Posts tagged with "wwdc 2015"

iOS 9 and Safari View Controller: The Future of Web Views

For a long time, iOS apps have been able to open links as web views. When you tap a link in a Twitter client, an RSS reader, or a bookmark utility, it usually opens in a mini browser that doesn't leave the app, providing you with the convenience of not having to switch between Safari and the app. For years, in spite of some security concerns, this worked well and became the de-facto standard among third-party iOS apps.

With iOS 9, Apple wants this to change – and they're bringing the power of Safari to any app that wants to take advantage of it.

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Accessibility at WWDC 2015

Fantastic coverage from Steven Aquino on Accessibility at WWDC 2015:

To me, the labs were one of the most exciting part of my visit. It seemed to me that the labs are where the action is at WWDC. Developers want to visit the labs because they’ve gone to sessions and want to implement accessibility (among other things) the right way.

The room was full of enthusiasm, which warmed my heart to see. As a person with disabilities, it’s thrilling for me to see others make concerted efforts to ensure that their apps are usable by all.

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Neil Cybart on ‘Apple Playing Offense at WWDC’

Neil Cybart has an astute take on Apple's announcements at WWDC 2015. The overall assumption that Apple is always making strategic moves for the future is quite apparent in new technologies like HomeKit, HealthKit, and Search.

I particularly agree with Cybart's observations on News:

Apple's News app isn't so much a competitive jab at Facebook, but instead a hook for grabbing people's attention. Apple's description of the new app is quite clear: “News conveniently collects all the stories you want to read, from top news sources, based on topics you're most interested in - so you no longer need to move from app to app to stay informed.” With News, Apple is trying to keep our attention just a little bit longer. Take a look at Facebook's Instant Articles and Snapchat's Discover to see what the war over attention is leading to. Technology companies are trying to shift commoditized news into a differentiated service meant to keep you within their properties.

This type of attention-holding strategy isn't new. In brick-and-mortar retail, Walmart includes various stores within its stores, such as vision centers, fast food restaurants, and medical clinics in an effort to get you inside a Walmart. Similarly, Facebook wants people to spend more time within its apps by offering additional services, like news.

I don't view Apple as necessarily trying to rethink news or put other companies out of business. Instead, it is looked at as a tool to enrich the iOS platform while maintaining a closer relationship with the user.

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WebKit Blog on Safari Content Blocking Extensions

I've been curious to know more about the reasoning behind content blocking extensions coming to iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan. The general assumption is that Apple wants to enable users to activate ad blockers on the iPhone and iPad, but I wanted to hear Apple's public stance and details on the implementation.

The WebKit blog answers my questions with an in-depth post on content blocking extensions. First off, Apple engineers were unhappy with the current state of content blockers:

The reason we are unhappy about the JavaScript-based content blocking extensions is they have significant performance drawbacks. The current model uses a lot of energy, reducing battery life, and increases page load time by adding latency for each resource. Certain kinds of extensions also reduce the runtime performance of webpages. Sometimes, they can allocate tremendous amounts of memory, which goes against our efforts to reduce WebKit’s memory footprint.

It is an area were we want to do better. We are working on new tools to enable content blocking at a fraction of the cost.

​As for Apple's motivation, they never mention “ads” in the post, but the focus on disabling trackers and making webpages faster by removing external scripts is fairly clear:

We have been building these features with a focus on providing better control over privacy. We wanted to enable better privacy filters, and that is what has been driving the feature set that exists today.

There is a whole universe of features that can take advantage of the content blocker API, around privacy or better user experience. We would love to hear your feedback about what works well, what needs improvement, and what is missing.

​Unsurprisingly, Apple built these new extensions differently than most content blockers for desktop browsers. Content blocking extensions won't see the URLs of pages or resources being blocked:

A major benefit of the declarative content blocking extension model is that the extension does not see the URLs of pages and resources the user browsed to or had a page request.

​And:

WebKit itself does not keep track of what rules have been executed on which URLs; we do not track you by design.

User privacy is at the center of content blocking for both webpages and extensions. It'll be interesting to see how many apps that just focus on blocking ads in Safari will be approved on the App Store (and how much they'll leverage freemium models if so).

