Happy Brexit Day, everyone! This is issue 74 of FOXTROT/ALFA for Friday, 31 January 2020. Tomorrow, the UK is finally free to restore the glory of the Empire and in Brussels, FOSDEM kicks off. I’ll bring you news from the biggest open source conference in the world on Monday. For now, let’s see what happened in the tech world today.

Chrome 80 is coming out next week and brings new cookie handling policies. Which is expected to break things for Chrome users.

Next week Google is scheduled to release Chrome 80 to its stable channel, and says only “a very modest amount of breakage” of websites is expected.

The reason web publishers might see “breakage” – which can mean anything from the loss of certain user-facing features to backend analytics errors – is that Chrome 80 handles HTTP cookies in a different way than its predecessors. The coming changes, intended to improve online security and privacy, mean that web developers need to explicitly declare in website code how they want cookies to be handled if they want to avoid potential problems.

HTTP cookies are files containing data keys and associated values and are created on a web user’s local device through website code or server interaction to help with session management and to convey information, which may be necessary or may serve a publisher-oriented purpose like advertising or analytics. They’re widely used (and misused) by third-party marketing firms for tracking user behavior and interests to serve targeted ads.

Funnily enough, Google, who makes Chrome, is one of the biggest originators of tracking and targeted ads.

In an email to The Register, Augustine Fou, a cybersecurity and ad fraud researcher who advises companies about online marketing, said that while the cookie changes in Chrome 80 further concentrate Google’s market power by making it more difficult for third-party ad tech to function, they do represent a real privacy win for consumers.

Ah-ha! They are essentially restricting their competitors. Because Google’s ad and tracking subsidiaries presumably know to treat this in a way that they can still track people. So that’s the way the cookie crumbles!

Ginni Rometty Replaced as IBM CEO

Ginni Rometty is out at IBM, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst becomes President of the company.

In a surprise announcement on Thursday, IBM named a new CEO, Arvind Krishna. Virginia “Ginni” Rometty, who has led the company since 2012, will step down on April 6 to serve as executive chairman of the board until her retirement at the end of the year.

“Arvind is the right CEO for the next era at IBM,” said Rometty in a statement. “He is a brilliant technologist who has played a significant role in developing our key technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud, quantum computing and blockchain. He is also a superb operational leader, able to win today while building the business of tomorrow.”

IBM credits Rometty with overseeing the acquisition of 65 companies and developing its $21bn hybrid cloud businesses while advancing the biz’s AI, quantum computing, and blockchain efforts. IBM says she divested “nearly $9bn in annual revenue to focus the portfolio on IBM’s high value, integrated offering.”

Rometty, 62, also oversaw what’s alleged to be a company-wide effort to get rid of older workers. Several legal cases on this are currently in process and the eventual bill from them could be a major cost to Big Blue, as well as the drop in staffer morale among the IBM “family.” She also presided over Big Blue’s crackdown on remote working, forcing employees to move to hub cities, a policy seen as a backdoor attempt to weed out older staff who were settled in their neighborhoods and unable to uproot to San Francisco, New York, Austin, and the like.

Rometty’s replacement, Krishna, 57, led IBM’s acquisition of enterprise Linux biz Red Hat. He’s currently SVP for cloud and cognitive software. James Whitehurst, 52, IBM SVP and CEO of Red Hat, has been appointed to IBM’s board as president of the company.

Apple is the Biggest Phone Seller Again

Apple’s iPhone sales numbers are looking good.

Apple said this week it hauled in $56bn in iPhone sales for its Q1 of fiscal ‘20 ended 28 December. The shipment bounce meant it leapfrogged both Huawei and Samsung, grabbing 21.3 per cent market share compared to the 19.7 per cent it held in the prior year, Canalys’s data shows.

By comparison, Samsung managed a 1 per cent rise in Q4 to 70.8 million phones, and the next nearest rival, Huawei, recorded 56 million phone sales, a decline of 7 per cent.

Looks like Tim Apple can thank his buddy The Donald for keeping Huawei down with his trade war shenanigans.

EU-Wide Charging Standard for Mobile Devices

Speaking of Apple, it looks like the UK will soon be one of very few countries in Europe stuck with the Lightning connector. As the UK is leaving the EU, the European Parliament has just voted to introduce a unified common charging standard for mobile devices. It’s probably gonna be USB-C.

The European Parliament has voted in favour of binding rules that would mandate the introduction of a bloc-wide common charging standard for mobile devices. The measure passed yesterday by 582 votes to 40, with 37 abstentions, and compels the European Commission to act by July 2020.

The EU lawmakers still haven’t explicitly mandated the industry-wide use of USB-C. However, it’s almost certain that’s the direction parliament will take. USB-C has been adopted by almost all Android manufacturers, save for the cheapest models offered, which use the slightly cheaper MicroUSB standard.

Coronavirus Misinformation

It’s being reported that Facebook and Twitter are scrambling to remove “misinformation” regarding the coronavirus outbreak. I wonder how they are doing that? Who’s qualified over there to decide these things? I also wonder why the mainstream media is reporting so gleefully on this. Because, as far as I can tell, every big website, TV station and newspaper has reported misinformation on this virus. I’ve seen mortality rates of 60% widely reported in the last few days, for example. Turns out its probably closer to 2%.

Just compare the coverage, even of respected news organisations, to what actual experts are saying. And you want these guys, who are grossly overestimating how bad this thing is and are spreading the same panic they are condemning in their articles, to judge what is misinformation? Don’t make me laugh.

Elon Jams

Speaking of making me laugh, Elon Musk has released another song. Yeah, it’s bad. Real bad.

Living meme Elon Musk has followed up his feelgood hit of 2019, “RIP Harambe”, with “Don’t Doubt ur Vibe”, a saccharine slab of dreamy electropop that we’re sure has nothing to do with rubbing Tesla’s results in our collective face.

It seems the father of Canadian synth goblin Grimes’ child has been inspired to disrupt the music biz – where “disrupt” means not innovation that shakes up a market, but rather “oh god, please make it stop”.

Also Noteworthy

Some more stories that might be worth a look:

So as to not leave you hanging with that horrible piece of crap Elon Musk calls “music”, here’s some actual music for the weekend. With actual lyrics. This one’s for all my friends in the UK:

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.