John Voorhees

835 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John joined MacStories in 2015. He is an editor and regular contributor to MacStories and the Club MacStories newsletters, co-hosts AppStories, a weekly podcast exploring the world of apps, with Federico, and handles sponsorship sales for MacStories and AppStories. John is also the creator of Blink, an iOS affiliate linking app for the iTunes Affiliate Program.

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This week's sponsor

SaneBox

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Our thanks to SaneBox for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Apple Updates Its Website for Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Apple has updated its homepage and accessibility webpage to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The event, which Apple has marked in a variety of ways over the years, was created to promote access to technology and foster inclusion for people with disabilities.

Apple’s homepage includes a banner image highlighting the accessibility features of its products with the statement ‘Technology is most powerful when it empowers everyone.’ The Accessibility section elaborates on that idea with a video first published in 2016 and the following:

Taking a family portrait. Catching up over FaceTime. Raising the blinds to let in the morning light. We want everyone to enjoy the everyday moments that technology helps make possible, so we work to make every Apple product accessible from the very start. Because the true value of a device isn’t measured by how powerful it is, but by how much it empowers you.

The remainder of the Accessibility page is organized into sections dedicated to vision, hearing, physical and motor skills, and learning and literacy that outline accessibility features of Apple’s products and demonstrates them with animations and videos.

The updates to Apple’s website and its announcement that it is working with schools for blind and deaf students to help teach them to code is a reminder of the importance of accessibility to the company that hopefully encourages third-party developers to make accessibility a priority too.


Apple Announces ‘Everyone Can Code’ Partnership with Schools for Blind and Deaf Students

In March, Apple lead a Swift Playgrounds course at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Today, which is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Apple announced that is partnering with schools in California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, and Massachusetts:

Beginning this fall, schools supporting students with vision, hearing or other assistive needs will start teaching the Everyone Can Code curricula for Swift, Apple’s powerful and intuitive programming language.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, said:

“Apple’s mission is to make products as accessible as possible,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We created Everyone Can Code because we believe all students deserve an opportunity to learn the language of technology. We hope to bring Everyone Can Code to even more schools around the world serving students with disabilities.”

In addition to existing iOS accessibility features, Apple is augmenting the Everyone Can Code curricula with tools and resources targeted at students with visual and hearing impairments.

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Twitter Announces New End-of-Life Date for APIs and Pricing That Affects Third-Party Apps

In April, Twitter delayed a transition to a new API that was expected to have a significant impact on third-party Twitter clients like Twitterrific and Tweetbot. The delay came in the wake of an outcry from users of third-party Twitter clients prompted by developers who banded together to encourage users to complain to Twitter about the API changes that were set to take effect on June 19, 2018. Today, Twitter announced that those changes would go forward on August 16, 2018 – about two months later than originally planned.

Yesterday, in an interview with Sarah Perez of TechCruch, Paul Haddad of Tapbots, the maker Tweetbot, said:

“Twitter has a replacement API that – if we’re given access to – we’ll be able to use to replace almost all of the functionality that they are deprecating,” he explains. “On Mac, the worst case scenario is that we won’t be able to show notifications for Likes and Retweets. Notifications for Tweets, Mentions, Quotes, DMs and Follows will be delayed one to two minutes,” Haddad adds.

He also says that Tweets wouldn’t stream in as they get posted, but instead would come in one to two minutes later as the app would automatically poll for them. (This is the same as how the iOS app works now when connected to LTE – it uses the polling API.)

In addition to announcing transition date, Twitter announced pricing for its new API, and it’s expensive. A subscription covering 100-250 users will cost $2899/month, which works out to over $11 per user for 250 users. Anyone with over 250 users, which would include all the major third-party Twitter clients, is advised to contact Twitter for enterprise pricing. However, the pricing on the API's lower tiers doesn’t leave much room for optimism.

Third-party clients that can’t or don’t want to pay those prices will have to make do without timeline streaming and push notifications for likes and retweets. Other notifications will be delayed approximately 1-2 minutes according to statements by Haddad to TechCrunch.

For its part, Twitter has made it clear, that the functionality of the old APIs will not be coming to the new APIs:

“As a few developers have noticed, there’s no streaming connection capability or home timeline data, which are only used by a small amount of developers (roughly 1% of monthly active apps),” writes Twitter Senior Product Manager, Kyle Weiss, in a blog post. “As we retire aging APIs, we have no plans to add these capabilities to Account Activity API or create a new streaming service for related use cases.”

We contacted The Iconfactory, the maker of Twitterrific, and Tapbots,1 the maker of Tweetbot, to ask about the impact of the API changes on third-party clients and Twitter users. According to Iconfactory developer Craig Hockenberry:

A lot of functionality that users of third-party apps took for granted is going away. That was the motivation for the apps-of-a-feather.com website - to soften the blow of this announcement.

