic] recovery has been extremely uneven.'

On top of that, the challenges that existed before the pandemic for low-income students, students of color and students who are the first in their families to go to college — those challenges haven't gone anywhere.

At the end of the day, the wages that you're getting today are one thing, but in 10 years from now they might be really similar. ... There may not be the growth that you would expect when people get post-secondary education. Tolani Britton, University of California, Berkeley

'Community colleges are the schools that traditionally enroll lower-income students,' Shapiro says, 'so we can assume that that's primarily who is affected and still staying away the most.'

When the National Student Clearinghouse looked at 2020 high school graduates, it found students from lower-income schools had lower college-going numbers, as did students at high-minority high schools.

'The gap in college access between higher-income and lower-income students grew wider,' Shapiro says.

The U.S. economy feels the long-term effects of fewer college graduates

When fewer people go to college, fewer people graduate with the skills, credentials and degrees necessary for a higher-paying job. And that reverberates throughout the entire U.S. economy.

'The direct loss to the economy is the workers themselves,' explains Tony Carnevale, the director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. 'If they were trained and ready, they would get higher-wage jobs and they would add more to GDP, making us all richer and increasing taxes, reducing welfare costs, crime costs, on and on.'

When workers make higher wages, their local economies also benefit. Carnevale explains it this way: 'When you hire the crane operator, the crane operator goes and buys groceries. So the grocery clerk has a job.'

More and more jobs in the U.S. require some post-secondary training, Carnevale says, which makes college graduates far more valuable to the economy.

Before the pandemic, the country already had a skills gap, with jobs sitting empty because businesses couldn't find workers with the proper credentials. In the past decade, community colleges have worked to close that gap, partnering with local businesses to pair training with employer needs.

But according to Carnevale, declining enrollment rates at community colleges mean that gap is going to grow — which, in turn, hurts business.

'You can't run your business if you literally cannot find people to work in that business,' says Britton, of the University of California, Berkeley.

And when businesses struggle, she says, 'that has implications for things like decreases in tax revenues, higher prices for goods and services, delays in the production of services and goods like we've seen during the pandemic. And many of those things will only get worse if there are fewer people to fill the jobs.'

Declines in college enrollment have a compounded impact on the economy because there are economic consequences on so many levels: the individual, the community, businesses and society as a whole.

The longer they stay away from college, you know, life starts to happen and it becomes harder and harder to start thinking about yourself going back into a classroom. Doug Shapiro, National Student Clearinghouse

It's unclear exactly how to address these economic ripple effects. Colleges, for their part, are standing up reentry programs and creating new incentives to enroll. Valencia College, a community college that serves about 50,000 students in Orlando, Fla., waived application fees, extended deadlines and allowed returning students to retake classes for free. For any student who failed a course they were forced to take online, it gave them a $500 scholarship to come back and take another class in person, when things opened up.

Shapiro, of the National Student Clearinghouse, says local communities have the most at stake when someone puts college off, because their local economies suffer when workers aren't qualified for the best jobs.

He says it's on those communities to 'make the case that college offerings are worthwhile and it is important for students to invest in their future employability, in their skills and training.'

Is he tired of all this bad news?


Does he think these low college-going rates are the new normal?

'It's a frightening thought. I sure hope not. But I guess we'll see.'

All Comments: [-] | anchor

awb(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've been recruiting for US startups since 2008, probably recruited over 100 folks from engineers to C-level.

I have never considered a candidate's college or if they even attended one. The only thing I evaluated is what they accomplished in the last 1-2 years. That meant hiring some brilliant engineers straight out of high school.

Most of these candidates were early stage hires for dozens of companies that went on to become billion dollar public companies or get acquired for 8-10 figures.

As far as a springboard for a career, I haven't seen colleges come close to worth the price of admission.

Almost your entire career value is dependent on how well you can self-learn and self-motivate. The one important piece that school might teach or give you exposure to is how to collaborate effectively with others.

netsec_burn(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I can attest to universities not being useful for helping you get in to a career, besides resume writing. I attended one career fair sponsored by a university I attended. There were about 60 different booths, and two of them were tech companies. The first offered 40k/yr. They had already reached out to me prior to the career fair and I declined to move cities for a 40k/yr position, there were plenty of state jobs paying that. The second was Amazon. I asked if they had any SWE roles. They said there were only warehouse jobs.

strikelaserclaw(10000) 6 days ago [-]

My ideal college would be 2 years of straight up technical computer science/math, followed by straight going into the industry. If you want to learn theory in depth, that is what grad school should be for.

xeromal(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That might be true for CS but it's incorrect for Engineering specializations.

ryanmarsh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> As far as a springboard for a career, I haven't seen colleges come close to worth the price of admission.

This right here.

The strongest argument against the status quo is that the juice isn't worth the squeeze.

In aggregate college graduates could achieve equal or greater levels of learning, relative to their chosen profession, and cost, with education regimes other than the typical four year state college experience.

baby-yoda(10000) 6 days ago [-]

colleges have been expanding with zero constraints for 20+ years - demand for degrees increased significantly, enrollment went up and up, student loans being federally backed were given out to anyone for any amount so tuition naturally increased substantially. seemingly limitless growth opportunity?

now many are massively bloated organizations with declining utility and the need to maintain their perpetual growth - who wants to cut costs? the downward spiral is only going to accelerate, IMO. and that doesn't even account for declining birth rates. my feeling is the next 20 years will see the higher ed industry contract rather quickly and the universities that remain will deliver either on quality (increasingly difficult to hold an advantage) or accessibility (inexpensive, contemporary workforce training since employers no longer do that).

pm90(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The population of the US has increased all this time too, and so has foreign student enrollment.

syki(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Enrollment in higher ed decreased 7% from 2008 to 2018. It's not true that colleges have been expanding with zero constraints. The increase in tuition at public colleges and universities has occurred with the decrease in public funding per student. At my system 20 years ago roughly 60% of the cost of education was publicly funded and now it is 40%. We've correspondingly increased tuition.


indymike(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There are three problems that colleges need to fix.

1) Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs. My kids can make more money with a six month apprenticeship than they will with all but a few 4 year degrees. If you can drive a forklift, you can make $45K/yr... which is identical to what an firsty year teacher makes.

2) There are better options than college for many. One of my daughters did a six month digital marketing bootcamp. She made $45k year one, and a year later is the director of marketing at her company making over $100k/yr.

3) College is way over priced. They claim graduates make 40% over their lifetime vs. non grads. JP Morgan Chase did a study two years ago that shows kids that had a job, any job before age 18 make 35% more than their peers over their lifetime regardless of degree.

4) Student loans are a horror that needs to stop. Young people should not be put in debt-bondage. Imagine America's financial health if we let young people start families and careers debt free.

rurp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> kids that had a job, any job before age 18 make 35% more than their peers over their lifetime regardless of degree.

I'm surprised by the magnitude but I can see why this would be the case. Working teenagers probably correlate with having parents who value work. Plus it teaches some valuable skills early on. An entry level job can throw all sorts of uncomfortable challenges at you, which you are expected to handle in stride.

I'd say there's a societal benefit as well, due to the empathy it promotes. Most people work very different jobs as an adult than they would as a teenager. Having more perspective on what other workers experience makes one more kind and reasonable in general.

frankfrankfrank(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I encourage you to reexamine your position and perspective on things. It's too much to unpacking one reply, however every one of your points suffers from a kind of perspective shift that skews your perspective on things.

Yes, the whole system is utterly convoluted, twisted, and perverted into dysfunction; but I also find it astonishing that you claim it's some kind of debt-bondage, right after clearly making the point that you can just go into a skilled trade or to a marketing bootcamp and that just alone the drive and work ethic of someone who has a job before 18 will set you up for success.

The real issue is that the upper class has colluded to corrupt the whole education system, largely for self-enrichment, which has also have an exorbitant impact on America's competitiveness by inefficient allocation of human resources into ever increasingly useless degrees. It is not a coincidence that all these changes have correlated the increase in communistic/socialistic type policies and mentalities.

kube-system(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think this view is indicative of a massive failure of cultural expectations.

At what point in the past 50 years did we start expecting academic liberal arts institutions to start churning out people with vocational skills? These are entirely different things.

The fact that an average 1970's college graduate was highly employable has nothing to do with those colleges having good vocational training programs, and everything to do with selection bias of those who attended and the economics of the time.

If you need vocational skills, you should enroll in a vocational program.

j_autumn(10000) 6 days ago [-]

May I ask which Bootcamp that was? I'm interested in learning more about marketing :)

throwaway75787(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Out of interest, could you please point me in the direction of the digital marketing bootcamp that your daughter toook?

rgrieselhuber(10000) 6 days ago [-]

One question I've had is if tuition paid via student loans can go to a college endowment. That should end immediately, if so.

908B64B197(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> 1) Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs. My kids can make more money with a six month apprenticeship than they will with all but a few 4 year degrees. If you can drive a forklift, you can make $45K/yr... which is identical to what an firsty year teacher makes.

For decades clueless counselors pushed kids that were not successful academically or with behavioral issues into 'the trades'... Only for the kids to realize they do need good reading and academic abilities to be able to succeed as a skilled tradesman. And that it takes disciplines to work in those fields.

We keep hearing about the successful tradespeople (notice how they are all their own bosses and own their shops) who made it but not the auto-repair schools' dropouts.

elihu(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs.

The impression I get from hanging out a bit in the welding subreddit is that a lot of people get into welding thinking it'll be a lucrative profession (because that's what people on the internet say about plumbers and welders and electricians and so forth), and what they eventually discover is that while it's possible to make a lot of money as a welder, that really only works if you own your own business. If you take a job working as someone else's employee, the pay usually isn't all that great.

That isn't to say that people shouldn't get into welding, it's just that they should have the right strategy and expectation going in.

Thorentis(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> She made $45k year one, and a year later is the director of marketing at her company making over $100k/yr.

Hate to say it, but sounds like a diversity promotion to me.

pyuser583(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Which boot camp? I'm asking for an interested family member.

listenallyall(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Young people should not be put in debt-bondage. Imagine America's financial health if we let young people start families and careers debt free.

I agree college is far too expensive and the rate of inflation of college tuition is rather absurd. The reasons for such, are best debated in another thread. However, I'm skeptical that eliminating student debt would ultimately result in significantly better financial outcomes for young people. Instead, most of the 'savings' would be swallowed up by higher real estate and rent costs. The pandemic should serve as prima facie evidence -- give a huge swath of the population more cash, real estate will eat much/most/all of it. Let's say that instead of student debt, the typical 22-32 year-old professional has approximately $500 more spending power. All that means is that they will compete with each other to purchase housing, pushing rents and housing costs up -- not just for themselves but also for everyone else.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't try to reduce student debt (not via forgiveness, but by reducing education costs to begin with) -- but doing so is not a panacea.

vmception(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There aren't colleges problem. Its coincidence that for the last 60 years people felt like they needed college, while colleges insist that people want to be there for obscure higher education for the sake of pursuing obscure higher education. Turns out this was true for hundreds of years before inclusion was even a concept, and will exist for the next hundreds of years as people find another option.

austincheney(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Most people, both in the real world and on HN, cannot differentiate education from certification. That must be super disappointing to come to grips that you overpaid for a 4 year certificate when the self taught guy sitting next to you spent that time building out their career earning money.

A bachelors degree is not a license to practice or guarantee of employment. That is not the point of education.

jimbokun(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> She made $45k year one, and a year later is the director of marketing at her company making over $100k/yr.

That...is one heck of a promotion. Good for her!

jacobolus(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> kids that had a job, any job before age 18 make 35% more than their peers over their lifetime

Just as with claims about college, there is a huge selection bias in this observation. (A substantially higher proportion of youngish Americans obtain a bachelors degree than have a job before age 18.)

Edit: Let's be clear: there is obviously a huge selection bias when talking about college as well, which should not be ignored.

endisneigh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Im very skeptical of this post:

1. Many trades also pay like crap and have a very limited window in which you can do it. In addition many are not welcoming to women at all, regardless even if you take the highest paying trades, do they pay more than the highest paying careers that require higher education?

2. Which boot camp? How many people ended up like your daughter? How much was it? Without these facts no comparison can be made.

3. Some colleges perhaps, smart people can get full scholarships and even without that community college plus a cheap state school isn't expensive. Link to your study? Did these people not go to college?

4. As you've already demonstrated college is hardly required let alone loans.

I'm surprised this is the top post.

Average College grads make more money over their lifetime, period.


jorblumesea(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The purpose of college is partly workforce training but also just general education. To see college as solely providing competitive dollar careers seems to misunderstand a large part of higher educational purpose. In theory at least, the liberal arts are something far more than just 'can I work at FB'.

varelse(10000) 6 days ago [-]

In the short term I agree with you that trades pay very well, $250,000 a year even at the higher end. Even more if you're willing to risk your life on power lines or windmills.

But that's a starting wage in tech in Seattle or the Bay area for an engineer that's in demand and it only goes up from there. Those engineers that are in demand all have undergraduate degrees, it's a huge virtue signal for hiring for now. A new college graduate with one year of industry experience got poached for $400k by a competitor. And that doesn't begin to cover what AI superstars make straight out of school.

Ironically as someone in the later phases of my tech career, I am increasingly interested in trade skills over tech skills. And doubly ironically there's a lot of intellectual overlap.

ptero(10000) 6 days ago [-]

One big issue with making a no-college a viable option is that in the US the school education is absolutely atrocious. In many colleges the first year of science or engineering degree classes focus on providing a decent background that should have been taught at schools.

This needs to be fixed for the school-only path to be viable.

WalterBright(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> which is identical to what an firsty year teacher makes

Education degrees and Journalism degrees rank near the bottom of pay.

If you want a good starting salary, invest in a STEM major.

Above all, google 'starting salaries for major XXXXX' before picking one. Sheesh!

AussieWog93(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>1) Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs. My kids can make more money with a six month apprenticeship than they will with all but a few 4 year degrees. If you can drive a forklift, you can make $45K/yr... which is identical to what an firsty year teacher makes.

I'm not sure universities can fix this, or want to fix this.

Many of the people opting for university degrees aren't looking to perform work that needs to be done, but seeking a role that makes them feel powerful/smart/elegant/influential etc.

In a market-based economy that rewards meeting the needs/wants of others, I'm honestly surprised that many college grads are paid anything at all.

UncleOxidant(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs.

Is this a problem that needs fixing? We don't have enough plumbers & electricians (for example), many in those fields are retiring and until lately there haven't been enough people entering those trades to replace those retiring. Now we're probably going to start seeing people enter those trades at a higher rate than in the recent past. These are very good paying jobs and often it's hard to find a plumber or electrician when you need one.

jimmyjazz14(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't think the first two are problems colleges need to fix I think its more of a matter that we need to change our mindset about who should be attending college maybe some people would be better off going the trade school route.

jeremy_wiebe(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> 4) Student loans are a horror that needs to stop. Young people should not be put in debt-bondage. Imagine America's financial health if we let young people start families and careers debt free.

Nobody has forced anyone to take a student loan. In fact, many young adults would probably learn a lot about life, financial management, and restraint if they saved for college and waited till they could afford it instead of going straight to college and going into huge amounts of debt. Generally society doesn't condone going into debt carelessly in other situations so I don't understand how we give (or want to give) students a free pass for racking up thousands (or hundreds of thousands) in loans.

criley2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>3) College is way over priced. They claim graduates make 40% over their lifetime vs. non grads. JP Morgan Chase did a study two years ago that shows kids that had a job, any job before age 18 make 35% more than their peers over their lifetime regardless of degree.

Having a job before 18 and getting a bachelors degree are not mutually exclusive, in fact, recent data suggests that about half of all people attending undergraduate school are employed. I personally was employed by 16 and went to college at 18, keeping a job for the entire time to offset some of the costs.

I do agree that student loans are a heinous tool though, even moderate loans accrue huge interest during a formative time in your career and prevent you from saving for retirement during the vital years when your investments have the most time to mature.

pwn2d2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs.

My startup is trying to help this in the flooring industry. At https://gocarrera.com we have made a platform for contractors to connect to companies and vice versa. We will roll out a feature shortly for people unfamiliar with the industry to be and to find add join other contractor teams to help them get started in the industry. It's really exciting and pretty shocking how complex the industry is.

starwind(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There shouldn't be a divide between skilled trades and bachelor's degrees. If I could add a creative writing minor to math degree, why was it impossible for me to add an aircraft maintenance certification through my school?

wayoutthere(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The problem with the trades is that they burn out your body. And quickly — you have about 25 years of good work in you, so if you start at 18 your body is done by your mid-40s. From there it's either moving on to manage / start your own shop, take a job for less money at a hardware store / parts desk, or collect disability checks and barely scrape by in early retirement with a broken body.

Daub(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Related to #4 is the insane amount of over staffing in the average uni. The formula is...

1. Create needless procedural requirements, each alluding to serve some sort of qualitative intent

2. Hire people to service these requirements

3. Profit?

stemlord(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Director of marketing after one year in the field is wild. Congrats to her.

TiredGuy(10000) 5 days ago [-]

With interest rates so low these days, are student loans still problematic? Seems like a nice way to defer having to pay while in school, but I'd love to learn more about the issue.

pyrale(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> 1) Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs.

I fail to see how this is a problem, and whether it should be fixed. The very idea that people that went through college deserve more is insulting for tradespeople as well as the source of bad incentives to go to college. If anything, the society would probably benefit from colleges focusing on transmitting and advancing knowledge, rather than being paid fast-lanes for people who only give a fuck about the payckeck.

This idea that some works deserve fair pay and some work deserve abuse (the worst being 'burger flipper', 'student job', etc.) really need to die. If you don't think it deserves fair pay and respect, you don't deserve the service.

shortlived(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> My kids can make more money with a six month apprenticeship than they will with all but a few 4 year degrees. If you can drive a forklift, you can make $45K/yr... which is identical to what an firsty year teacher makes.

That's too short sighted. What's the lifetime earning potential of a forklift driver vs a teacher?

HWR_14(10000) 6 days ago [-]

In response to your problems:

> 1) Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs

This is a problem that the colleges cannot fix. It's not the college systems fault teacher pay is being held back so much (unless by that you mean they should dramatically increase professors' salaries, so that the higher rates in academia trickle down.)

> 2) There are better options than college for many.

This is point 1 again. Digital Marketing is just a different skilled trade.

> 3) College is way over priced.

Isn't that because tuition has been a larger and larger portion of their income?

> They claim graduates make 40% over their lifetime vs. non grads. JP Morgan Chase did a study two years ago that shows kids that had a job, any job before age 18 make 35% more than their peers over their lifetime regardless of degree.

Sure, and? That's not relevant to the discussion, because they just isolated one variable. If both statements are true, you would expect a college educated person who had a job before 18 to make 89% more than someone who did neither.

> 4) Student loans are a horror that needs to stop.

I agree. But it's not the college system's fault that public support (financially) nosedived over the past couple of decades.

srcreigh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Your point #3 just looks at two different things. They don't contradict each other at all.

Maybe had a job before age 18 implies later went to college for instance.

lokar(10000) 6 days ago [-]

What do teachers and forklift operators make after 10/20/30 years?

fnord77(10000) 6 days ago [-]

there's been a proliferation of administrators in colleges. the ratio of administrators to professors/instructors has been steadily climbing since the 70s. I see this as a form of corruption.

honksillet(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Government needs to get out of the student loan game entirely.

JPKab(10000) 6 days ago [-]

My biggest regret about my 4 years at Virginia Tech is the opportunity cost. I could have been spending the years of my life where I could learn at a vastly accelerated rate compared to present learning useful things.

Instead, my double major in mechanical engineering/applied economics was heavily loaded with highly inefficient, archaic classes in subjects I cared about combined with a heavy dose of mandatory humanities type courses that were essentially ultra-leftwing indoctrination courses. For example, my Latin American history course was a non-stop 'Latin America is a crappy place because it doesn't have enough Marxism' course.

I was assigned various books, and as long as I wrote about the books with identical conclusions to the professor, I got an A, no matter how horribly written. If I wrote eloquently about why I thought the book about Gaitan's socialist movement in Columbia wasn't as angelic as depicted in the book, I got a D. Another book that was assigned reading was 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed' which is essentially a handbook telling you how to get otherwise happy people to realize they are oppressed and embrace Marxism.

This was the early 2000s, and the predictions about Columbia, for example, couldn't have been more wrong. It's a vastly improved place compared to then, despite the depiction in the class of a sinister, evil, predatory capitalist society. No matter what South American country you discussed, if it was communist/socialist, it was a paradise. If it wasn't, it was a dictatorship. The teacher wouldn't stop talking about how amazing Venezuela was, and how Hugo Chavez was 'misunderstood.'

Another class I took was called 'Economics of Poverty'. The professor is a person I can't forget, because long before I had ever heard of Elizabeth Warren, she was a fair skinned, blue-eyed white woman who claimed to be half Native American. I never believed that for a second, and it was obvious she made this claim to advance her career. My favorite moment with her was when she told the entire class that 'most of you will graduate from this school and be unable to find meaningful employment. Our economic system doesn't value what you've learned, and you need to fix that.' It was a soul-crushing, disempowering experience and I'm furious about how much I bought into her and her colleague's bullshit back then. Pessimistic losers who've never left their bubble ruining young minds as they themselves live off of the oppressive debt the students are taking on.

I don't have a problem with nutbag activists, but I deeply resent the Federal government subsidizing them and their foolish causes, on the backs of 17 year olds signing away their lives for debt.

oceanplexian(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs

To me this is just a sign that the market is working correctly. The world needs more forklift drivers, plumbers, electricians, and mechanics than it needs teachers. The idea that teachers deserve to be paid more is elitist, IMHO. The problem is that our culture incorrectly assumes college degrees are the only way to "learn" productive and valuable skills.

asabjorn(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Also, a degree may have a negative contribution. Is the ideological bend of some college degrees potentially harming mental acuity through confusions and bad mental habits?

E.g. if you take a math degree that teach '2+2 != 5' this degree is likely to reduce mental acuity. You'll be a great activist, but not a great mathematician or teacher.

lend000(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Re: numbers 3) and 4). It's a hard trade-off. I believe in equality of opportunity in education, which infinite guaranteed government loans do provide to someone willing to take on that burden (which often ends up being a bad decision for most people). However, the very act of guaranteeing unlimited loans to everyone creates a very simple economic effect in which colleges will grow in expense to meet the supply of money. Look at all the ridiculously nice buildings, statues, grounds, and administrator salaries at even C-tier colleges.

The alternative, IMO, is to make state run schools tuition free, but there's no guarantee you'll get in. Use some relatively objective metrics like the SAT and relative standing in high school class to determine eligibility. Then get rid of federal lending altogether. Apparently this is more similar to some of the European models. Under this model, any highly gifted but poor person worried about debt can get a higher education. Granted, the gifted person is also generally okay in the current model, because they probably end up making enough to handle their debt. It's the less gifted person who still wants and benefits from a higher education, but can't get into the free state school, who benefits in this model, because the removal of unqualified lending will bring down prices of less competitive colleges.

But in the end, college as we know it, as great of an experience as it is for many of us, is likely becoming obsolete (in its current form, that is) with the rise of the internet and the ability to learn just about anything in your garage with an internet connection and a computer.

balls187(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> 2) There are better options than college for many.

I agree there are better options than college for many. Thought if I were a betting man, on average, College is the better decision.

> One of my daughters did a six month digital marketing bootcamp. She made $45k year one, and a year later is the director of marketing at her company making over $100k/yr.

I'm curious how old she was when she completed that bootcamp, and if she had a degree in another field, and/or experience. I just cant fathom a 20 year being a marketing director making $100,000.

In nearly 20 years professionally, I have worked with MANY people between the ages of 18-22 (many of which themselves attend or attended prestigious schools), and none showed the aptitude, skill and leadership required to be director at that time.

throw10920(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Your first three points are very strong and insightful, but I somewhat object to your fourth. Individuals get loans for things that pay off in the long-term regularly - cars and houses, for the most part. I don't see any reason why college should be different, especially because the alternative is for taxpayers to subsidize it.

The real issues are twofold: first, student loans are underregulated and very predatory in a way that car loans and mortgages are not; second, like you said in your third point, college is way overpriced, with the cost of it going up about an order of magnitude over the past few decades with no discernable increase in quality (see the excellent Consideration On Cost Disease for more[1]).

If education was 10x cheaper and student loan rates were 3-5% a year, you wouldn't need the public to fund education - and even if you wanted to, it'd be a far easier time selling that idea than trying to convince people to fund undergraduate degrees to the tune of $100k+ per student.

[1] https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/09/considerations-on-cost...

spaetzleesser(10000) 6 days ago [-]

'Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs. My kids can make more money with a six month apprenticeship than they will with all but a few 4 year degrees. If you can drive a forklift, you can make $45K/yr... which is identical to what an firsty year teacher makes.'

With the forklift you will stay at 45k forever and probably make less every year whereas for the teacher this is a starting salary and will go up. Talk to real blue collar workers and from most you will hear a not very rosy picture. Pay stagnates, management treats them like crap, terrible working conditions, very hard on the body so getting older is difficult.

Unless you are a business owner or in a very good union blue collar jobs aren't much fun.

ChrisLomont(10000) 6 days ago [-]

BLS lists median forklift driver salary around 37k. This is not starting, it's median. Starting is much lower everywhere I look. And forklifts are being automated by many companies right now.

Median starting pay for a 4 year degree is over $54k at the moment.

That's a massive difference.

newfonewhodis(10000) 6 days ago [-]

While your (completely valid) points address the economics of college, it misses the connections and friendships you make through college. It's the best way for most people to be thrown around thousands of people to find and build their community.

All that to say, if the economics of college were better, even I (mid-career) would consider going back for a couple of degrees to continue expanding my community.

panzagl(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The dean of students at my daughter's university (Montana State) has been pretty upfront about this mostly being demographics- Gen Z is smaller than the Millennials.

That being said, both of my daughter's had drilled into their heads how expensive college would be by their HS teachers and staff. We're continually telling them not to worry about it, it's our responsibility to pay, not theirs, don't feel bad for not going into STEM, etc. Doesn't help that we live out west where anti-intellectualism is the default and a degree is just seen as a piece of paper.

starwind(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I live in Colorado. I don't see a lot that I would 'anti-intellectualism' since I live close to Denver but I definitely see a much higher value placed on skills than degrees

xyzzy_plugh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is nearly a strictly American problem. Much of the rest of the world has realized that society requires and is capable of supporting advanced education for all -- after all we want humanity to be advancing, right?

America is still stuck in this alternate universe where it's a great privilege to have the opportunity to learn, which is of course true to some extent, but they really put it on a pedestal there.

Compared to the rest of the world, I think they over index on attending prestigious out-of-state and thus expensive, regardless of public or private, instead of building a really strong system for locals.

I think of my (non-US) classmates, maybe 1-2 per 100 were from a different region or country? I paid a total of $20k over five years which I easily covered with internships/summer jobs. Can you say the same in the US?

jackson1442(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm attending a state school in the US, and my degree costs about $13k/year + books + housing.

armchairhacker(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Some people hate college and only go for the degree. College should be accessible to everyone but not everyone needs to go to college.

paulpauper(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is nearly a strictly American problem. Much of the rest of the world has realized that society requires and is capable of supporting advanced education for all -- after all we want humanity to be advancing, right?

I think foreign colleges have stricter entry requirements and fewer amenities compared to American colleges. So yes, college may be free in Japan, but also much harder to be accepted.

julienb_sea(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't know in which non-American worldview you subscribe, but America has a higher rate of tertiary education achievement than practically every European nation (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tertiary_...). European countries have more selective and restrictive advanced education requirements, they just don't charge for them. This is the literal opposite of 'supporting advanced education for all'.

To be clear, I think this is a more sensible system than what we do here in America, where anyone can get an advanced education because even if you can't afford it, the government will guarantee loans of arbitrary size.

joey_bob(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Our state has a program that covers tuition if you are in-state, received good grades in high school, and continue to maintain those.

Of my (undergraduate) classmates, I believe 60% were out of state, including out of country. Unfortunately, most that came from states with similarly ranked public schools did not have access to a similar program in those states.

My payments to the university totaled $60k for 7 years, undergraduate and masters. (I lost full tuition coverage my first year.)

ren_engineer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>Much of the rest of the world has realized that society requires and is capable of supporting advanced education for all -- after all we want humanity to be advancing, right?

the number of STEM degrees in the US has basically been flat for decades, majority of degrees being handed out are effectively useless in terms of boosting productivity and 'advancement'. Go around and ask people with college degrees how often they actually use them, probably 90% admit it was worthless, I know mine was. Luckily I had academic scholarships so I didn't have any debt

kids are effectively being propagandized and brainwashed into chasing worthless credentials while racking up debt that will impact their lives for years. The amount of emotional manipulation around college is disgusting

banannaise(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There is a rapidly growing list of increasingly dire 'strictly American problems'. I wonder when and how it will break.

timmg(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Much of the rest of the world has realized that society requires and is capable of supporting advanced education for all...

I don't know about all of the rest of the world, but many countries require you to 'test in' to college (and then it's free). The US basically lets anyone go to college if they can pay.

You can argue one is better than the other. But you should be honest/aware of the difference.

beepbooptheory(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There is little hope anymore for actual advancement anyway, just a tendency downwards, punctuated by small spurts of different kinds of enthusiasm.

We get a new iPhone every once in a while, or a UI refresh of twitter, to simulate a feeling of advancement, but we all, deep down, know it's just that, a feeling.

How could anyone even really want advancement when we know that finance thrives on predictable cycles.

The word for the next centuries should be 'humility,' not 'progress'. Humility is the only thing I think we can possibly achieve anymore

contravariant(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Some of the 'let's saddle students with debt' vibe seems to have pollinated the Netherlands, though for reasons that I applaud but don't quite understand pretty much everyone now considers it a bad idea.

mcguire(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Which country? I don't know of any that get close to 'advanced education for all'.


kgin(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Americans have one of the highest rates of higher education in the developed world.

America just wants new grads to be indebted to motivate them to get to work.

feoren(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> after all we want humanity to be advancing, right?

Hell no! Life is a zero-sum game, so if I'm hurting other people, that must mean I'm winning! Besides, if we all collectively come together to make the world better, those people might have nice things too! That would make me so angry! I'd rather live in poverty than see those people do well in life!

Sarcasm, obviously, but at least 100 million Americans believe all of the above. They are single-issue voters, and their single issue is hurting other people.

maccolgan(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> This is nearly a strictly American problem. Much of the rest of the world has realized that society requires and is capable of supporting advanced education for all -- after all we want humanity to be advancing, right?

Yeah subsidization of education, of mostly useless degrees will solve all problems of humanity, totally.

JumpCrisscross(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> after all we want humanity to be advancing, right?

I don't know how much our reams of communications, generic business and English majors are advancing humanity. (Granted, I studied finance [and engineering] in undergrad.)

AlchemistCamp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> I paid a total of $20k over five years which I easily covered with internships/summer jobs.

You paid with five years of your life. Even if college were 'free', it still wouldn't be the optimal thing for everyone to do. It is the best choice for some, but unfortunately those who make other choices are often looked down upon in much of the world unless they're an outlier success.

The cost of US schools is a massive problem, but the increasing assumption that everyone needs to take multiple years out of what could be the most productive phase of their life to engage in a tracked cookie-cutter experience is an even bigger problem.

Schooling and education aren't the same thing and the first doesn't always lead to much of the second.

wil421(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yes I can say the same in the US. My state paid full tuition for B average and above students if you went to a college in the state. After a little over a year I took off and went back to school while working at a later point. By that time I qualified for federal tuition aid but lost my state one. It wasn't much over $20k for 5 years out of pocket for me.

ngngngng(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's different and worse than you say. We put it on a pedestal, decided it was worth any cost, decided everyone should have the ability to go, but that they should all have to shoulder that burden themself. A large part of the issue right now is the system we've built allows any student to obtain a predatory loan to cover the entirety of the outrageous costs, and any political effort to change this is likely career suicide because it will be seen as keeping underprivileged students out of the best programs and therefore stunting their futures.

gorjusborg(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've lived in the U.S. my entire life, and I agree with you. Our culture somehow misses the fact that as a society we benefit from educated citizens. There's even a segment of the population that fetishizes ignorance as a virtue, and knowledge as leftist indoctrination.

There also seems to be a deep seated fear that any sort of public investment in people is seen as a slippery slope to soviet-style authoritarian government.

abeppu(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> America is still stuck in this alternate universe where it's a great privilege to have the opportunity to learn, which is of course true to some extent, but they really put it on a pedestal there.

I think the facts don't really support the idea of it being a 'great privilege' in the sense of being inaccessible to most. E.g. if you look at this table of tertiary education by country, in OECD countries plus a few others, the US is in the top 10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tertiary_...

In the section below that, if you look at 4-year degrees or higher, more Americans have a 4-year equivalent than Israelis, Swedes, Canadians, Norwegians, French, German etc.

We're not an outlier in how many of us go to college, just in how much of people's lives they end up paying for it.

