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Apple’s move to make advertising harder on iOS 14 is part of a trend – The Verge

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Apple and Facebook are fighting again, and how you feel about it says something about who you trust to represent your interests in the strange tech landscape of 2020.

Start with a rather academic question that may make your eyes glaze over in spite of yourself: When does pro-privacy regulation overstep its bounds to become anticompetitive? It’s a question I found myself asking last year, when Apple canceled Facebook’s enterprise certificate temporarily following revelations that the company had been using those certificates to conduct market research. And it’s a question I’m thinking about today, as Apple intervenes to unilaterally reshape a market — in ways that once again put Facebook on the defensive.

The issue at stake is a technical one, but it’s worth learning a little bit about — if only for the fact that, assuming you use an iPhone, it’s going to result in a lot of pop-ups on your phone once you upgrade your device in a month or so. The advertising industry assigns a unique code to each device called an Identification for Advertisers, or IDFA. Knowing your IDFA can help advertisers tell whether their ads are effective, particularly when they’ve shown you the same ad in multiple places. Facebook uses the IDFA as part of Audience Network, its ad network for developers.

Starting with iOS 14, which will ship this fall, Apple will begin requiring that developers show you a warning that they are collecting your IDFA, and you’ll have to opt in to sharing it. Some large percentage of users can be expected to say “no thanks.”

On Wednesday, Facebook said it would stop collecting IDFA altogether. Here’s Kurt Wagner at Bloomberg:

Facebook on Wednesday said it won’t collect IDFA through its own apps on iOS 14 devices, a decision that will “severely impact” Audience Network. Thousands of developers use the Facebook platform to fill the ad inventory within their mobile apps, and without IDFA information to help target those marketing messages, Audience Network revenue could drop as much as 50%, the company said. Facebook is considering eliminating the service altogether for iOS 14 users.

“This is not a change we want to make, but unfortunately Apple’s updates to iOS 14 have forced this decision,” Facebook wrote in a blog post. “We know this may severely impact publishers’ ability to monetize through Audience Network on iOS 14, and, despite our best efforts, may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14 in the future.”

Facebook’s own ad business will be mostly fine, since your profile and activity on its apps contain data way more useful than a simple device ID. But the company says that a lot of its advertising clients will suffer.

A common reaction to all this on Twitter today was: boo-hoo. “Aww, poor baby, Facebook,” says my pal Joanna Stern, in a representative tweet. “Now it has to ask permission to track everything you do on your phone.” Said the pseudonymous Internet of Shit: “I like how Facebook is spinning this as a bad thing.”

To be clear, Apple’s move here legitimately promotes privacy, if only at the margins. And it does so in the same way that Facebook often congratulates itself for doing: by putting the user in control. My friend Walt Mossberg picked up on this point: “In the forthcoming version of iOS, Apple is simply switching from an obscure opt-out system for apps that want to track users across the web to an explicit opt-in system,” he wrote. “At last! In my view, we should have a law requiring explicit opt-ins for the collection of personal data.”

But do you feel at all differently knowing that Apple targets its own advertising at you using a wide variety of data it collects from your phone? Because it does! Here are Patience Haggin and Jeff Horwitz in the Wall Street Journal:

Apple isn’t a big player in online advertising, but it does have its own small business that personalizes ads shown in the App Store and on Apple News based on where users go and what users do in Apple’s apps. The company is applying separate rules for its own ad-personalization; to opt out, users must find an option in the iPhone’s settings.

Apple says it’s applying one standard everywhere. The IDFA restrictions apply only for developers who want to move data between companies; all developers can get access to the data generated from within their own apps. But this neatly sets aside the fact that Apple doesn’t have to move data between companies to run its ad business — because it owns the device, the operating system, the App Store, the data, and the advertising network.

OK, but who really suffers here? We know Facebook can take the hit, and surely the big game publishers will find other ways to advertise their games. But Recode reports that big publishers are considering abandoning iOS altogether because the value of advertising is expected to decline so much:

“It makes it much harder for us to monetize our Apple app users, who are an incredibly loyal readership. And quite frankly, it puts at risk our ability to provide an Apple app,” says Martin Clarke, publisher of DMG Media, which owns the UK’s Daily Mail and other publications; the company says its MailOnline iOS app attracts 1.2 million users per day. “There’s no point in providing an app for a platform that monetizes less well than other platforms.”

Such a steep decline has happened before. When Apple implemented similar anti-tracking features on its Safari web browser, the cost of reaching customers there declined by 60 percent, The Information reported last year. If you believe that free, ad-supported news is beneficial to a healthy democracy, it’s worth noting that all these pro-privacy changes come at a cost.