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Inside iOS 9 Search: Apple’s Plan for More Connected Apps

At WWDC 2015, Apple announced app search, a new feature of iOS 9 that will help users find content inside apps. Beyond the user-facing aspects of a new search page on iOS and proactive suggestions from Siri, however, lies a commitment to fundamentally rethink iOS' relationship with apps and the web, with deep implications for the future.

With iOS 9, Apple wants to reimagine how information from apps is exposed to users. For a long time, iOS apps have largely been treated as data silos – utilities that kept gaining design improvements and powerful functionalities as iOS grew, but ultimately unable to bring their data outside the confines of their sandbox. Following in the footsteps of iOS 8's adoption of extensions, Apple's plan to further open up iOS is deceptively simple: just let users search for what they need.

Behind the scenes, the reality of iOS 9 search is going to be a little more complex than that.

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iOS 9 Picture in Picture

Benjamin Mayo has a great summary of the benefits of Picture in Picture for iOS 9 on the iPad as compared to the Mac:

The thing about the iPad picture-in-picture implementation is that its actually better than how one would handle such a task on a Mac. On a Mac, trying to play a video in the corner whilst getting on with your work is difficult. Let’s take a video on YouTube playing in Safari. To play this in a corner of the screen on a Mac, you have to pull the window out into its own tab. Then, you have to manually drag the corners of the window to resize it and do your best to clip out all the unnecessary surrounding UI by hand. No doubt the window has a toolbar so you’ll probably have to do some awkward keyboard shortcut or hidden menu command to hide that as well.

Then you have to actually manage the window as you go on with your work. What do I mean by this? Well, with every other task you open you also have to make sure it doesn’t occlude the video playback window by dragging it out the way. The video can’t stay foremost so it’s actually really easy to lose the video amongst your other windows.

If you ever want to move the video from one corner to another, not only do you have to position the video on the screen, you also have to move all your other windows back over to the other side.

This mirrors my initial thoughts exactly. When I talk about the inherent complexities of desktop OSes, this is the type of issues I refer to. With an implementation built on years of distilling the experience to the simplest, iPad multitasking will make these differences even more obvious.

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Julie Adenuga, Apple’s New DJ

I'm fascinated by Apple's choice to pick Julie Adenuga as the DJ for Beats 1 in London. I wasn't familiar with her work before, but she seems exactly like the type of music expert and entertainer that could make Beats 1 an important part of Apple Music. The Fader profile on her contains a lot of interesting details:

Adenuga’s radio career began at Rinse FM in 2010, shortly before the UK pirate station got its official FM status. Along with her BFF Sian Anderson—now a BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ—she took a gamble on asking the station managers for a show, despite having zero experience. “We didn’t have a clue what we were doing,” Adenuga remembered in her official Rinse bio a couple of years ago. The pair went in to record their first show armed with nothing but great taste in music and a willingness to chat for hours. A producer showed them how to operate a CDJ on the fly, because they couldn’t mix; “we’d just stop and start tunes. We had no DJ experience, but we just played the music and were talking rubbish. It worked. Luckily.” Bringing the rare combination of fire music selections and a banging sense of humour to the station, Adenuga and Anderson hosted a show called Mewzik Box from 2010 - 2011, taking a weekly 11am - 1pm slot.

Noisey has also a good article on Adenuga's career.

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iOS 9 Content Blockers

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:

Ad blocking extensions have been possible on Safari for Mac for a long time, but plugin architecture for Safari on iOS is much more limited. With iOS 9, Apple has added a special case of extension for ad blockers. Apps can now include ‘content blocker’ extensions that define resources (like images and scripts) for Safari to not load. For the first time, this architecture makes ad blockers a real possibility for iOS developers to make and iOS customers to install and use.

This has been, for me, the most puzzling new feature in iOS 9. Why is Apple doing this? Is the demand for ad blockers on iOS so high to justify the creation of a new extension point in Safari (and tons of questionable ad blockers coming to the App Store)? Could this be related to shady ad networks still finding ways to automatically redirect web views to the App Store?

The most plausible explanation I'm coming up with is that Apple wants to make it easier to develop third-party content filters (not necessarily ad blockers, like curbi) for parental and educational purposes without workarounds (like MDM and VPN certificates), but I'm not sure.

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