Bostonian(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've read that more Americans start college than in other developed countries but that the fraction of college graduates is similar. This suggests that there are too many unqualified students attending college in the U.S., and if the declining enrollments are coming primarily from that group, it's a good thing.

fortran77(10000) 6 days ago [-]

And now there are movements to eliminate SATs or similar standardized tests, allowing more unqualified students to enter college.

Enrollment might also be down because of COVID. For many, I think, college is more about getting away from home and living in a fun-filled alternate world for a few years with dorm rooms, frat parties, etc. With remote classes and restrictions, why bother?

(I'm imagining here -- I commuted to a local 4-year college on a public bus while also working. Then got my Master's degree in the evening while working full-time, in the early 80s.)

astura(10000) 6 days ago [-]


Some people fail out of college because the work is beyond their capabilities, but I think a significant percentage of people who start college but don't graduate do so for reasons other than being simply unqualified.

I admit it's anecdotal, but very few people I know who started college but didn't finish didn't finish due to academic reasons.

claytonjy(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I am rather certain that, at least when I attended a decade ago, my university leaned into this as a revenue source.

My school, Michigan Tech, is in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a remote location averaging over 200' of snow per year with the nearest major city over 5 hours away, and most students traveling 8+ hours from their parent's homes in SE Michigan. The application was 4 pages long: 1 page of info, 2 pages for me to fill out, 1 for my guidance counselor. No essays. So, very easy to be accepted to, 90%+ acceptance rate.

The second year return rate was below 70% at the time, and anecdotally many freshmen didn't return for second semester after going home for Christmas. Not only is it remote, cold, and not sunny, but there was a dearth of women and some tough weeder classes (chemistry, calc 2).

If you can finish, you're in a great spot. Eng degrees from there are quite well regarded regionally (competitive with University of Michigan) and graduates had lower debt than any other school in the state. It seems obvious that the university avoided a more stringent up-front filter so it could soak kids for a year or two before forcing them out due to grades or environment.

I'm not sure that's entirely unreasonable, as I'm not sure how they could predict who would leave due to environment, but I also knew many freshmen who were obviously not setup to succeed academically, and didn't.

mistrial9(10000) 6 days ago [-]

... friends, a comment from Boston, Massachusetts

    Welcome to Merry old Boston
    The Land of the Bean and the Cod
    where Lowells speak only to Cabbots
    and Cabots speak only to G*d
ducharmdev(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Where did you read this? Just curious, I'd like to share with someone I know that works in this field.

GnarfGnarf(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Start by lowering tuition fees. University administrations have become bloated, profiteering from the truism that you gotta go to college to get a good job.

I got my B.A. in 1968; I owed $800 balance on my student loan ($6,400 today).

My plumber just charged me $430 to install a sink, about an hour and a half's work. That doesn't include the cost of the sink. Are Gender Studies majors making this kind of money?

maxerickson(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Government dollars went a lot further when a smaller percentage of people were enrolling in college. And there was unmet demand for college educated professionals (which is true in some fields today, but probably not as broadly true), so there was more willingness to spend government dollars educating people.

pingeroo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I realized the absurdity of this when I found out that my university's president earns more than the president of the United States

muaytimbo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Easy explanation, who wants to pay for a masked/zoom college experience? Add jab requirements every couple months, "covid" surveillance and contact tracing, and intentionally minimized social activities/opportunities and why would anyone pay 50k/yr for that?

hbn(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I also think millennials were the sacrificial generation who were forced to find out the hard way that college isn't the magical path to a great, well-paying career like they were promised. They did everything right, exactly as the generation before them who it worked for. They got expensive degrees, sunk themselves into crippling debt right as they were entering adulthood, only to find out most of the degrees they were sold are worthless. The new generation that's supposed to be entering college now can clearly see how badly millennials got scammed, why would they do the same thing as them? Not to mention the absolutely deranged politics that are taking place in academic institutions these days.

The current sales pitch of college is 'give us tens of thousands of dollars so you can watch some online classes with information you could find freely on the internet, we'll occasionally get you to write essays about how you were born inherently toxic as a person, and then at the end we give you a piece of paper that won't get you a job.' No shit, attendance is going down.

Unless you have a very specific plan for a career you want to get into, and you know it's a job that would actually be worth the money spent (like a computer science degree so you can get into a software career), it's just such an obviously horrible deal.

rossdavidh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

As the father of a 16-year old, I can say that the current generation of teenagers has heard a lot more about the issues of college debt than previous generations did. Partly because it's a lot higher, partly because even if newsmedia doesn't report on it, there are enough adults out there saddled with it that they just hear about it from a relative or friend. It used to be a no-brainer; you go to college if you can. No longer.

Any industry that sees nothing but expansion for decades, has a rough time when it stops. I think higher ed is in for a rough time.

cush(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Exactly. 1M fewer people will be in poverty from student loan debt

strikelaserclaw(10000) 6 days ago [-]

not only the higher costs of education but my generation (millennial) learned that most degrees offered provide no real jobs that can contend with massive rise in cost for every significant thing that constitutes a decent life (housing, childcare etc...). Things look even bleaker for younger generations. The people who were born just in time to ride the swelling wave greatly benefited, if you were born when the wave is crashing down, unfortunately your life will be much much harder. We have this notion that everything we earn is based on merit but as i get older i see how much external context greatly influences the opportunities for merit as well as the outcomes.

l8rpeace(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I can relate to info/knowledge about that edu debt, went to undergrad in the 90's and while I might be naive, I can say I didn't comprehend the debt side of things. And my edu debt pales in comparison to today's students. Fortunately I grew up, buckled down, and paid it off but there were some lean years right after school. Now? I can't even imagine.

And I also agree: how will these institutions scale back? What if tuition was cut significantly? What programs are on the chopping block?

taylodl(10000) 6 days ago [-]

No. Things are just going back to the way they used to be: higher education is for the elites. Once upon a time we understood that higher education was important for all and having a well-educated public was good for the Republic. Now that view no longer holds - the politicians have learned that their flim-flam doesn't work as well on a well-educated public and so they've been making cuts to higher education for the past 20 years. We're just now getting to the point where the cuts are having a serious impact to the middle class being able to afford college. Don't worry though - the elites will be just fine.

dpierce9(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There are a lot of people blaming federal loans for the inflation in college costs, however, private secondary school (high school) tuition has also grown at a comparable rate (maybe even faster). There are not, to my knowledge, federal loans for private secondary schools. Does anyone have an explanation for this?

Edit: clarified that private secondary school = private high school. Of course federal student loans are available for accredited private colleges/universities.

Not sure the reliability of this source but the trend is there across sources: [0] https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-private-school

zactato(10000) 6 days ago [-]

When I was in school the loans were called stafford loans: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stafford_Loan

I guess they've since changed to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Direct_Student_Loan_Pr...

They are very much for private schools. There's no real limit on them. They tend to cover the difference between what a family can pay and what the tuition is. They're generally low interest and you don't need to start paying them back until you're done with school.

Since the loans always cover the difference the impact of tuition costs going up isn't immediately felt

jackson1442(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There do appear to be federal loans for private schools- Baylor is a private school in Texas, here's their site on loans: https://www.baylor.edu/sfs/index.php?id=963417

rootusrootus(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Maybe it just got too damn expensive. I make pretty good money and I'm still planning carefully for how I'm going to deal with it for my kids (who still have 7-9 years left before college).

I'm hoping that online school really takes off, and that colleges follow Georgia Tech's lead on pricing for it. OSU still wants full price for online classes, which is bogus.

Beyond that, I'm going to strongly incentivize my kids to stay home the first couple years and hit the local community college for the first half of their degree, just because it's dramatically cheaper than what it'll cost to send them to live at a university.

I thought college was expensive when I was going in the 90s. Now it's just ridiculous.

Aperocky(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Aren't state colleges relatively affordable (while mostly OK academically)?

gorbachev(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for scholarships.

abeppu(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The bizarre thing with higher education costs that no one's really explained to me is why schools simultaneously spend more and more on administrators (who are full time staff), and push more and more teaching to adjuncts. The claim I've heard justifying the growth of administration staff is that regulatory compliance becomes more onerous over time. But no school is judged on their regulatory compliance. In industry, we often want to make sure that the core value is staff, and stuff that you have to do but won't distinguish you, you may as well contract out. So why aren't administrative compliance obligations contracted out to some overseas firm?

We've gotten to the point where it would actually be cheaper for students to hire their own adjunct to each them 1:1, than to go to some universities.

Updating with numbers:

- USC tuition is >$60k/yr

- Adjunct professors in CA apparently earn $34-$43k/yr



randomsearch(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Well, the most obvious answer is that the administrators are the ones that hire the adjuncts, if you follow.

All uni's I know of in the U.K. have hired hordes of admin staff. I think this is largely due to centralisation, eg rather than have an exam admin in each department, you have a team in a central building. This sounds like it will be more efficient, deduplicate effort etc, and also has the added imagined benefit of presenting all the courses in a similar way, so you can have a "uniform" and "unified" student experience.

But this is a fantasy.

The reality is that different departments and different courses need to be run according to their specific needs. So the central administration then either fails to address this or hires more people to compensate. And once you remove people from their actual job (ie take them out of the department and change the job from "helping lecturer X get this exam done" to "execute processes A B C" then the potential for bloat and empire building skyrockets. You end up with all sorts of strange initiatives, buildings, and job positions, that seem far removed from simply administering teaching and research.

At the same time the U.K. gov slashed funding, moved to a reliance on tuition fees, and pushed universities to run like businesses. Their ostensible purpose and the incentives they face are now dramatically misaligned, so it's no surprise that the outcomes we see make no apparent sense. It's far more important to bring in grant funding than provide good education, for example, when you know students will keep paying regardless.

skrbjc(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's interesting because universities over-produce academics for the number of tenure-track jobs available, so they then hire those phds back into adjunct positions, which is often the only academic job available to them, especially if they don't want to move across the country to some small college in the middle of nowhere. So many phds just suck it up and take the adjunct jobs teaching undergrads. Actual professors at research universities aren't really even doing teaching as their primary job. Their primary job is to do research and publish, which is how they progress in their career. But universities need people to teach so they hire adjuncts to teach undergrads, especially the entry level courses.

In regards to admin costs, just look at UC Berkeley, they now have a $25 million dollar diversity department that hires nearly a hundred staff, all making over $50k and getting access to the pension system. Lots of people will say departments like this are a good thing, but there's no question these departments cost a lot of money and inflate administrative costs. Berkeley has 1 staff member for every 2 students at this point.

Look at this: " Establishment of a Supplier Diversity Program at an institution is required when an organization is receiving federal funding for contracts or subcontracts as dictated by the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARS). The delegation of authority to manage the program is issued through the Office of the President (UCOP) policy." Talk about regulation causing bloat, to take federal contracts you need to establish an office that tracks and reports the diversity of your contractors. No wonder costs have skyrocketed.


mabub24(10000) 6 days ago [-]

A lot of universities are openly hostile to tenured professors, unless those professors are gigantic names in the field they can use for marketing. Many Universities would be a-okay with ditching tenure all together.

The reality is many universities have gotten out of the game of offering quality education. They still offer education, but they are largely indifferent to the quality of the education, so adjuncts will do just as well as any professor.

Instead, universities have spent enormous money and effort to protect and emphasize the college/university 'experience.' Thus you get an enormous amount of handholding and bureaucratization in higher-ed because they're functioning like giant weird resorts with health services, legal services, financial services, extra curricular services, and a whole lot of other crap with education as only the implied 'reason' the students are there.

> But no school is judged on their regulatory compliance.

To a certain degree this is untrue. Student complaints and/or payee (parent) complaints for things like Title IX violations, as one example, mean a potential loss in federal/state funding and negative press. So institutions seek to bureaucratize the whole process from the tip of the root to the highest leaf. Higher-ed in the US has become a kind of ride into adulthood.

jack_pp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

A big reason for going to college is socializing so.. makes no sense to go now.

tootahe45(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I believe the socializing/networking thing is over-sold unless you go to a top-tier uni where students may be from wealthy families and are therefore well socialized, or do something non-cs like business studies. Everyone i studied with were introverts (gamer-types). High school was way better for socializing. Oh and there were like 2 females total in all of my CS classes.

chrisseaton(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Socialising, sport, arts, drama, many people meet their spouse at university, yeah lots of reasons that don't apply any more.

goodpoint(10000) 6 days ago [-]

No no no, the decline predates covid by many years.

LanceH(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I have a son in college. The services that his school offers are greatly reduced, but the tuition continues to climb year on year.

If his major/career had the choice of degree vs work, the latter would be a really good choice right now.

lordnacho(10000) 6 days ago [-]

We have to do something about what people think college is to an employer. I'm excluding courses where you specifically need the degree: medicine, law, and maybe some others. Clearly you can't be a doctor or lawyer who hasn't passed his exams. Also if you are going to be a professor or phd naturally you will need to have studied whatever it is.

For everyone else, all college does is shows people that you are diligent: you read the books, wrote the essays, passed the quizzes.

Now, the thing is most jobs are not directly related to any particular degree. For example if you become an option trader like I did, nothing on my Engineering/Econ/Mgt was relevant. Even the finance parts of the management course were not relevant. You learn on the job. Think about it, you are at work 50-70 hours a week the whole year vs splitting your time at uni over a much shorter calendar. At work you sit next to an expert, at school you sit next to novices.

So the whole idea that college qualifies you to do something is bogus. It's mainly a signal that you're teachable, and a weak signal that you're interested in some particular broad area.

I would guess that the great majority of jobs that people with degrees take could have been done by the same people without their degree. You'll never get people to admit that if you aren't friends with them, but that is generally what people think as well.

Are there other benefits to college? Certainly. You get to socialize, mature a bit away from home, and for most people it's the last time they are exposed to the great ideas that mankind has found over the centuries. Those things can all be done separately without paying for it, but currently the system is broken and everyone uses degrees as a social status marker, which is self-reinforcing: you still need a degree because if you don't have one you can't get those jobs that you don't need a degree to perform.

nslice(10000) 6 days ago [-]

A degree is just a filter. If you get 200 applications for a job listing, you are going to prioritize those with relevant degrees.

ls15(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Are there other benefits to college?

I think I learned a thing or two at university.

randomsilence(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Why does the market not work for colleges?

There are plenty of adjunct professors who don't earn much. Why don't they join forces and create their own university?

If they focus on education and limit spending on administration and sports, they could offer high quality, affordable education.

lapsedacademic(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Three things:

1. There actually aren't many low-paid adjuncts in hot fields. The CS and Eng departments subsidize the Math department, and STEM+finance+premed+nursing subsidizes all of the humanities. A philosophy adjunct is probably doing way better ad juncting than they would off on their own. And the instructional staff in the in-demand fields are generally well-paid.

2. The low paid (and usually not that low paid) adjuncts within in-demand departments are generally there as a retirement gig... if they wanted a stressful empire building type of job, they'd go into industry.

3. Runway. Adjuncts who aren't semi-retired have no access to capital and here's a really long lead time until an institution is regionally accredited. You can't take a dime of federal grant money, GI bill money, private scholarship money, student loan money, etc. until you're accredited.

mensetmanusman(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I hope this catches on: https://www.wsj.com/articles/instead-of-tuition-students-giv...

If we can align the incentives of colleges and students to find jobs, it will also be a win for the economy. Let students bargain with their future earning potential, if they don't make anything, the school doesn't make anything.

Afforess(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Here's my counter: what if, instead of taxing students after their graduation, we taxed all adults income, then used the tax proceeds to make university tuition cost-free. The advantage would be that more students would attend, we'd have a more educated society, and alumni would not be worried about having to take the best paying job instead of one that they desire.

It's win-win-win, taxpayers get free access to universities for themselves and their children, students avoid debt or garnished wages in the future, and universities get government support and can shut down complicated administrative overhead for helping students navigate financing.

Now I know your thinking - does it scale? Yes! We have data from secondary and primary schools with the same cohort of students, who attend school for no cost. Attendance and graduation of these schools is closely correlated with life outcomes and success! We could apply this existing financing model to universities and solve the problem of tuition fees with by reusing the ideas from other tuition-free primary and secondary schools.

Prob a bit long for an elevator pitch, but hey.

baby-yoda(10000) 6 days ago [-]

skin in the game exposes what outcome a particular party is truly interested in. schools will avoid this like the plague, IMO.

noasaservice(10000) 6 days ago [-]

1. School loans are not dismissable in bankruptcy. This is only shared with criminal monetary punishments.

2. Interest is charged, which is abhorrent at any rate. Especially the 8%.

3. PPP 'loans' to the tune of almost 1t$.. which were forgiven. Just run a few sham job ads for software engineers at 10$/hr and NobOdy wAnTS tO wOrk!

4. University doesn't really provide job skills. They allude to, but then say they dont.

5. Jobs say they need a degree, but that's primarily due to https://www.naacpldf.org/case-issue/griggs-v-duke-power-co/ and easier to exclude black people with a 'degree'.

6. Most programs do NOT need expensive schools, labs, etc. Non-lab based classes can easily get by online.

7. School costs are stupid, because 'Its what the market will bear'

8. Even public higher ed schools are stupid priced, because the public aspect has been surely ripped away from them.

9. Even if you DO go, you're guaranteed only one thing: undismissable debt. I failed out due to medical reasons. I have the debt, and no degree to show for it.

As a millenial, higher ed is a bad bargain. And if you're younger, DO NOT LET HIGH SCHOOL threaten you with 'if you dont go to school you will work as a grocery bagger for the rest of your life'. Teach yourself IT. Get into an area, double down, learn it inside and out. Find a few hot tech areas. Learn them well. And off you go.

endisneigh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I love how the solution is always to do tech. What about the other things?

thehappypm(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Expensive, but low tier, private schools are the problem. They're all over the Northeast. Schools that cost as much as Harvard, with way worse financial aid, with worse programs than Rutgers. It's a scam with a quad.

danny_codes(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is just a symptom.

College in America is an example of a market failure induced by government intervention.

Federal loan guarantees and special rules around student loans (critically, they are not absolvable via bankruptcy) have caused a distorted market, whereby the colleges are incentivized to compete with each other for these guaranteed loans. Remember the student is a child, likely 17. They almost certainly have never supported themselves financially, and almost certainly have no conception of what a $200,000 loan will look like 10 years down the road. So you have colleges who are _guaranteed_ to get $200,000 from these poor students. You'd have to be some crazy altruist not to exploit that!

However, imagine a world in which no such federally-guaranteed loans existed (and critically where absolvable by bankruptcy). In this case, no rational bank would loan a student 200k. The financials simply aren't there. Now students have to look around for funding options in the private market, which is only going to cut loans it believes will turn a profit: that is, loans to students who they believe will be able to pay them back.

We have built a flawed economic model here: it is guaranteed to fail. The only solution is to overhaul this market either via novel market design or via nationalization.

The choices of individual schools is mostly irrelevant: as market players, all they can do is play the game. The game is bad, and so the schools' decisions have bad outcomes.

disambiguation(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Less than 3k kids under the age of 24 have died from covid since the start of the pandemic [0] yet they have some how wound up with the harshest restrictions.

These kids will never get these years back. What a disgrace.

[0] https://data.cdc.gov/NCHS/Provisional-COVID-19-Deaths-by-Sex...

inanutshellus(10000) 6 days ago [-]

'I'm young and healthy, I should be allowed to spread a new virus to the entire planet. The health of my society is not my responsibility. What a disgrace.'

treis(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't think it's Covid related. The graph in the article clearly shows a steady decline that pre-dated Covid. Covid may have accelerated it a bit, but it's not a fundamental shift.

epistasis(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm trying to imagine some other cause of death where 3000 over a couple years is regarded as acceptable. I think covid has broken people's brains, because we have gone to war, spent trillions, and sacrificed the lives of thousands of people in the US for about that size of human loss, within recent memory.

johnebgd(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The problem with highly infectious diseases is those who get it also infect others. The professors are likely in the age bracket that has a higher risk than the student.

ChicagoDave(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Like that number isn't horrendous in and of itself, but let's not forget that many young adults that have had Covid likely gave it to someone vulnerable as well.

It's not just who dies directly from Covid. It's also the spread of it to vulnerable populations.

It boggles the mind that this still has to be repeated. How many 22 year olds coming back from spring break will kill one of their parents or grandparents?

Bhilai(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I dont disagree with the sentiment on lost years but I think its very easy to say that in retrospect. At beginning of 2020, no one knew how severe the pandemic is going to be. We did not have a vaccine and we did not know which age groups are going to be most vulnerable.

syki(10000) 6 days ago [-]

In my college system I'm responsible for cleaning my classroom after each use. If I forget to do this and a student gets sick then I'm personally liable. I'm not paid enough to clean classrooms and teach and I'm not taking on the liability. Thus, I haven't taught in the classroom for the last 2 years.

ChicagoDave(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I have 3 college-aged kids and one nearly there. Their universal concern is the cost. It has become prohibitive.

Colleges assumed the trend of charging $25k to $50k per year would be sustainable. They were dead wrong, especially given the horrendously predatory loans backed by the government and barred from bankruptcy.

If we fix the college financial system, enrollment would likely skyrocket.

PragmaticPulp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Colleges assumed the trend of charging $25k to $50k per year would be sustainable.

Barely anyone pays full tuition.

Look up the statistics for any of the big colleges that share numbers. It's usually less than 10% of students paying full tuition. Significant numbers of students pay under $10K and many pay basically nothing at all.

It's still too expensive, but the myth that everybody is paying $50K/year at these colleges needs to die. It ends up convincing a lot of people who shouldn't be paying that much that everyone else is doing it and therefore they should too.

lvl100(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I am convinced college is more or less priced off of prestigious private high schools where the parents simply pay cash. For the wealthy it is acceptable to pay 60-70K per year for their kids. Clearly this represents the wealth gap in this country.

bastardoperator(10000) 6 days ago [-]

My nephew did community college (free) for two years and transferred in state to the UC system which is about 14K a year. He qualified for some grants/scholarships which covered more than half the cost for each semester. He was able to pay off his school loans in his first year out of college. School costs are insane, but there are easy ways to save considerable amounts of money.

Dig1t(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Doesn't it vary pretty wildly depending on the school?

I also was very concerned about cost when going college, so I went with the cheapest route possible and also worked a job during college. I went to community college for 2 years while living at my parent's house, which was very cheap, it cost about $1000 per year for that. Then I transferred to a cheaper in-state school, in my case it was one in the California State University system (CSU) which is way cheaper though not quite as well known as the UC system (UC Berkeley is part of that system), which cost me about 10k per year for the final 2 years.

In all I was able to get through college with no debt and a degree in Computer Science for a total cost of 22k. I think there is a mindset that students should always attend the best possible school that they are admitted to, but this seems pretty dumb to me as they are usually expensive for big brand names and in the end you receive the same degree and learn the same things.

What I did also happened in California, I think some states have even cheaper paths through college if you go with the community college + in-state university route.

soheil(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The administrative fees are outrageous. Administration staff effectively getting paid from student loans just to set more guidelines and procedures in place for students to follow and for themselves to gain more power is perverse incentives.


sylens(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yes, it's quite clearly this.

Millennials have been out there for nearly a decade yelling on social media about how ridiculous their student loans are. Kids on the precipice of college have started paying attention. Combine that with the restrictions for Covid, and you have a lot of kids who don't think that taking on tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars in debt is worth it for some Zoom classes.

epistasis(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've heard tales of people with interest rates of 7%+ on student loans, and the official rates are not incredibly low either:


Any loan that is charging 6.28% interest and also cant be discharged by bankruptcy is just usury with current interest rates.

jrsj(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I honestly think keeping people in debt so they have to work more & for longer is considered a feature of the system by a majority of the people running it

xhkkffbf(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Absolutely true. And many of the degrees don't lead anywhere. The smart kids are the ones that aren't in college.

When I hire now, I always look for kids who are willing to teach themselves and learn from all of the good sources on the Internet. Places like Coursera, Udemy or even YouTube. They're reasonably priced.

MattGaiser(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Aren't state colleges must cheaper than that?

commandlinefan(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Their universal concern is the cost.

I have a senior in high school right now and although I think you're right - he's concerned about a potential quarter-million dollar tuition bill before this whole thing is over - he's also concerned about the whole selectivity of it all. From the outside looking in, you never know what's important and what's not. He has this feeling (and I'm not sure I can dispute it) that the only degrees that matter are degrees from hyper-selective ivy league schools and if the only school he can get into is Texas Tech, he might as well just give up and go into a trade. I remind him that I went to a no-name school and I'm doing fine but he says 'things are different than when you were young', and I'm not 100% sure he's wrong.

the_only_law(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've been looking at going back to school for some years, and it's finally looking like I'll be able to begin the process this year.

I can do the first two years of undergrad, through a community colleges while still working, and grad school can be figure out later if I decide on it, but I'm still concerned about how much I need to save for those last two years of undergrad.

Tuition is one thing, while generally expensive, I'm in a state that's not too bad if you can get in-state tuition. It's still probably expensive, but nothing unmanageable (doesn't seem much worse than financing a new car). The main concern is living expenses.

The financial aid system is a bureaucratic joke as far as I'm aware, and "estimated family contribution" seems like a delusion in the case of most people. I half-joked with some friends about living in a car for the last couple years, and one thought I was crazy, responding with an anecdote about how "you don't have to do that, I worked 3 jobs to pay for my education" which to me almost seems more miserable at this point.

mywittyname(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> If we fix the college financial system, enrollment would likely skyrocket.

Enrollment was at record numbers immediately preceding the pandemic, and this was a trend that held for several years prior as well. Lots of colleges had been expanding their campuses like crazy in the Before Times.

I don't think the pandemic will result in a long-term shift away from this trend. By-and-large, college education remains is a worthwhile expenditure, despite the costs. You even agree, hence why you have three kids in college!

I can appreciate not going to college right now. Classes have been randomly cancelled, there have been lockdowns/classes going remote, professors aren't grading/lecturing at the levels they should be, students are doing the work, etc, etc. But once society reaches some level of normalcy again, I believe enrollment numbers will explode back to record levels.

Plus, cost-conscious students have more options than ever. A lot of community colleges are starting to offer 4 year degrees.

monkeynotes(10000) 6 days ago [-]

In addition there is COVID which means a lot of online learning and none of the college social experience. I know of a coop on my team is considering pausing finishing his degree because he hates online learning and does not feel like he's getting the education he paid for.

asdff(10000) 6 days ago [-]

In state tuition at public schools has still been reasonable all this time

learc83(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>horrendously predatory loans backed by the government

What's predatory about public loans. They all qualify for income based repayment, which means you'll never pay more than 10% of your disposable income (any income over 1.5x the federal poverty level). If you make below that amount, you'll never be required to pay back anything. And they are cancelled after 20 years.

Theoretically you'd owe tax on cancelled debt, but only up to the point of solvency. And a borrower who hasn't made enough income to pay back a student loan after 20 years probably isn't solvent, so won't pay anything. This also assumes that as more and more people reach this point, there isn't demand for congress to change the tax code.

Public loans make up about 92% of all student loan debt as well, so the vast majority of loans are going to qualify.

devwastaken(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yes, this is the issue right on the head. At a $0 income, federal and state grants + student loans will not cover tuition and housing costs at the most affordable of in state universities.

We can't just look at tuition, but housing costs. The cost of housing sometimes rivals tuition. A fun fact is they make freshmen have to buy $2200 meal plans for their first year. They also prevent freshmen from better housing where they can cook for themselves and save money through food stamps.

Ontop of this part of those grants are work study, you have to work to receive that money. This is again even if you're dirt poor with nothing. You will have to take a second job if you need to buy personal items like deodorant.

The vast majority of students don't fit into this, they come from middle class parents and have to take out private loans. Students have to pay on private loans, so, again, more and more work. I know students working 30 hours a week just to meet living costs and pay what they owe to the University so they are not barred from signing up for classes. These students are not learning what they should be, even though they are very bright hard workers it's wasted because we let universities charge these ridiculous amounts.

It's not as if the unis are using it responsibly, either. They're not funding extracurriculars or programs students can learn more by being involved in. I recall one of our programs having to be funded by professors themselves to go anywhere. There are many different administrative workers that simply don't need to exist. The system has become lazy and inefficient. I recall in HS teachers spent hours grading. In uni - it's largely automatic. Yet we continue to have multiple teachers per subject and give professors just 1 or 2 classes.

If we defund universities they will shape up quickly. Defund, regulate, start firing people.

rch(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It would also help to encourage and support people choosing to attend regional colleges for many fields of study, particularly given that educational content from state universities can easily be made available at the local level.

hammock(10000) 6 days ago [-]

College was once to be reserved for the rich elite.

But central bank and government policies starting in the 70's gutted US manufacturing and took away most of the non-information worker jobs - so there was little else for the middle class to go for a career except first to college.

Hence today.

However, today it's easier than ever to live off the nanny state WITHOUT a career.

What should the role of college be today?

WoodenChair(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Colleges assumed the trend of charging $25k to $50k per year would be sustainable.

It's worth noting that the vast majority of students don't pay the sticker price because financial aid is provided early and often (beyond just loans). Very few students are actually paying $50k.* [0]

The average net price at a public college last year is $19,230 and the average net price at a private college is $33,720. Note that this doesn't just include tuition, but also room and board. So if you're going to public college you're probably paying $20k to eat, sleep, and learn. Plus you generally get some kind of health insurance too.

These averages can be significantly lower still for in-state public colleges and community colleges.

No doubt the massive inflation in college prices is driven by the government loans, and the federal government's policy around them should be modified at best. But we should speak in reality instead of the hyperbolic articles that often just look at tuition which is what most people are familiar with. Colleges below the top tier compete on their 'discount rate' which is what percentage of the sticker price does the average student actually pay because almost no students pay the sticker price.

* 'The average grant aid awarded per student was $8,100 at public colleges and $23,080 at private schools.'

0: https://www.collegedata.com/resources/pay-your-way/whats-the...

jeffalbertson(10000) 6 days ago [-]

in addition to cost, there is also a feeling I didn't get ANY value from the curriculum. Some majors are great but many give you 0 skills for the real world. I majored in communications cause I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. By the time I figured out I loved software, I had graduated.

The best lessons I learned in college were off campus and developing my social skills (which is important).

_fat_santa(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Thought it's not as glamorous as a 4 year college experience, I highly suggest going to a Community College for the first two years and then transferring to a state school.

I did this and through I resented it at the time, I existed college with around $30k in student debt versus my friends that all has something in range of ($40k to $80k). IMO 30k in student debt is very manageable, currently have the thing paid down to like $12k and I like knowing I can reach into savings at any time and wipe out this debt if need be.

standardUser(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Public schools average about $10k per year for in-state students. That's a far cry from the $25k-$50k per year people tend to quote when arguing against the cost of college. How important that difference is depends on which state a student lives in. In California there are literally dozens of options including several prestigious ones, whereas many states only have a couple of middling schools to choose from, and out-of-state public tuition averages around $25k/year.

bagacrap(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The loans are exactly why the colleges were able to continue jacking up the prices. As with homes, people will pay as much as institutions are willing to loan them. In both cases the currently low interest rates allow the loan principal to be much higher (given that folks calculate cost based on recurring payments). If you remove the student loan system then tuition would become cheaper. However that does unfairly impact those from economically disadvantaged households.

Also, in-state tuition for state schools is much less than $50k/yr so try going to Cal and/or your best local public school and supplement with self teaching (e.g. via public/free lectures from MIT)? The self directed learning/motivation is the hard part for many people of that age, but few have said living frugally should or would be easy.

hourislate(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>Colleges assumed the trend of charging $25k to $50k per year would be sustainable.

I understand that commuting to schools is not available to everyone but State schools are affordable. Entertaining the idea to go away for school either leads to higher costs or more debt. A 4 year degree from UT Dallas landed my oldest a 110k + first job in DFW. His entire degree cost approx 45-50k and that included gas, books, etc.

jjulius(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Cost is the primary reason I dropped out of college, with not knowing what I wanted to do with my life being the secondary reason.

It was about 15 years ago, I was 19. At the time, I was attending community college because I had no idea what I wanted to major in, or what I wanted to do with my life as far as careers go, but I had so much societal pressure telling me that I had to go to college in order to be successful. I'd tried steering myself towards a few subjects that were hobbies/passions of mine, but every time I dipped my toes into doing something with them professionally, I quickly became concerned about money/profit/work/bosses bastardizing my love for them and opted to keep them as hobbies/passions. 15 years later, I am still enamored by some of those same hobbies and am happy I kept them as such.

While the 'goal' was to transfer to a university from the community college, I consistently found myself thinking, 'I'm seeing a ton of my friends, and people who graduated HS a few years before me, taking out these massive loans. Why am I going to go into debt if I don't even know what I want to do?'. It just made no sense to me, so I stopped. I've been incredibly lucky that I found a career path in an area that I'm good at, and have risen to a level in my career that I'm happy with, but I absolutely did have to work really hard to get here.