I’m not in love with ads, I swear. I pay extra each month to turn them off on YouTube, Hulu, and even The Verge. But it’s also true that ads subsidize a lot of important services. The less money you have, the more you rely on free services from companies like Facebook to live your daily life.

There should absolutely be hard limits on the kinds of data advertisers can collect, what they can do with it, and how they can store it. There should arguably be more limits on all of those things than there are today.

But just as I tense up when I see Apple dictating the revenue model of an email startup, or threatening to withhold bug fixes from WordPress blog owners if its parent company doesn’t implement in-app purchasing, I worry when I see the extent to which one business can change the terms of a whole economy. Particularly when no one affected has any meaningful way to appeal.

Few will cry any tears for Facebook over IFDA. I understand the impulse many have to view this particular dispute through the lens of the good team beating up the bad one. But the events of this summer have folks I know in Silicon Valley asking the same question over and over: who will Apple put the squeeze on next?

The Ratio

Today in news that could affect public perception of the big tech platforms.

Trending down: Google employees knew the company’s location privacy settings were confusing and potentially misleading, according to newly unsealed documents from a consumer fraud lawsuit that the state of Arizona filed against the tech giant. The lawsuit came after the Associated Press published an article about how Google tracks users — even those that had turned tracking off. (Kate Cox / Ars Technica)

Governing

Two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin were killed Tuesday night. The violence may be tied to a Facebook event posted by a self-described militia, which referred to the event as a “call to arms.” Facebook has taken down the event, as well as the group’s Facebook Page. Here’s Russell Brandom at The Verge:

For three days, Kenosha has been racked with protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old father of six who was shot in the back by police. The protests have incurred significant property damage, destroying a local Department of Corrections facility on Monday night.

In a post Tuesday afternoon, the Kenosha Guard Facebook group encouraged an armed response to the ongoing unrest. “Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs?” the post reads. “No doubt they are currently planning on the next part of the city to burn tonight.”

At 11:45PM Tuesday night, two people were killed after a confrontation between protestors and men armed with long rifles, with a third sustaining injuries. Video of the shooting appears to show an armed militia member firing at protestors. The local sheriff’s office is still investigating the shooting, and the perpetrator has yet to be identified.

At least two separate Facebook users reported the Kenosha Guard account for inciting violence prior to the shooting. In each case, Facebook moderators examined the group and found that it didn’t violate the platform’s policies. The company took down the Kenosha Guard Facebook page after the shootings. (Russell Brandom / The Verge)

The young man charged with killing two protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin was identified on social media as Twitter and YouTube users attempted to reconstruct the shootings. Kyle Rittenhouse was identified as a “fugitive from justice” and will be charged with first-degree intentional homicide. (Adi Robertson / The Verge)

Twitter suspended a number of accounts for sharing a viral message claiming to be a Black Lives Matter protester who previously voted Democrat but is now switching to Republican. The message was first shared by a seemingly inauthentic account, then copied and pasted by others. (Marianna Spring / BBC)

The disinformation tactic used in the fake Black Lives Matter protestor campaign mirror Russia’s attempt to exacerbate racial divisions in the United States and suppress Black voter turnout in 2016. (Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker / The Washington Post)

QAnon conspiracy theorists are targeting evangelicals on Facebook. Their message that Donald Trump is fighting a secret Satanic pedophile ring run by liberal elites mirrors the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s and 1990s. (Abby Ohlheiser / MIT Technology Review)

More than 2,400 police departments have signed contracts with Clearview AI, a controversial facial recognition firm. In a video interview with Jason Calacanis, the CEO of the company said “It’s an honor to be at the center of the debate now and talk about privacy.” An honor! (Elizabeth Lopatto / The Verge)

The UK government will likely pass restrictions on TikTok, but will not block the company from setting up its international headquarters in London. But the rules will stop TikTok from moving user data out of the country. (Kitty Donaldson, Katharine Gemmell and Nate Lanxon / Bloomberg)

A group of more than 2,000 online sellers filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon in India. The suit alleges Amazon favors some vendors who sell goods at a discount and drive out independent retailers. (Aditya Kalra / Reuters)

Industry

The main administrator of Scottish Wikipedia is an American who doesn’t know any Scots, and instead writes articles in strangely misspelled English. The situation highlights a major problem for the site — many language editions of Wikipedia only have a few editors, and those people have an outsized control over what ends up on the site. Edward Ongweso Jr. at Vice describes the problem:

For example, it was found a few years ago that an admin of Croatian Wikipedia was a Holocaust denier, and was inserting those views into Croatian Wikipedia articles. There was little anyone could do to stop them. Because Wikipedia ranks so highly on Google and has become seen as a trusted, neutral source of information, it is often used by machine learning researchers as a corpus to train languages on, and by ordinary people as a first entry point into a topic.