Hockenberry elaborated that The Iconfactory has reached out to Twitter regarding enterprise pricing for the new APIs, but says that he doesn’t anticipate the pricing will be affordable absent a significant discount.

On the one hand, this latest blow to third-party Twitter clients may be something that some users, including me, are willing to tolerate. On the other hand, this is yet another example of third-party client hostility demonstrated by Twitter stretching back at least five years that doesn’t bode well for the long-term viability of those apps. I asked Hockenberry what he thinks the changes mean to third-party Twitter apps. His response:

Long term, I don’t think there will be any apps other than the official one. I also don’t think Twitter realizes that many long-time users, who are highly engaged on the service, are also the people who use third-party apps. These folks will look elsewhere for their social media needs.

Given Twitter’s repeated hostility towards third-party clients, that’s a hard sentiment to argue against and one that gets my attention more than Twitter’s announcement. I can live with the latest changes to Twitter’s API, but if third-party developers conclude that their time and resources are better spent elsewhere, I expect the end of the Twitter I know and use today is closer than I thought.


  1. As of publication of this post, Tapbots has not responded to our inquiry. ↩︎

Tweetbot 3 for Mac Review

Tapbots has released Tweetbot 3 for Mac, which overhauls the app’s design, provides greater flexibility to manage multiple columns and navigate different parts of Twitter, and includes a dark mode. For the first time since it was introduced in 2012, Tapbots has also made version 3.0 a separate paid app, which means that existing and new users alike will have to pay $9.99 for the update.

Read more



HazeOver: Distraction Dimmer™ for Mac [Sponsor]

Clear away the clutter with HazeOver for Mac. It’s the distraction dimmer that helps you concentrate on one thing at a time by reducing visual clutter on your Mac’s screen.

HazeOver dims everything on your screen except the window you’re working in, reducing mental overhead and helping you focus. How much the background is dimmed is controlled by turning a clever dimmer knob in the app’s preferences. You can set the effect to be subtle, or turn it up to really block out the clutter. Dimming can also be adjusted from your Mac’s menu bar.

When you’re working a big project, it’s easy to wind up with dozens of windows scattered across your Mac’s display. It’s handy to be able to get to those windows quickly, but they can also become a distraction making it hard to focus on the task at hand. This is an especially big problem with large displays and multi-screen setups.

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HazeOver is also especially nice at night when it reduces the harsh glare from the background of your screen. It looks great with the dark menu bar and Dock too, bringing the long-rumored macOS dark mode closer to reality until Apple implements something at a system level.

This week only, you can eliminate distractions and get focused with HazeOver for the special price of just $4.99 on the Mac App Store. If you want to try HazeOver first, there’s a free trial available too.

Our thanks to HazeOver for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Apple Cancels Data Center Project in Ireland

In 2015, Apple announced plans to build a data center in Athenry, Ireland. The facility was designed to run on renewable energy like other data centers Apple operates around the globe. However, the Irish project ran into problems from the start.

According to TechCrunch, concerns about the center’s environmental impact and effect on the electrical grid slowed the project down. Then, after Apple received the approval of the Galway County Council to begin building, individual objections were lodged and the disputes wound up in the Irish courts. With the prospect of appeals that would continue to prevent it from commencing construction, Apple decided to cancel the project.

In a statement to TechCrunch, Apple said:

“We’ve been operating in Ireland since 1980 and we’re proud of the many contributions we make to the economy and job creation.  In the last two years we’ve spent over €550 million with local companies and, all told, our investment and innovation supports more than 25,000 jobs up and down the country.  We’re deeply committed to our employees and customers in Ireland and are expanding our operations in Cork, with a new facility for our talented team there,” the company said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “Several years ago we applied to build a data centre at Athenry. Despite our best efforts, delays in the approval process have forced us to make other plans and we will not be able to move forward with the data centre. While disappointing, this setback will not dampen our enthusiasm for future projects in Ireland as our business continues to grow.”

A second facility in Denmark that was announced at the same time the Irish data center is nearly complete. Apple has not announced any details about its ‘other plans’ referenced in its statement to TechCrunch.

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Valve Announces Game and Video Streaming Apps for iOS and Android

Valve has announced that during the week of May 21st, it will release Steam Link, an iOS app that allows gamers to stream Steam games over wired Ethernet or 5GHz wireless networks to an Apple TV or iOS device. The app will support the Steam Controller and MFi controllers like the Steelseries Nimbus. Although the bandwidth necessary to stream games will preclude users from streaming on mobile networks, Steam Link provides greater flexibility to gamers who would otherwise be limited to playing on Macs and Windows PCs. The app will also be available on Android devices.

Valve also announced that it will release Steam Video on iOS later this summer. Valve sells TV shows and movies, but this is the company’s first mobile solution for viewing that content. Valve says users will be able to stream videos over WiFi and LTE networks or download them to iOS devices for viewing. Like Steam Link, Valve’s video app will be available on Android too, but a firm release date has not been announced yet.