All that is to say, not only do I think we put far too much pressure on people to know what they want to do when they're still too young to truly have that figured out, but I also completely agree with you that cost is the primary concern here. If I didn't have to go into so much debt in order to have continued my college education, I have a feeling I would've opted to keep at it and figure out what I wanted to do along the way.

shockeychap(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I remember reading a while back something like, 'It used to be that you could mostly pay for college with a summer job. Today, the only summer job that could pay for college is being Elon Musk.'

paulpauper(10000) 6 days ago [-]

College cost less than a brand new car, yet does not lose a third of its value when you drive it off the lot, but rather gains value due to the wage premium and better job prospects overall. There is no crisis of car affordability yet people talk about college being unaffordable even though student loans are cheaper and have much better terms than car loans. Same for credit card debt. Also the price actually paid on tuition , especially after accounting for generous aid and other programs, is much less than the sticker price.

snambi(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Knowledge and education should be free of cost and barriers. Any society that thinks otherwise, will not be able to sustain and expand knowledge in the long run.

sAbakumoff(10000) 6 days ago [-]

why bother? you enroll to a college, you collect a huge debt that the government is not going to cancel - they prefer to give money to corporations instead. covid-19 disrupted in-person education and it's not gonna away any time soon. at the same time there are plenty of crypto startups that don't give a sh*t about education and could be pretty lukrative

micromacrofoot(10000) 6 days ago [-]

the government will actually cancel your student debt eventually (25 years) if you're on an income-based repayment plan

reaperducer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I always chuckle when someone on HN inevitably rails against education in a post with bad spelling, grammar, and expletives.

pacbard(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is probably related to teenagers enrolling in college not only for an education but also for the amenities that come with college life (think of greek life, moving away from parents, college sports, freedom to explore your identity, etc.) The pandemic has put a stop on most of all non-academic stuff, making enrolling in college less appealing to this group of students.

It will be interesting to see a follow-up analysis that parses out enrollment behavior by subgroup (e.g., by SAT/ACT score) as it will be easier to understand who is choosing not to enroll in college.

Another follow-up could be to see which institutions are losing students. It is known that college enrollment is counter-cyclical to the economy and that enrollment declines at community colleges and open access universities when people can get a job right out of high school.

stinkytaco(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Most of the amenities you speak of are not available at community colleges, which have seen the biggest decline. The pandemic definitely figures into this, but I don't think amenities can account for the large decline in certificate and vocational training this represents.

strict9(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is a good thing. Too many people are entering college and taking on enormous debt to get something which is less of an edge for getting a job.

Worse, many get saddled with debt and don't finish for various reasons.

Meanwhile tuition and books keep skyrocketing as schools divert more of their attention away from academics and toward more profitable uses of institutional time and capital.

But in a bit of good news, more jobs are ditching the degree requirement as workers as more scarce. I am glad the pandemic has opened the eyes of employers to realize that a degree is not the indicator it once was.

Opinion: the self-taught are just as capable in the workforce and college degree requirements are gatekeeping.

9dev(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Sure they are gatekeeping, but that's the problem. The gatekeeping will continue, artificially limiting access to highly paid jobs to the upper class.

chickenpotpie(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Strongly disagree, a less educated society is nothing to celebrate. This isn't a problem being solved, it's a country giving up.

parkingrift(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Most of the comments here are attributing this to costs, but that isn't clearly true (at all) from the article. This seems to be the result of a long term downward trend in enrollment which has rapidly accelerated during the pandemic. The fact that it has accelerated so rapidly during the pandemic is not likely due to costs, but due to other factors.

The article itself posits that it is tangentially related to costs as kids are choosing to work rather than pay for school. However, that association feels pretty shaky and doesn't hold up to scrutiny as to why these changes accelerated so rapidly during the pandemic.

I don't have a data-driven answer, either. However, my guess would be that students are uninterested in an online college experience and don't see the value in spending to attend a lucrative school so that they can then sit at home on their laptop. If I had to bet I would guess that enrollment ticks back once all these restrictions are abandoned.

Brybry(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The article doesn't mention population changes either.

A significant part of the recent downward trend could be because there are fewer college age people in the population. Just eyeballing it looks like fewer 18 year olds every year for the last 15 to 30 years? [1]

A more interesting statistic might be students per capita within the college age bracket.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_Sta...

nostromo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Most comments here are completely missing why this is happening now.

Students don't want to pay tens of thousands of dollars for remote learning. They could watch Khan Academy videos instead for free, and they'd be better quality.

Gigachad(10000) 6 days ago [-]

While hiring for junior software devs, I found that degrees were next to worthless. People coming in with a long list of qualifications but somehow can't answer the most basic questions about the stuff they are certified in.

I found people who did self directed online learning combined with having some projects to show in the resume were the best and had real world experience rather than having memorized a hundred java design patterns from the 90s.

starwind(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Bingo. If I graduated in the last two years, I would have gone to work at a grocery store while taking a couple core classes online while I waited for colleges to get back to normal

pingeroo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Funnily enough me and my peers usually end up watching Khan Academy videos anyway since they do a way better job of explaining topics than university content.

saghm(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I was surprised how low this theory was in both the article and in this comment section! The article even opens with talking about the trend continuing fall 2020 (the first school year that began since the shutdowns hit the US), and yet it takes almost halfway down the article to mention 'remote learning' and then another big chunk before the word 'pandemic' is used (I didn't see 'virus' or 'COVID' either before then). I'm not saying all the other issues discussed in the article and elsewhere in this comment section aren't there, but given the timeline I feel like any convincing theory has to first address why that isn't the dominant factor.

hungryforcodes(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is it telling that there is no breakdown by gender? Men seem to have been abandoning education for a while now.

CountDrewku(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yeah I feel the current education system is set up to support women more.

When gender doesn't exist then that breakdown no longer matters...

mfer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

US colleges have many students from foreign countries on visas. I wonder what the impact of the pandemic is on that segment of the student population.

This isn't likely to hit community colleges, which the article touches on. Just trying to point out that digging deeper might show some interesting details.

rossdavidh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Certainly has to be a factor, but not many of them were headed to community college, which has seen the biggest drop.

rkk3(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> US colleges have many students from foreign countries on visas. I wonder what the impact of the pandemic is on that segment of the student population.

The elephant in the room is that those foreign students are also the ones paying sticker price and subsidizing college for the other students, even at public schools.

tuankiet65(10000) 6 days ago [-]

From what I've seen , international students who are supposed to attend colleges in 2020 were affected the most:

* Some abandoned their international studies plan and attended local colleges instead.

* Some took a gap year to wait until 2021.

* A minority pushed on and took classes online until they're able to come to the US.

ravenstine(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Most of the college graduates I know ended up not using their degree because they majored in something no one cares about like communications, philosophy, journalism, etc. Maybe some people are figuring out that flipping burgers or literally just hanging out at home is a better use of their time from a financial standpoint than spending 4 or more years taking various prerequisites to get a degree that only results in more debt. Bell curves gonna bell curve, so it's not like all of these people are gonna have what it takes to instead become doctors, lawyers, and politicians.

As far as I'm concerned, besides the fields that deal with the fate of a person's life (like doctors and lawyers), the whole idea of going to college and getting a masters in whatever your heart's desire deserves to be imploded. I see no sense in those saying that we need to 'fix universities'. Honestly, fuck universities for acting they're worth as much as they are while still pretending their priority is the students. Everything I learned in college and the different schools I went to can now be learned online or at the library for free or for $29.99. In a few generations, universities will be naturally replaced with more practical alternatives. So why try to prop up these archaic institutions for the sake of the average person rather than the exceptional? Such a desire is more of a fetish for an image of what universities represent.

reilly3000(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>something no one cares about like communications, philosophy, journalism, etc.

Excuse me? No one cares about fields that employ 2.8 million workers [BLS.gov 2020] ? No one cares about work that provides information, entertainment, and shapes political views? FYI your doctors, lawyers, and politician's biggest expense line items usually include money going to communications and media professionals.

I and many others resonate with the notion of 'useless degrees', but you chose some terrible examples. That said, there is more value to education than vocation, and your inability to see that shows that you missed quite a bit in yours. The classical liberal arts education could and should be continually reimagined for a changing world, but to wholly discount its importance is capitalist orthodoxy that misses much of what life is about. Read a goddamn book.

lumost(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm noticing a paradoxical trend across multiple goods where the food is somehow becoming too expensive to be used.

- Housing - Education - Healthcare

If costs are too high for students to afford, why doesn't the price fall? If it's scarce why isn't more of it produced?

bigthymer(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Each of those is high cost for different reasons.

Historical Discussions: Multiple Sclerosis Causality (January 14, 2022: 634 points)

(634) Multiple Sclerosis Causality

634 points 5 days ago by nabla9 in 10000th position

www.science.org | Estimated reading time – 4 minutes | comments | anchor

Interesting news has just come out about a possible cause for multiple sclerosis. That has been a huge area of research over the years, with all kinds of hypotheses being advanced (genetic, environmental, immunological, infectious agents, and combinations of all of the above). One of those hypotheses has been an association with Epstein-Barr virus, with some interesting data that have been pointing in that direction for some years now. But causality has been the hard question: does having MS make you show show signs of EBV infection, or does having EBV infection make it more likely for you to develop MS?

This latest paper goes a long way towards nailing that down. The authors are looking at a huge and unique data set: blood draws from recruits to the US military. There are about 62 million serum samples from periodic HIV testing over the years, and in looking at the 1995-2013 data set the authors identified 955 cases of MS that developed in 10 million service members after they joined. 801 of them had enough serum samples for the study (at least three - the first one on joining, one taken as close to possible to the time of diagnosis, and at least one in between), and the team identified 1566 matched controls for them. 35 of the 801 were EBV-negative at the first sample, and 107 of the 1566 controls. All but one of those 35 became EBV-positive over time, and in fact only one person of the whole 801 was EBV-negative in the last sample before diagnosis (about a year before). Median time for development of MS after going EBV positive was about five years, and the median for MS development after the first sample was about ten years.

The study used cytomegalovirus as a control, since it's spread in much the same way as Epstein-Barr and thus can account for environmental and behavioral effects. But there was no real correlation at all with MS and CMV, except a slightly lower rate of MS in those who were both CMV and EBV positive, which fits with previous work suggesting that the immune response to CMV attenuates the effects of Epstein-Barr. The paper also took a random 30 MS patients and 30 controls and did a comprehensive search (via antibody responses) for infection in samples both before and after MS diagnosis by basically all known human pathogenic viruses (about 200 species). The only thing that came up out of the baseline was Epstein-Barr.

The authors state flatly that 'These findings cannot be explained by any known risk factor for MS and suggest EBV as the leading cause of MS'. And that seems justified - the ability to check the time series of blood draws and to control for other factors is unique here, and it's hard to come to any other conclusion. Note, though, that EBV would then be in the 'necessary but not sufficient' category. There's something about the interaction of particular human immune systems with EBV infection that pushes things over into the pathological state of multiple sclerosis, and we don't really know how to identify these people. But that fits with what we know about infectious disease in general - everyone's different. The situation with Guillian-Barré is similar - a small number of people tip over into neurological pathology, for reasons unknown, and that one also often seems to follow some sort of viral infection.

So this work might stimulate efforts to develop an EBV vaccine. It's a rather prevalent virus in the population (as the figures from this study confirm), but if it leads to neurological disease in some part of that cohort, it's tempting to hope that we might be able to eradicate multiple sclerosis by cutting off the pathology right at the start. Speed the day!

All Comments: [-] | anchor

sonicggg(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Cause is still not well explained. EBV is such an ubiquitous virus, more than 90% of all adults worldwide have been infected with it. Most will never know. Why is that just a tiny percentage develop MS?

rewgs(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Welcome to the immune system :p

Most people don't develop food allergies. Especially most adults if they don't have a family history of it/didn't have any food allergies as children. Those that do typically only develop 1 or 2.

I can't imagine how infinitesimally small the odds of this happening to me are, and yet here I am, at age 31, with nearly 30 food allergies that all activated about a year ago, seemingly overnight. No known cause, and after a year of researching the immune system and just how depressingly little medical science knows about it, I doubt I'll ever know, let alone receive a treatment that will allow me to eat like a normal person again.

And that's just one way in which the immune system can go haywire. There's MS and all the dozens of other (auto)immune issues -- so many that some don't even have a name. It is truly baffling, but the immune system has gotta be one of the single most complex systems known to man. There's a whole lot of ways something like that can break.

killjoywashere(10000) 5 days ago [-]

EBV is associated with a lot of things that involve a tiny percentage of the population. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma, Hodgkin's lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease. Burkitt's lymphoma. Oral hairy leukoplakia. Related viruses are associated with other diseases, e.g. HHV-8 and Kaposi's Sarcoma, primary effusion lymphoma, and Castleman's disease.

scotty79(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Why only a small percentage of those who contracted polio got paralysis? Interesting, but for now let's settle on eradicating ebv to hell

malloc2048(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Good question, if I am correct there is also a higher chance to develop MS if you are a woman and if you live in the northern hemisphere and some parts of Australia and New Zealand.

Also if you are of Northern European descent the risk is higher if I remember correctly.

Possibly it's a mix of many things and you have to be one of the unlucky people where that mix triggers something in the immune system and the disease develops.

I am very unlucky in that regard.

According to my doctors the number of autoimmune diseases I have is rare in a single person.

I have a sysmetic autoimmune disease (Rheumatoid Artritis) and autoimmune diseases in my kidneys, liver,thyroid, skin and mouth.

So somehow multipe times there were events in my life where a mix of things caused my immune system to turn against me.

A little off-topic, but to give an impression of how that works out in daily life, in case you are also diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

If you are lucky, there is good medication and you will hardly notice you're ill, except for the checkups with your doctor

I also know some autoimmune diseases can (become) pretty aggressive, but n=1, most people I know with autoimmune diseases have a decent quality of life.

Fortunately, in my case also for each disease there is medication that either supresses the inflammation or the protects my body against the effects of the auto-immune response.

So I take my pills and a bi-weekly injection with a biological and I can continue to live with a decent quality of life.

Except for one important thing, my main remaining symptom is that I have a lot less energy than most people and need much more sleep.

Despite that all inflammation parameters in my blood show no signs of inflammation or activity of the disease, my body somehow loses energy to something.

This seems to be a complaint of many autoimmune illness sufferers, no signs of activity of the ilness, but more tired than before the disease came into their life.

Hopefully there will soon be more developments in this area of medicine.

jessriedel(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This question, though very worthwhile, doesn't necessarily need to be answered. Vaccines for EBV are under development. If we stop most EBV infections, we can stop most MS.

Miner49er(10000) 5 days ago [-]

From my understanding, the leading theory of what causes autoimmune diseases is viruses. The immune system responds to the virus and ends up mistakenly attacking the body as well. This seems to support that, and shows that different viruses cause different autoimmune diseases.

More info: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01835-w

jjcon(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Any thoughts as to why autoimmune diseases are (or at least seem) more prevelent in the 1st world?

atombender(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There's also some really compelling evidence that psoriasis is caused by bacteria. Psoriasis is often described as autoimmune, but is probably better described as immune-mediated disorder. Unlike autoimmune disorders like MS and lupus, psoriasis doesn't involve the body 'attacking' itself.

Specifically, streptococcus bacteria such as Streptoccocus pyogenes, also called Group A Streptococcus, which is primarily responsible for rheumatic fever and scarlet fever in developing countries, and more commonly known in the West for causing strep throat (streptococcal pharyngitis).

We already know with almost certainty that S. pyogenes triggers a form of psoriasis called guttate, which in 60% of cases resolves on its own within 1-3 months. But in the remaining cases, it turns chronic. It can also come and go: spontaneously resolving and then coming back a few months after.

What's particular about strep is that it appears that it can lie dormant in the body. The tonsils of psoriasis sufferers have been found to contain strep bacteria, and a recent meta-study concluded that a tonsillectomy can significantly improve psoriasis in about 70% of patients who undergo the procedure; so it's likely that the tonsils act as a reservoir for continuous reactivation. (Apparently, people who have a tonsillectomy as a child are also less likely to develop psoriasis.) Strep bacteria are also thought to evade serological detection by hiding in biofilm, from which they periodically emerge to reactivate the immune response.

As to why only some people develop psoriasis, the explanation might be some kind of genetic predisposition. Psoriasis is often explained as maybe being caused by 'cross talk' between the adaptive and innate immune systems.

Some papers:

Streptococcus pyogenes-induced cutaneous lymphocyte antigen-positive T cell-dependent epidermal cell activation triggers TH17 responses in patients with guttate psoriasis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27056267/

Group A streptococcal pharyngitis: Immune responses involved in bacterial clearance and GAS-associated immunopathologies https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28951419/

Psoriasis, chronic tonsillitis, and biofilms: Tonsillar pathologic findings supporting a microbial hypothesis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29554401/

Psoriasis, chronic tonsillitis, and biofilms: Tonsillar pathologic findings supporting a microbial hypothesis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29554401/

Tonsillectomy and the subsequent risk of psoriasis: A nationwide population-based cohort study https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33548305/

Mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis and the role of the skin microbiome in psoriasis: A review https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30981296/

f6v(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I've been reading recent research on MS and other autoimmune conditions. I also study APS1 in my PhD at the moment (caused by AIRE gene deficiency). I'm definitely not an expert, but I don't think it's a leading theory. As always in biology, autoimmune diseases probably have dozens different causes. Many of them might be environmental or genetic. Better yet a combination of the two.

deltaonefour(10000) 5 days ago [-]

If MS is a faulty immune response from EBV, wouldn't a vaccine theoretically and potentially trigger this same faulty immune response?

There are obviously other causative factors influencing MS. One is EBV, the other is likely a specific type of immune system.

croes(10000) 5 days ago [-]

EBV stays in the human body, a vaccine wouldn't.

vintermann(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Climate is also a known factor. MS is more prevalent in temperate climates. A study from some years back suggested that if you move before the age of 15 or so, you get the risk of your new climate instead.

epgui(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Short answer is no.

Long answer is that the question is premature (we need to answer more mechanistic questions first, and then we need to have an actual potential vaccine strategy to talk about) and there is currently no particular reason to suspect this.

adnmcq999(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That's why I won't MRNA

gregwebs(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Dr. Terry Walhs was diagnosed with MS and became wheel chair bound. She came up with a protocol that was able to reverse her MS. I recall from previous interviews that her theory was that MS was a disease of the mitochondria. https://terrywahls.com/

_qua(10000) 4 days ago [-]

And what's the theory for why supposedly successful treatment is not embraced by the medical community? Is it not more likely that her diagnosis was incorrect, or her course was atypical than that she independently discovered a cure which is rejected by the medical community at large?

Broken_Hippo(10000) 4 days ago [-]

the Walhs protocol is generally recognized as a scam. Diet does not cure MS. If it did, diet would be first line treatment as it would be much cheaper to simply pay for someone's food than the most effective MS treatments we have. Those treatments are solely responsible for the increase in an MS patient's quality of life (over time) because they actually prevent some damage. Some, not all - they are not a cure.

And FWIW: It isn't uncommon for someone with MS to use a wheelchair temporarily. OR a cane. I was half blind for 6 weeks, but that went away years ago. I spent time with numb hands, which has mostly (but not totally) gone away. If my legs had been affected - you guessed it, I might have used a wheelchair for a bit. All of this means that it can seem like a 'cure' works when it is really just the way the disease course goes for lots of folks.

scotty79(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I wonder how many viruses infecting humans we know nothing about just because they don't cause any obvious symptoms.

alok-g(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I had read somewhere that there are about 400 trillion viruses in a healthy human being's body, which is about ten times the number of human cells.

mactournier(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Contrary to the HN title, the paper is not about causal inference, it is a case-control study. A good primer on the limitations of case-control studies can be found here: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/280936#limitations

letmevoteplease(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The abstract of the study states, 'These findings cannot be explained by any known risk factor for MS and suggest EBV as the leading cause of MS.'

axlee(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Your contrarian approach is detrimental to proper research. Authors have found a very strong link that cannot be explained by any other risk factors. What risk factors are you suggesting they should look into?

cheaprentalyeti(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I saw this news item last night, posted next to that one...

'Study finds hydroxychloroquine delays disability for least treatable form of multiple sclerosis' [0]

[0]: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-01-hydroxychloroquine-di...

xadhominemx(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Probably not

degosuke(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The link returns 404.

clord(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I wonder if MS is like the EBV version of shingles: if you don't get it early, when you do, it's a much worse disease. Most people pick it up early, but those who manage to avoid it and then get it late are in danger. Another instance of hygiene hypothesis.

vintermann(10000) 5 days ago [-]

MS isn't, but yes, Epstein-Barr virus is more serious if you first catch it as an adult. That will likely knock you out with mononucleosis, a.k.a kissing sickness, for a few weeks. Fatigue can linger a lot longer.

deltaonefour(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is a bit off topic but I have a question about causality.

Is causality really a fuzzy concept? For example I assume if action A causes event B I assume the connection is 100%. Can we really say that action A has a 30% chance of causing event B?

I ask because the more I think about it, when someone says action A causes a 30% chance of event B occurring what he is technically saying is action A is one causative factor that must occur and that we're missing information about other causative factors.

In the case of this article. A causative link is established between EBV and MS to a fuzzy probable degree. This seems to me that technically what's actually occurring is that a fuzzy causal link simply means that there are other causative factors we don't yet know about, and likely this is a specific type of immune system that reacts to EBV in a certain way.

Would my assessment be accurate? All causal connections are either 100% and any fuzziness just means we're missing information about other joint causal events that must occur to trigger the outcome. Does anyone who's a statistician know?

csee(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is more in the domain of philosophy than statistics.

I wrote something in response, but then saw that the Wiki article on causality was far better than what I wrote, so have a look at that.



dataflow(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Is causality really a fuzzy concept? For example I assume if action A causes event B I assume the connection is 100%. Can we really say that action A has a 30% chance of causing event B?

The world is probabilistic at the quantum level so I don't see how it could be otherwise.

> I ask because the more I think about it, when someone says action A causes a 30% chance of event B occurring what he is technically saying is action A is one causative factor that must occur and that we're missing information about other causative factors.

To my knowledge this has been physically disproven: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidden-variable_theory#Bell's_...

(Note I'm just responding to your philosophical question, not the biological one. In particular I'm not suggesting anything about the practical relevance of quantum effects to the biology discussion here, or lack thereof.)

echelon(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> we're missing information about other causative factors.

Welcome to biology.

Perhaps EBV is particularly immunogenic, but it has to reactivate in the presence of CD8+ T-cells or CD20+ B-cells along with some other self-signal or co-infection. Perhaps there's a chain of immune signaling that must happen upstream in other immune cell populations.

Perhaps other agents can trigger autoimmune behavior in these cells, and EBV isn't strictly required. Maybe other viruses in the herpesvirus family (HSV, zoster, etc.) There could be more than one set of causes, and they might not even look similar.

In the crazy absurd limit, maybe nothing at all. Maybe autoimmunity sporadically arises with no causal agent. Random radiation hits the cell at the wrong time.

All or none of these could be the case. Diseases can have a multitude of causes, sometimes with complex interactions and interdependencies, sometimes not. With cancer it's a progression of increasingly worse state changes, and that could be the case here too.

sva_(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> All causal connections are either 100% and any fuzziness just means we're missing information about other joint causal events that must occur to trigger the outcome.

I think one theory is, that the immune system has a way of approximating the surface of a protein, and in this way recognizes what to build antibodies against. This process could be a source of fuzziness as the 'protein signatures' of a virus may vary from person to person. There is also the question how those signatures are stored and retrieved in the immune system, and why they -presumably- lead to the immune system misrecognizing myelin sheaths as a threat (in some people, some of the time.)

gwern(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Is it helpful to ask about 'percentages' here? Is oxygen 0% or 100% of the cause of you posting here? What about gravity?

Whenever you have a causal question, often taking a Pearlean perspective and asking about interventions would be more useful. For example, there is an EBV vaccine being worked on right now. If you believe OP that EBV infection is a necessary but not sufficient condition for 90% of MS cases, then it would be reasonable to say something like 'if we intervened by making everyone got the EBV vaccine, then there would be ~90% fewer MS cases than in the counterfactual universe where everything else was the same but no one got the EBV vaccine.' That sounds much more interesting and meaningful to me than talking about how 'EBV is necessary but not sufficient'.

peter303(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There was a similar debate in the 1880s. Dr. Robert Koch claimed some diseases were caused by bacteria and developed a procedure to prove it. The germ theory of disease was controversial until then.

Its suspected several diseases without known causes may be caused by a bacterium, virus or protein. But lack the evidence to satisfy the Koch postulates. These diseases include some cancers and many human nervous system diseases.

beaconstudios(10000) 5 days ago [-]

simple, 1:1 causality (if I flick a light switch, the light turns off) is not fuzzy at all. Complex causality is more complex (obviously) and most things in real life have complex causality.

Mezzie(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I have MS and my first relapse was a pretty textbook case of transverse myelitis of the sort that the EBV can cause.

I know some people have been asking about why that might be the case when a ton of people have EBV, and I think the causality may go the other way: Those of us with something wrong are more likely to both have EBV complications and MS.

There are other viruses like this as well (ones that most people get/have but aren't dangerous). I was on one medication where I needed to be tested monthly because if I got one particular (normally harmless) virus, the suppression caused by the medication meant I would probably die.

There's pretty clearly some sort of relation between the state of one's immune system + how it deals with 'benign' viruses + auto-immunity, and I'm excited to see what the future holds, but for now it's a cool confirmation of something a lot of MSers have talked about amongst ourselves for a while.

jessriedel(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> I think the causality may go the other way: Those of us with something wrong are more likely to both have EBV complications and MS.

I'm unsure, but it sounds like you're hypothesizing that EBV infections does not cause MS symptoms, and that instead some some third factor causes both, so that preventing EBV infection would not prevent MS. The paper being discussed specifically considers and rejects this possibility with pretty strong evidence. Indeed, that is the main contribution of the paper. (The fact that 99% of MS sufferers have EBV, way higher than the 90% baseline in the general population, has been known for a while.)

roganartu(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> There are other viruses like this as well (ones that most people get/have but aren't dangerous). I was on one medication where I needed to be tested monthly because if I got one particular (normally harmless) virus, the suppression caused by the medication meant I would probably die.

For those curious, I'm going to guess and say this might've been Tysabri (natalizumab) and that the virus in question is JCV (John Cunningham virus). After approximately two years on Tysabri, people who test positive for JCV antibodies (approx half the population of the US) have an extremely high chance of developing an often-fatal brain infection called PML (Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy).

Tysabri was originally pulled by the FDA due to PML deaths back in the early 2000s, but later got reapproved after the link to JCV was discovered. Nowadays patients get tested for JCV antibodies every 6 months. The treatment is considered quite safe now, with the caveat that if you test positive you cannot get Tysabri anymore. Most people don't switch from negative to positive, but it happens occasionally.

Source: my wife has a rare form of MS and has been on Tysabri for about 5 years now, relapse free. Modern MS drugs are a scientific marvel.

supperburg(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Well said. I said the immune system should be to blame in the previous thread and was downvoted to hell. But it's true. What's more, it's highly under appreciated that the immune system is extremely ancient and it does a lot more than the typical things associated with it like destroying tissue. It pulls deep metabolic levers that can make critical cells, including brain cells, latent. It can do many amazing things. In the future, the immune system won't be known for immunity — it will be known as something like the second nervous system and will be associated with the nth great wave of medical progress when we finally conquer it and all the hundreds of diseases it causes. Diseases we don't even have a name for now, I know for a fact.

Broken_Hippo(10000) 4 days ago [-]

To be fair: I have MS. I've never had EBV with symptoms that I know of - which is absolutely normal. When folks catch it as children, there are generally zero to no symptoms. And I'm not alone, judging by activity on MS related sites.

I wouldn't take the word of 'a lot of MSers' - I mean, there are folks that push the scam WAHLS protocol (diet) as a cure, too. Unless the folks are researchers, an MSer's thoughts about what causes the disease are often just as baseless as a non-MSer.

dtech(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> I think the causality may go the other way

The whole point of the article is that this isn't the case.

xdrone(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Here's a John McDougall talk, he had some close ties to Dr Swank, known for a lot of early MS research.


tldw: When your stomach layer is compromised, unprocessed food gets into your body. Food like animal protein, similar to our proteins, get attacked by the immune system, some of your cells are also mistakenly attacked.

Anyone with the compromised stomach is at greater risk for auto immune diseases. For example look of rates of ms among celiac or crohn's sufferers.

Same goes for type 1 diabetics, also autoimmune. Research suggests casein from dairy gets in the body, your immune system accidentally attacks your pancreas insulin making cells.


sumosudo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

All the health problems of modern society can be diminished greatly by ensuring the proper functioning of the gut.

howinteresting(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This study appears to suggest that MS is essentially 'long Epstein-Barr.' Terrifying if the same pattern holds for covid, given the number of people who have some sequelae (the most conservative estimates are 2-5% for 'serious' post-viral symptoms, which would be hundreds of millions of people worldwide). There will be an extraordinary amount of suffering, not to mention radical shifts in economic and public policy.

axg11(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The study really doesn't suggest that. All it suggests is that EBV seropositive people are much more likely to develop MS than the seronegative minor population.

As for long COVID, the data quality is very variable. I'd like to see a controlled study that compares recovery from COVID vs. other respiratory viruses.

vintermann(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That sounds unlikely. Epstein-Barr is a herpesvirus, and it's persistent - once you catch it, it stays latent in your body and you'll shed it through your saliva periodically for life.

As far as I can find, coronaviruses have no way to pull that trick. Once your immune system gets rid of it, it's gone and not coming back unless you're infected again by a sufficiently unrecognizable relative.

kmeisthax(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There's another paper from June of last year[0] that proposed a long COVID explanation: Epstein-Barr reactivation. I haven't seen any follow-up work yet, but if both that and this paper have any predictive power to them[1] we might start seeing a cohort of 'long long COVID[2]': people who got COVID, didn't recover, and then progressed to MS.

[0] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34204243/

[1] I'm particularly worried about the 'EBV reactivation' theory as COVID-related studies have been used as a vehicle for many medical frauds.

[2] As per ISO standards long long COVID must have an infection duration represented with at least a 64-bit machine integer

stefan_(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There are lots of viruses that persist forever. You can get chickenpox as a kid then die of shingles as a retiree. Measles might give you only mild symptoms then 6-15 years after reactivate and cause Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), a fatal brain inflammation with all the interesting symptoms that implies (starting out with mood swings progressing into dementia, muscle spasms and blindness).

Think of this the next time some brain dead person starts talking about the 'unknown long term effects of the vaccine' - we know what has long term effects, and it's freaking live viruses!

f38zf5vdt(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Coronaviruses do a weird thing where their viral RNA persists in cells long after the initial infection. [1] No one knows if this has a bearing on long COVID or not.

[1] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41592-021-01145-z

dm319(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Here's a link to the article [0].

Just a bit of background - 95% of humans will experience infection with EBV at some point in their lives. Once you're infected, it remains latent, only flaring up in particular circumstances. MS is an autoimmune disease, like many others, and this paper does not imply that EBV directly causes MS. Obviously, as so many more people have EBV than have MS, EBV infection does not completely explain why people get MS.

Just to put a small caveat to the paper. The comparison is to EBV 'seronegative' population - this is a minority of people (i.e. people who do not have evidence of being infected with EBV). You could argue this is an 'unusual' population in the first place and there's something about them that provides protection from MS.

Another point is that EBV is a risk factor, there are other risk factors known too. I think the key to understanding a lot of autoimmune diseases is to understand how our adaptive immune system works. Our immune response is a very complex cell-to-cell interaction between millions of cells all with different roles, and how the immune system decides whether something is a threat or not is not, and how to respond to it, is not yet clear.

[0] https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abj8222

jonnycomputer(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think this is may be one reason they used CMV infection as a control. Unless you think that the people who don't get CMV are not special, but the ones who don't get EBV are...

hda111(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Had a similar thought when reading the headline. It's like saying drinking water causes MS.

moneywoes(10000) 5 days ago [-]

As someone with an autoimmune disease, is there anything I can do to prevent getting more? Iirc having one is a risk factor for others

dekhn(10000) 5 days ago [-]

At least part of the adaptive immune system is implemented in the thymus. As an infant, the thymus makes examples of nearly every type of cell in the body and uses it as negative labelled examples to tune the false positive detector so it doesn't identify self as threat. From an information theory perspective, that's pretty extraordinary (you don't normally expect differentiated cells in an organ to act like cells from another organ).

Another part of the adaptive immune system randomly shuffles different regions of genes together to produce enormous diversity (searching for a rare example of something that 'works'), then picks the proteins from those genes that work best and distributes them throughout the body.

Pretty amazing stuff.

birdyrooster(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I guess titling the article 'Multiple Sclerosis Causality' and then immediately going into EBV correlation seems like implication to me.

user90349083(10000) 5 days ago [-]

For anyone dealing with an acute bout of Epstein-Barr Virus, I used 3 teaspoons a day of monolaurin for three weeks to kick it. Research monolaurin, it's fascinating stuff as an antiviral and I can personally attest to its effectiveness.

aserdf(10000) 5 days ago [-]

there is an experimental[0] treatment for MS, the 'immune system reboot'. i am a layperson but my understanding is stem cells are taken from the patient, the immune system is 'destroyed' through immunosuppressants and the stem cells are then used to rebuild a 'naive' immune system in the patient.

based on the info in the OP, i wonder if the MS result from EBV is random; what is the probability of a rebooted immune system to follow the same path after exposure?