The Reddit post goes on to argue that the damage done by Amaryllis may be more severe than anyone anticipates. Before all of this had even started, there was apparently a poor conception of the Scots language that stemmed directly from the state of its Wikipedia. As a result, “this person has possibly done more damage to the Scots language than anyone else in history.” Because of their “cultural vandalism,” it’s possible that many people think Scots is a “horribly mangled rendering of English” rather than a language of its own.

Microsoft planned to take a small stake in TikTok and become one of the app’s minority investors. Then President Trump got involved, and the quiet deal became an international soap opera. This story charts how it happened. (Mike Isaac and Andrew Ross Sorkin / The New York Times)

SoftBank is considering getting involved in a possible TikTok acquisition. It’s unclear whether SoftBank wants to team up with another entity on an existing bid or create a new effort. But because SoftBank is a Japanese firm, it seems unlikely the Trump Administration would go for it. (Jessica E. Lessin / The Information)

YouTube creators are calling out TikTok stars for continuing to party during the pandemic. TikTok doesn’t have the same type of commentary culture as platforms like Instagram and YouTube, where the name-and-shame game continues to thrive. (Julia Alexander / The Verge)

Facebook is accelerating the launch of the News tab outside the US. The company is working out deals to pay publishers in several countries to include their content in the tab. (Sara Fischer / Axios)

Facebook updated Messenger Rooms to make the feature easier to discover and allow people to further personalize their Rooms experience. The change comes after Messenger dipped slightly from the top of the App Store last week. (Sarah Perez / TechCrunch)

Google promoted Halimah DeLaine Prado to be the company’s new general counsel. The news comes in a moment of intense antitrust scrutiny for the tech giant. (Kyle Daly / Axios)

We should probably be more careful about how much data access we give the apps on our phone. Some, like Google Maps, need location data to be helpful. But if you’re only using TikTok to scroll through other peoples’ videos, you don’t need to give the app access to your camera and microphone. (Brian X. Chen / The New York Times)

And finally…

Talk to us

Send us tips, comments, questions, and your unique device identifier: casey@theverge.com and zoe@theverge.com.

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The best resources and tips for customizing your iOS 14 Home Screen – AppleInsider

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Whether you want to create your own icons or are looking to find some ready-made ones, we’ve got some tips and tricks to help you customize your iOS 14 Home Screen.

If you’re looking for a little inspiration, the iOS 14 subreddit is currently filled to bursting with people showing off their custom home screen designs. We’re also really digging this gorgeous Animal Crossing theme that Twitter user Okpng has made.

Creating your own iOS app icons

Creating your own app icons is easy enough, provided you have access to graphic design or photo-editing software of some sort. You can use whatever you prefer— Pixelmator Pro, Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, Affinity Design.

And there are advantages to making your own icons, too. After all, it doesn’t get more one-of-a-kind than handmade icons and wallpapers. We’ve seen vintage iPhone, Windows 3.1, and even Playstation memory card themed iPhone home screens.

Whenever you design your icon, you’ll need to make sure the image is a square. Apple suggests that a 180px by 180px icon for the iPhone. Don’t forget that Apple icons have rounded corners as well, so you’ll need to be mindful of where you place your design.

Additionally, you can’t use transparent icons for your app, either. In the event that you’d like your background to show through — such as a retro Windows 98 layout — you’ll need to match the color of the icon to your iPhone’s wallpaper to fake it.

When saving icons, we suggest saving as a PNG, though a JPG will work, too — it may just come with some unwanted compression. Once your icons are saved, get them to your iPhone’s Camera Roll.

After you save your icon set to your iPhone’s Camera Roll, you can use the Shortcuts app to set them to whatever app you’d like.

Important: Because you’re executing an app through a shortcut rather than directly, there will be a slight delay — especially on older iPhones. However, this is currently the only Apple-approved way to set your own custom icons.

How to set custom icons for apps in iOS 14 (it should also work in iOS 13!)

