FOXTROT/ALFA: Google Might Have to Sell Chrome, Nintendo Versus the Poké Porn Girl, Grapes with a EULA

FOXTROT/ALFA — Your Daily Tech and Policy Newsletter, Issue 148
Tuesday, 13 October 2020

I hear there is some kind of live event going on. Something, something, iPhone… If they actually announce anything interesting, I’ll probably cover it tomorrow. And no, I’m not gonna write about the best Native Advertising Prime Day deals either.

So here’s some actual news from today:

End of Life for Yahoo Groups Confirmed

Yahoo Groups are finally going away on 15 December.

Yahoo! is finally killing off Groups at the end of this year, after having launched it almost two decades ago. Once a bustling corner of the internet for netizens to advertise items, share information, or socialize with one another, Yahoo! Groups is now a husk of its former self, overtaken by the likes of Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter.

Yahoo!, now owned by Verizon, began winding down Yahoo! Groups this time last year when it stopped users from posting new content on the one-time internet super-forum, and then deleted all of its pages. People were invited to continue following their special interest groups via email. Essentially, Yahoo! Groups became just a glorified mailing-list provider. As of Monday this week, no new lists, er, groups can be created on the site. The final nail in the coffin will come in mid-December, when the plug is pulled on, and no more mail will be exchanged via the service.

Launched in 2001, Yahoo! Groups was largely unmoderated. Some boards were public, while others were private and could only be accessed by members, who were invited to join. While this led to some ugly online scenes, the system largely worked, and some will miss the passing of such an iconic part of early internet history. Then again, we’re getting on fine without Alta Vista.

I don’t know. I actually miss a time when there were competing search engines…

The US Might Force Google to Sell its Chrome Browser

Speaking of Google: Apparently, the US government is mulling over the idea of forcing Google to sell its Chrome browser.

Justice Department and state prosecutors investigating Google for alleged antitrust violations are considering whether to force the company to sell its dominant Chrome browser and parts of its lucrative advertising business, three people with knowledge of the discussions said Friday.

The conversations – amid preparations for an antitrust legal battle that DOJ is expected to begin in the coming weeks – could pave the way for the first court-ordered break-up of a U.S. company in decades. The forced sales would also represent major setbacks for Google, which uses its control of the world’s most popular web browser to aid the search engine that is the key to its fortunes.

Discussions about how to resolve Google’s control over the $162.3 billion global market for digital advertising remain ongoing, and no final decisions have been made, the people cautioned, speaking anonymously to discuss confidential discussions. But prosecutors have asked advertising technology experts, industry rivals and media publishers for potential steps to weaken Google’s grip.

DOJ is separately preparing an antitrust suit accusing Google of abusing its control on the online search market, which the department could file as soon as next week. Targets of that complaint are expected to include the ways Google uses its Android mobile operating system to help entrench its search engine, Politico reported last week.

Not That Kind of Poke

Let’s check what Nintendo is up to these days

Nintendo has issued a cease-and-desist order against a popular social media influencer for using Pokémon branding and imagery in her handle and products. But while the influencer formerly known as “Pokeprincxss” acknowledges her legal mistakes, she also feels she has been targeted by Nintendo for a very specific reason.

“Nintendo doesn’t want people to think I’m in any way, shape or form affiliated with them or that I have a partnership with them, and it all comes down to me being an adult entertainer,” the now-renamed “Digitalprincxss” says in a recent YouTube video addressing the issue. “Even though there are other people with ‘Poke’ in their name and they make money off it… I think it just literally has to do with me being an adult entertainer because they aren’t adult entertainers.”