[0] - https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/immune-...

wswope(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The initial susceptibility is mostly going to be predetermined by the MHC, and therefore remain the mostly the same. However, the pathological outcome is ostensibly a product of certain strains of pathogens plus luck of the draw on somatic hypermutation in response to said pathogen.

wtetzner(10000) 5 days ago [-]

An interesting talk about someone who was able to reverse a lot of her MS symptoms with a change in diet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc

moneywoes(10000) 5 days ago [-]

So basically no wheat, milk and processed foods?

epgui(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Biochemist here: I would advise to exercise strong caution when looking at dietary changes in the context of MS.

A lot of advice gives people the illusion that they have more control over their illness than they actually do, and a lot of the diets cause unnecessary harm (as a heuristic: the more things you cut out, the higher the potential for harm).

That said, healthy eating and regular physical exercise is always a good idea, and even more so if you have any existing illness.

Broken_Hippo(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The Wahls protocol is a scam. It is not a cure for MS.

Most folks with MS have RRMS - RR stands for relapsing remitting. Basically, you have a 'flare' - when your body attacks your nerves. You have symptoms for a while, and then they start to go away. For context: I woke up one morning half blind. I could tell if there was a red object, but I couldn't make out what it was. Everything I could see out of my left eye was fuzzy. I couldn't make out the big 'E' on the eye chart.

But then, the lesion heals. You might be left with some damage, but a lot of it goes away. My vision returned and the optic nerve healed well. My vision is actually better in that eye than the other one. I have lingering numbness in my hands from time to time, but nothing like the fingertip-to-elbow pins and needles from a flare (I barely notice).

All this means that a change in diet might seem to make your MS better. It definitely makes folks feel like they have control. But clinically, it does nothing. You are taking a big risk by doing this. What does work are modern DMTs - disease modifying treatments.

garganzol(10000) 5 days ago [-]

According to numerous observations, neurodegenerative diseases and the lack of energy (adenosine triphosphate, ATP) are tightly interconnected.

Thanks for posting. And yes, there is mitochondria involved, once again.

DantesKite(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Anecdotally I'm aware of someone who was able to reverse a lot of their symptoms with high doses of Vitamin D.

There's a biochemist here giving advice about being cautious. That goes without saying, but it always strikes me as disingenuous careerism to recommend people with terrible illnesses to not experiment. That's the bedrock of scientific inquiry.

It may be the case there's nothing out there that can help alleviate MS even a little, but it's worth trying, especially if the cost is low and the burden of the disease is high.

cjensen(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's weird to me that they say 35 of the 801 MS cases were negative then positive before getting MS. The control group had 107 of 1566 were negative, but they don't bother to tell us how many of them ended up positive.

I assume enlisting is a high-risk place to get EBV, and without info on the control I don't see how you can draw conclusions. But I'm basing this on the summary rather than the actual article: does the article have the info?

couchand(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's well known that (1) most people have EBV some time in their life, and (2) most people don't have MS. The news that any number of people who don't develop MS get EBV would be mundane.

reedf1(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Terrifying - I was EBV positive 4 years ago. It does not mention an association between EBV severity and MS, but I was very symptomatic and had post viral fatigue for around a year. I had no idea about the MS association!

danuker(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> According to epidemiological studies, the EBV is estimated to be positive in more than 90% of the world's populations

- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6008310/

> A total of 2.8 million people are estimated to live with MS worldwide (35.9 per 100,000 population)

- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7720355/

Given that you have EBV, I guess you're in the unlucky 90%, increasing your odds from 359 in a million to a ...whopping... 399 in a million.

shadowgovt(10000) 5 days ago [-]

If you're EBV-positive, you're in good company... It infects something like 90% of the human population.

Makes me wonder how many virii are out there that haven't been identified by modern medicine because their spread vector is so low-impact that they never even trigger symptoms. A virus like that would become real indistinguishable from 'behavior of the human body' in not very much time if its infectivity was high.

arbuge(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Calm down... from the article:

'Note, though, that EBV would then be in the 'necessary but not sufficient' category. There's something about the interaction of particular human immune systems with EBV infection that pushes things over into the pathological state of multiple sclerosis, and we don't really know how to identify these people. But that fits with what we know about infectious disease in general - everyone's different. The situation with Guillian-Barré is similar - a small number of people tip over into neurological pathology, for reasons unknown, and that one also often seems to follow some sort of viral infection.'

RspecMAuthortah(10000) 5 days ago [-]

How do you even test for EBV? The GP I asked laughed it off when I was living in Canada basically saying I am already positive and no need to test.

lalaland1125(10000) 5 days ago [-]

One important thing to note is that EBV is extremely prevalent. Almost everyone gets it eventually and very few of those people develop MS.

peter303(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Possibly a co-factor, since many get EBV and few MS.

nefitty(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The article says EBV is prevalent and is probably necessary but not sufficient for MS. If I was in that position I would look at my gene test results for any markers that correlate with MS. The more of those markers, the more intensely I would prioritize following relevant interventions.

f38zf5vdt(10000) 5 days ago [-]

If you're going to develop MS as an adult after getting EBV mononucleosis, it's likely that it will be soon (5-10 years) after you have the initial infection as an adult. There's only a long delay in children according to one study. [1] Every passing year the probability of getting MS should decay after that.

Female sex and EBV mononucleosis during adolescence are the biggest risk factors.

[1] https://nn.neurology.org/content/4/3/e308

cjensen(10000) 5 days ago [-]

EBV causes more severe symptoms the older you are. So everyone here who remembers getting it and it being terrible? That's because you got it as an adult. If you get it as a kid, it can be asymptomatic.

I got it at 36 and had a fever that leveled me for 3 weeks. Between 'wait 1 week before bothering your doctor' and multiple rounds of tests, they didn't even diagnose it as EBV until the 3rd week.

MaximumYComb(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Wow, I was also EBV positive ~4 years ago (45 months), was symptomatic and I had post viral fatigue for around a year. It was 12 months before I could do light physical training and it was around 2.5 years before I could train physically at high intensity.

Severian(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Found this in my news feed, so this timely. Good news I guess!


garganzol(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There is one more condition you may be interested in: CFS/ME. It manifests itself primarily as a chronic fatigue and is believed to onset after a trigger event: virus, intoxication, hypoxia, stress, and the like.

I talked to some people with MS and most of them told me the same story: the trigger event, followed by some time, then onset of a full-blown MS.

I wonder: are those diseases really different? Or maybe this is the very same disease but with a bit different outcomes: myalgic encephalopathy vs sclerous plaques. Both are driven by the inflammation, both have the same initiating sequence.

What leads me to strongly suspect that it may be just different manifestations of the same disease is the involvement of mitochondria in both MS and CFS/ME.

Historical Discussions: Why can't I play Ultra HD Blu-ray movies on my new Intel CPU platform? (January 14, 2022: 616 points)

(616) Why can't I play Ultra HD Blu-ray movies on my new Intel CPU platform?

616 points 5 days ago by freemint in 10000th position

www.cyberlink.com | Estimated reading time – 2 minutes | comments | anchor

The Intel Software Guard Extensions (Intel SGX) feature is a requirement on the CPU and motherboard firmware to play the DRM (digital right management) content on Ultra HD Blu-ray movie discs on a Windows platform.

The Intel SGX feature has been removed from Intel 11th generation (or newer) CPUs, and support for SGX may be removed at some point on the new versions of Intel drivers or utility programs (e.g., the Intel SGX and Intel Management Engine driver and firmware). These changes could make these platforms lose support for Ultra HD Blu-ray movie disc playback.

The removal of the SGX feature, and its compatibility with the latest Windows OS and drivers, has caused a substantial challenge for CyberLink to continue supporting Ultra HD Blu-ray movie playback in our player software. So much so, that it has been determined that it is no longer feasible for CyberLink to support the Ultra HD Blu-ray playback on newer CPUs and the latest Windows platforms.

For users who use an older compatible platform and want to keep the Ultra HD Blu-ray playback compatibility on the PC and with PowerDVD, we suggest you continue using the 7th - 10th generation Core i series of Intel CPUs and motherboards that support the Intel SGX feature. You should also consider not updating the OS (e.g., upgrading to Windows 11) and related Intel drivers to the latest versions in order to keep the Intel SGX feature from being removed from your PC. You should also ensure your platform meets all the other playback requirements of Ultra HD Blu-ray as the playback solution: https://www.cyberlink.com/support/faq-content.do?id=19144

If you have further concerns on playing Ultra HD Blu-ray movies in PowerDVD, please contact CyberLink Customer Service for assistance: https://www.cyberlink.com/support/index.html

All Comments: [-] | anchor

Havoc(10000) 5 days ago [-]

DRM - broken by design

skinkestek(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Defective by Design sounds even better.

jankal(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's the same problem I was facing trying to play Netflix Ultra HD on my AMD CPU. Fortunately Netflix now also works without Intel SGX so I can watch my stuff on my PCs now.

On the other hand: It is still not possible to play Amazon Prime Ultra HD on AMD CPUs and probably also on the new Intel 12th gen as of now.

The one thing I hate about these limitations is the amount of detailed knowledge that is required to know what is happening. As an average consumer I would have never thought of such bullshit. I only read about the problem wehn I had already bought my CPU...

sneak(10000) 5 days ago [-]

If you torrent the content directly, it plays on all hardware and can be used offline or easily shared to friends via USB/AirDrop/etc. You also get a wide choice of players.

Everything good on the streaming sites is quickly available via torrent, and VPNs are like $5. Don't continue paying the media cartels for abuse.

wodenokoto(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You can play Netflix in HD on a computer? I'm watching animated gif video quality on safari, and how do I change it?

trissylegs(10000) 5 days ago [-]

For a while I was running my second monitor over DVI. And putting Amazon prime on it cause the video to go blank.

I know why (I think there's some bs about not running HDCP over DVI even though it's basically HDMI in most Configs) But it was bizzare to actually see it.

bubblethink(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Didn't realize that cyberlink was still around. Their market share must be minuscule these days. No laptops ship with optical drives and it would be rare to add one to a desktop build these days too.

skinkestek(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Bought one with M-Disc for backup last year or the year before.

Feels nice to be able to watch old movies that I bought back in the day that aren't available on streaming - at least around here :-/

jccalhoun(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It looks like they also have a video editing program that they sell. I would think that not only is the market for playing discs on a computer small but the market for playing 4k discs on a computer is even smaller.

dtx1(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Anyone interested in an invite to torrentleech.org? No DRM there...

mardifoufs(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Very much so! Thanks:)

noyesno(10000) 5 days ago [-]


ohcomments(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That's against TL rules... However... French trackers interest me so if any invite available for those... Lemme know!

FalconSensei(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Sure, email in profile!

drumhead(10000) 5 days ago [-]

lol, yeah why not..

DanAtC(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Sure! Email in profile

dtx1(10000) 5 days ago [-]

out of invites

perakojotgenije(10000) 5 days ago [-]

A gentle XKCD reminder that you can only be sure that you'll be able to play your media in the future if you pirate it.


rthomas6(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Or you could buy physical media.

acomjean(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There was a radio segment last week on boston public radio where Andy Ihnatko explained as stuff floats into the public domain, some of our new media only comes out on digital streaming formats and without piracy copies would probably would never become public domain. This a future problem but potentially a real one.

dschuetz(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Whoever still buys Blu-rays anyway? Isn't it a dead market already?

no_time(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I sure hope not. BDrips, especially if done properly by a good scenegroup have an unparalleled bitrate.

Unless streaming sites up their game, we'll see a drop in movie image quality everywhere except cinemas.

onychomys(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I torrent everything and then buy BR's of small movies that I loved. I don't know any other way to support indie-ish film makers. It's not like a band where you can listen to them on Spotify (which is basically like pirating it, given the pay structure for the band there) and then buy a teeshirt or whatever from their website. I honestly don't know if it actually helps anything at all, but I don't have a lot of other ideas about how to let companies know what sorts of things I think they should be making.

aidenn0(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I do because I prefer owning to renting.

gmac(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I do! Since I got a 1080p projector, DVDs of recent releases are often noticeable fuzzy, while the Blu-Rays look great.

Plus a Blu-Ray off eBay or CeX is usually half the price of 'buying' a film to stream, can be lent to friends and family, and is something that I meaningfully own into the future (not only until the service I bought it from goes bust, locks me out of my account, etc). The fact I can rip them with MakeMKV if necessary is handy too.

qubitcoder(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I do on _very_ rare occasions.

Why? I'm fortunate enough to have gigabit symmetrical fiber, so streaming isn't an issue. That said, when viewing content on higher quality TVs and sound systems, there's a very perceptible improvement in both video and audio quality compared to streaming. For example, on my 65' LG C9 OLED with a Klipsch Atmos system, the difference is immediately noticeable.

Even with dedicated streaming hardware like new generation Apple TVs, which offer 4K streaming with Dolby Vision/Atmos, it still doesn't quite compare to physical media. Ditto for the native LG apps with identical options.

Of course, there are downsides. Good luck finding UHD content on physical media. Redbox doesn't offer 4K discs in my area, and local stores rarely have physical media in stock. Even with physical media, there's other annoyances--e.g. the Xbox One X produces a loud hum as the disc spins, not to mention the delay when seeking/skipping around.

That said, for rarified material such as Blue Planet (or anything by Attenborough)--or movies known for their sound quality like Mad Max--physical media can be sublime.

rthomas6(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I buy them. Streaming services encode streams using lossy compression for both sound and video, and the difference is noticeable, especially for 4k movies with HDR and TrueHD/Atmos. If you have a decent home theater setup, the discs are worth it.

Streaming services' bitrates top out around 40 Mbps (4k UHD on Apple TV), and most services are actually closer to 20 for 4k, often even lower. 4k UHD Blu-Rays have up to 128 Mbps bitrate. The quality difference is evident, including in the sound. You can see compression artifacts in dark scenes on streaming, and jagged lines in color gradients. The simulataneous dynamic range of sound (some things being loud while other, quieter things are audible on other speakers at the same time) is lower on streaming. And on top of all that, the quality is inconsistent, and the stream will drop into a lower resolution for no apparent reason.

I get the sense that the market is drying up, but I hope it doesn't, because the quality of streaming is legitimately worse. The discs are currently the only way to get uncompressed quality, unless I guess if you find a torrent with a rip. But that would be a 50-100 GB download, for one movie.

Also, when I buy the disc, I own it. It's mine forever, in its definitive edition. No scene cuts/edits for political or monetary reasons are possible, and streaming services cannot yank the movie and prevent me from watching it.

knaik94(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I am curious about the current state of playback of Dolby vision files. I know that the Nvidia shield tv can playback videos and there is the movies and tv windows app that can tone map to SDR if you download the Dolby experience app. But has there been meaningful progress for vlc mpv potplayer or direct playback from pc to tv? It seems like Dolby Vision has won over HDR10+ in the HDR video format war.

Strom(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There's good recent progress in that Matroska (mkv) can now contain Dolby Vision metadata. There's also progress with public tools that can process some of this metadata and convert between Dolby Vision profiles, say from profile 5 (hardcoded bitstream) to profile 8 (enhancement bitstream) so that you can have HDR10 fallback for scenarios where Dolby Vision won't work.

Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any PC playback progress yet. However in addition to the Nvidia Shield there are Chinese devices like the Zidoo Z9X [1] which show that the work can be done. The PC space is still waiting for a champion though.


[1] https://www.zidoo.tv/Product/index/model/Z9X/target/VEMg6VRC...

gruez(10000) 5 days ago [-]

>and there is the movies and tv windows app that can tone map to SDR if you download the Dolby experience app

There is? I searched around and couldn't find it. As for tonemapping on open source players, there's madvr, but it's imperfect compared to the official SDR release.

phoronixrly(10000) 5 days ago [-]

A gentle reminder to people that work at companies that produce/implement DRM:

We live at a time with high demand for developers. Wouldn't your talents be of better use at some other company - working on something not ultimately hindering your users?

It's OK to quit your job on moral grounds, and now is the best time ever to do so.

ClumsyPilot(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think such appeals are futule, they are not gonna run out of employees.

We created a system where employees have zero say in what a company does, so the rest of society has not deal with this issue.

netcan(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Not to contradict the individual side of your statement, but the high demand for developers in our time is closely related to the financial success of morally questionable practices.

Data harvesting, monopolisation of bottlenecks, the whole advertising ecosystem, DRM and systems of IP/copyright domination, etc. These are the unbelievably profitable industries generating the current demand.

Demand is fungible, so this doesn't mean you can't go find a job working on something else. It does however, put some perspective on it. Developers, via the current labour market, are major beneficiaries of said practices.

Again, this does not contradict your comment.

freewilly1040(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's tiresome to see the DRM argument portrayed over and over again as a moral slam dunk.

Anything consequential enough to make an impact is a trade off, with winners and losers. If all the employees listened and there was a universal collapse of DRM, I really highly doubt people who make content would be better off. Maybe some of these devs feel good about helping make sure people who make movies get paid. Maybe they feel like they are part of the moviemaking process (which they are!).

It's not as though it's difficult for people who want to make their content free to do so. Why should someone who wishes to make content under a DRM model not be free to do so? It's entertainment, you are not forced to consume it.

onion2k(10000) 5 days ago [-]

working on something not ultimately hindering your users

People who make DRM are paid by content producers, not content viewers. They're not hindering their users. They're doing what their users ask them to do. It's just that we aren't their users. If you want to influence DRM developers to stop making DRM, refuse to buy/view/stream DRM-protected media. Then they'll have to find new jobs because their customers will stop paying them.

alliao(10000) 5 days ago [-]

if for some reason you had to be where you are, you could otherwise aimed at their feet...

ChuckNorris89(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Oh please, get off your preachy high horse, and stop trying to guild trip devs into thinking that developing DRM solutions is like developing WMD or something. This is not some NSO-level spyware that can be used to spy and target people.

Plus, some devs enjoy this kind work and some companies working on DRM are in areas that are not as hot as the Bay Area (small cities in Europe) so they might not have that many lucrative options you assume.

Sure, no consumer enjoys DRM, like how no driver likes police officers issuing speeding fines, but demonizing devs working on such solutions is something I did not expect from the supposedly enlightened HN reader base.

How about you target your disapproval at the Bay Area devs whos' generous compensation packages plastered around here depend on them building nefarious ways of siphoning and data-mining peoples' private data to get them addicted to consuming content and click on ads.

sneak(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The same can be said about any technology any of us have hesitation working on: advertising, addiction-style IAP gaming, advertising masquerading as a blue social site for human connection, publishing censorship ('content moderation'), military weapons and adjacent AI targeting, etc...

If you don't think doing your job every day is making the world better, please remember that what the parent comment says is true: it's never been a better time to make the switch!

Your work matters, and we can all work to make the world better, or worse, a little bit every day.

mavhc(10000) 5 days ago [-]

At least all this investment in DRM was worth it and it stopped movies and tv shows and games and music and books being available on pirate websites

ohcomments(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I see what you did there! Haha

Nextgrid(10000) 5 days ago [-]

As usual, legitimate customers get shafted while piracy thrives.

theplumber(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I believe it's a good thing considering that 'ligitimate customers' means customes supporting DRM.

deepstack(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The currently model for digital media (film, music, etc) just doesn't work. Instead of preventing piracy, figure out a new way of making money for artists (not the organisations and administrators). Artists ought to be rewarded not the organisation and admin.

henryackerman(10000) 5 days ago [-]

'Piracy will continue as scheduled.'

gedy(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think they don't want people buying movies at all anymore, just to subscribe forever

sersi(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I honestly don't get it, everyone knows that this will not stop piracy, there's no benefit whatsoever to it yet it has significant disadvantages for paying customers.

amelius(10000) 5 days ago [-]

As streaming becomes more common, the number of seeders seems to be steadily dropping.

satysin(10000) 5 days ago [-]

And shit like this is why everything I have is the video and audio ripped from the Blu-ray and stored on my own Plex server.

The original blu-ray video and audio that I can stream anywhere in my home or even over the net should I wish (although for internet streaming I use a smaller encoded version obviously).

Honestly it is like the movie studios want you to pirate their content by making it so difficult to watch what you legally own.

sneak(10000) 5 days ago [-]

If you keep paying them for the discs they will keep paying the engineers to implement this stuff.

dm319(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm glad my naive self learnt this more than 20 years ago when it was apparently normal to apply DRM to ripped CDs on windows. I vaguely remembered that it would allow you to copy it up to three times, but I don't remember the details. I think it ripped to a windows audio format.

A few years later I upgraded my machine and lost access to these files. I guess these days I understand more about keys and how they work, but back then I was just someone who had paid rightfully for my music and as a result losing the collection a few years later.

crtasm(10000) 5 days ago [-]

What happened to the original CDs?

miohtama(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Is there any background information anywhere why SGX is being phased out?

LeoPanthera(10000) 5 days ago [-]

MakeMKV (US$60 for Windows, Mac, or Linux) can rip UHD Blu-Ray discs with the appropriate drive, removing the encryption in the process:


Some drives need to have their firmware flashed in order to enable ripping of UHD discs:


I'm not affiliated with the product other than having used it to rip my entire disc library. It can also rip DVDs and regular blu-rays.

Once ripped, they can be played back with VLC, mpv, or derivatives. (On Macs, IINA is very good.)

stavros(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That looks very much like an old DVD ripper (even the site) that was a joy to use. I don't remember the name, but if MakeMKV is as good as that, it'll be great.

donatj(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I bought a flashable drive specifically for this reason. I both love having physical releases and the convenience of a Plex server when I just want to throw something on.

xwolfi(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Why bother? I did the whole shebang, bought a reader, a new processor, a compatible OLED tv and everything, I could only read a UHD bluray at 30fps if I used the integrated intel card, so had to do crazy config changes to boot correctly without my nvidia, with no HDR and that worked only with an expensive PowerDVD software.

So I gave up, googled rarbg and can get the same stuff in perfect quality in a few minutes. UHD killed legal 'dvds' for me, it's so stupid.

brian_herman(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I have used this software and it is great. You don't really have to register for the software you can find the 'beta/trial' key on their forum and keep on reinstalling and reusing makemkv.

nebula8804(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Anyone reading this, I'd recommend the Pioneer Drive if you can swing it. It does not support UHD decryption (yet) but the reliability is so much better than the LG drives and the other drives (which I think are just rebadged LG). I got a LG drive manufactured in June 2021 and by September it was dead. Got a second drive from a different vendor (mfg July 2021) and it also started to falter. (returned it while I still could). There are tons of complaints on the makemkv forums but it is still a popular drive for the price(if you wanna risk it).

flotzam(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Some drives need to have their firmware flashed in order to enable ripping of UHD discs

I love their summary of what the patched firmware does:

'A LibreDrive is a mode of operation of an optical disc drive (DVD, Blu-ray or UHD) when the data on the disc are accessed directly, without any restrictions or transformations enforced by drive firmware. A LibreDrive would never refuse to read the data from the disc or declare itself "revoked".

(...) Change the optical drive embedded software in a way that the drive becomes a "primitive" device - one that just positions a laser, reads and decodes the data. Make a drive free from "policing" functionality, a drive that just passes all data from the disc to the user.'

- from What is LibreDrive? at https://forum.makemkv.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=18856

shelbyKiraM(10000) 4 days ago [-]

*clap* thanks for the pointer on IINA. I'm a long-time user of MPV (that's prob what I'll stick with on Windows...) it's good to have all these super useful interface improvements~

TazeTSchnitzel(10000) 5 days ago [-]

MakeMKV even has an integration with VLC that lets you just play Blu-ray discs without ripping them first. I don't know if that works for the UHD ones.

henryackerman(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The stupid thing is that this might be illegal in some jurisdictions. With any DRM scheme you'll end up having to break the law at some point in time to consume the content you legally purchased.

renzo88(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is illegal in the US, which means it's rad as hell.

RealStickman_(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'll second the recommendation for MakeMKV.

No annoying upsells, no subscriptions and you can use the officially provided beta key (valid until the end of a month, a new key gets released every month) to check it out.

smoyer(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is also the *secure* way to continue playing Ultra HD Blu-ray movies - run away from anyone's advice when they include the phrase 'don't update Windows' (paraphrased). Haven't we learned to patch our system yet?

_zooted(10000) 5 days ago [-]

ThePirateBay is free and easier.

tomc1985(10000) 5 days ago [-]

As an alternative, AnyDVD HD can trasparently strip the encryption off a Blu-Ray disc. I haven't tried it with any Ultra HD discs but it works extremely well for traditional Blu-Ray.

iforgotpassword(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Agreed. If you want to (physically) own a movie or TV show, use MakeMKV, or just torrent/IRC/usenet it. It really seems the rights owners want you to go that route.

Otherwise if you just want to watch a movie and don't care that it might not be available at a later time, use a streaming service, it's by far the most convenient.

mherdeg(10000) 5 days ago [-]

For the first time in about 10 years, I recently found myself with some physical DVDs I wanted to format-shift (show the kids some old movies on an iPad).

It was surprisingly hard to do the homework on the 'best' way to do this on a Mac -- I ended up using MakeMKV to rip + Handbrake to encode, but it was hard to find a robust recent technical discussion of what the pros do.

At one point in this process I was looking at the Internet Archive's copy of http://thelittleappfactory.com/ripit/ which has just quietly disappeared from the Web? It was a bizarre experience.

halo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm convinced the inability to easily play Blu-Rays and similar on computers is a major contributor as to why the format hasn't had the same traction as DVDs and may have accelerated the removal of disc drives from devices. Such a self-defeating move.

jbluepolarbear(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I only buy Blu-ray that come with a digital code. I activate the code, it shows up in iTunes, and I give or throw away the Blu-ray. Although this is usually around Black Friday where you can get Blu-ray for $5-$10.

jcpham2(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I can say that I have never bought into BluRay, I don't own a BluRay compatible optical drive to play them, and as far as I know we do not own any BluRay discs. I have mountains of DVDs and still prefer it in terms of purchasing movies. Bandwidth and access to other forms of digital media has allowed me to skip BluRay. I understand the resolution is better but it's not a strong selling point for me.

As a side note with the original DeCSS DVD code now considered a virus by many antivirus vendors I basically reject DRM technology everywhere I can.

I pay for Netflix, but that's a recent thing. The kids watch YouTube. That's it for my household. No local news, no over the air free HD TV. We cut the cord and never looked back. If its not on Netflix I guess we just wait or go to a theater (rarely) or don't watch it.

I ripped my first DVD in college approximately two decades ago. I'm not oblivious to new technology nor am I some type of techno-Luddite; the selling points of BluRay are just weak imho.

clintonb(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I disagree. Streaming killed the disc. High speed internet facilitating digital downloads, alongside a desire to make laptops smaller and lighter, killed the disc drive.

I own a 3D Blu-ray player. I haven't used it in about two years, since the nearest Redbox went away. I only used Redbox because it was cheap and more convenient than waiting for streaming releases. Now that many movies are released in theaters and on streaming at the same time, I don't know if I'll ever use it again.

Physical media is on the way out. Records continue to be manufactured for nostalgia (and better audio quality, for those that care), but that's about it.

skhr0680(10000) 5 days ago [-]

In 2003 I had a 40GB hard drive and dialup. The 4GB of a DVD was nothing to sneeze at.

In 2010 I had several 1TB HDDs, fast broadband, and a 32GB USB stick. Getting a blue ray drive for my PC wasn't worth the hassle.

ChuckNorris89(10000) 5 days ago [-]

And I'm convinced the hassle of Blu-Ray DRM or any kind of modern DRM is why I, and many others, still pirate movies and TV shows despite being able to afford to pay for them.

KennyBlanken(10000) 5 days ago [-]


Most people don't watch TV or movies on their computers. They watch them on big-screen TVs with streaming built-in (or attached to streaming devices like Rokus, Fire Sticks, or Apple TVs) in their living rooms, or on mobile devices like tablets and phones.

My guess is that the movie industry is purposefully killing off PC viewing. Bluray players and TVs are much easier to assure content control on. I'd also guess that in general they don't care about bluray, period. They want everyone to stream, where there's no 'ownership.'

dTal(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's same reason you don't see DVD-A or SACD discs around. Who would buy such things when you need an expensive standalone player, especially in the age of streaming? They didn't learn.

petee(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I can agree with this. I got a bluray burner and I could rarely get blurays to actually play properly or at all. Somewhere between software, licensing and drm , I now have basically a paperweight. An old ps3 does the trick though

joshstrange(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'll never understand the stupidity of studios/streaming platforms (DRM/Widevine). DRM only hurts legit customers, period. Any TV Show or Movie you want to watch is going to be on Torrents/Usenet within hours at most of release, their DRM has completely and utterly failed to stop piracy, instead it punishes paying users.

I still remember a good decade ago getting a DVD from Redbox and trying to watch it with some friends. Tons of unskippable ads, FBI warnings, etc. Partway through the hell of enforced watching I started a torrent, before we got to the title screen it was done and we watched the downloaded version instead.

Furthermore, look at the state of TV today with all the streaming platforms. I'm excluding 'live' TV because I can't imagine why anyone would subject themselves to that cesspool. Having to jump between streaming services/UIs/UX/etc is terrible. 'What platform was that show on?', 'Wait, weren't we watching this on service X? That's why it lost our place in the season', 'Oh, did they remove Y show?', and the list goes on.

It's incredibly sad the the best TV experience is some combo of Plex/Jellyfin+*arr-type software. Music piracy is practically non-existent in my friend groups (the same could not be said 10+ years ago), Spotify and friends did that. Not any laws, not any enforcement, not any crackdowns, etc, no a /paid/ service beat music piracy. Why? Because it was better, it was easier, and it had everything. As long as we only have a choice of disjointed services and platforms TV/Movies will never be better than piracy.

Things like Amazon Channels and Apple TV (yes the app, not the device, not the service, come on Apple...) are somewhat of a step in a better direction but Plex is still bar none. No ads, instant playback, no BS.

Taylor_OD(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Sometimes it really is easier to torrent a show and know you will see it ad free and without buffering than to find it on any given streaming service and suffer the ads.

Recently I've seen even ad free, paid or unpaid, streaming options that still force ads into their shows at the beginning or the end. There is a new Nerdwallet ad that says, 'Enjoy this ad free break before getting back to your show - brought to you by nerdwallet' I almost screamed at my tv when I saw that. If your name is plastered on the screen and the show/movie I'm watching is disputed to display it its an ad...

nihilist_t21(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> I'm excluding 'live' TV because I can't imagine why anyone would subject themselves to that cesspool.

Live sports.

zimmerfrei(10000) 5 days ago [-]

SGX seems to have pivoted from DRM use cases (in consumer CPUs) to confidential computing (in server CPUs) [0]. Is that so? Or is the Intel server product line just lagging behind and it will be removed from those too? Will Intel replace it fully with something like AMD SEV?

As a technology, SGX became interesting the moment Intel added the ability for anybody to launch enclaves (and not only the anointed companies that signed NDAs with Intel) and especially when support for it landed in Linux.

Assuming Intel somehow manages to fix its security problem to a decent level, is SGX as a technology worth learning still?

[0] https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/security/confidentia...

hansendc(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I sure hope it stays around in servers for a long time. Some of us at Intel are actively working on expanding the existing kernel support: https://lore.kernel.org/lkml/cover.1638381245.git.reinette.c...

Intel's equivalent of SEV-ES and SEV-SNP is called TDX: https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/developer/articles/t... . While you could probably put both under the 'confidential computing' umbrella, they do really different things well. As far as I know, SGX and TDX will both be around on the same hardware.

Also, just to be explicit about it: I work on Linux at Intel, including on SGX.

josephcsible(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Remember how Stallman et al complained loudly about 'Trusted Computing' technology like SGX, and everyone ignored them and accepted it anyway?

matheusmoreira(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yeah. Stallman is absolutely right about everything concerning computer freedom. He saw pretty far into the future.

activitypea(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I don't understand why the film industry bothers with DRM. Their product is fundementally easy to pirate, and always will be.

sneak(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's not about piracy, it's so they can segment the market and charge different amounts in rich and poor countries based on region-locked media.

Otherwise first sale doctrine would allow people to sell mountains of imported cheap discs from poor countries in the USA legally.

It's to protect the margins in places where $5 isn't much money. Vastly more units are sold in places where $5 is a lot.

izacus(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The DRM isn't there just for end-user piracy, it's to enforce contractual obligation on middle-men distributors and for those middle-men distributors to be able to enforce exclusivity onto users (e.g. pay rights for a certain region, to dubbing and then prevent people from watching that content in the same region elsewhere to maximise the moneyed return).

It also allows distributors and content houses to repeatably charge for same content as it goes through media conversions (pay once for DVD rights, pay again for BR, pay again for localized BR, pay again for UHD-BR, pay again for iPhone Apple TV version, pay again for version with extras and special edition)... it's a legal hammer that enforces each middle man to stand in the line and to make sure each piece of content extracts as much money as the overextended copyright system allows.

