Sharing stories from Apple News considered harmful

Last Tuesday, Google delivered some news that open-Web advocates have long awaited: Stories posted in the speedy, Google-developed Accelerated Mobile Pages format and served up via its even-faster caching service won’t zap onto the screens of mobile devices at google.com addresses, not the domain name of their publisher.

The avoidable but common facet of the AMP experience has bothered me since my early encounters with Google’s attempt to make the mobile Web less janky–it led the explainer I wrote for Yahoo two years ago. Google is now moving to fix the problem it helped create, which is welcome news in any publishing format.

(Specifically, Google will adopt a new page-packaging standard to preserve site domain names. In last Tuesday’s post, AMP project tech lead Malte Ubl says we should start seeing the results on our phones in the second half of this year.)

This, however, leaves another address-eating annoyance on the mobile Web: Apple News. This iOS app is a pleasant way to browse and read stories; like the open-source AMP, this proprietary format cuts out the cruft that can clog mobile reading.

But when you tap its “Share” button, Apple News serves up an apple.news address. And unlike even Googled-up AMP addresses, this one offers no hint after the domain name of where you’ll go.

The text Apple News pre-populates in a tweet or Facebook update–the story headline, an em-dash, and then the publication name–does. But on Twitter and Facebook, many people decide to replace that text with their own words, leaving users to guess what’s behind that apple.news address.

Apple appears to be doing this to ensure that other iOS users can read the story you shared in Apple News as well–its developer documentation even lists a story’s canonical address as a “not required” bit of metadata. But in the context of a button that can share a story on the public Web, that’s an absurd inversion of priorities.

Apple could fix this by coding Apple News to share a story’s original address when available, perhaps with an identifier to tell iOS devices to open it in Apple News. But knowing this company, I wouldn’t expect that any sooner than the arrival of a reborn Mac mini at my neighborhood’s Apple Store.

Instead, you’ll have to solve this problem yourself. If you’re sharing a story from Apple News, keep some reference to the publisher in your description. If that would cramp your social-media style, please take a moment to tap the share sheet’s “Open in Safari” button–then share the story from that browser, from whence it will have its real address.

Weekly output: Hackable “IoT” devices (x2), AMP, Tech Night Owl

I’m taking a week off from my USA Today column, this being a month that would have had me writing five Sunday pieces instead of the usual four. That ends a streak that had started in late 2011–but was probably never going to get close to the 566-week run of weekly Washington Post column-ization that lasted from September of 1999 through July of 2010.

yahoo-finance-hackable-iot-post10/20/2016: Hackers could use your smart home devices to launch web attacks, Yahoo Finance

This column benefited from some extraordinarily fortuitous timing: The day after it ran, unknown attackers used hacked “Internet of Things” gadgets to launch a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against the domain-name-service firm Dyn that left large chunks of the Internet inaccessible through much of Friday.

10/22/2016: How Google is remaking the mobile web, Yahoo Finance

A co-worker suggested I write about Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) initiative, and that turned out to be a good idea. I don’t think Google realizes the level of annoyance some readers feel over seeing news stories served from a google.com cache, but I doubt this post alone will lead to any sudden enlightenment in Mountain View.

10/22/2016: October 22, 2016 — Rob Pegoraro and Jeff Gamet, Tech Night Owl

I talked about the long wait for Apple to ship some new Macs, my experience so far with macOS Sierra, WikiLeaks, Google’s Pixel phones, and a few other things.

10/22/2016: Consumer News with Michael Finney, KGO

I spent about 10 minutes talking to Finney about the risks posed by easily-hacked IoT devices. In a fit of blatant pandering to distant listeners, I compared DDoS attacks to traffic jams on the Bay Bridge’s toll plaza.

Thematic tension

Since yesterday afternoon, this blog hasn’t quite looked the same: After over five years of my sticking with the same themeTwenty Eleven, as in the year I started this blog–I finally changed that out for something newer.

I’m blaming my work for that change: Researching today’s Yahoo Finance post about Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project led me to realize that although WordPress had added AMP support in February, my own blog’s settings had no mention that mobile-friendly option.

wordpress-themes-chooserI figured it was time for a change, opened the theme browser and activated the Twenty Sixteen theme, the closest thing to a current default.

After some customizing of the theme, I’m not sure I made a good choice. The font selection bugs me–there’s nothing close to the clean look of the Helvetica (or the Helvetica look-alike) that Twenty Eleven used. I’m also not a fan of how the simple list of links to my static pages (About, Contact, Disclosures, Portfolio) at the top right gets swapped out for an oversized menu link in mobile browsers.

On the upside, this makeover has forced me to look at the list of widgets that graces the right side of this page for the first time in years. I had no idea that the old Twitter widget was on its way out; now there’s one that displays images I’ve shared and lets you scroll through more tweets. I was also overdue to rearrange the order of those widgets–considering how badly I’ve neglected Flickr, I shouldn’t have had that listed above the link to my Facebook page.

At some point, I should poke around the theme showcase to see if I can’t do better. But seeing as I’m typing this at 5:30 on a Saturday, now is not that time. So I’ll just ask: What’s your assessment of the current decor around here? Got any suggestions on what theme should replace it?

And if you usually read this on a phone, has it loaded any faster since Friday afternoon?

Update, 11/13: As some of you may have noticed a week or so ago, I decided to revert back to the Twenty Eleven theme–and I see that the settings for it now include an AMP category.

Weekly output: mobile news apps

SAN FRANCISCO–For whatever reason, this weekend’s USA Today column didn’t post, leaving me with an embarrassing total of one story to my name for the week. Meanwhile, I find myself once again at my favorite West Coast travel destination, the reason this time being that I’m moderating a panel on a post-cable future of video content at the telecom trade group Comptel’s conference. (The organizers are covering my airfare and two night’s lodging; my regular editors said that was okay.)

Yahoo Tech mobile-news post10/13/2015: Mobile News Apps Offer More Convenience But Less Choice, Yahoo Tech

This column is the latest in an on-and-off series of stories I’ve written about a post-print future of news–see, for instance, my recent Yahoo post about ad blocking, or this 2011 Post column about Apple demanding 30 percent of news apps’ subscription revenue. I’m generally happy with how this column turned out but not my treatment of Twitter’s Moments feature; for a more thought-out take on it, I’ll point you to Mark Glaser’s post at Digital Content Next.