Digitalprincxss boasts 1.9 million followers on Tiktok and significant followings on other public social media accounts. But she also hosts a subscription-based OnlyFans page, which charges $17 a month and promises “access to all my NSFW photos/videos that I post daily” and “uncensored content that I usually tease you with both on Instagram/Twitter.” While the Pokeprincxss name dates back eight years, Digitalprincxss says she thinks she may have drawn Nintendo’s legal ire when she tried to trademark the name through LegalZoom months ago, with an application that noted the mark’s use for adult entertainment. Digitalprincxss has also spent recent months selling shirts and other merchandise that used Pokéballs and other copyrighted Nintendo imagery; proceeds from those sales have now been paid back to Nintendo, she says.

Despite the legal issues, Digitalprincxss says she doesn’t bear any ill will toward Nintendo and takes full responsibility for being “young and dumb” about the matter. “I am not at all going to cancel or go against Nintendo,” she said. “I just look at this like a business thing at the end of the day.”

Okay then. Now that we cleared that up…

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 / 3090 Stock Issues

Apparently Nvidia can’t sell its own graphics cards.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 and 3090 Founders Edition graphics cards are no longer being sold via the company’s own online store, and instead retail partners will be selling these GPUs. In an unprecedented move caused by all the stock issues around these graphics cards, Founders Edition models are now being sold directly by Best Buy in the US, rather than from the Nvidia site.

Nvidia clarified: “Founders Edition units are limited, and more will be available in the coming weeks alongside an increasing supply of boards from our global board partners.” The fact that stock is still being described as “limited” – and it clearly is, with the likes of bots and scalpers swooping in when GPU inventory does turn up – doesn’t exactly fill you with hope for the near future. Of course, Nvidia has already admitted that stock issues will persist until 2021.

Never buy the newest graphics card. Always buy the previous model. That has been my guideline since the early ’90s and I’ve always done well with it.

Grapes. With a EULA.

Breaking news: Grapes now have EULAs!

“The recipient of the produce contained in this package agrees not to propagate or reproduce any portion of this produce, including ‘but not limited to’ seeds, stems, tissue, and fruit.”

Sure. That seems like it complies with local laws over here.

WordPress Matt vs. Netlify Matt

I do like static websites. And my static websites are hosted on Netlify. So this is relevant to my interests.

Jamstack – where JAM stands for “JavaScript, APIs and HTML Markup” – is an architecture based on deploying web applications as static files, retrieving dynamic content from APIs such as those published by microservices. Developers typically use a static site generator such as Next.js, Gatsby, Hug or Jekyll. Page load time is quicker because no web server is required, especially when used in conjunction with a content delivery network (CDN). Advocates of Jamstack are convinced that it is the future of web applications, but Matt Mullenweg, creator of the ever-popular WordPress blogging and content management platform, has spoken out against it.

Public debate kicked off at the end of August, with Mullenweg telling reporter Richard MacManus: “Jamstack is a regression for the vast majority of the people adopting it. The usability and functionality is actually lower. Even rebuilding sites in Jamstack harkens [sic] back to the Movable Type days, where the bigger your site gets, the slower it is to rebuild or update templates.” Netlify CEO Matt Biilmann responded, declaring “the end of the WordPress era” and insisting that “obvious pains around acceptable performance, scaling, maintaining, operating, and securing WordPress installs” are “an ever increasing burden rather than a reasonable trade-off.”

The Jamstack crowd decided to invite Mullenweg to their virtual Jamstack conference, where the two Matts faced off in a public debate. This was fascinating, not only because of the technology at play, but because of the dominance of WordPress on today’s web. According to W3Techs' stats, WordPress is “used by 63.6 per cent of all the websites whose content management system we know” and by “38.5 per cent of all websites.”

The face-off had some odd aspects. Jamstack is an architecture, but WordPress is an application, and while Mullenweg was happy to be an advocate for “not Jamstack”, much of the time he fell back on the status of WordPress and its official hosting site, While seasoned CEO Mullenweg proved more than a match for the Netlify chief in terms of debating skill, careful observers could see that not all of Biilmann’s arguments were answered.