And if anyone DOES pirate the content, it's used to cover the middlemen asses by being able to show the abusive DRM practices and saying 'we did all we could, YOU ceritified this DRM as good you see!'

user_7832(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> For users who use an older compatible platform and want to keep the Ultra HD Blu-ray playback compatibility on the PC and with PowerDVD, we suggest you continue using the 7th - 10th generation Core i series of Intel CPUs and motherboards that support the Intel SGX feature. You should also consider not updating the OS (e.g., upgrading to Windows 11) and related Intel drivers to the latest versions in order to keep the Intel SGX feature from being removed from your PC. You should also ensure your platform meets all the other playback requirements of Ultra HD Blu-ray as the playback solution: https://www.cyberlink.com/support/faq-content.do?id=19144

Wow, the official solution is to use old hardware and software. I'm sure that's a great idea :)

Sarcasm aside, I wonder when corporations will realize that until they offer proper easy and affordable solutions, people have little incentives to actually jump through the official loops and simply not pirate content. I hope to see this realization sometime in my life, but maybe I'm too optimistic.

saxonww(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Honestly no, the official solution is to buy a dedicated UHD Blu-ray player. I think that's what they really want.

LeoNatan25(10000) 5 days ago [-]

As long as people reward these ridiculous solutions by paying for them, the corporations will continue deploying them.

AnIdiotOnTheNet(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Well, Gabe Newell at least already realized it:

'We think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy. Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem. If a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24 x 7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the US release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate's service is more valuable.'

hlandau(10000) 5 days ago [-]


The desire to support the unreasonable demands of the film industry here has led to the perversion of the x86 architecture to add all sorts of peculiar DRM functionalities, and has precluded firmware components from being made open source; as I have previously written about here [1], which links to forum posts by an AMD engineer:

  I'm sure I don't have to explain to you that the essense of DRM requirements in the OEM PC market is that the owner must NOT have full control of the machine if that includes being able to tamper with or disable any of the DRM mechanisms.
At the end of the day if Intel was going to support this kind of thing AMD also was pretty much going to be required to make such a deal with the devil, or have a product that can't compete with Intel. If Intel is losing interest in supporting video DRM, perhaps due to shifts away from physical media, it's likely to have a positive effect on both Intel's platform as well as other platforms which feel the need to support the same DRM platforms.

[1] https://www.devever.net/~hl/intelme

hulitu(10000) 5 days ago [-]

IMHO blaming the film industry is a bit much. Intel has the ME since some time and coupled with secure boot is a MPAA or RIAA manager's wet dream.

DrBazza(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Don't forget about this abomination: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinavia

'Why has my playback gone silent?'

BlueTemplar(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It doesn't make sense though, unless Intel is replacing its SGX feature by a similar one (that new Microsoft chip ??).

Also I don't think that this has an effect on Intel's Management Engine ?

BTW, older AMD CPUs (of the Bulldozer line) are still performant enough, and don't come with a likely backdoor in the form of IME / AMD PSP.

P.S.: It does really suck the effect that this has on GPU's openness... (and so performance for very specific use cases)

matheusmoreira(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That quote is amazing. An AMD engineer publicly stating that our machines are owned.

tjoff(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Strongly disagree with the quote.

The owner should still have full control and be able to disable DRM support. If that means you can't play certain movies afterwards that is fine, but the control should be there.

elzbardico(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Film Industry => in about half the time, Sony Entertainment, by far the most aggressive company when it comes to copyrights.

mrweasel(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Can someone explain why PowerDVD needs the SGX feature? Intel clearly doesn't see it as being useful, or did they replace it with something better and Cyberlink just doesn't want to upgrade?

I mean it's reasonable that Cyberlink shaw the SGX as a way of implementing DRM, but I don't believe it's the only way they could possibly do so.

bubblethink(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Cyberlink doesn't control anything in this. Studios, Microsoft, Intel, etc. decided all this. Cyberlink was just providing a service atop all this nonsense.

hlandau(10000) 5 days ago [-]

When Blu-ray came out, it came with all sorts of DRM madness (AACS, BD+, etc.) which persists to this day. However playback on PCs still ultimately involved some kind of proprietary player software which contains keys to decrypt the content. Obviously, these keys could be extracted from the player software to decrypt DVDs. In other words, it's the flaw with all DRM schemes.

For UHD/4K Blu-rays, the DRM scheme was renewed (AACSv2). As far as I can tell, studios seemed to decide that the above model was too insecure and to require something more for PC playback of UHD Blu-rays. The requirement seems to basically be that some kind of platform-integrated hardware DRM is involved so that the CPU never sees the decrypted video (or equivalent; presumably SGX is used to lock the decrypted content inside an enclave which is remotely attested and then securely transported to the GPU somehow. GPUs also have had this kind of hardware DRM functionality added to support this use case but I don't have the details to hand as they're not to my knowledge public.)

zuminator(10000) 5 days ago [-]

beemeup5 at ghacks.net wrote [0]:

  Slight clarification. This is primarily a limitation specifically for software 
  like Cyberlink's PowerDVD because Cyberlink is one of the very few officially 
  authorized software vendors for encrypted UHD disc playback.
  Intel SGX is not a requirement for playback in the UHD Blu-ray spec. PowerDVD 
  just happens to make use of Intel SGX for their decryption implementation / 
  HDCP handshake enforcement. Other software players that don't make use of Intel 
  SGX can play UHD discs just fine, so AMD CPU owners need not worry.
  Just use MPC-HC or JRiver Media Center, etc. Of course, you may need to use 
  "alternate" decryption options like AnyDVD or DVDFab, and naturally you also 
  need a UHD capable disc drive with compatible firmware. like the Asus BC- 
  12D2HT. Many sellers will flash the stock firmware with UHD-capable firmware 
  for drives sold as "UHD ready".

Historical Discussions: An anatomy of Bitcoin price manipulation (January 17, 2022: 586 points)

(600) An anatomy of Bitcoin price manipulation

600 points 2 days ago by VHRanger in 10000th position

www.singlelunch.com | Estimated reading time – 24 minutes | comments | anchor

I show how price manipulation to liquidate traders is done in cryptocurrency markets. I point fingers at people. Thanks to Coinstrats for allowing me to use their order book data for the analysis. Also see Carol Alexander's blog about similar events on 25 – 27 July.

It's commonly said that "cryptocurrency markets are manipulated". Today, you'll see one example of how that particular sausage is made.

The SEC cites price manipulation as a primary concern when rejecting bitcoin ETF applications. Some crypto hedge funds retort that "markets can't be manipulated because they're too big", which we'll show is nonsense.

While cryptocurrencies have grown in popularity and market capitalization, the volatility of the price has not diminished. One recurrent feature of crypto price is the BART pattern, where periods of low volatility are punctuated by spikes of extreme volatility. The name comes from the resemblance to Bart Simpson's head:

Volatility spikes like the ones in BART patterns are caused by cascading liquidation events. Speculators making leveraged bets get forcefully wiped out.

Today, we'll dive into one such market manipulation event with loving detail, the July 26th Bitcoin short squeeze. The data I've used to research this is the full Binance orderbook (data courtesy of CoinStrats) at the millisecond level. Here's what the price data for the event looks like:

All charts have hi-res versions if you click on their links

Note the extreme spike in BTC Futures price compared to other markets. Among Bitcoin mass liquidation events in 2021, this isn't the largest:

The largest liquidation events are forced selling (red bars on the bottom chart, AKA long squeeze). This is because many more crypto speculators are taking leveraged long bets (borrowing to buy more BTC) than short positions (betting that the BTC price goes down). People who speculate on Bitcoin are as a group an optimistic bunch.

The reason we're looking at July 26th rather than April 18th, May 19th, or December 4th is that it's a better example to write an article about.

The July 26th event has both a clear order book manipulation as well as a classic media manipulation campaign, showing how actors that profit from these events operate.

The Bullshit Amazon Bitcoin story

The BART pattern in this short squeeze is punctuated by two major pieces of news.

Leading into the upward price spike was a false story about Amazon accepting cryptocurrency payments.

The downward part was instantly triggered by Amazon's official denial of the false story.

In between the up and down part, there's a side-story about Tether receiving target letters from the DOJ, which had a very short lived price effect.

Timeline of Events

Here is the timeline of relevant events:

Before we get into the actual data analysis, let's take a stroll through the dismal state of online media and how it plays with cryptocurrency.

July 23rd: Amazon job posting

On July 23rd at 4PM, Business Insider published an article about an Amazon job posting looking for a "Digital Currency and Blockchain Product Lead" in their Seattle office.

This article is better than the abysmal displays of journalism we'll see later. But still takes considerable liberties to maximize its clickthrough rate.

Reading the job post, you'll see it is looking for a manager to "develop strategy and product roadmap". Translation from business-speak: nothing is built and we don't have an idea of what, if anything, to build, so we're hiring someone to look into it. This is what the amazon spokesperson says in the BI article:

"In an email to Insider, an Amazon spokesperson confirmed the job posting and the company's ambition to eventually accept cryptocurrency from its customers."

Over the next few hours Business Insider AB tests the headline away from reality and into fiction. We can trace this thanks to the web archive:

A handful of publications report on this over the 24hr, with no measurable reaction in the cryptocurrency markets.

July 25th 9AM: The CityAM article

The next important event is Darren Parkin's CityAM article titled "Amazon 'definitely' lining up Bitcoin payments and token, confirms insider", alleging that Amazon will imminently accept Bitcoin payments. All important information in the article comes from an unnamed "insider".

36 hours later, Amazon will deny the article wholesale.

By September Amazon will have removed the job ad. I searched private job ad databases, and that job was never actively advertised or promoted before being taken down.

Note: I have made requests for comments to both Darren Parkin and the CityAM editorial team. None have been answered.

CityAM has never published a retraction or correction on their article. Rather, they doubled down on their claims, insulting "anonymous critics".

We're not here to take a third rate rag and their inept journalistic practices to the pillory. We're here for the market manipulation. CityAM is but an unknowing cog in a greater machine, happily amplifying the lies from a planted fake source.

Trading up the chain

Everyone who consumes articles online should read Trust Me, I'm Lying by Ryan Holiday. The book describes how economic incentives in the online media industry has brought about a second era of yellow journalism


More importantly, Holiday details a common strategy to exploit the broken state of click-driven media, called "Trading up the chain". This scheme starts by planting a lie or half truth at a low quality source (blog, twitter, low-tier news site, etc.). You then "trade it up the chain" by having successively more reputable sites report on the report.

Often, by the time you see something bending the truth on your twitter feed or the front page of Reddit, it has gone through 3-4 iterations of this. Each iteration further optimizes for attention by shedding context, exaggerating, foregoing important details, rewording claims, or just outright lying. See Business Insider's headline optimization in our example, for instance.

Media bubbles where fact checking is light, like cryptocurrency reporting, are subject to this. This is also true of politically charged topics, a good example is detailed in this article on "Hydroxychloroquine as a COVID treatment" and how it was traded up the chain from a Google Doc to Elon Musk and Donald Trump.

Preparing the field

Planted false stories being traded up the chain, like the CityAM piece, are part of a pattern. These stories prepare the field for market shenanigans triggering mass liquidation events.

Another example of this are the fake "tether/deltec leak" stories from February 2021, which are detailed in this skippable blue box on the deltec leaks:

Similarly to the July 26th event, Feb 22nd liquidation event was punctuated by fabricated news. This time it was bad false news for Bitcoin, because the point was to make the price go down to liquidate long positions.

Around a week before the event, false leaks were being spread to journalists, presumably to start some trading up the chain. Around 90min before the large liquidation event, a twitter account called @deltecleaks posted text that looks like hacked data from tether's bankers, Deltec Bank. The false leaks continued for around a week after the liquidation event, after which they stopped.

Now, before we dive into the financial aspect of the price manipulation story, we need to cover some background knowledge.

The Cryptocurrency financial ecosystem

While people think the main innovation of cryptocurrencies are public blockchain ledger transactions, the vast majority of crypto trading happens on private centralized exchanges. Crypto exchanges like Binance, Coinbase or FTX are interesting because they fill multiple functions that are typically segregated in financial markets:

  • A Custodian for crypto assets. Getting hacked is a big problem in cryptocurrencies. Blockchain transactions are irreversible, unless your name is Vitalik Buterin. This makes crypto a great asset to steal or use for ransom payment. Exchanges solve custody problems because they're less likely to get hacked than you are.

  • A cryptocurrency Brokerage. An individual can use the exchange as a broker to place buy and sell orders, which the exchange will go execute for them.

  • A trading Clearinghouse. The exchange will match brokerage orders together and act as the final intermediary between a buyer and seller.

It's important to realize that leverage works differently in crypto markets than regular commodity or stock markets. In a market like the NASDAQ or CME, the brokers are separate entities from the clearing firms. In a crypto exchange, the exchange does both functions at once.

In normal markets, if you get unlucky with a leveraged position, you get margin called. Your broker gives you some time to give them more collateral or they'll liquidate positions. The broker itself also keeps a margin with the clearinghouse, as a secondary buffer to ensure proper delivery of all orders.

This is normally invisible, except in freak occurrences. One example is Robinhood in a meme stock frenzy, getting margin called by their clearinghouse because of the unprecedented increase in market volatility.

The fundamental problem of crypto leverage

Offshore crypto exchanges like Binance offer absurd leverage in the 20-125x range. But the exchange is both a broker offering leveraged products and the clearinghouse of the leveraged trades. This can easily create "failure to deliver" situations from the clearinghouse side. Take this example:

  • We are the only two customers on the exchange. I buy half a BTC and leverage it 10x. You short sell one BTC and leverage it 3x.

  • The market price instantly moves down 33%

    , which means you make 1 BTC in profit, and I lose the equivalent of 1.5 BTC
  • I get liquidated from my leveraged position. You should earn a full BTC, but I only have half a BTC to give you!

The exchange has a problem. You're owed more than I can pay you.

The exchange could resolve to pay you the difference from its insurance fund, and lose money. Carol Alexander suggests that in large liquidation events, like on May 19th, it's possible the exchange misreports numbers to avoid losing money to their insurance fund.

The other option is for the exchange to auto-deleverage you, saying "actually you only get half a BTC". In this case you lose money.

Interconnected poker tables

The best way to think of crypto markets is that each one is like a poker table. When a trader wins, it comes from someone else's loss at the same table. The prices on all the tables are kept in line by arbitrage bots who simultaneously buy and sell on each market to keep prices in line.

Delivery is an issue in leveraged liquidations if you are on the winning side. You want to make trades in the place where most assets are. The market implicitly coordinates to a focal point, where having a deeper pool of liquidity means leveraged delivery issues are reduced.

This focal point used to be the Bitmex XBTCUSD perpetual futures, now it's the Binance BTCUSDT perpetual futures.

The great "innovation" of perpetual futures is that it doesn't require delivering much of anything. Unlike a normal futures contract, where one party has to deliver the commodity when the contract expires, perpetual futures "delivery" is only the difference between the spot price and futures price every 8 hours.

This "delivery-less" format allows gamblers to take on massive leverage, because little of anything has to be delivered.

Currently, the Binance BTCUSDT futures is where most cryptocurrency price movement originates from:

We can see this directly in the data. Here is a 10min slice of Binance's orderbook chart of Binance BTC "spot" (buy orders yellow, sell orders green) and BTC perpetual futures (teal and purple).:

I encourage you to open this chart in high resolution in a separate tab and closely look at it.

You can see the bid-ask spread for both order books move around as the price goes up and down. This bid-ask spread in each market is provided by similar bots as the ones exploiting price spreads between the markets.

First, note how unstable the futures book is compared to the spot. The spot trades within a flat range, then jumps up or down to correct and realign itself with the futures price.

This is common behavior – the futures market trade with so much more leverage, and hence volatility. Futures price movement "leads" the spot price movement much of the time.

Also note that the futures price is slightly below the spot price. This is normal backwardation, and common in futures contracts prices.

Automated Markets

The crypto market also reacts instantly to relevant news. Amazon released their denial of the CryptoAM story at 15:59EST (19:59UTC). If you had a bloomberg terminal you'd have seen this:

Amazon makes these releases at the end of NASDAQ trading hours. This is normal if you have to announce news important to your stock price. It's polite to give your shareholders time to think overnight before responding to important news.

On the other hand, crypto markets trade around the clock. High frequency trading bots reacted to the Amazon news in <5ms. Here are the order books around the event


The price instantly drops in all markets. Market makers also show themselves to be fair weather friends – the order book vanishes instantly on the news of Amazon's denial.

Not only that, the market is good at differentiating false news from real ones

. The market didn't react to the fake CityAM article. It instantly corrected on the Amazon denial. We also see instant reaction to the tether DOJ news

July 26th 00AM: Sharp price rise

Around Midnight UTC on the 26th, there's an intense rise in price, leading to the liquidation event at 1AM UTC. Here's the 15min period before the liquidation event:

We can't track the origin of the increase in prices leading up to the liquidation spike – none of the products on Binance seem to "lead" each other in the data. This leaves two possibilities:

  1. The price rise is organic. Maybe people woke up in China very excited about Bitcoin and Amazon!

  2. The price rise comes from price manipulation, but elsewhere. The classic way to manipulate a price is wash trading(1, 2), where you both buy and sell to yourself at increasing (or decreasing) prices.

Wash trading works best when the market is thin. If your above-fair-price wash trades run into real orders from other traders, you'll lose money! You want to maximize the likelihood that you actually sell to yourself.

An aside on NFTs Because they're "unique" objects, NFTs are a perfect vehicle for wash trading. You can easily ensure you only wash trade to yourself. The common scheme is to wash trade with yourself until some credible dunce buys the NFT from you at your manufactured "fair" value, leaving you to walk away with real money.

If someone wanted to manipulate the price of bitcoin to approach a liquidation point, the origin point would not be a large and liquid order book like Binance BTC or ETH. The wash trading would happen at an illiquid and thin market, and the price movement would then propagate to Binance through arbitrage bots.

July 26th 1AM: Liquidation Event

At 1AM UTC, the liquidation spike starts. Here are the BTC orderbooks for the 4min period around the mass liquidation


The event starts with a suspicious series of orders in the futures market, which we'll get into later. Then, a big price spike, with futures order book collapsing into chaos. The bid-ask spreads for both markets blow up.

We can't know which orders in this chart are liquidation orders and which are "real" ones – Binance doesn't provide this data anymore since the April 18th liquidation event.

We can still track what happened, however.

Momentum Ignition

The manipulative trade pattern to start volatile price movement is called momentum ignition. The ESMA notes that this is marked by high volumes of cancelled orders. Here is the relevant period's chart


The way momentum ignition works is by placing a large attractive order, and quickly cancelling it when an opposite order is placed in response

. This leaves the opposing order alone in the market, pushing up the price.

Here is an example from a 20 seconds before the liquidation event, where a large attractive sell order is placed, then quickly cancelled when a buy order is placed by a trading bot in response later:

What we see at the event start is such a spoofed order getting placed at 0:59:38 UTC. The price is flat for 2s, but eventually the spot price drifts up. This creates an arbitrage opportunity. Bots place buy orders to arbitrage the sell order


The sell order is then quickly cancelled, partially filled. The opposing buy order is left buying into a smaller market than expected. This jumps the price up a little, hence the name "momentum ignition". Interestingly this is quickly repeated in a "ladder" pattern.

This pattern is repeated at the critical moment before everything explodes:

We see one small cancelled sell order (almost unfilled), followed by a very large sell order cancelled (partially filled), then implosion of the markets.

Market making bots stopping

The second part contributing to the implosion of the futures market is the shutoff of market maker bots around 2.5s after the largest cancelled "momentum ignition" order. Here is the same plot as before in a "flattened" view:

We see the futures bid/ask spread holds for around 2s after the cancelled order. Then, instantly, the bots supplying the ask side are shut off. A gap develops between the bids and asks in the futures market. The spot market remains orderly.

In a few more seconds, around 1:00:40, the futures order book collapse into chaos. This starts dragging the spot market with it – notice the widening of spot bid-ask spreads. In a few more seconds, the futures prices are spiking all around the place between $40,000 and $48,000.

An aside on tether This shows why in the event where USDT breaks its dollar peg, a near-instantaneous market crash would happen. Because USDT denominates the volatile futures price but not the spot price, an arbitrage gap opens up. However, those bots are wired to assume the dollar parity, and thus are broken in this case. They will be quickly turned offline.The bots turning offline cause a low-liquidity environment in which the USD/USDT price parity correction happens.

How market manipulation is done

So the "market manipulation" in this event is done in two steps:

  1. Spoofed orders that are quickly cancelled when opposing orders try to arbitrage them. This causes some "momentum ignition". These seem to be done in a ladder-like sequence.

  2. Turning off market-making bots at a critical juncture to ensure the thinnest possible liquidity environment for forced liquidations to happen in.

In this case, short sellers are liquidated and forced to close positions (placing buy orders). In the thin and chaotic futures order book that was created, this maximally increases the trading price, thus cascading liquidations.

We're unable to trace the sharp price increase preceding the momentum ignition event. So even though it may be caused by something nefarious, we can't confirm it.


A note on attribution: Any allegations made below are mine and mine alone. I don't even think the party responsible for this event have done anything illegal. Cryptocurrency markets are a lawless wasteland! They are the winners, and the retail traders getting liquidated are the losers.

Here are my conclusion relating to attribution:

Most likely Alameda Research. Possibly some other algorithmic crypto trading firm, specifically DRW Cumberland or Jump Crypto

It's reasonable to assume whoever planted the CityAM piece is related to the ones manipulating the price. However, the CityAM team does not respond to requests for comments, so this is a dead end


Whoever has done this is a well capitalized, sophisticated algorithmic trading firm. They have been doing this sort of stuff for a long time. The orders leading into the liquidation event are precisely coordinated by algorithms that take a long time to develop and fine-tune.

Both DRW and Alameda fit this description. Both have been unsuccessfully dragged into court for similar behavior (DRW lawsuit, Alameda lawsuit). It's possible, though less likely, some smaller algorithmic trading shops like jump crypto or wintermute fit this bill.

Look at who profits

There are two ways to profit from such a liquidation event:

  1. Take a long position before liquidating the short sellers. This doesn't help us narrow it down.

  2. Profit from the mayhem by having a bot arbitrage spreads in the broken order books.

As found in the excellent tether papers by Protos, both Alameda an DRW Cumberland commonly issue new USDT in high volatility events. You can manually trace these issuances on TRON and ETH. Digging into it, you will notice no new USDT have been issued prior or during the July 26th liquidation event.

This rules the "arbitrage profit" explanation out. Someone had to place large bets before triggering the liquidations.

Circumstantial evidence

If we can't find new USDT being used to profit from the event, can we see suspicious movement on some blockchains that help us attribute it?

The answer is yes. Here is a list of suspicious transactions. They are large one-way USDT transfers to Binance totalling $290m between July 25th 16:00 UTC and 20:00UTC (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8):

Most of these addresses are payment rails to Binance. Algorithmic traders use such blockchain payment rails to move crypto between exchanges.

The simplest way to trace ownership of an address like this is to look at the first transaction. Here, the first inflows are from FTX and Huobi. FTX is owned by Alameda Trading and often used as their asset custodian

. The best guess then is that these $290m were sent to Binance from Alameda, right before the abrupt price rise and liquidation event.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

skilled(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Interesting tidbit:

'An aside on NFTs Because they're "unique" objects, NFTs are a perfect vehicle for wash trading. You can easily ensure you only wash trade to yourself. The common scheme is to wash trade with yourself until some credible dunce buys the NFT from you at your manufactured "fair" value, leaving you to walk away with real money.'

It's such a stupidly simple idea it's actually brilliant.

paulpauper(10000) 2 days ago [-]

not really if the fees are high and tons of ppl are doing this with few sales. the nft market is so unbelievably saturated.

doopy1(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I see this concept of NFT was trading posited all over the place, but it should be easy to prove, yet no one has been able to produce tangible evidence, besides the occasional single flashloan based sale... which eats a tone in gas. Sure there are probably some wash trades here and there, but why is it so hard for most folks to believe that this is in fact a huge market driven by speculation?

MikeDelta(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Reminds me of this sketch from Enfield and Whitehouse


fleddr(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's brilliant but not simple at all. You can't just mint an NFT, wash trade it up to a large number and then expect somebody to buy it. This plan would almost always fail.

Because it would pop out of nowhere and nobody has ever heard of you. So just like in the traditional art world, you need to be visible and networked.

It's very educational to simply browse the big marketplaces. You'll notice that the typical NFT gets zero offers. Almost all trading happens within a tiny scope of hot projects.

TrackerFF(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Yes, it's been painfully obvious from the start. It was the first thing I noticed, once looking into NFTs.

I'd be surprised, AMAZED actually, if some of the big NFT collections aren't entrenched in wash trading, to pump up trade volume and price.

In fact, I think that in order to successfully launch a NFT collection today, you need to have either:

A) Substantial social capital.

B) Capital to do the wash trading, or investors to back you.

C) Probably both above.

colinmhayes(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This is also what makes NFTs great for money laundering. You can use the money from the dirty wallet to make the wash sales, increasing the value of your NFT while cleaning the money at the same time.

belter(10000) 2 days ago [-]

In a complex system, whose algorithmic essence is price forgery, value randomness and pump and dump as a strategy...Would argue that achieving maximum manipulation is simply the algorithm optimizing for its 'best'.

latchkey(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Any market with insufficient liquidity and an easy way to trade, is ripe for this. I'm sure you could look at the price history of all sorts of stuff on Ebay and Amazon and see many many cases of this.

Imagine a seller buying their own products cheaply and giving reviews. Then come back and raise the prices when the product gets listed higher up in the search results.

I recently bought some KF94 masks on Amazon cause they were crazy cheap. Came back a few days later and the price went from $8->$25. A few days after that, the entire listing was gone.

joering2(10000) 2 days ago [-]

But shilling bid is illegal regardless of how you bid. While crypto can be made harder to trace than fiat, the fact of the matter is, someone have commited crime.

With millions of dollars flying on all sorts of NFT exchanges/auctions [1], sooner or later some government will crack a case and make it very public in a form of a warning to others.

[1] https://nouns.wtf/

m3kw9(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This is the real world equivalent to high balling. It's just that you have to assume every price is washed. This is the actual offer price, not a real price. If you put in a lowball offer I bet they'd eventually sell it to you. Exceptions are famous sets like BAYC

masona(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The fine art market has been doing this for decades by using auction records to set prices.

agilob(10000) 2 days ago [-]

And if you don't have money you can borrow https://mobile.twitter.com/Foone/status/1457749433844568066

JohnJamesRambo(10000) 2 days ago [-]

They do it down too. It's not a secret or illegal. Here's a post mortem from the guy that did it.


Ready for a move up again soon.

noja(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> It's not [...] illegal

Errr - what?

I think you'll find that market manipulation is prohibited in the US under Section 9(a)(2) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and in the EU under article 12 of the Market Abuse Regulation (etc.)

The US Securities Exchange Act defines market manipulation as 'transactions which create an artificial price or maintain an artificial price for a tradable security'.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_manipulation

ajross(10000) 2 days ago [-]

That thread is just describing a long squeeze, which is an mechanism, not manipulation. The allegations in the linked article (against the same guy!) are quite a bit more detailed. And they absolutely are illegal in real money trading on licensed exchanges; whether they constitute crimes in the crypto world is sort of an open question.

paulpauper(10000) 2 days ago [-]

'Ready for a move up again soon.'

does not look like it

mbesto(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Curious - does anyone not think Bitcoin or any other cypto coin is being manipulated?

SuoDuanDao(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I don't think it's being manipulated in only one direction, does that count?

DJBunnies(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Does it matter either way?

recursive(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Me. I don't have an opinion.

2OEH8eoCRo0(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Is it illegal to manipulate crypto? If so, then how many people have been prosecuted for manipulating crypto?

I think all of it is manipulated at a scale never before seen.

sosuke(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I think that every and all markets are manipulated by groups with money and power. Everyone wants to game the system to act in their favor right? What would I want with more money? To earn more money of course.

temp8964(10000) 2 days ago [-]

What coin is not being manipulated? Even USD is being manipulated by the fed. All the countries manipulate their coins.

So the real question is whether a coin is being manipulated, but what kind of manipulation you can accept.

ptero(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Depends on what you mean by the manipulation. Many stock, future, precious metal prices are affected by actors who want to temporarily move it for profit. Some are illegal, some perfectly legal.

In what way do you expect Bitcoin to be different? This is a technical question, once you define it one could debate if this particular behavior is present in BTC.

syntaxing(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I don't have enough mathematical knowledge in this subject to back this statement up but I swear I noticed this for SPACs too. There's these really odd spikes up and down that does not make any sense according to public information

acjohnson55(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Most SPACs are very lightly traded and are prone to weird patterns.

somewhereoutth(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Bitcoin (and friends) is essentially a pyramid (edit: ponzai) scheme, where late entrants pay the 'returns' on early entrants - but with a technology layer that precisely and and publicly records each payin/payout.

In a way it is beautiful - the fraud is so transparent, and so technologically guaranteed to be transparent, that it becomes legitimised.

Almost as if robbing a bank would be ok if you made an appointment beforehand.

errantmind(10000) 2 days ago [-]

By that logic, any marketplace is a pyramid scheme because later entrants always pay earlier entrants. A pyramid scheme has a very particular definition, please look it up.

StrangeClone(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This is done in regular stock market too. Fake news, speculation, etc are frequent. Ex: "X giant is acquiring Y" claims with no data to back up. What's different in case of crypto?

VHRanger(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Two things:

1. Because crypto exchanges are also clearinghouses, liquidations tend to cascade.

2. It's much more blatant in the crypto markets. See the DRW lawsuit linked in the article - the CFTC is aware that DRW is doing similar things in the CME futures market, but the extent to which it's done is smaller.

hnmullany(10000) 2 days ago [-]

If it's significant enough, the SEC will knock on your door when this happens in the regular market

benreesman(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Eh 20-ish years ago the shit happening on Island and Archipelago would blow most people's minds. Undocumented, conditional, non-displayed order types. Routine wash trading. Shear-but-don't skin multi-venue arbitrage. The ECNs were the Wild West. Smoke-filled dark pools.

Island and Arca are NASDAQ and NYSE now.

But Ben, US equities have intrinsic value unlike this BTC garbage! Well unless they pay no dividend, have dual-class share structure, and IPO without a profitable quarter. What's a share of SNAP entitle you to exactly? Ah right, you think someone will buy it for more.

Crypto will have it's 2001-style GC cycle, the useful stuff will stick around until Goldman owns it and the SEC makes a show of regulating it, the tulip garbage will wash out leaving behind a bunch of rich guys who are really annoying because they never built anything, and we'll go back to arguing about programming languages.

kaashif(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Well unless they pay no dividend, have dual-class share structure, and IPO without a profitable quarter. What's a share of SNAP entitle you to exactly? Ah right, you think someone will buy it for more.

I think the idea would be like what happened to Apple: they eventually grew so much, became so successful, accumulated huge piles of cash bigger than they could possibly spend, that they had to start paying a dividend.

And there is a difference between a company with an inherently unprofitable business model, and a company that would be profitable if they didn't spend so much on growth. Admittedly, it is pretty hard to distinguish those sometimes, especially with the endless rounds of Series D, E, F, G, H, I, etc funding some startups are getting.

That is all speculative, but it's not unproductive beanie babie trading. It is pretty close, especially when the only rationalisation I can think of involves Apple paying dividends, which they didn't do for decades, and Facebook and Google still don't.

Even tulip selling is actually a real business, the tulip mania wasn't as bad as crypto from the 'real value' perspective, I think.

dheera(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> US equities have intrinsic value

Really? My impression is that many US equities in 2022 are more like Reddit up/downvote scores than a reflection of intrinsic value.

Which isn't a bad thing in my opinion, by the way.

muttantt(10000) 2 days ago [-]

So, I take it you missed out on Bitcoin?

majormajor(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> What's a share of SNAP entitle you to exactly? Ah right, you think someone will buy it for more.

Ultimately you think someone will pay more for a future share of SNAP than of [OTHER THING] because you think SNAP's growth story is better, business model is promising, blah blah blah.

We may be trading on the derivatives of the fundamentals, or even the hope of future fundamentals, but even that's turning back some as it's been harder to get a big huge IPO purely on hope than it was in the recent history. Throw WeWork in against Snap there, even. Gambling but against numbers that will eventually be reconciled with performance with customers, not just other gamblers. Though personally I'm certainly hoping that some of that 'eventually' starts to turn back into a backlash against dual-class stocks.

The equities market is still ultimately betting that at some point, the business results will keep the stock comparatively more attractive.

There's vague talk about 'the backbone of future banking systems' or such for crypto as having similar fundamental value, but I haven't been convinced. Particularly, I'm not convinced today's big chains would be what the future would be built on - why pay the huge transaction costs and help the current crypto-rich get richer, instead of making purpose-built chains for your future applications?

SavantIdiot(10000) 2 days ago [-]

All I want to know is: will the annoying guy at my gym who put brags about putting all of his retirement into Bitcoin this summer provide me with some decent schadenfreude at some point?

alecst(10000) 2 days ago [-]

A counterpoint would be that what some call the intrinsic value is the expected future share price based on expected future revenues. There might or might not be future revenue for SNAP, but there is no revenue for a digital currency.