  1. Open Shortcuts
  2. Tap +
  3. Tap Add Action
  4. Tap Scripting
  5. Tap Open App
  6. Tap the app you wish to customize
  7. Name the app
  8. Tap Done
  9. Tap
  10. Tap (again)
  11. Tap Add to Home Screen
  12. Tap the icon under Home Screen Name and Icon
  13. Select the image from your camera roll
  14. Tap Add

Creating your own widgets

As we’d discussed in How to customize your Home Screen on iOS 14, you can use an app called Widgetsmith to make your own widgets. This includes setting custom photographs on your home screen, which can provide some interesting layout elements.

Finding ready-made icons

Of course, you don’t need to make your own icons, either. The internet is flush with plenty of icons that you can download to use. Here are a few of our favorite places.

Important: You’ll likely still need access to an image editor of some sort to resize the icons to fit on your iPhone. You may also need to add an opaque background, as the iPhone will render transparent portions of images as black pixels.

FiatIcon

FiatIcon is a great resource for those who are looking for themed icons. Most icons available here are free for personal use, too.

App-style icons available at The Noun Project

App-style icons available at The Noun Project

The Noun Project

If you’re looking for bold, minimalism-inspired icons, The Noun Project is the place for you. Free for personal use, The Noun Project has hundreds of thousands of icons you can download and begin using immediately.

Doodle icons at Icon8

Doodle icons at Icon8

Icon8

Another huge repository for icons, Icon8 boasts tons of icons with a wide variety of themes to choose from.

Icon Rewind icons

Icon Rewind icons

IconRewind

If you love the look of old Apple icons and you don’t want to fuss with the Shortcuts app, you can visit iconrewind.co via Safari on your iPhone to set shortcuts with one tap. They have plenty of icons available, as well.

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Xbox’s Bethesda acquisition is evidence of blockbuster gaming’s volatility – VentureBeat

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Microsoft’s Xbox gaming division is acquiring The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim publisher Bethesda for $7.5 billion. And it’s difficult to overstate how much this changes gaming. The easiest way for me to think about this is that Xbox just bought one of the only other companies that actually has a major media presentation during E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show) each year. This has led to a lot of talk about what the purchase means for Xbox and its Game Pass subscription service. But the deal tells us just as much about how unsustainable the triple-A blockbuster gaming business is.

Bethesda is one of gaming’s main publishing companies. Like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, and Take-Two, it built a business by creating studios and releasing games for PC and consoles. Its biggest releases are megahits like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4. And yet the owners of ZeniMax Media — the parent corporation of Bethesda — sold off their interests in the gaming business to Xbox. Why? What is happening in games that would make ZeniMax stakeholders want to cash in?

Well, the explanation is evident in the recent history of Bethesda, and it speaks to the challenges facing the entire games-publishing business.

One flop away from failure

Making video games is a difficult and volatile business. Blockbuster budgets inflated over the last 10 years to well over $100 million for a single, top-tier release. And that makes every game a massive bet that could prove disastrous.

On top of this, publishers and developers struggle to predict what consumers will want. The audience has fickle tastes. And even when a studio is working on something with proven appeal, like a military shooter, they must compete against ingrained properties often from teams with even bigger budgets.

This leads to escalating investment costs as studios try to compete. Is your game not as pretty as Red Dead and not as big as Assassin’s Creed? Well, that sounds like a game I can wait to play until it’s on sale.

Live-service games come for us all

The especially tough thing for publishers is that even if they launch a high-quality game to good reviews, it’s often not enough to pull an audience away from their chosen live-service games. More players are returning to evergreen hits like Fortnite, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Warframe repeatedly for months and years at a time.

In that environment, it often seems like only the most prestige single-player narrative-driven games breakout from the crowd. This raises the threshold for what games can succeed. This is why you’ll often hear people lamenting that the middle-tier game is disappearing. The threshold for success is higher than ever. On the PlayStation 2 and then the Xbox 360, a “B” game could make a return on its investment. Now, they struggle to pull any attention away from whatever is hot on Twitch at the moment.

That can leave publishers feeling like the only safe bet against this trend is their own live-service games. But these are just as hit driven as any other game. The only upside is that developers have a better chance of slowly building a service game into something more appealing over time.

Subscriptions and stores

The other way to compete is to start your own distribution store, your own subscription service, or both. If a company can directly monetize their audience, this can offset some of the increasing costs of development. No more sharing 30% with Steam. And establishing steadier and more predictable revenue streams.

But the challenge is that starting your own PC digital store is expensive. Epic Games continues to invest heavily into its Epic Games Store, and it’s still struggling to compete with Steam. And a subscription service requires a huge upfront investment to build content without any guarantee that players will stick around.

Bethesda tried everything

Bethesda ran into all of the problems I listed above.