Biilmann spoke about the reliability of Jamstack sites versus “monolithic” applications like WordPress: although some microservices may fail, a static site can never really go down completely. He said that Jamstack sites were more secure because a buggy plug-in could not compromise an entire site. In addition: “There’s a model where you start decoupling the part that might be an admin UI from the part that might be a content UI from the part that might be your actual front end layer,” he said. With Jamstack, the admin part is not exposed to regular users at all.

“Last time I checked, about 90 per cent of major security incidents infected WordPress,” said Biilmann. “It’s not the best track record.” On security, Mullenweg said that the key issue was making updates “frequent and easy” and that Jamstack, which typically uses “dozens of NPM packages” for building sites, has “the same issues that you have over plugins”. Mullenweg claimed that the auto-update built into WordPress means that “we can get 70 to 80 per cent of WordPress sites on the latest version within a few weeks.”

On the matter of performance, Mullenweg claimed that Jamstack “is not intellectually honest in its marketing. If serverside performance were the biggest problem for web performance, sure, but Google and everyone else says that’s only 10 to 20 per cent of what happens. Where performance really matters is client side… I think the best thing you can do for performance is be completely dynamic but put a caching CDN in front of it. Cloudflare two days ago announced WordPress integration.”

I, for one, enjoy not running lots of crap on a webserver that I don’t need and that will only make me susceptible to attacks. The fact is that a ton of websites don’t need to be dynamic. Especially in a world where no one wants comment systems on their sites anyway. If you don’t run a shop and your business is content, static is clearly the way to go.

Microsoft Gives Up on ExFAT Royalties

Hell freezes over. Yet again.

The Open Invention Network (OIN) has expanded the scope of its Linux System Definition to include the likes of exFAT and Android AOSP 10.

Established back in 2005, OIN lays claim to being the world’s largest patent non-aggression community, aimed at removing “patent friction in core open source technologies.” It scored quite the coup back in 2018 when former Linux bad guy Microsoft signed up. Today’s news further reduces the patent risk associated with core Linux and the expansion includes 520 new software components, “bringing the total number of Linux System-protected packages to 3,393,” said OIN.

Microsoft’s Extended File Allocation Table has roots in the DOS FAT of old and, while outshone by the likes of NTFS, is more than adequate for a simple file system (and is widely used in memory cards).

The BSOD Bobs were rather precious about their patents back in the day, and many dollars were made from licensing the technology. A change (or perhaps a growth) of heart within the halls of Redmond in recent years saw Microsoft first sign up to OIN before publishing the exFAT specification last year – a precursor to its inclusion in the Linux kernel. A year on, exFAT is now effectively royalty-free for OIN members.

A New Linux Kernel Appears

Speaking of open source… Linux 5.9 is out.

The bulk of the changes this time around lurked in “networking stuff”, according to Torvalds, and there have been eight release candidates needed to get to this point.

As for version 5.9 itself, there is initial support for AMD’s Radeon RX 6000 graphics cards and Intel Rocket Lake GPUs. On the eve of release, the team at Phoronix noted that the AMDGPU graphics driver accounted for more than 10 per cent of the lines of code lurking within the source tree for the 5.9 kernel (although a huge chunk of that was actually auto-generated header files).

“Team at Phoronix”? Larabel has a team now?

Cyber Eleven

Heise notes , that the Cyberbunker trial will start in Trier next Monday (I had written about the case in several previous editions of the newsletter). “Because of the coronavirus pandemic, only 23 seats are available for visitors in the court room; eleven of these for members of the press”. You’re looking at one of those eleven.

I’ll be reporting from the trial, starting next Monday and on selected days thereafter – the court says the trial could last until December 2021. So if you don’t get a newsletter next Monday, you know why. I’m probably very busy in Trier and will catch up with you as soon as possible.

Also Noteworthy

Other stories I’ve been reading today:

This is an archived issue of my daily newsletter FOXTROT/ALFA. You can find more information about it, including how to subscribe via email, on this page.