But I do think digital currency has intrinsic value, in that for now, it affords you anonymity to commit crimes in a way that ordinary currency does not. I'm not happy about it, but this is a form of value.

lvl100(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This has to be one of the best comments I've read on HN.

wyre(10000) 2 days ago [-]

What is the reference to Island and Archipelago? I'm not familiar and my DDG skills aren't helping.

arberx(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This comment is gold

tyrfing(10000) 2 days ago [-]

With crypto these days alpha is still very easy since it's a small backwater. Microstructure is all complete bullshit (and has been as long as these markets existed), and leverage is basically unlimited. A huge sell order is more likely to indicate buying than selling, for example. At least liquidation cascades don't literally hit 0 like they have in the past, which is an improvement.

There are also all sorts of unpublished arrangements like colocating servers for privileged partners; you will _never_ trade into an order they don't want you to when you have 5ms latency and they have microseconds.

On the one hand, people have never really understood just how dirty it is. On the other, most of that is now just the long flat line on the chart...

choppaface(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> US equities have intrinsic value unlike this BTC garbage!

One major difference is the US Gov & public (e.g. pension funds) have much more leverage for holding US equities liable vs holding crypto liable in a Financial-Crisis-type leverage implosion. While I agree with the suggested notion of 'common stocks have no real intrinsic value,' when it boils down to opportunity cost, the retail shareholder has probably one to two orders of magnitude less downside in common stocks versus crypto. Unless the U.S. ends up bailing out crypto ... (in exchange for catching tax evasion?)

epolanski(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> the useful stuff will stick around

There's none though. The markets and especially crypto lunatics themselves clearly show nobody cares about decentralization.

guiomie(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Tulip garbage? Tulip Mania lasted like 6 months, Bitcoin has been running for over 13 years. Don't get me wrong tho, I do agree anything not being Bitcoin is garbage.

benreesman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

So there's a question fairly deep in the thread asking me to define what I meant by the terms in the first paragraph. I'm reposting my answer up here to both clarify what I meant if it's not clear, and to invite those more knowledgable than myself to correct any ways in which I'm misusing the terminology or otherwise saying something untrue:

So electronic financial markets (whether ARCA/NYSE or Binance) have a number of ways that they can advantage certain participants at the expense of others. One of many is to make certain types of orders difficult or impossible for certain actors. Broadly speaking lots of very conventional order types are 'conditional' (limit orders are technically conditional), but various exchanges have at various times allowed the condition to effectively become 'execute this order if I make money on it', which is a wealth transfer from those who can't place that order to those who can. 'Displayed' or 'displayed size' basically means that other market participants can see roughly 'someone is offering to buy X amount at Y price, if I move quickly I can take them up on that'. 'Hidden' or 'non-displayed' means that an order might execute in front of another but other participants can't see that before they act. 'Non-displayed' isn't necessarily a bad thing either, but it creates scope for sophisticated participants to further set up advantages for themselves.

The 'undocumented' part is the real killer: that's basically the idea that there's a secret API for playing with cheat codes that the exchange only makes accessible to certain actors. That's straight fucked up (and tends towards illegal as markets become more mature).

'Wash Trading' is roughly the idea that (typically) via intermediaries of one kind or another that an actor effectively trades with themselves. An actor might want to do this for several reasons, but a big one (maybe the main one) is to create the appearance of market activity where there isn't any legitimate commerce going on.

'Arbitrage' I think is technically defined as something like: 'a transaction or transactions guaranteed to be profitable', but in practice the term gets applied more loosely than that. In the sense I meant: if gold is 100 quibbles in Foobarnia and 50 quibbles in Boofarnia, someone will buy a ton of gold in Boofarnia and ship it to Foobarnia and pocket the 50 quibbles, raising the price in the cheap place and lowering it in the expensive place and fairly quickly this gets you to 75 quibbles in both places (or whatever, there are transaction costs). There's an old quip: 'you can shear a sheep many times, but you can skin him only once'. If an arbitrageur has unique access to one or both markets, they can play the long game and just bleed profit out without actually providing the social utility of equalizing prices.

People do all this shit and more in practically every electronic market on Earth. It's quite a bit more regulated and monitored in mature markets like US equities and quite a bit more flagrant in e.g. crypto DeFi exchanges but how much net 'rich connected people taking non-rich, non-connected people's money' goes on in one vs. the other is quite the controversy, as you can tell from the other comments in this thread.

heavyset_go(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> But Ben, US equities have intrinsic value unlike this BTC garbage! Well unless they pay no dividend, have dual-class share structure, and IPO without a profitable quarter.

Should the company's assets be liquidated, shareholders are entitled to that value after creditors.

If BTC tanks, there is little value to extract from liquidation.

wpietri(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I truly appreciate your experience and cynicism here. People who haven't worked in financial markets have a hard time appreciating how deep the muck can get. Which makes them especially valuable suckers for the unregulated markets.

bogomipz(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Might you or someone else explain what these things and how they are used/exploited?

> Undocumented, conditional, non-displayed order types. Routine wash trading. Shear-but-don't skin multi-venue arbitrage.

nathanvanfleet(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Haha, we might all die on this tired exploited rock from heat death before that

arcticbull(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> But Ben, US equities have intrinsic value unlike this BTC garbage! Well unless they pay no dividend, have dual-class share structure, and IPO without a profitable quarter. What's a share of SNAP entitle you to exactly? Ah right, you think someone will buy it for more.

Folks always levied these criticisms about Apple. So long as the company is growing and can do better re-investing the capital in itself, it should do so. Companies intentionally avoid creating profits to avoid paying taxes, electing instead to re-invest that capital tax-free. The idea of going public without a 'profitable quarter' is meaningless if they could just be profitable at will.

Apple has paid over $1B in dividends to Warren Buffet alone since he took his stake, and returned just around $100B to investors last year between $85B in buybacks and $15B in dividends.

Buying shares you are paying for a combination of the present intrinsic value and your estimation of its future assets and cash flows. That doesn't mean your appraisal of these future outcomes are correct, and that's the risk.

But equities are fractional ownership stake in businesses whose value increases through non-investor participants. You know, customers? That's the difference between a positive-sum game and a zero-sum game like futures and options, or a negative-sum game like crypto assets. With especially proof of work crypto assets, value is constantly being removed by external participants, rather than added.

Yes traditional assets are mired in garbage behavior, but that doesn't mean that crypto is better - far from it. Decentralization makes it borderline impossible to control the behavior of bad actors while providing essentially zero material value to anyone beyond a few edge cases. And as usual, folks mention there will be some crypto folks who create value left behind after some wash-out. 14 years later, zero value created. It is true that not all equities are good investments (of course), in the fullness of time, zero crypto token investments as we see today will ever be good investments.

Animats(10000) 2 days ago [-]

There's a hype cycle right now with the claim that Walmart is going to issue NFTs, or get into cryptocurrencies, or something.[1] Walmart is not saying that. They filed for a trademark for 'WALMART' for the trademark class that includes cryptocurrencies. Which means only that WalMart, Inc. spent $400 to protect their brand name from someone creating 'WalMartCoin'. WalMart, asked for a statement, said they had no immediate plans in that area.

[1] https://www.theverge.com/2022/1/16/22887011/walmart-metavers...

Ekaros(10000) 2 days ago [-]

That seems like very cheap insurance... Even the legal filings to fight someone launching WalMartCoin are more...

paulgb(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Reminds me of the whole market-moving news cycle about Amazon accepting cryptocurrency "by the end of the year" last year. Tons of coverage, like this[1]. It never passed the smell test, all traced back to one anonymous City A.M. source, and of course it didn't happen.

[1] https://gizmodo.com/amazon-to-accept-bitcoin-by-end-of-2021-...

mwattsun(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm suspicious of Bitcoin as a store of value. Some seem to think that because there is a fixed amount of Bitcoin it will automatically rise in price as demand confronts scarcity, but that assumes there will continued demand. Elon Musk says Dogecoin is better because it has some inflation built in, encouraging people to spend instead of hoard, but adds 'I'm not saying that it's the ideal system for a currency'

'Elon Musk - SpaceX, Mars, Tesla Autopilot, Self-Driving, Robotics, and AI', Lex Fridman Podcast #252'.

Clip from a discussion about money starting minute 48:41


Lex: You mentioned that Doge is the people's coin.

Elon: Yeah.

Lex: And you said that you were literally going, SpaceX may consider literally putting a Dogecoin on the moon. Is this something you're still considering, Mars perhaps, do you think there's some chance, we've talked about political systems on Mars, that a Dogecoin is the official currency of Mars, it's the coin of the future?

Elon: Well, I think Mars itself will need to have a different currency because you can't synchronize due to speed of light, or not easily.

Lex: So it must be complete standalone from earth?

Elon: Mars is, at closest approach, it's four light minutes away roughly, and then add for this approach, it's roughly 20 light minutes away, maybe a little more. So you can't really have something synchronizing if you've got a 20 minute speed of light issue, if it's got a one minute blockchain. It's not gonna synchronize properly. I don't know if Mars would have a cryptocurrency as a thing, but probably, seems likely. But it would be so kind of localized thing on Mars.

Lex: And you let the people decide.

Elon: Yeah, absolutely. The future of Mars should be up to the Martians. I mean, I think the cryptocurrency thing is an interesting approach to reducing the error in the database that is called money. I think I have a pretty deep understanding of what money actually is on a practical day-to-day basis, because of PayPal. We really got in deep there. And right now the money system, actually for practical purposes is really a bunch of heterogeneous mainframes running a old COBOL.

Lex: Okay, you mean literally

Elon: Literally. That is literally what's happening in batch mode. Okay.

Lex: In batch mode.

Elon: Yeah. Pity the poor bastards who have to maintain that code. Okay. That's pain.

Lex: Not even Fortran?

Elon: COBOL, yep. That's COBOL. And they still, the banks are still buying mainframes, in 2021, and running engine COBOL code. The federal reserve is like probably even older than what the banks have, and they have an old COBOL mainframe. And so the government effectively has editing privileges on the money database. And they use those editing privileges to make more money whenever they want. And this increases the error in the database that is money. So I think money should really be viewed through the lens of information theory. You're kind of like an internet connection. Like what's the bandwidth, total bit rate, what is the latency jitter, packet drop, errors in the network communication. Just think of money like that basically. I think that's probably what I really think of it. And then say what system, from an information theory standpoint, allows an economy to function the best. Crypto is an attempt to reduce the error in money that is contributed by governments diluting the money supply as basically a pernicious form of taxation. So both policy in terms of with inflation, and actual like technological, COBOL, cryptocurrency takes us into the 21st century in terms of the actual systems that allow you to do the transaction, to store wealth, all those kinds of things.

Like I said, just think - In theory - of money as information, people often will think of money as having power in and of itself. It does not. Money is information, and it does not have power in and of itself. Applying the physics tools of thinking about things in the limit is helpful. If you are stranded on a tropical island and you have a trillion dollars, it's useless. Because there's no resource allocation. Money is a database of resource allocation, but there's no resources to allocate except yourself. So money's useless. If you're stranded on a desert island with no food, all the Bitcoin in the world will not stop you from starving.

Lex: Yeah.

Elon: Just think of money as a database for resource allocation across time and space. And then what system, in what form should that database, or data system, what would be most effective? There is a fundamental issue with, say Bitcoin, in its current form in that it's, the transaction volume is very limited. And the latency, the latency, for a properly confirmed transaction is too long, much longer than you'd like. It's actually not great from transaction volume standpoint or latency standpoint. So it is perhaps useful as, to solve an aspect of the money database problem, which is the sort of store of wealth or an accounting of relative obligations, I suppose. But it is not useful as a currency, as a day-to-day currency.

Lex: But people have proposed different technological solutions.

Elon: Like Lightning and the Layer 2 technologies on top of that. I mean, it's all, it seems to be all kind of a trade-off, but the point is, it's kind of brilliant to say, to just think about information, think about what kind of database, what kind of infrastructure enables the exchange of - Yeah, let's say like you're operating an economy, and you need to have some thing that allows for the efficient, to have efficient value ratios between products and services. So you've got this massive number of products and services, and need to, you can't just barter. Because that would be extremely unwieldy. So you need something that gives you a ratio of exchange between goods and services. And then, something that allows you to shift obligations across time, like debt, debt and equity shift obligations across time. Then what does the best job of that? Part of the reason why I think there's some merit to Dogecoin, even though, it was obviously created as a joke, is that it actually does have a much higher transaction volume capability than Bitcoin. The costs of doing a transaction, the Dogecoin fee is very low. Like right now, if you wanna do a Bitcoin transaction, the price of doing that transaction is very high, so you could not use it effectively for most things. And nor could it even scale to a high volume. And when Bitcoin was started, I guess around 2008 or something like that, the internet connections were much worse than they are today, like order of magnitude. I mean, they were way, way worse in 2008. So like having a small block size or whatever it is, and a long synchronization time made sense in 2008, but, 2021, or fast forward 10 years, it's like, comically low. And I think there's some value to having a linear increase in the amount of currency that is generated. So, because some amount of the currency, if a currency is too deflationary or like, or should say if, if a currency is expected to increase in value over time, there's reluctance to spend it. Because you're like, 'Oh, if I, I'll just hold it and not spend it because its scarcity is increasing with time, so if I spend it now, then I will regret spending it. So I will just, you know, hoard all it.' But if there's some dilution of the currency occurring over time, that's more of an incentive to use that as a currency. So Dogecoin just somewhat randomly has just a fixed a number of sort of coins or hash strings that are generated every year. So there's some inflation, but it's not a percentage at base. It's a fixed number, so the percentage of inflation will necessarily decline over time. I'm not saying that it's like the ideal system for a currency, but I think it actually is just fundamentally better than anything else I've seen, just by accident.

Hokusai(10000) 2 days ago [-]

How is Elon Musk a relevant opinion on this matter? Even worse, he is well known for astroturfing his own assets.

keymone(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> So like having a small block size or whatever it is, and a long synchronization time made sense in 2008, but, 2021, or fast forward 10 years, it's like, comically low.

just shows how hopelessly moronic he is on this issue and how surface-level his understanding of what is valuable about bitcoin is.

paulpauper(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The price is nothing but down, down, down. it is not manipulation but just ppl dumping at every opportunity, like bank stocks in 2007-2008 or dotcom stocks in 2000-2002. Would not want to own this.

epinephrinios(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's 'down, down, down' only if you entered at a very high price: https://athcoinindex.com/coin/bitcoin

As the great Andreas Antonopoulos said, everyone gets the Bitcoin price they deserve.

evrydayhustling(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This is some interesting analysis, but all of the causal language is unsupported -- and I think mostly inverted from the reality. Here is an equally supported description:

- Retail and futures traders create instability by placing leveraged trades and stop orders that amplify swings.

- Market makers are aware of instability and design their bots to turn off so that they don't end up on the wrong side of a liquidity cascade.

- People with large orders often cancel them in order to improve their orders when chasing the price. (This happens in non crypto markets too, but some of those markets have incentives and regulation to force market makers to provide stabilizing liquidity.)

The most explicit manipulation is the news outlets designed to amplify positive news. But even that can be explained by desire for clicks as much as short term market shifts.

VHRanger(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Author here.

I considered this, but rejected most of those hypotheses.

> Retail and futures traders create instability by placing leveraged trades and stop orders that amplify swings.


> Market makers are aware of instability and design their bots to turn off so that they don't end up on the wrong side of a liquidity cascade.

Algorithmic traders, yes. Market makers absolutely not. MMs want to be there as much as possible in liquidation cascades, because bid/ask spreads are huge. MMs effectly print riskless money in these situations (which is why you see Alameda and DRW issue so much USDT in these events).

> People with large orders often cancel them in order to improve their orders when chasing the price.

It's absurd to think this is the case when the order cancellation pattern is precise to ~3ms and repeated >5 times in a 30 second span. What you see on 26/7/2021 0:59:20-1:00:45 is intentionally done by bots designed to do this.

> But even that can be explained by desire for clicks as much as short term market shifts.

Agreed, there's a footnote that posits other actors than the momentum ignition traders could have planted the fake news because they saw the same opportunity

huac(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I agree with most of this and would add that the article could be organic and the subsequent trading opportunistic (rather than being tied together).

I am somewhat surprised that bots react to news within 5ms -- your execution delay on crypto exchanges is quite a bit longer than that, since the exchanges are generally hosted in public clouds and you are subject to network latency to get in there. Even within the same cloud and even within the same k8s cluster, you should expect 2-4ms for an inter-pod hop.

That being said, maybe there is a hedge fund literally in the same k8s cluster as FTX...

naveen99(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's not so much price manipulation as timed restrictions / throttled deposits / withdrawals / order execution. basically market malfunctions / barriers. you can always arrange over the counter transactions though.

madduci(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The bad thing is, it directly influences also the price of other coins, especially the top 5. Only Tether is 'stable' in all the senses

mulcyber(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I take advantage of the post to ask.

Anyone has a good introduction to trading for engineers/mathematicians/programmers?

Something that goes into the theorics and the math of the thing. Like an MIT open course or something. I'm always a bit lost with these things.

VHRanger(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Patrick Boyle's books are a good start.

Generally I would discourage people from trading - 99% of people who try fail.

rasengan(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Didn't FTX make Solana?

VHRanger(10000) 2 days ago [-]

No, but they heavily invested in it

tdherzl(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It should be noted that OP is a staunch BTC skeptic and a proponent of MMT. This seems to be one of his many attacks on BTC.

VHRanger(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Uh, author here, I have no idea how you could ever think I'm a proponent of MMT. I'm a vocal critic:


As for BTC, yes, I hate it and am vocal that PoW cryptocurrencies should stop existing. But this piece isn't focused on that.

gfd(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Dumb question, but is price manipulation wrong when it's for something that doesn't have a 'true' price?

Like I get why it should be illegal for stocks. If you pump it and the price reverts back to some true price (calculated from expected future earnings or whatever), then people who bought it expecting it to be at an efficient price will lose money.

In the case of crypto where everything is driven by supply and demand only, who loses?

lcvw(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Stocks also don't have a "true" value. Their price is driven entirely by supply and demand, which in turn is weakly anchored by investors doing fundamental valuations on the stock (there is more demand for an underpriced stock). The issue is that market manipulation is outright theft, usually from retail investors.

Think of it like playing blackjack. When I hit, I make a bet and I know roughly what the odds are that the bet will pay out. If the house was to manipulate the cards in the deck so that the odds are different, I would lose much more often then I should, and it would be theft. Similarly, if someone uses artificial demand to drive up the price of btc above the natural demand and I overpay, then they are selling to me at an unfair price. Eventually the price with fall to the natural price and I will lose money. Btc is weird because people keep buying more, but the principle is still the same. If the price is going to go from 40k and 50k over the next few months, and the price is artificially raised to 45k (which is when I buy in this example) then even if I get out at 50k I've lost 5k of profits I would get if the market was fair.

So the short answer is that in any case of any market manipulation, it is theft from other investors. Usually (but not always) small retail investors.

Now the argument some crypto folks make is that market manipulation is part of this market, so take that how you will.

c7DJTLrn(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'd argue there's no right or wrong at all when it comes to this. There's only bigger and smaller, stronger and weaker, early and late. We draw an arbitrary line somewhere and say that people on one side cannot trade on information they have and the people on the other side can. And we trust that the people on the former side will never try to find a cheat or workaround.

The market is completely made up. It's driven by inequality in access to information. You're only going to make money if you're:

A. Lucky

B. Ahead of the game in some shape or form

prox(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Because (layman here) you could still pump & dump and influence prices. Perhaps it's tougher with bigger established coins BTC or ETH, but it's still a thing afaik.

woodruffw(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This is only a partial answer: broadly, we lose as a society. Openly fake markets and obvious manipulation erode trust in systems that, even when corrupt and manipulated, are ultimately tied to real value (people's labor, their retirement accounts, &c.)

None of what we have is great, and I'm not going to bother justifying traditional financial markets. But cryptocurrencies represent a massive moral hazard to our handling of hundreds of millions of peoples' economic security.

wesapien(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Just anything you want to manipulate, you fake the news these days.

jondwillis(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's not a new phenomenon.

lend000(10000) 2 days ago [-]

While I appreciate the amount of work that went into this article, there are at least 50-100 potential current 'news' stories in the crypto space at any given time. It's easy to find one that correlates with price movements after the fact, but more or less impossible to do so with forward testing. Virtually no successful crypto trading firms are using real time news data as a centerpiece of their trading, because news has almost no impact (contrary to popular belief and the assertions of this article), especially compared to equities. Elon Musk's tweets, which ostensibly should matter least for fundamental value, are probably the biggest drivers of capital, albeit only in the short term. See [0].

And then the part about 'suspicious' orders on the book before the liquidation cascade. Come on. Amateur crypto traders are reinventing religion, where mysterious unknown 'whales' are the gods, pulling all the strings.

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

setr(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> And then the part about 'suspicious' orders on the book before the liquidation cascade. Come on. Amateur crypto traders and outsiders are reinventing religion, where mysterious unknown 'whales' are the gods, pulling all the strings.

Sounds like something a whale would say...

Historical Discussions: Engine cooling – why rocket engines don't melt (January 13, 2022: 557 points)

(557) Engine cooling – why rocket engines don't melt

557 points 6 days ago by wolfram74 in 10000th position

everydayastronaut.com | Estimated reading time – 16 minutes | comments | anchor

Gases inside an engines combustion chamber can reach ~3,500 K – which is about half as hot as the surface of the Sun – certainly above the melting point of most materials. Engines need to reach this temperature in order to function correctly, but how can they survive this? In this article you will learn about engine cooling methods used to keep rocket engines from melting.

A temperature scale comparing different temperatures to the temperatures inside of a rocket engine's main combustion chamber. (Credit: Everyday Astronaut)

Heat Sink

At the top of a combustion chamber sits the injector face. Here, the fuel and oxidizer are pumped into the chamber at extremely high pressures. The fuel and oxidizer mix inside the chamber and begin to ignite. As long as the flow continues, the propellants will continue to combust and ignite. But how do the metal chamber walls not melt as the hot gas passes through?

A render of an injector face of an engine. Here propellants mix and combust in the main combustion chamber releasing incredible amounts of heat energy. (Credit: Everyday Astronaut)

One option could be to make the walls thick, so much so that the hot gases can't heat up the thick layer of metal enough to melt it. Here the walls act as a heat sink – that is a large thermal conductor, which is capable of handling high heats for a period of time before all the metal reaches boiling point. An exotic material, one that can handle high heats and stay strong, like inconel or another alloy, could be a good option for this.

However, heat sinks have several major limitations. One limitation is weight. Weight reduction is extremely important when building a rocket, and an additional thick metal wall is going to add a lot of extra weight. Another issue is that an engine will only be able to run for so long before all of the metal eventually reaches its melting point.

A render of an engine that only utilizes heat sink cooling. No method of cooling is used other than thick enough engine walls that can endure the heat of the combustion. (Credit: Everyday Astronaut)

This means that heat sinks are not a great option for main propulsion engines, which need to run continually for several minutes. However, they could be a viable option for smaller engine types like maneuvring thrusters. Maneuvring thrusters run for a much shorter time than the main propulsion engines, and are often pulsed, giving the engine an opportunity to cool down in between pulses.

Fuel Oxidizer Ratio

Another option to keep an engine from melting is to run the engine in a fuel rich or oxidizer rich configuration, which will lower the temperature of the main exhaust. This ratio is known as the fuel to oxidizer mass ratio.

If someone wanted to burn all of your propellant and have all of it react with each other, you need to burn it at their stoichiometric ratio. Stoichiometric ratio is where the complete amount of fuel and oxidizer perfectly react with each other so no propellant is left unburnt. This means that each atom of each molecule will react with one other atom for complete combustion. The result of this is that you release the maximum amount of heat from the chemical bonds as possible, which would be great in some situations, but not when dealing with rocket engines. The more heat a rocket engine produces, the more you will have to cool your engine so it doesn't melt, which is not ideal.

A graphic of the fuel to oxidizer mass ratio if fuel and oxidizer would be burnt at the stoichiometric ratio, resulting in extremely high temperatures that would destroy an engine. (Credit: Everyday Astronaut)

This means that rocket engines have a fuel to oxidizer ratio slightly off from stoichiometric. An engine's main combustion chamber will tend to run fuel rich as this will have a lower thermal load and have high efficiency.

You could also run the pre-burner or gas generator fuel rich to keep it cool, which is important as it is extremely hard to cool a spinning turbine. The turbine will have a set amount of heat that it can take based on its materials, so the fuel oxidizer ratio needs to change to be suitable. Turbines can be designed to run fuel or oxidizer rich, like the Space Shuttle's RS-25 main engine, which ran fuel rich, or the soviet designed NK-33 engine, which ran oxidizer rich propellant through their closed cycle pre-burners.

Ablative Cooling

Ablative cooling is one of the most simple and effective ways of cooling an engine. This method uses a material which will vaporize and then get thrown away, taking the heat with it. This is usually made out of carbon composite which has an extremely high melting point.

This is the same method that most spacecraft use for heat shields. When a spacecraft re-enters the atmosphere it gets very, very hot. The heat shield takes this heat, and when it's surface gets too hot, it melts a layer away, taking the heat with it. This stops the heat from penetrating deeper into the spacecraft.

A carbon composite layer that acts as an ablative layer which insulates the metal walls of the main combustion chamber and absorbs heat when it sublimates away. (Credit: Everyday Astronaut)

This same principle can be applied to cooling a rocket engine. Inside the walls of the combustion chamber and nozzle is a layer of carbon composites. When the propellant is burning in the engine, this carbon layer will slowly be burnt off. This method has no moving parts and is self-regulating, which makes it an extremely efficient and reliable method for cooling engines.

But there are some limitations, most obviously that an engine cooled this way can't be reused. Some engines won't even be able to go through full testing before being used as it wears down the ablative chamber walls. Most famously, the Apollo Lunar Ascent engine couldn't be test fired as a complete unit until it was fired on the surface of the moon to take the astronauts home!

Ablatively cooled engines will over time open up the throat of the engine due to wearing away more and more of the ablative layer, resulting in lower performance over time.

There are a couple of other examples of ablatively cooled engines, including SpaceX's first Merlin engine, the Merlin 1A, which flew on the first two Falcon 1 flights, and United Launch Alliance's Delta IV engine, the RS-68A. It is easy to see that the RS-68A engine is ablatively cooled as it runs on hydrolox, which has a completely transparent exhaust of water vapor – the same as the space shuttle. However, the RS-68 has a bright orange exhaust due to the carbon which is ablated and ejected from the engine as it continues to react with the oxygen in our atmosphere.

Another type of small engines, reaction control thrusters, can also use ablative chambers, as this type of engine is only used for a short duration and has a set amount of propellant it can burn through before running out. This means engineers can design the thickness of the wall to match the maximum use.

Regenerative Cooling

Regenerative cooling is the most common way to stop a liquid fueled rocket engine from melting. This method entails flowing some or all of the propellant through the walls of the combustion chamber and nozzle before going through the injectors and into the chamber. While the walls and nozzle of rocket engines look thin, there are actually small channels in the walls, which fuel can be run through in order to keep them cool.

Regeneratively cooled engines pump propellant through thin channels inside of the engine's walls, absorbing heat conducted through the metal walls from the main combustion chamber and the nozzle. (Credit: Everyday Astronaut)

The discovery of this was a major breakthrough, as this method allowed rocket engines to run more or less indefinitely. The early versions of regeneratively cooled engines have a main chamber and a liner on the outside of the engine, where the coolant or fuel could run through. After this, it was normal to see pipes used as the walls of the combustion chamber. An example of this is the RL-10 engine, which still uses a brazed tube construction.

A more common practice today is to cut a cooling channel in the wall of the nozzle, then use a copper or nickel alloy to seal it off, which then will be the inner wall of the chamber. Copper and nickel alloys are used here because of their high thermal conductivity, which allows them to transfer heat from the wall into the coolant.

Starship SN8 during its landing burn where it experienced low fuel tank pressure resulting in an oxygen rich combustion (closer to the stoichiometric ratio), which effectively eats the inner walls of the engine away burning the copper lining (green flame). (Credit: Everyday Astronaut)

This method means that the fuel can boil before reaching the chamber. This process can sometimes be used to spin the turbine to run the pumps of the engine – this is the expander cycle. The cycle harnesses energy from the thermal expansion of the fuel going from liquid to gas to spin the pumps.

The majority of engines use fuel as their coolant, but oxidizer is also an option. When a cryogenic propellant is used, the outside of a rocket nozzle will be extremely cold, while the inside of the wall will be extremely hot.

One of the main challenges with regenerative cooling is that the pressure inside the walls has to be higher than the pressure of the combustion chamber. This is due to the walls simply being tubes that feed the injectors, and as pressure always flows from high to low, the injectors need to have higher pressure than the combustion chamber.

With an extreme amount of pressure inside tiny walls, it is easy to imagine that a leak could happen. Luckily, because the pressure inside the wall is higher than the pressure in the chamber, if there were a leak it would just provide extra cooling due to film cooling.

Film Cooling

The next common method of engine cooling is film cooling. This method is where a fluid is injected between the combustion chamber and nozzle surface, and the hot combustion gases. As fluids are either gas or liquid, this can be done with liquid or gaseous propellants. The purpose of this is to create a boundary between the wall and the hot combustion gas, which will act as thermal insulation with a cooler fluid in between them.

A film cooled engine in which more fuel rich propellants are injected into the outer perimiter of the injector face to create an insulating layer of unburnt fuel (lack of oxidizer) between the inner combustion chamber and the combustion chamber walls. (Credit: Everyday Astronaut)

The easiest way to do liquid film cooling is to have a higher concentration of fuel or oxidizer injectors on the outer perimeter of the injector face. As the main combustion chamber is fuel rich, fuel is usually favored – there will be a ring of extra fuel flowing around the outer perimeter that won't have the right amount of oxidizer needed to react with. This means there will be a ring of fuel rich combustion to stop the heat from transferring from the main combustion gases to the walls.

The majority of the fuel close to the wall that won't react due to the lack of suficient oxidizer essentially runs along the walls of the chamber as a film, between the combustion gases and the chamber walls. However, it will probably phase change from a liquid to a gas, creating a vapor boundary layer, which will continue to absorb heat as the process of changing phases absorbs a certain amount of heat.

A regeneratively cooled engine that also uses film cooling in hotspots like the throat of the engine where propellant is injected into the throat to lower the thermal load. (Credit: Everyday Astronaut)

It is also common to drill holes into the wall (provided they are regeneratively cooled) and leak in a small amount of liquid fuel, specifically in hotspots like the throat of an engine.

A benefit of using fuel as coolant is that it creates a carbon layer, in the form of coking, along the walls when a carbon based fuel like RP-1 is used. In fuel rich combustion, a lot of carbon is left unburnt and can create soot. You can see this in the exhaust of the gas generator for the Merlin engine. In this engine, SpaceX runs the gas generator extremely fuel rich, which reduces the temperature enough to stop the turbine from melting. The result of this is a very dark and sooty exhaust. This soot can also stick to the inside walls of the chamber. It is not great if the soot sticks to the injectors and the cooling holes, but the soot which sticks to the walls can act as an additional thermal barrier.

Tom Markusic, CEO of Firefly, with soot on his face that came from the inner walls of their Reaver engine acting as an insulating layer, which helps reducing the overall heat load. (Credit: Everyday Astronaut)

The exhaust gas of the Merlin engine's gas generator can also be used to film cool some of the nozzle. This doesn't happen on the sea level Merlins, where the exhaust is just dumped overboard, but it does happen on the vacuum optimized Merlin. Here, the turbine exhaust gas gets pumped into the nozzle extension, which optimizes the engine for vacuum conditions. As the nozzle expands after the throat, the exhaust gas gets cooler and has a lower pressure the further down the nozzle you travel. When pumping in the turbine exhaust gas, it needs to be done far enough down the nozzle where it has a higher pressure than the main combustion exhaust pressure, but also at the point where the heat needed to protect the nozzle can successfully be insulated by the film cooling of the turbine exhaust gas as regenerative cooling is often terminated at that point.

This doesn't only happen on the vacuum optimized Merlin, but has been done on both of the engines on the Saturn V. The F-1 and the J-2 both used turbine exhaust film cooling to keep the lower portions of their nozzles cool. While the J-2 still used regenerative cooling below the manifold, the F-1 stopped doing regenerative cooling at the manifold as film cooling was enough to stop the rest of the nozzle from melting.

The effect of this was visible when the F-1 engines were running. The bright orange flame front didn't start at the end of the nozzle, there instead is a dark part between the flame and the nozzle exit – this is the film cooling turbine exhaust. Because of it being so fuel rich, it takes a moment for it to find oxygen to burn with and ignite, which doesn't happen until it has left the engine and can start to react with oxygen in the atmosphere.

Radiative Cooling

Both SpaceX's vacuum Merlin engine and Rocket Lab's vacuum Rutherford engine glow bright red when powered, because the metal gets really hot and radiates the heat out into space. As there is no atmosphere in space, there is no air to pick up and conduct or convect heat away. Instead, engines can radiate heat away from their nozzles, as radiation doesn't require matter to transfer heat – like the Sun that transfers heat through the vacuum of space via radiation.

