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Big Revolution - Apple’s power move

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Greetings from a train racing south towards London. If you believe the news, the UK is covered in sno
 
February 1 · Issue #335 · View online
Big Revolution
Greetings from a train racing south towards London. If you believe the news, the UK is covered in snow, but I haven’t seen a single flake for most of the journey. Fake flakes! Just watch me get stuck in London because of snowfall now…
– Martin from Big Revolution

Big things you need to know today
  • Apple has punished Google for its rule-breaking research app just as it punished Facebook – by revoking the certificate it used for both that app and all its internal apps. Both companies have now had their certificates restored. More on this below.
  • Facebook and Twitter have removed accounts linked to foreign powers that seemingly sought to influence the US midterm elections. Iran, Russia and Venezuela stand accused. More here and here.
The big thought
Credit: VASANTH on Unsplash
Apple’s power move
One of the most interesting things to observe in tech this week has been Apple’s role as ‘police’ against Facebook and Google.
On the face of it, Apple was simply enforcing the terms and conditions both companies signed up to. Both companies broke the rules around enterprise certificates, using them to run low-key user research projects instead of just to test apps and run internal company apps.
Facebook and Google knew what they were doing and deserve the consequences. But revoking a certificate for a tech giant is very different to doing the same for a startup. Thousands of people will have been affected worldwide.
At Facebook alone, the result was significant internally. From the New York Times:
”When Facebook employees woke up on Wednesday morning, many found they could not perform even the most basic work tasks.
“Their calendars were not working. Nor were campus maps that help people find their co-workers. They were unable to check Facebook’s latest shuttle bus schedule. And they could not see what the company’s cafeterias were serving for lunch.”
…and their iOS developers will have been unable to push new builds of apps like Instagram to testers. The impact at Google was similar. Both companies have now had their certificates reinstated.
I can see no way this action wasn’t approved by Tim Cook himself. Cook most likely rarely gets involved in the weeds of policing developers, but given the scale of the impact here, this was a political move as much as a procedural one – especially as I would imagine Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai have Cook’s personal iPhone number in their contacts list.
Apple isn’t perfect, and shouldn’t be celebrated as some kind of morally superior enforcer, but this week’s spat shows a weak link in the relationship between the tech giants. Should things turn nasty, there are ways they can make each other’s lives hell.
One big read
Can China Turn the Middle of Nowhere Into the Center of the World Economy?
How China is making a small village in Kazakhstan a key part of the vast Belt and Road Initiative that could transform the way the world trades.
That’s all for today...
Keep an eye on your inbox over the weekend for good reads and the latest news.
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