It tried to compete with high-budget single-player experiences. At E3 2017, the company even had an initiative called #saveplayer1 about ensuring the future of solo games. That led to games like a Dishonored 2 expansion, The Evil Within 2, and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. But none of those games were huge financial successes, even if they all are beloved by their fans and received positive reviews.

Bethesda then tried to launch the live-service game Fallout 76, which had a disastrous release (although it’s slowly building an audience through updates that have improved the game). That game likely would have performed better if Bethesda would have delayed it, but — again — making games is difficult. That’s the point.

The publisher also tried its own store with the Bethesda Launcher on PC, only to witness EA soften its position toward running the EA Origin store. It also saw companies like Ubisoft and EA try their own subscription services. Bethesda knows how expensive and challenging it would be to get those programs off the ground. And in the end, Steam and Xbox Game Pass are probably still going to win in the end.

The reality is that the industry is going through a massive shift where publishers probably aren’t going to look like the company Bethesda grew into. That left its stakeholders with an option: Try to figure out the painful process of transforming Bethesda into something new, or sell Bethesda to a company that needs it. And Microsoft can use Bethesda because Game Pass is already a de facto industry standard with 15 million subscribers.

This deal ensures that the people and teams that make up Bethesda have a chance to remain together. The alternative under an independent ZeniMax Media was likely closures, layoffs, and fewer games. And I guess that’s the good news for fans. This deal will get you more games.

Meanwhile, if you’re one of the people on the receiving end of that $7.5 billion payday, take that money. In a few years, gaming’s tectonic plates will settle into place — at least momentarily. And then you can start your next gaming startup when you know what the future looks like.

Media consolidation is bad, but so is everything

Not to give into nihilism, but I can only get so worked up regarding concerns about media consolidation. This Microsoft move echoes Disney’s efforts in film and TV, but it’s not like the status quo in gaming has led to a dynamic and healthy market. And ZeniMax’s options here were likely shrinking down to either selling or aggressively reorganizing. Business as usual was probably not under consideration.

And the reorganizing option would have led to studio closures and layoffs. Under Microsoft, the plan (for now) is to let Bethesda keep operating as it always has. It seems like most of the people involved will continue in their current positions. The only difference is that Satya Nadella will sign their paychecks.

So yeah, media consolidation is bad and reduces competition. But game publishers are so afraid of the aforementioned risks that we don’t have a ton of competition in the blockbuster segment as is.

Ultimately, I view Microsoft’s Bethesda acquisition as an enabling move. It is purchasing eight new studios to empower them to keep making games. This is distinct from prohibitive moves where a company pays a publisher a fee to keep a game off of a competing platform.

It’s hard to say that the deal is good for the game industry, though. But for now, it’s probably better for the people making games at Bethesda.

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Heart Analyzer for iPhone and Apple Watch adds iOS 14 widget, blood oxygen data, more – 9to5Mac

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Heart Analyzer is one of the most powerful ways to visualize and access your Apple Watch heart data. A new update to Heart Analyzer this week brings integration with the Apple Watch Series 6 Blood Oxygen readings, iOS 14 home screen widgets, and more.

With this week’s update to Heart Analyzer, the app now supports Apple Watch Series 6 Blood Oxygen data. This includes a new complication for your watch face as well as tracking directly in the Heart Analyzer app on your Apple Watch. One of the new complications for Apple Watch is a full-size heart rate graph for the infograph modular watch face.

iOS 14 widgets have become a staple of app updates this week, and Heart Analyzer is no different. Heart Analyzer version 8.2 includes new home screen widgets for easily monitoring your heart rate without launching the app itself. Heart Analyzer has also extended the available data for heart rate tracking to four years.

Heart Analyzer also integrates with Apple Watch ECG recordings, including the ability to compare two readings side-by-side.

Here are the full release notes for today’s Heart Analyzer update:

  • Blood Oxygen Saturation support
  • Electrocardiogram viewing and comparison
  • A configurable Dashboard for App Customization users
  • Extended Data doubled up to four years of heart rate data
  • Brand new complications on Apple Watch
  • Blood Oxygen Saturation tracking in the Watch app including on a complication
  • Watch Face sharing support
  • New support for more workout types
  • The Heart Analyzer Guide, now available in the app for those wanting to broaden their app knowledge
  • Improvements to Heart Rate Recovery metrics in the Deep Analytics section
  • Dashboard interface tweaks for more intuitive navigation
  • A new option for complication privacy on the Watch Face

Heart Analyzer is available on the App Store for iPhone and Apple Watch. It’s a free download with in-app purchases for additional features.

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