The nozzle extensions in the vacuum optimized Merlin and Rutherford engines are made from a very thin metal, usually an alloy like niobium alloy, which is able to withstand high heat loads. The downside of these nozzle extensions though is that they are very thin and relatively fragile. Furthermore, niobium is also very reactive to oxygen, which means the engine like this can realistically only operate in a vacuum environment and is also more complex during manufacturing.


Looking at the Merlin Vacuum engine is perhaps the best way to summarize methods of engine cooling, as this engine employs almost every type of cooling.

The gas generator uses both a heat sink and a very fuel-rich exhaust. This is done as the other types of cooling can't be used for a spinning turbine. In this situation, engineers just have to use high temperature tolerant metals and lower the exhaust temperature so that the metal can handle the heat.

Regenerative cooling is used for cooling the chamber walls, throat and the first section of the nozzle, and for the inside of the engine, some film cooling is done. Film cooling with the gas generator exhaust at the nozzle extension is utilized when the regenerative cooling channels end. Additionally, the nozzle extension also radiates additional heat away by glowing bright orange using a niobium alloy.

The vacuum optimized Merlin engine doesn't appear to use ablative cooling, but as the upper stages are only used once, the engine could probably even have used ablative cooling if it were necessary.

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soheil(10000) 6 days ago [-]

In fuel-rich engines can't the fuel be harvested after it does its function of cooling the chamber walls at the end of the nozzle. There are cases where fuel is boiling before it's ignited so I don't think the heat will be an issue. If it's not possible to have a pipe that transfers the fuel from the end of the nozzle back to the tip of the engine because of re-transfer of heat can't there be a secondary small engine near the end of the main engine that directly gets its fuel from the excess fuel used to cool the main engine?

pfdietz(10000) 5 days ago [-]

All the fuel goes through the cooling channels before injection into the thrust chamber, typically. So what you're talking about there is standard practice.

Animats(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Making rocket engines by metal 3D printing has become popular. A rocket engine bell and combustion chamber has one big rigid part with lots of channels and voids inside. That's the ideal case for 3D printing. Much simpler than building the thing up by machining and welding together many individual parts.

ncmncm(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Maybe the main problem is that you want different materials in different parts of the structure?

E.g., the inner wall of the cooling channel in the bell is better made of something weaker but more heat-conductive, as noted in TFA. And, different materials in the chamber, throat, and bell.

I suppose you could have multiple feeders, on an additive system. But there are various reasons to want to use laser sintering of powdered metal, instead. And bonding the different metals is its own challenge. You could vary the mix of powder dropped at different levels, and rate of motion of the laser to match. But the combustion chamber probably wants concentric layers.

Plenty of hard choices and problems to solve. Engineers earn their keep.

avmich(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There are different problems with 3D printing than with classical subtractive manufacturing. E.g. you need to get the supporting powder out of long thin passages in the cooling chamber - you don't have such problem with milling machine approach.

pfdietz(10000) 6 days ago [-]

An alternate scheme is to stack thin metal layers into which holes have been cut, then diffusion bond them together.

m4rtink(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I remember reading in an article that without 3D printing they could simply not get the cooling channel geometry they needed on the Super Dracos on Dragon 2.

Without 3D printing the combustion chamber they would need to use other cooling channel geometry, makin ghr engine heavier, bigger and less efficient.

WalterBright(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The turbopump, regenerative cooling, and boundary layer cooling by drilling holes, were innovations from the V2.

avmich(10000) 6 days ago [-]

All of that was greatly improved over time. Centrifugal pump was taken by von Braun from fire engines, boundary level cooling wasn't as good as transpirational cooling, and regenerative cooling was with little supports, which required thick and strong fire wall, so they only could use 70% ethanol.

Still - hats off to the pioneers. It's always pretty hard.

soheil(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Serious question: why is it bad to run your rocket engine-rich? If you know you're not going to use the engine and it's nearing its end of life why not get more power out of your fuel/oxidizer by hitting the stoichiometric point? Also, if engine is melting maybe allow it to continue to melt, but at a lower rate and rebuild it later.

pfdietz(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The optimal (in the sense of maximum specific impulse) operating point of a liquid propellant rocket engine is typically fuel rich. This is because with stoichiometric fuel/oxidizer ratio, the temperature is so high that there's significant dissociation, which robs the gas of some of the heat of combustion. Going a bit fuel rich wins back some of this, enough that the reduction in average molecular weight of the gas from inclusion of more hydrogen atoms is a net win.

An exception to this is if your oxidizer is hydrogen peroxide. Peroxide/hydrocarbon engines typically optimize to stoichiometric, because the flame temperature is lower. If you look at photos of that British launch vehicle, the Black Arrow, that used peroxide, the rocket exhaust jet is radiating very little visible light, because most of the carbon has been oxidized.


mountainwalker(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Tim's videos are always so well done! Even if you're not a rocket enthusiast there's tons to get out of this video.

throwaway894345(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Agreed. Tim was an old friend of mine in university, but we lost touch over the years. He was always a good, quirky, creative, and talented guy. He bought an old cosmonaut suit on ebay on a lark and started doing funny/silly photo shoots with it and then photo shoots at rocket launches and then real educational stuff. It's been wild to see it take off (pun intended).

jpm_sd(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Ignorant question: are solid-fueled rockets at all interesting, anymore? Do they have any advantages (e.g. simplicity of design) over the fancy throttle-able liquid-fueled engines?

anarazel(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Depends on the purpose. E.g. for military uses like ICBMs they're quite important...

magicalhippo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Interesting enough to still be of use. Japan has a three-stage solid-fuel rocket[1] for example, with several launches planned.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epsilon_(rocket)

evo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I suspect their primary advantage remains shelf-stability at room temperatures, which will make them stay relevant for military applications, e.g. you don't want a cryogenics facility in your submarine or cruise missile launch platform.

Historically, I think they're cheaper than an equivalent disposable liquid fueled engine but don't hold up to the fully reusable designs of today, and from a reliability perspective there's not a lot of room between working-as-intended and 'activate the flight termination system' at a total loss.

j8asic(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not really. Gel propellants are a new direction.

jandrese(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They are useful when you need a rocket that can take off at a moments notice but sit idle for decades at a time. For typical rocket launches they don't make much sense.

I suspect the Space Shuttle SRBs were chosen because they were a handout to ICBM manufacturers.

dylan604(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Depends on your definition of 'interesting'. If you mean do people still use them for practical purposes, then yes they are. If you mean are people still researching them for use in exploring space, then probably not.

Robotbeat(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Extremely simple (basically just one big rocket combustion chamber with the propellant already inside, no pumps or plumbing) and shelf storable and potentially extremely high thrust to weight ratio.

Useful for munitions and for one-time-use. I'd like to think we're going to reusable rockets and not as much war, so I'd LIKE to think they have fewer uses, but...

opwieurposiu(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This thing I can not comprehend about rocket engines is how the turbopump manages to hold together.

A turbine blade in the SSME about the size of your thumb makes 600 horsepower.


chasd00(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The turbo pump is the main barrier to entry when making a large rocket engine. There's so much energy per unit volume that there is no failure mode that does not result in an explosion. Also keep in mind, you have very hot gas on one side and a few inches over cryogenic liquid oxygen. Liquid oxygen turns anything in to fuel so think about how to lubricate that shaft let alone seal it.

Another interesting thing to think about, it's the turbopump keeping the combustion from running back up the injectors. So, the turbopump has to outperform the combustion chamber in terms of pressure and flow rate.

VBprogrammer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If that interests you then this series of videos is definitely worth watching. It details several parts of the German V2 missile, the grand father of all modern liquid propellant rockets. This one is about the turbopump which is one of the most interesting parts.


kunai(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It is pretty mind-boggling. Makes the average turbofan's turbine assembly look like child's play, and those are also pretty ridiculous in terms of power-to-weight ratio.

bernulli(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Also try to imagine the thermal stresses when you have cryogenic propellants on the pump side and hot exhaust gases (gas generator or staged combustion) on the turbine side!

jaywalk(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Well, 63 blades together make 600 horsepower. But as that paper notes, each blade is subject to 50,000 psi which is wild.

HPsquared(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I the power level of these engines is difficult to comprehend. The fuel pump has thousands of horsepower. Compare this to the fuel pump on a car engine, which is a tiny little electric thing. The combustion power must be in the gigawatt range.

Edit: the SSME high pressure fuel pump turbine produces 63000 hp (46 MW). There's also one for the oxygen, and a pair of low pressure pumps as well. Crazy...

Edit edit: the fuel pump transfers 155 lb/sec of liquid hydrogen. If fully combusted (142 MJ/kg), that would release 10.0 GW of heat per engine.

dekhn(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It sounded incomprehensible to me too but as I did some more learning about the process of building rocket engines I learned some interesting details. First, remember that people have been making high strength metals through careful processing for thousands of years. Second, the parts of engines are not made as part of large-scale industrialized manufacturing. Almost all the parts are made as few-offs, with far more energy, time, and effort put into making sure that a single instance of something is extremely reliable. Third, we got damn good at materials science in the past 100 year, and metals can be absurdly resistant to deformation under heat.

throwaway0a5e(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Don't think of it as 'making horsepower', think of it as 'resisting the forces upon it'.

A gear tooth the size of your thumb pulls a semi truck up a mountain.

Dig1t(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Everyday Astronaut is such an impressive dude, I don't understand why he doesn't just work for SpaceX at this point. He knows more about rocket engineering and can explain it 10x better than most aerospace new grads.

guynamedloren(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Small pedantic note: this article is authored by Claire Percival, not Tim Dodd.

I'm not familiar with the working dynamic - Tim very well could been involved in authoring this piece - but, credit where credit is due.

Edit: I partially recant this. The article includes a video by Tim.

gherkinnn(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There's a distinction between wanting to do something and being something.

Finding joy in cooking does not mean you'll be happy as a cook. And some people like being a cook where the cooking part is tedious.

colordrops(10000) 6 days ago [-]

He's probably making more money with his media that he would working there.

paxys(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Having a YouTube channel with 1M+ subscribers and videos that get 5M+ views each is a much more profitable and generally better gig than SpaceX employee #10,000+ working 60-80 hours a week in a high pressure culture.

philipwhiuk(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There's a big difference between researching a topic to a standard good enough for 'popular rocket science' and 'understanding the maths well enough to work in the field'.

mlindner(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't actually think he's that impressive and I don't get people's praise for him. His videos have a lot of mistakes in them and while they're written in a way that dumbs down a topic well for an audience who doesn't understand the subject very well, that's his only major skill that's involved here. He's not especially smart or ingenious, he's just a good communicator. If he was to work somewhere it would be in a communications department, but he probably makes more from Youtube than such a job would provide.

That's why he doesn't work for somewhere in the industry, youtube makes him more. (He makes enough money to hire other people to write for him, as we can see in the linked article.)

criley2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

SpaceX sounds pretty nasty to work for. Long hours, machismo/sexist culture, aggressive management, and certainly not the best pay you can find.

He's probably happy where he is.

geocrasher(10000) 6 days ago [-]

He is definitely knowledgeable, but strikes me as too much of a fanboy to be taken seriously. I have a hard time taking his videos all that seriously. And it's not about his knowledge, it's about his presentation.

Historical Discussions: It's not still the early days of blockchain (January 15, 2022: 551 points)

(551) It's not still the early days of blockchain

551 points 4 days ago by Liron in 10000th position

blog.mollywhite.net | Estimated reading time – 4 minutes | comments | anchor

It's not still the early days

by Molly White on Friday, January 14, 2022 ← Back to the collection

When I speak about the inefficiency of popular blockchains, or mention that we seem to be hurtling towards a "web3" so centralized it challenges big tech's firm grasp on today's web, or point out that somehow no has managed to find a positive use for blockchains that wouldn't be better served by blockchainless technologies, I often hear "it's the early days". "Give it a chance". "People are still figuring all this blockchain stuff out, ironing out the kinks".

Bitcoin, currently one of the best-known and most-used blockchains, began to be used in 2009. Ethereum, another well-known and popular blockchain, launched in 2015. In the grand scheme of things, 2009 and 2015 were not that long ago. In the technology world, that was a lifetime ago.

In 2009, smartphones without physical keyboards were starting to become more popular. We still aggregated our favorite blogs to read on Google Reader, but people had started posting their thoughts on this weird new website called "Twitter". VentureBeat had just published an article urging people not to "believe the hype" around fully-electric cars, writing that Tesla was "floundering" after recently bringing in Elon Musk as CEO. Uber was founded, and people started to talk more widely about this "gig economy" idea. Intel Core processors had just been released, starting with the i3 and i5. Consumer-grade desktop computers usually had 4 or 8GB of RAM. In the software world more specifically, Go was publicly announced, though not yet popular. MongoDB and Redis were brand new players in databases. jQuery was just taking off, about to reach near-ubiquity over the coming years. Node.js was first released. Windows 7 was the hot new thing, after the horror that was Windows Vista.

In 2015, we saw the release of Windows 10, and with it, Microsoft Edge replaced Internet Explorer. Discord and Apple Music sprung into being. Companies had just started to become more interested in virtual reality. The first Apple Watch came out. People began tapping their phones to pay for things, as Apple Pay began to be accepted some places. Those phones all still had headphone jacks. In software, machine learning was the hot buzzword (though hardly a new idea), and the initial open-source version of TensorFlow was released. ES6 was released, much to the delight of (most of) us JavaScripters, and TypeScript had also recently entered the fray. React was becoming more widely-used, and starting to supplant Angular.

All that to say, a lot has changed in the technology world in the past six to twelve years. One only needs to look at Moore's law to see how this is pretty much built in to the technology world, as once-impossible ideas are rapidly made possible by exponentially more processing power. And yet, we are to believe that as technology soared forward over the past decade, blockchain technologies spent that time tripping over their own feet?

"Blockchains have been around for a while," some will say, "but so many web3 concepts are brand new!" Bullshit, I say to that. Cryptocurrency exchanges have been around for ages—the infamous Mt. Gox launched in 2010. Stablecoins have been around since 2014. One of the first well-known DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) was created in 2016. Smart contracts became popular in 2017, and along with them came decentralized finance platforms. NFTs were one of the more recent creations—2018—and a truly stunning example of how this space is apparently only getting worse the more people try to innovate in it. And in 2018, guess what Neha Narula and Alexis Ohanian were saying about cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies? "It's early days".

So this raises the question: How long can it possibly be "early days"? How long do we need to wait before someone comes up with an actual application of blockchain technologies that isn't a transparent attempt to retroactively justify a technology that is inefficient in every sense of the word? How much pollution must we justify pumping into our atmosphere while we wait to get out of the "early days" of proof-of-work blockchains? How many people must be scammed for all they're worth while technologists talk about just beginning to think about building safeguards into their platforms? How long must the laymen, who are so eagerly hustled into blockchain-based projects that promise to make them millionaires, be scolded as though it is their fault when they are scammed as if they should be capable of auditing smart contracts themselves?

The more you think about it, the more "it's early days!" begins to sound like the desperate protestations of people with too much money sunk into a pyramid scheme, hoping they can bag a few more suckers and get out with their cash before the whole thing comes crashing down.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

neillyons(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Reminds me of something Elon Musk said. A lot of the content on the internet is a 'projection of our limbic system'. (Elon saying this https://youtu.be/ycPr5-27vSI?t=1074)

I see the craze around crypto the same way. It is a representation of something in our limbic system. Perhaps greed?

mw888(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Why limit your theory to blockchain? "Craze" in general seems to be limbic in nature, but that's common knowledge, isn't it?

streetcat1(10000) 4 days ago [-]

interest rate at 2-4 % will do the trick. not so long.

babyshake(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Apparently high levels of debt will really limit the amount rates can be increased. This is something I have heard from crypto investors, but also from people who dislike Bitcoin.

hubraumhugo(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I'm still very opposed to the idea of taking a technology and then searching a problem for it. Why? Back in 2017 during the first hype cycle, blockchain companies raised hundreds of millions with ICOs. I became very interested in the technology too, and some friends still work in this space. 4 years later in the web3 era, there is not a single product aside from trading/finance that got traction. Use cases like storing the history of a car on-chain, transparent supply chains, public voting... this all sounds interesting but never made it to product-market fit.

I always assume that I'm wrong, so I'll keep looking for successful applications and I'm sure you can prove me wrong :)

boringg(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I had the same experience. The thing that gets me as well is that normally with the rise of new technology you get an excitement that is tangible. Like when the internet first xame around there were emails, multiplayer games via modem, websites. A whole plethora of new wonderful experiences. So far all I've really gotten after doing a lot of research is some good projects and a long tail of terrible projects/websites and a lot of scammers.

It really feels like with the NFT backlash in the gaming world right now that crypto hasn't found its landing and it really hasn't taken off - its kind of in this weird purgatory. Im hopeful but very suspicious at this point. I wasn't suspicious of "the internet" until it was around for a long time. Crypto is past its wave of this is cool and lets build stuff phase afaik and now everyone is trying to make money off it.

rileyphone(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Blockchain is proving a more than capable solution in the ransomware payments space, enabling a whole new class of malware.

UnpossibleJim(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I can think of small problems that use blockchain as a solution, but they're relatively niche and only make the game-space straddle the real world, so they tend to be a bit on the vaporware side. Handy, sure, but I'm not sure they are A) 100% necessarily or B) as revolutionary as everyone seems to think blockchain is meant to be =[

EDIT: forgot to say, this could be a complete lack of imagination on my part past what's been done with blockchain already or just my horrible indoctrination into the game-space like some kind of cult =)

xvilka(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Biggest logistics companies in the world use it: https://www.tradelens.com/

heroiccocoa(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Then you should be opposed to most basic (theoretical computer) science and mathematics research too that doesn't have any immediately apparent application.

The scientific research to engineering pipeline is the backbone of our rapid technological progress. Basic research can target unexplored areas in a more organized fashion, allocating resources properly instead of industry's ad-hoc approach. Sort of like breath first instead of depth first. Industry will waste resources solving just their own individual instances of a mini-problem one by one resulting in a total resource consumption that is greater than what academia would have used in solving the overarching problem.

NicoJuicy(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I think PartChain of BMW is the only one i know of: https://www.press.bmwgroup.com/global/article/detail/T030716...

wodenokoto(10000) 4 days ago [-]

In Dubai, buying real estate with bitcoin is a real thing, and by the looks of it also a big thing.

If nothing else, it shows that crypto has succeed in one of its goals: moving money between countries, without being detected/hindered by governments.

I mean, I don't know who buys real estate with crypto, but I am assuming that people who live in dubai and have large crypto values are bullish on crypto, and won't waste it for a low roi investment like realestate. So that leaves rich foreigners who wants realestate away from their own government and I can see them purchasing bitcoins as a way to siphon money out of their country.

Other than that, I am also out of ideas for useful uses of crypto currencies

cdiddy2(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I like the idea that the chain can be used as the source of truth when other sources of truth have failed us. first 15 minutes of this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cwbbxb987vE

agumonkey(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It's muddy waters. I just heard some guy from a public office saying they used DOT for some specific need (related to managing bonds somehow). And it was before last year boom. It's all very fuzzy

systemvoltage(10000) 4 days ago [-]

This is literally how research in the Universities makes it to the world. Spin-offs like Boston Dynamics are essential to building things that may not have immediate use but payoff can potentially be huge. We need to do more of this.

Don't throw the baby with the bathwater. I really don't think generalizations of certain jaded experience and then seeing the entire world with the same broken lens does any good. Probably the opposite. We ought to try new tech and keep an open mind.

Before people go off on Boston Dynamics - there are thousands of spin-offs, pick some other charitable example. The point isn't about BD.

galaxyLogic(10000) 4 days ago [-]

'Public voting' is not a technological problem but political one. There's a lot of opposition to making voting more accessible to everyone. Voting should be easy, and you don't need blockchain for that but maybe it could help. The question is who wants 'voting rights'.

cmews(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Helium network is an example of a successful blockchain project/application in my opinion. They created the biggest decentralized lorawan network in the world that is used by more internet of things companies everyday. Also they are trying the same thing for creating a decentralized 5G network. It's still early days for them because I think they started in the end of 2020 or the start of 2021, but they have grown to 490000 lorawan hotspots already. The network usage could be better, but is increasing (saw increased sensor data activity for my hotspot in 2021).

wahnfrieden(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Issuing tokens is still probably illegal in both countries I live/work in. Regulatory and tax compliance immaturity are holding back a lot of people besides at the wild frontier or offshore operations with the resources to navigate that

jl6(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The tech-first approach also distracts from real problems that remain unsolved while cash circles the blockdrain.

neiman(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It seems you are looking for a product blockchain enables you, but there are activities the blockchain enables which are not products, and are very difficult up to impossible without.

One example is sustainable (financially) open-source project is one I use now. Before that it was always impossible. You get a bunch of people all over the world, many of them are identified only by Internet handles. There's no investment to handle all the legalities of establishing a business, and anyway there's no legal framework for international businesses with psuedo-anonymous people.

But with blockchain we've been using DAOs and online voting tools etc. since 3-4 years now, and it works great. It handles the governance and the finance in a way the traditional system cannot offer.

tomputer(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> Use cases like storing the history of a car on-chain, transparent supply chains, public voting... this all sounds interesting but never made it to product-market fit.

Anything that does not exist natively on the blockchain doesn't need a blockchain at all.

If a token on the blockchain would represent you as the owner of a car and one day someone steals your private key which represents your car ownership, that person is now the owner of your car. Still, the car keys are located in your house, the license plate is registered on your name and address, the insurance is on your name.

I guess I don't need to explain further how ridiculous that idea is that a token would officially represent you as the car owner.

wbl(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Buying drugs on the Internet. The penetration might be low now, but the TAM is sizeable.

czbond(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Decentralized, anonymized identity is one application. It sounds amazing in theory - and can work for the general use cases of sharing information with corporations. But, I believe it won't really be anonymized, as 'data exhaust', 'identity touch points revealing identity in aggregate' can help identify.

An example I use, is people expect bitcoin is anonymous. Yes, it is anonymous to the general layperson and corporation - but not to say NSA/FBI for 'people of interest'. And once bitcoin to USDollar transactions or financial institutions are more common - banks will sell your wallet information to credit bureaus, and eventually corporations will be able to de-anonymize chains for profiling just as today.

travbrack(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Online shopping hadn't hit product market fit in the late 80s even though the Internet had already been around for a few years.

waffle_maniac(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Brave has micropayments for creators. It achieved 50M MAU last year. In a few years it will surpass Firefox.

baby(10000) 4 days ago [-]

People are doing research and deploying cool stuff that others are actively using. You can criticize that as much as you want but it won't do much.

malwarebytess(10000) 4 days ago [-]

That is what financialization does. Finance is a parasite that will destroy all potential if given room. To force finance to be symbiotic you must never allow them to control anything.

These ideas are best left in the academy, and then later financialized. The exception to this is internal R&D (like Bell Labs and countless other extremely productive corporate divisions.)

rvba(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> web3 era

There is no web3, nor web3 era. It is a marketing buzzword.

ique(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The idea that blockchain tech is somehow invented out of nothing and then we search for a problem to match couldn't be further from the truth. Talk to anyone who works in the industry and they're trying to solve a problem.

I used to work in blockchain tech and the main problem I was focused on was 'How do we prevent internet monopolies like Facebook and Google?'.

If you don't see those monopolies as a problem, then you're disagreeing with the problem space, that doesn't make it 'trying to find a problem'.

nly(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Bitcoin had a problem to solve, it had a use case, from day dot... Satoshi set out to replace central banks that can inflate the money supply.

It was supposed to be relatively boring tech solving a niche problem (from the guy on the streets point of view)

lkrubner(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I've been documenting this with specific companies. A recent one that I worked with was Omnichains:


'Omnichain CEO Pratik Soni speaks to Inbound Logistics about the growing number of blockchain use cases in the supply chain, including in reverse logistics, product authentication and sustainability.'

Apparently this company started with the idea that they would use the blockchain to make supply chains more transparent. And they raised money from investors with that goal in mind. But they have since retreated from that goal.

I worked with a retailer that worked with Omnichains. None of Omnichains tools had anything to do with the blockchain. Certainly, we were never given access to a blockchain, nor was it mentioned after we had signed the contract. Instead, we were granted limited access to an API that I believe was run with Ruby on Rails and MySQL. So at a certain point this company retreated to traditional technologies, rather than trying to use the blockchain.

This is one example. At some point I hope to write up some of the other examples that I've seen.

I do not believe anyone will ever find a legal use for blockchains that cannot be more easily served with traditional technologies.

darawk(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> I'm still very opposed to the idea of taking a technology and then searching a problem for it.

So, you're opposed to the internet, then?

twelve40(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I'm glad someone remembers the (2-year) history. NFTs=ICOs, just another scam to keep 'crypto' afloat. Neither ICO nor NFT resulted in anything useful, wait, maybe Bored Ape??

rvz(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> Back in 2017 during the first hype cycle, blockchain companies raised hundreds of millions with ICOs.

Yes. Those scams have been put an end to by regulations by the SEC, as unregistered ICOs are now illegal since 2017. [0]

> there is not a single product aside from trading/finance that got traction.

So what is wrong with using blockchain domain names like ENS for identity, or sign in use cases? Are we going to look back at this in 10 years time and we will see this sort of adoption? [1]

[0] https://www.investor.gov/introduction-investing/general-reso...

[1] https://www.skiff.org/updates/skiff-ens

SCAQTony(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Very precise criticisms. I wish she would have mention her thoughts on proof-of-stake blockchains.

usrbinbash(10000) 4 days ago [-]

PoS blorkchains do not solve the first problem completely (they still require an obscene amount of power to do something that can be done way more efficient) but implement an entirely new kind of problem: The more tokens someone already had, the higher his chances in the 'stake-lottery'.

Essentially, PoS makes sure that 'he who has the gold makes the rules' becomes hardwired in the system, instead of only being a side effect of it.

friedman23(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Not related to blockchain but just an interesting difference in perspective. Using 2010 to refer to 'ages ago' is almost comical. The internet was created in the 60s and I'd say 2000-2010 was still early days for the internet. So saying something is old because it was created 10 years ago is just ridiculous.

jopsen(10000) 4 days ago [-]

2000-2010 internet companies had to actually have revenue, or have users or some value.

Before the dot-com bubble there was hype about anything involving the internet.

Just like today, any business plan involve blockchain is awesome.

larsiusprime(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Kelsey Hightower said it best: https://twitter.com/kelseyhightower/status/14778718907230781...

'If something is too early to criticize it's also too early to evangelize.'

bb88(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Not if you have a heavy investment and depend upon other investors (or greater fools) to buy your shares.

mritchie712(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Any sane web3 proponent would agree with this statement. Only the scammers wouldn't.

Sane people interested in web3 don't evangelize and are totally aware of and agree with most of the criticisms. If you criticized Ethereum as being expensive and inefficient, you'd get head nods from people that understand the space and pointed to projects that are trying to fix those issues.

quickthrower2(10000) 4 days ago [-]

But it's not too early to be a cult

stupidworld(10000) 4 days ago [-]

In the same time, India & China got mobile payment revolution. 4b+ transcations per month are done in India.

Well which means 3B people dont ever need crypto.

baby(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Ah they can send money abroad easily?

magicjosh(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The article suggests that using the phrase 'it's early days' is incorrect in blockchain technology because Bitcoin and Ethereum have been around for 13 and 6 years respectively.

The author goes on to give examples like smartphones, Uber, and Tesla, all of which have had serious developments in terms of impact and usability in around the same time period. Then given that Bitcoin and Ethereum have not made similar progress in that time period suggests it is not 'early days'.

Users continue to get scammed and lose funds. So what is it instead? Middle days? End of life? Pre-early days?

Open to ideas here. The author seems to suggest that what we're seeing in blockchains is the best we're going to get out of it. If Bitcoin were middle aged, would users put up with all the warts knowing they won't go away?

(Disclosure I own Bitcoin and Ethereum)

cuteboy19(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It will always be 'early days'. Crypto requires a constant influx of marks who genuinely believe that they are early, as a ponzi scheme only ever benefits early entrants. No crypto enthusiast is ever going to tell that you are late.

SanJacobs(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> How long can it possibly be "early days"?

70-ish years. I'd say we just recently came out of the early days of computing around the 1990s or 2010s.

>How long do we need to wait before someone comes up with an actual application of blockchain technologies that isn't a transparent attempt to retroactively justify a technology that is inefficient in every sense of the word?

Currency is inefficient? It's sure better than trading cows.

Smart contracts? Writing things using english and then every side involved hiring lawyers to be used as bad just-in-time compilers for what was written is way more inefficient.

'Bitcoin was the beginning of the end for the state' – geohot. And I can't imagine much more of an inefficient system than the state and central banking.

> How much pollution must we justify pumping into our atmosphere while we wait to get out of the "early days" of proof-of-work blockchains?

Energy production problem, not a blockchain problem.

> How many people must be scammed for all they're worth while technologists talk about just beginning to think about building safeguards into their platforms?

God, devs, please don't put restrictions on your platforms under the guise of 'safety'. Same goes for governments. Stay out. If you have no clue how something works, it's partly on you if you gamble all your savings on it. But also, who is excusing scams? We all think scams are bad. Nobody is seeing someone who fell for BitConnect and saying 'Well, it's the early days, so it's fine that you got scammed.'

It seems to me that this lady really wants to dislike. In general. She enjoys disliking things.

int0x80(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> Energy production problem, not a blockchain problem

Yeah. But blockchain energy requirements are definitely a blockhain problem. That's the main problem.

MoSattler(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> Currency is inefficient? It's sure better than trading cows.

> Smart contracts? Writing things using english and then every side involved hiring lawyers to be used as bad just-in-time compilers for what was written is way more inefficient.

If crypto is doing these things really more efficiently than current solutions, then why neither use case has any significant adoption of blockchain solutions?

Nextgrid(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> Currency is inefficient? It's sure better than trading cows.

Currency is a problem that's already solved much more efficiently in a lot of countries.

> Smart contracts? Writing things using english and then every side involved hiring lawyers to be used as bad just-in-time compilers for what was written is way more inefficient.

Writing a bulletproof smart contract is difficult, as demonstrated by endless exploits despite the contracts being written & reviewed by specialists paid lots of money.

The advantage of the legal system is that when shit hits the fan, humans (in court) can step in and determine what the intent of the contract was despite potential loopholes, whereas in code, there is no difference between 'loophole' and 'intended behavior'. Now you can of course have an authority that has power over smart contracts and can step in and rollback exploits, but that's just the current legal system with extra steps, at which point you may as well not use a smart contract at all.

> And I can't imagine much more of an inefficient system than the state and central banking.

There are obviously edge-cases and cryptocurrency is valuable in those, but in the vast majority of the world banking is a solved problem and much more efficient than cryptocurrencies. Compare the total cost (fee + environmental impact due to energy use, etc) of a card transaction or bank transfer with a cryptocurrency transfer.

I'm not saying that cryptocurrencies are useless - there are use-cases for them including in countries where the established monetary system is broken. But outside of those edge-cases, cryptocurrency would be a very wasteful downgrade from the status-quo.

vorhemus(10000) 4 days ago [-]

To me, the most promising use cases for a blockchain would be activities that are today carried out by government agencies, states or lawyers. Anyone who has ever bought a property in central Europe knows how much money has to be spent on trustees and notaries. If such transactions can be carried out in a secure way between buyer and seller without an intermediary, that would be a huge win. However, the lobby of lawyers and notaries is big, the connections to politicians are tight and they will not give up this business easily. Additionally the public sector is not known for its fast technology adoption.

usrbinbash(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Until the first person gets tricked into signing over his property for free...then suddenly, all these lawyers, agencies and notaries are back on the track again, because it turns out they were there for a good reason the entire time: To make sure its really really really hard to get someone to hand over his home via something like a typo or a misclick.

CRConrad(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> activities that are today carried out by government agencies, states or lawyers. Anyone who has ever bought a property in central Europe knows how much money has to be spent on trustees and notaries. If such transactions can be carried out in a secure way between buyer and seller without an intermediary

So if the system in those countries could be thoroughly reformed to work totally differently than it does today... Then why couldn't it just be thoroughly reformed to work more like it does in Western or Northern Europe today, where it works with a lot less hassle even without blockchain?

antoniuschan99(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Why is it that in 2021 if I accidentally transfer btc to an eth wallet I lose it all (into the actual ether)?

yashg(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Because when the genius Satoshi Nakamoto thought up about digital funny money in the aftermath of 2008 financial crisis, he didn't think hard enough about all the possible scenarios.

TekMol(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Depends on how you define early.

When comparing the situation of crypto to the internet, I would say we are at around 1997 now. 1996 was the year when Yahoo went public and 2021 was the year when Coinbase went public.

The usability of crypto solutions also reminds me of 1997. It is still so bad that it makes them almost unusable. Reminds me of acoustic couplers where you had to manually plug your cable bound phone into some device and dial a number to connect to a bulletin box. Just that today the bad usablity looks very different. It has to do with complicated, privacy violating KYC processes, no standardized secure way to make a socially recoverable secret key, lightning network only used in very few places etc.

TCP/IP and DNS were both developed in the early 70s (1972 I think). So over 20 years before the first internet company went public.

So the adoption of the internet evolved more slowly than the adoption of crypto it seems. As the Coinbase IPO came already 13 years after the Bitcoin whitepaper.

meheleventyone(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Adoption of the Internet had serious pre-requisites in terms of the availability of computers in the general population so it's not really surprising. One thing that was amazing about it was our ability to reuse existing networks to connect them all together.

inter_netuser(10000) 4 days ago [-]

>1996 was the year when Yahoo went public and 2021 was the year when Coinbase went public.

>TCP/IP and DNS were both developed in the early 70s (1972 I think). That is more than 40 years before the first internet company went public.

1996 - 1972 = 24.

joosters(10000) 4 days ago [-]

TCP/IP and DNS were both developed in the early 70s (1972 I think). That is more than 40 years before the first internet company went public.

Is that really your belief about how to define when a technology became useful?

rvz(10000) 4 days ago [-]

So there is no progress in non Proof-of-Work coins today? Perhaps the author is saying that there are no blockchains that are being used as the basis of regulated stable-coins and CBDC projects that are being tested by central banks today?

I mean, the author is arguing as if Bitcoin, and Ethereum are the only blockchains that exist today. Hence why this is another blog-post that associates all cryptocurrencies having the same characteristics as Bitcoin, and Ethereum, which that isn't true and the author knows it.

This is all given that they 'claim' to have done 'research' even though they feel 'annoyed' by all of this. [0] If you are going to argue about cryptocurrencies and blockchains technologies in general, at least attack the current alleged 'state of the art' rather than using the same old arguments on the same old cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum) that everyone knows its faults already.

[0] https://blog.mollywhite.net/blockchain/

jrumbut(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I don't think the complaint is about the lack of new ideas for coins. No shortage there.

There have been a lot of prototypes, trials, testing, and scams, but not a lot of hits.

The only major exceptions are the same old cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin and Ethereum) where the same old arguments still apply.

Part of the problem here is that, with no centralized authority, it takes much, much longer to make changes. Perhaps that's what the author is missing and that's why we're many years in without the kind of success you might expect for a web technology that's not destined for failure.

Jasper_(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I spent some time looking into Proof-of-Stake coins. Specifically, the Proof-of-Stake system advocated by Tezos. Give it a lookover, it's actually a fairly quick read.


Unfortunately, it's also very flawed, and nulls most of the security properties we thought we would get by switching to 'Blockchain Technology': if someone captures 50% of this chain, it is quite easy and trivial to turn that into a full chain attack, since all future seed data comes from past chain data. The RNG is seeded deterministically, meaning a motivated attacker can maintain influence forever by maintaining control over the seed.

When you usually bring this up, people usually say 'yeah, but it would be against the economics interests of the miners to crash their own coins'. Aka, the technology isn't providing the security, we're back to the same 'no banker would ever be evil enough to crash the economy for small economic gains' security that most cryptocurrency enthusiasts usually claim is evidence of corruption at work. So, no, I don't see what the blockchain is adding over a typical database.

I've tried multiple times to read through the Ethereum Proof-of-Stake FAQ [1], but I have a sneaking suspicion it's intentionally obfuscated, just so people like me bounce off of it.

[1] https://eth.wiki/concepts/proof-of-stake-faqs

Dwolb(10000) 4 days ago [-]

IMO L1 (Ethereum, Solana, Fantom, etc.) development is closer to building out a communications or telco network.

From that "hard" technology perspective, it's very early days. And the apps that run on top of these L1s are fully limited by L1 bandwidth, latency, and blockspace.

So, I think we're in the pre-dial-up days for blockchains and will need a couple more orders of magnitude improvement to be (universally) on par with today's app performance.

magicjosh(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Good stuff, so you would suggest to the author that their examples are too narrow. Perhaps that smartphones, Uber, and Facebook all represented somewhat minor 'time has come' type innovations, whereas you see Bitcoin as a development more like the internet itself, and that instead we are in the Arpanet days.

(Disclosure I own Bitcoin and Ethereum)

dmitriid(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Yup. Of course everything that has 'blockchain in it is 'the next internet'.

Now this ridiculous claim is taken further: it's not even the internet, but 'the fundamental infrastructure of the internet'.

Whereas all signs point to it being a Juicero, an Enron and an AT&T ISIS Mobile Wallet rolled into one.

rileyphone(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The information bandwidth on block based cryptocurrencies is far too low to support these deeper levels of complexity, and I doubt will ever get much better. Blockchains, despite being a distributed phenomenon, still centralize the flow of information into one stream, the chain. Ethereum, by my estimation, operates at around 7 kB/s, and Bitcoin at 2kB/s. These are clearly glacial speeds - think of how limited an internet connection at those speeds is. How will more informationally needy systems be constructed on top of so paltry a base? The problem is a blockchain's protocol must somehow coordinate the distributed actions of its participants, which are generally spread out across the world. By centralizing information in the chain, they are exhibiting the same intractable slowdown that we would see trying to emulate a brain on a CPU.

rsanheim(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I'm increasingly seeing 'web 3.0' as basically a two headed beast:

1) a way to part greater fools from their money until the hype has died out

2) a hot topic to drive clicks and discussions for nerds and, increasingly, the tech press, from other more pressing issues that exist in terms of tech and culture and finance

In other words, its a bullshit scam, can we please move on already?

laurent92(10000) 4 days ago [-]

When I was a young engineer in 2006, the marketing about Web 2.0 was in every tender for IT projects, so much that my boss created the "Web 4.3 dev community" in my city to point out the ridiculousness of it.

Every versioning of that idea is marketing speech.

freemanon(10000) 4 days ago [-]

i suggest learning it properly before jumping to conclusions. everything has pros and cons. e.g. cars pollute but would you want to go back to riding horses? judge less, learn more

koonsolo(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It's funny how HN is negative towards crypto and web3 (see all upvoted articles on the topic, and related comments). Yet can't seem to stop talking about it.

I get it, you don't like it.

So I agree with your last point: let's all please move on.

heurist(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It's a way to authenticate yourself without a centralized authority. So right now it's being used to create exclusive communities, access to which theoretically has some value. In the future, there may be application ecosystems which operate solely against your wallet information, no need for registration. Maybe that has some value too - time will tell.

I don't follow the details of the web3 market closely, so not speaking in support or against here.

jakupovic(10000) 4 days ago [-]

First video call was made in the 60s. It took 50+ years before it was ubitiquous.

marcellus23(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Yeah but the advantages of video calling are obvious to anyone immediately. Same with the internet.

mizzao(10000) 4 days ago [-]

How's this any different than the typical technology hype and adoption cycle? Perhaps we are just at the 'peak of inflated expectations' right now, and are about to dive into the 'trough of disillusionment'.


This certainly happened with AI at least twice... remember the AI summers of 1970 and 2010 and the AI winters in between...before certain applications of machine learning became industrial tools.

I'm personally in agreement with the author that crypto is probably a waste of energy and a way to scam people, but I can look at the 30,000 foot view and admit there might be some applications in the future as we climb the 'slope of enlightenment'.

My wife recently suggested a possible one: NFTs minted by your university as proof of your diploma. Or perhaps your academic transcript. No way to forge a fake diploma again.

j4yav(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Why would people want to be able to sell unique receipts of having acquired their diplomas to each other?

somebodythere(10000) 4 days ago [-]

A cryptographically signed diploma could be sufficient for this use case, no specific need to commit it to a ledger. Certainly the transferability property of NFTs is not desired in this case.

magicjosh(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Did Moore ever talk about the time length of such cycles? I imagine it differs from industry to industry. Is blockchain on a 10 year cycle like Uber/Facebook, or a longer cycle?

(Disclosure I own Bitcoin and Ethereum)

ryandamm(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> My wife recently suggested one: NFTs minted by your university as proof of your diploma. Or perhaps your academic transcript. No way to forge a fake diploma again.

This is once again better served by a database. Diplomas are inherently centralized and issued by a trusted authority.

Guess we gotta keep brainstorming for use cases -- that's how technology development works, right?

EdSchouten(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> My wife recently suggested a possible one: NFTs minted by your university as proof of your diploma. Or perhaps your academic transcript. No way to forge a fake diploma again.

You could already do this using x509 certificates signed by a university owned CA. No need to use blockchain here.

hvmonk(10000) 4 days ago [-]

'My wife recently suggested a possible one: NFTs minted by your university as proof of your diploma. Or perhaps your academic transcript. No way to forge a fake diploma again.'

This is already happening: https://www.5gnewsroom.com/2022/01/12/iit-kanpur-awards-bloc...

paldepind2(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> NFTs minted by your university as proof of your diploma. Or perhaps your academic transcript. No way to forge a fake diploma again.

The problem with this an many similar examples is that there already exists a solution for this sort of authenticity problem: digital signatures. Basically, the university creates a public and secret key pair, makes the public key available on its website, and signs all diplomas with its secret key. This is a much more efficient solution than the one based on blockchain.

smokey_circles(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I just can't take the power and pollution argument seriously. There's just nothing salient about it. I might have otherwise agreed with the author on their other points but if you can't see the issue with this argument it disqualifies your opinion (which js just my opinion).

'Bitcoin requires lots of electricity'. No, nowhere near the scale human activity sans blockchain does and to provide it we burn coal. Like we've done for a looong time before bitcoin. Removing bitcoin doesn't remove the coal we burn. Genuinely daft argument.

And that's before we get into looking at the numbers from areas like the mining sector. Aluminum smelting isn't cheap from a power perspective, yet I don't see this argument leveled against coke.

The answer is renewable energy. Obviously.

igorkraw(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The difference is that from then perspective of the critics, cryptos burn the energy needs of multiple small country for Ponzi schemes.

Purely to represent the opinion of the critics now, aluminum smelting might be and, but at least aluminum out of it, so they don't criticize the base activity, just the energy type. From the perspective of the critics, we don't need to struggle and transition crypto to RE, we can just stop doing it.

I personally agree, but people with your perspective (presumably) don't and place Crypto in 'expensive but inherently valuable activity' or at least in 'entertainment' both of which also use a lot of coal power but aren't negotiable, hence people focus on the energy sources not so much the activity.

Hence talking past each other

CRConrad(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> I just can't take the power and pollution argument seriously. There's just nothing salient about it.




TL;DR: Bullshit.

> The answer is renewable energy.

You're talking as if the crowding out effect didn't exist: Even if we had a lot more renewable energy than we do, every kWh used for crypto-'currencies' is a kWh that can't be used for something else

janandonly(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I never understand critiques like these.

> 'somehow no one appears to have managed to find a positive use for blockchains that wouldn't be better served by blockchainless technologies'

There is now a sovereign nation state that accepted Bitcoin as a currency, and, mark my words, no doubt more will follow this 2022.

Replacing central banks, and by extension, their grasp on the limitless money printing, is the whole reason why bitcoin and it's blockchain exist. And it is working wonderfully well.

People in countries where the central bankers and politicians are letting them down are flocking to bitcoin and other later inventions (such as stable coins).

Just check these countries:

- Lebanon: https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2020/2/25/distrust-in-leba...

- Turkey: https://etfdb.com/crypto-channel/as-turkey-lira-falls-bitcoi...

> 'Rampant inflation is once again plaguing Turkey's local currency, the lira, but one saving grace could be its citizens using bitcoin to supplant the plunging fiat currency.'

- Also Turkey: https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/turkeys-inflation-is-an-exam...

- El Salvador: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/09/el-salvador-bi...

- And El Salvador again: https://bitcoinmagazine.com/culture/bitcoin-el-salvador-geop...

throwaway98700k(10000) 4 days ago [-]

By all accounts the adoption of that tech in El Salvador has been a disaster, the app is slow, buggy, not everyone has access and it's easily exploitable for crime. Protests against it. Etc. I anticipate a reversal of this by the next government. Current governments cannot admit mistakes, so it'll take a new term for it to be dismantled.

WesternWind(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I mean a significant portion of the world's money is created by fractional reserve banking.

SanJacobs(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Yes, I agree, and this is all very cool, however regarding this point:

> There is now a sovereign nation state that accepted Bitcoin as a currency, and, mark my words, no doubt more will follow this 2022.

Sure. That's true, but doesn't actually matter, imo., because the point of crypto is to:

> Replac[e] central banks, and by extension, their grasp on the limitless money printing

So approval from the government in the case of crypto is worth about as much as it is for making love. It's the losing side of a game saying 'You know what, we'll be so gracious as to allow you to win'. Never needed your permission to begin with.

disruptalot(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It's truly incredible that people still confidently proclaim that there is 'no use case' today.

Because of the technical nature of the underlying tech, it's hard for the average individual to recognise how and why it's different. However, it's not possible to explain away the particular applications and their properties.

Here are 2 use cases which are live and working today:

-Taking a collaterised USD loan without permission or interference from a third party.

- Creating a public digital object which lives forever and can be exchangeable and extendable without a third party involved.

The immediate response from critics then is to question the validity of the use case. But that requires to admit that the use case is there.

Ekaros(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I could already easily get uncollaterised loan, just a text message away...

And if I have a collateral in form of fungible crypto why do I need to loan against it? Specially when I could just sell it and use the money...

bratwurst3000(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Thirst one...link? And still less efficient then Cryptofree technologie. Second thats how crypto works ... thats not a use case cryptobro ;)

gizmo(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Presumably you're talking about a loan against an NFT or other crypto asset. But taking a loan against a financial asset is already really easy. Does loaning against a house, car or stock portfolio get any easier with crypto? I don't see how.

The digital object in your second example is just a hyperlink or a hash, because the digital object itself won't fit on the blockchain. And there is no link between digital and meat space identity, which means it's exchangeable but not between people.

jjtheblunt(10000) 4 days ago [-]

the final paragraph seems to summarize the article :

'The more you think about it, the more "it's early days!" begins to sound like the desperate protestations of people with too much money sunk into a pyramid scheme, hoping they can bag a few more suckers and get out with their cash before the whole thing comes crashing down.'

epinephrinios(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Future will tell. But the author is either acting on bad faith or they are not informed on the innovations that happened since then and are currently happening in the crypto space. And I am not even focusing on NFTs but on hardcore crypto stuff such as multisig and zero-knowledge proof protocols.

qaq(10000) 4 days ago [-]

If there would be a legal framework in place that can tie a DAO to basically be legally binding bylaws of an actual org. and the smart contract lang. is expressive enough for this to work this would be extremely valuable. Outside of this most of web3 looks like hype.

mNovak(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I believe Wyoming actually passed some laws along these lines, to where a DAO can be a legal entity.

lawtalkinghuman(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The question is: does the legal framework override the results of the smart contracts and blockchain records? If so, you don't need the crypto. If the crypto cannot be overriden by the legal framework, you don't need the legal framework. Pure redundancy.

cuteboy19(10000) 4 days ago [-]

so if we are depending on a centralized legal framework, why would we need the blockchain (decentralized store)? Wasn't Code supposed to be Law?

joosters(10000) 4 days ago [-]

If there was a legal framework, it wouldn't be decentralised! ...and hence, it's pointless, since you could recreate it at much lower expense without the blockchain and associated speculative coins.

zanek(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Can you elaborate on what you mean by this ? Do you have any examples of what this could look like in practice ?

democracy(10000) 4 days ago [-]

'Crypto' shat itself in the area of payments (noone really needs or wants it and it provides 0 value), so now they are trying other angles - NFT, DeFi. The problem is the crypto influencers are losing touch with reality. You could at least bullshit someone clueless about cryptocurrency and payments, but it's really hard to sell the idea of collecting JPEGs or investing into DeFi (which aggressively described in the terms of a classic ponzi scheme for some reason) to the general public.

jakupovic(10000) 4 days ago [-]

So the people buying houses with crypto have dirty pants? Or in El Salvador, where BTC is on par with USD, they all have dirty pants? Please re-read your comment before publicly posting, as this is not advancing conversation, nor adding anything, but only exposes your narrowly held (wrong) beliefs.

baby(10000) 4 days ago [-]

That's not how it happened. Crypto is seeing a lot of technical advances. At the same time, people find different ways to build on top of it.

mw888(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Ahh yes the "they" in crypto. The same "they" that people like you used to say would 'turn it off whenever they wanted' a few years ago.

JohnJamesRambo(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Blockchains exist for a reason completely other than performance. Of course a centralized database would perform better. That's not the point. I think engineers keep getting hung up on this and don't zoom out and see the big picture.

throwawaylinux(10000) 4 days ago [-]

What is the big picture then? I've never got anything concrete that doesn't sound like the usual buzz word snake oil.

Blockchains solve the wrong problem for a lot of the proposed applications I've seen, like handwaving about 'supply chain'. The biggest difficulty is not that you don't trust the database, it's that you don't trust the connection between the electronic data and reality. How do you trust a person to have packed the correct grade of meat into the box you are buying? If they've dutifully recorded something on the blockchain and you can verify that nobody has tampered with that record, it still does not help you.

And if you have regulation to ensure supply chain steps comply, then you trust the regulators, then you can have a central database.

Crypto coins are unique in that you can verify them mathematically. They have no connection to anything else out in the real world so they don't have that problem.

So aside from coins, where else is it that you would not trust a central database, but you can verify/trust the entries being added to that database?

Dwolb(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I don't think we even need to "get" web3/blockchain/whatever rebrand.

No one understands what it will be (and people involved in the space barely understand what is, as in what all exists, today).

But here's something that is concrete to anchor to: there's somewhere north of $1T floating around in blockchains today.

That's an incredible amount of money and people that have problems that need technology solutions.

codebolt(10000) 4 days ago [-]

'Zooming out and seeing the big picture' seems to mean buying into a libertarian vision of the world where the current money system is horribly broken and blockchain technologies are a viable and superior alternative. I profoundly disagree on all points of that analysis.

xmprt(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I feel like even after zooming out and seeing the big picture, it's hard to imagine blockchain solving real world problems. Blockchains are good when there's a lack of trust and decentralization is absolutely necessary. There are very few problems that actually need a blockchain. Anything that has the government in the loop (like buying houses or property) is a non starter and anything that runs on centralized servers (like game NFTs) also doesn't make sense.

bobsomers(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Thank you for saying this, this point seems to be completely glossed over frequently, but it's literally the point of blockchains.

To be explicit, the reason blockchains exist is to have a globally consistent database that doesn't require trusting the operator.

soperj(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Except that as Moxie pointed out just recently, the way it all is set up, everything is centralized anyway. So it's not actually being used in a different way.

obstacle1(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The parent article doesn't say anything about performance. Therefore this comment seems like a red herring. A case of not reading the article?

The parent article's point is that most currently popular technologies found an application rather quickly, whereas blockchain technologies have been around for a long time (in tech terms) and still have not made ground.

vmception(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Exactly, People on all extremes of this just cant seem to understand the simple reality that "the market can bear it."

The market can bear smart contract platforms whether that platform writes to a proof of work system, a faster distributed set of nodes, or on localhost with port forwarding.

It doesnt matter! People like to deploy that kind of code on a platform that can be accessed that kind of way.

If there isn't a token then people DDOS it instantly, with smart contracts that take up too much processing cycles or memory. Simple. People dont want to use limited fiat payment rails to attempt to preallocate resources, it doesnt work very well at arbitrary amounts, it ceases to be permissionless and the author is agreeable here: its been 13 years of this other solution and is an international hit!

Think about developers on Shopify's app store that try to sell to ecommerce merchants. Its the same people with the same goals! Sell tools that theoretically make someone else's life easier. Extract value because commerce exists. Thats really valuable. Thats exactly whats going on in blockchain. Just because you and your friends are taking linear bets with your capital and cant quantify why things go up way too often really has nothing to do with the people that built that tool for you who are taking little basis points here and there.

chrischen(10000) 4 days ago [-]

My purely anecdotal experience so far has been that crypto bulls have tended to be more business-y/finance type people and, even among technical people, the technical people who don't actually know how a blockchain works. Not a good sign for the technology and its applications but I don't think all crypto is useless... but a lot of the hype is definitely by people trying to get rich quick with a hand-wavy understanding of the technology.

A lot of people missed out on Bitcoin early days... best way to cash in is to fork it and voila, the crypto Cambrian explosion where most of the forks will eventually die off.

mw888(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Exposure bias. Who are you going to see more? The thoughtful coder and innovator who spends their time working on problems, or the excited businessman telling everyone about that work? Even the more outgoing founders are overshadowed by influencer types, and that's not surprising at all.

One dichotomy I have noticed in crypto is that non-involved "tech" people seem to understand crypto and the big picture much more slowly than economically minded people (no, not just speculators). People don't usually understand that crypto currencies are an economic innovation using cryptographic primitives, though more recently the space has started driving cryptographic innovation as well.

poof131(10000) 4 days ago [-]

A few months ago I agreed with her entirely. Tether is an unbacked fraud and NFTs are being front-run [1, 2]. The mid-level marketing Ponzi vibe is crazy. The latency of applications on the blockchain is atrocious. But more recently after learning from and interacting with people building in the space my assessment changed. There is an interesting intersection between tech, communities, and economics. There exists a transparency in the open-source code of smart contracts that will disrupt the current gatekeepers like the internet did.

Certainly, there are problems, but some things will live beyond the crash that is coming and change things in ways no one can be sure of. The internet started in the 1960s and was opened up commercially in 1989.[3] It feels like we are somewhere between 1995 and 2000. The energy feels similar with people trying to shove old paradigms into a new world, vaporware companies, and insane investments. I don't think we've seen the top and it will likely make the crash of 2001 look small by comparison. I may be wrong, but if I'm not, it still is early.

[1] https://bitfinexed.medium.com/tether-is-setting-a-new-standa... [2] https://twitter.com/Foone/status/1457749433844568066 [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Internet

lumost(10000) 4 days ago [-]

You know, it's funny. I've worked in and around analytics for a long time now, and I've had the thought that blockchain enables the following.

1) A common 'universal' transaction data source

2) A shared, readable format

So the thought occurred to me that as soon as blockchain apps/currencies became popular, people would want analytics on them. There would thus be a startup opportunity for unprecedented analytics visibility into transactional data from a third party without needing to build bespoke integrations into high security/compliance systems.

If a blockchain backed currency was widely used, a third party could easily estimate the real-time sales flow of every brick and mortar store location. You could have real-time auditing and quarterly tracking of both public and private corporations available from a third party. Asset transfers, smart contracts, and their real world equivalents could be instantly monitored - allowing the early detection of emergent supply chain bottlenecks.

The problem with all of this is that in the 5 years since I had this idea, the only use cases for BTC and other cryptos has been price speculation. The market for such analytics products is effectively zero.

crehn(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> There exists a transparency in the open-source code of smart contracts that will disrupt the current gatekeepers like the internet did.

Could you elaborate which gatekeepers it will disrupt?

TomSwirly(10000) 4 days ago [-]

And yet you still don't name any actual useful applications!

The Ethereum world computer has 300,000 nodes, and yet has 1/5000 the computation power of a single Raspberry Pi 4.

Except for actual cryptocurrencies, all the 'web3' applications could use boring old 1980s vintage cryptography, be just as distributed, and run ten thousand times faster and cheaper.


So far the only way anyone has ever made any money from cryptocurrency is to sell it to someone for more fiat currency. In fact, in real terms, it has net lost money because of the huge amounts of electricity expended.

So once people such as yourself purchase cryptocurrency, they know in their hearts that the only way they will make more is if further people buy into their Ponzi scheme.

Therefore, your comment above.

saalweachter(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I'm sorry, I'm not trying to call you out personally, but this is itching my brain something fierce so I have to blurt it out, and hey, it's the internet. A little derailing never hurt anyone.

It's amazing to me how universal the 'I used to be a non-believer' line is in evangelism. From the classic 'I used to be an atheist but I've been born again' to all the members of political party A claiming to have been a member of party B before seeing the light to technological evangelism.

It just jumps out at you after awhile.

tim333(10000) 4 days ago [-]

A nitpick is that [2] isn't front running. Front running is where you figure an institution is going to buy lots of some stock and get a buy order of your own in first, typically done by brokers.

Making fake trades to make the price look like it's going up can be called market manipulation in this case I think. This is also called painting the tape. A similar but slightly different scheme is wash trading where you basically sell an asset to yourself to make it look like that's the price and that there is trading volume going on. There's a lot of this kind of thing going on with NFTs.

doktorhladnjak(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The big question in my mind: is this the internet in 1997 or expert systems in 1982? It could be the next big thing. Or it could be an interesting idea that was oversold and overhyped, that never really disappeared but became irrelevant as its real value became a commodity that found its way into the software of established companies.

dmitriid(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> There exists a transparency in the open-source code of smart contracts that will disrupt the current gatekeepers like the internet did

Ah yes. How can we forget the community-audited and vetted smart contracts that ended up draining its users' wallets of all their money. Transparency!

olalonde(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> A few months ago I agreed with her entirely. Tether is an unbacked fraud and NFTs are being front-run [1, 2]. The mid-level marketing Ponzi vibe is crazy. The latency of applications on the blockchain is atrocious. But more recently after learning from and interacting with people building in the space my assessment changed.

I feel like a lot of the cryptocurrency critics commit the 'fallacy fallacy'. That is, they have the following reasoning: people believe crypto is good because of X, X is false, therefore crypto is not good.

Yes, there are a lot of people who are into crypto because they think it's a way to get rich quick. Yes, there are a lot of guru technical analysts who sell bullshit dreams on their Youtube channels. Yes, there are a lot of criminals who use cryptocurrency. Yes, crypto attracts a lot of charlatans and snake oil men. Yes, there are a lot unbacked stablecoins and shitcoins.

Given the above, it's easy to dismiss all cryptocurrencies as a scam. But when you dig a bit deeper, you'll find that there is true technical and financial innovation. For me, Bitcoin's potential to be a programmable money without government or central authority is a very powerful idea. The idea that you can be your own bank and do p2p electronic money transfers without an intermediary. That has never been possible before.

I could go on but my point is that even if there are many wrong reasons people like X, it doesn't necessarily mean that X is wrong/bad.

somebodythere(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Every time a nascent technology bubble crashes (dot com, AI winter, crypto...) speculation gets reset, scams and projects with no future get wiped out, and the space gets healthier.

benreesman(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I have wondered for awhile why the crypto mega-whales in my vicinity are trading USDT at par or better over the last year or two.

My conspiracy theory is that when insiders trade a distressed asset at par or better it's often a bailout expectation that's really being traded.

Who has unimaginable access to financing, a "stablecoin" going so/so, and a primary line of business critically dependent on Tether, like, I don't know, a massive exchange with the highest volume pairs all sharing USDT as quote?

mirzap(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Well, 10y ago is not ages ago. Email existed for 30 years before it was ready for consumers. Same is with the internet. Certain types of technologies require decades research and development. I would argue that in 20 years it will still be 'early days' of blockchain. And only in mid 40 we will figure out apps and who nows what to fully utilize underlining technology. Right now we are just coping what we have outside of blockchain and put it on the blockchain. Same as people couldn't imagine how internet could possibly transform their business and life, we now can't imagine how Bitcoin and blockchain will transform our business and life in the future. It's too early.

onion2k(10000) 4 days ago [-]

we now can't imagine how Bitcoin and blockchain will transform our business and life in the future

40 years ago people on the cutting edge of tech had VHS video recorders to record broadcast TV. The tech grew slowly, became the dominant standard, and after 15 years in the mid-90s they were everywhere. 25 years later no one has one, or wants one, or even has an equivalent.

Don't assume too much about the future based on the present. Things can change in strange and unexpected ways.

I'm not saying Bitcoin and blockchain won't be around in 2040. They may well be. I'm saying current trends aren't a particularly good predictor of the future. They're wrong more often than they're right.

mojuba(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It might be that the idea is too complex to be viable or useful. The graveyard of technologies created in the past decades stretches to the horizon, so if something doesn't work after 10 years doesn't mean it will work in the future. This is kind of obvious.

Specifically with blockchain my intuition is that, if its main selling points - immutability and decentralization - are already invalidated in the early days (10 years that is), the chances that it will recover are slim.

Complex tech tends to centralize to become cheaper. Also immutability is very problematic in terms of the right-to-forget and also in terms of illegal content and illegal operations.

Email's purpose and utility was super-obvious from day one, we just had to figure out how to make it more secure. Notice how email too became centralized, however.

_fizz_buzz_(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I'd say with email the application was always crystal clear: It's like sending a letter, but electronically and therefore instantly. This must have been obvious to everyone in that space even 40 years ago. Maybe it wasn't obvious how big email would be one day, but there were definitely no doubts about what it would be used for. As someone who is trying to understand the applications of 'crypto', it is very frustrating to hear stuff like 'we now can't imagine how Bitcoin and blockchain will transform our business and life in the future'. Please give me something! If we can't imagine it, maybe there is nothing there.

unityByFreedom(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Email required everyone to have a computer, plus infrastructure to connect them.

Blockchain has been waiting on a useful implementation since inception.

kjgkjhfkjf(10000) 4 days ago [-]

To be fair, it took decades for e-commerce on the web to become mainstream. Remember what a joke Webvan used to be in 2001?

obstacle1(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Didn't pg write Viacom (shopping cart software) in 1995, and sell it to Yahoo in 1997?


ajross(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Uh, 2001 happens to be the year that Amazon became the biggest bookseller in the world, having been founded five years earlier. That's literally about as mainstream as you can get, and it was half a decade.

Whether or not you agree with the arc of the linked article, the basic facts are correct: blockchains have been with us for a decade now and haven't done much or made anything that wasn't itself a speculation about blockchain.

mNovak(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The author's description of 2015 doesn't sound like some ancient era to me.. Have things moved on and changed so dramatically from ML hype, Microsoft Edge, Apple Watch, and ES6?

I'm not really here to argue about blockchains being good or not, I just don't feel great about how the article tosses out a body of technology for not keeping pace with Uber. It's a bit like saying it can't possibly be early days for reusable rocketry, mm-wave communications, or quantum tech, because all those things were being developed decades before some guy named Satoshi wrote a very popular blog post.

Uehreka(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Regarding ES6: Definitely. It used to be that there'd be a new JS framework every week, and the language was rapidly evolving to catch up with over 10 years of programming language innovation. No change to the language as big as ES6 has happened since, and the Cambrian Explosion of frameworks has largely subsided.

Nowadays things are way more stable. I'm sure someone will pop in and mention how their workplace just changed from Webpack to Vite, or how hard it is to keep track of Angular, React and Vue. To which I'd chuckle and note that when I got started in 2014 we had AngularJS, Ember, React, Backbone, Knockout, Google FOAM, Polymer, OJ.js and Aurelia (which emerged as Google announced that AngularJS 1.x would be deep-sixed and Angular 2 would essentially be a totally different framework). To build/bundle your app you would use one or more of Grunt, Gulp, Brunch, Webpack, Browserify, 6to5, Traceur Google Closure Compiler and/or RequireJS (so far we're assuming you're not using CoffeeScript, ClojureScript, or one of their downstream variants like IcedCoffeeScript).

baby(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I think the author hasn't heard about DeFi. It's pretty mind blowing what people are building on top of blockchains these days. But of course users who are not directly affected are oblivious to the advances and are just upset that they are not being served as users. If you think blockchain is useless: you are not the target user. The day it becomes useful to you, then you can choose to use it or not, but that day you'll probably use it without knowing you're using it. After all, do you have a clue what backbone your bank is using to perform wire transfers?

obstacle1(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I'm not aware of any serious financial application running at scale and relying on blockchain under the hood.

Are you? What is it? Specifically.

bpodgursky(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I'm not long on anything blockchain related.

But I don't understand why people get so invested in it being a scam or failure.

Maybe it is, and it'll all die. That's fine. Why do people spend so much time insisting that it's the inevitable outcome. Let it do its thing, find something better to do.

obstacle1(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> But I don't understand why people get so invested in it being a scam or failure.

Can't speak for everyone. But from my perspective, it's because certain 'applications' are being marketed very heavily to non-technical people who aren't able to reasonably assess the viability of the technology. I'm thinking of NFTs in particular. The only other popularized non-NFT applications are cryptocurrencies, which are pure speculation (i.e., gambling).

In short, that's a moral issue. People were outraged by the Madoff scandal (and others), and this doesn't look a lot different to people who understand the underlying technology. Nobody wants their mom going broke because they bought some hyped-up blockchain thing on the advice of some super-hustler internet marketing influencer out looking to make a buck.

kelnos(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Many of us believe all this stuff is incredibly harmful right now. Just standing back and ignoring it, rather than attempting to direct people away from it, will likely cause more harm.

dorkwood(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I was of the same mindset until this year when the pro-crypto crowd invaded the online art scene. Now I unfortunately can't avoid it, as much as I try, not matter how many keywords I mute.

I'd like to go back to ignoring it. But it looks like it's here to stay, and it's taken away one of the few things enjoyed about the internet. I guess I'm still moving through the anger and grief stages and am yet to reach acceptance.

Why couldn't they have just left art alone?

Liron(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Imagine all your friends were really into MLM schemes and even quitting their job to join Amway and Herbalife. Sure you can just ignore it, but you can understand it's tempting to ask them what the hell.

betwixthewires(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> All that to say, a lot has changed in the technology world in the past six to twelve years

It sure has. But not really that fundamentally, since 2009.

A lot has changed in the blockchain space too. Just because you don't know about it doesn't mean it isn't true. A lot of those changes are on par with some of the tec