Don’t Download Dark Sky

Illustration for article titled Don't Download Dark Sky

Screenshot: Gizmodo/Dark Sky

Welp, I can kiss that $3.99 goodbye.

Dark Sky, the excellent weather app that Apple bought last March, is doomed—which we already knew. What we didn’t know until now was the possible execution date for the iOS app. In a June 7 update posted to the Dark Sky website, the company announced: “Support for the Dark Sky API service for existing customers will continue until the end of 2022. The iOS app and Dark Sky website will also be available until the end of 2022.”

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That last sentence there should stop you from clicking the download button in the App Store—unless you don’t mind buying an app with an apparent expiration date. (We’ve reached out to Apple to clarify whether the iOS app will cease to function after 2022 or simply be unsupported, which is just a slower form of death.)

Anyone could have seen this coming, especially after this week’s WWDC keynote, in which Apple announced a slew of changes coming in iOS 15, including an updated Weather app that incorporates some of the best features from Dark Sky—itself an obvious thing to expect after Apple spent some secret amount of money to buy the whole company and proceeded to shut down the Android version last August.

All of this is why I, a technology journalist who should know all these details off the top of my head, feel like a dumbass. I recently purchased Dark Sky ahead of a camping trip, so I could have the best possible information about the weather before sleeping outdoors for a week in the middle of Pennsylvania. And while the app truly is great—accurate weather, great design and UX—I can’t say I’ve used it enough to justify spending even a measly $4 on it.

The June 7 update isn’t all bad news, however—at least not for developers who use the Dark Sky API, and the users who benefit from it. Dark Sky originally said its API would only remain available until the end of this year. As iOS developer David Smith, one of the first people to spot this week’s update, noted, that extends the Dark Sky API’s life for an additional year.

Of course, this whole situation is just another reminder that we don’t truly own anything anymore—we’re simply renting the digital goods we pay for until someone somewhere decides to take them away. So, if you recently downloaded Dark Sky, all I can say is, enjoy it while it lasts.

Update 3:40 pm ET, June 10: An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on how, exactly, the death of Dark Sky as a standalone app and website will play out, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Does Tim Cook Know About Mark Zuckerberg’s Skills With a Spear?

Illustration for article titled Does Tim Cook Know About Mark Zuckerberg’s Skills With a Spear?

Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard (Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page is having an extremely normal one, read: Mark’s latest gladiatorial displays to the mighty riff of Audioslave. As you can see, he is capable of firing bow and arrow and throwing a javelin—or a spear of some sort. Also, yesterday he dropped whatever still-intact public pretense might have remained and told Apple that Facebook is coming for them.

After two videos of paramilitary exercises posted on Sunday and Monday, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will keep engagement and subscription tools free for creators until 2023, and it won’t be robbing you like Apple (and “others,” which means “Google”) with notorious app store commissions. He wrote:

To help more creators make a living on our platforms, we’re going to keep paid online events, fan subscriptions, badges, and our upcoming independent news products free for creators until 2023. And when we do introduce a revenue share, it will be less than the 30% that Apple and others take.

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That 30% is a reference to Apple’s commission for purchases made through apps downloaded from the App Store. In an announcement about Facebook’s free online events service, the VP of the Facebook app Fidji Simo wrote that creators can blame Apple for taking their earnings. “We asked Apple to reduce its 30% App Store tax or allow us to offer Facebook Pay so we could absorb all costs for businesses struggling during COVID-19,” Simo wrote. “Unfortunately, they dismissed both our requests and [small and medium businesses] will only be paid 70% of their hard-earned revenue.”

Facebook fully intends to weaponize the above fact in order to muster the influencers and turn them against certain Facebook competitors. Zuckerberg added that Facebook will be unrolling a tool so that influencers can compare their earnings by breaking down “how different companies’ fees and taxes are impacting their earnings.”

“More to come soon,” he warned.

Protect your neck.

Facebook has spent the better part of a year protesting Apple’s privacy update which compels iPhone users to opt-in or out of data collection by apps. Not only is this expected to hurt Facebook’s ad network, but it draws uncomfortable attention to the fact that apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger (and apps using Facebook ads) track our movements while browsing other apps and the internet.

A personal Tim Cook-Mark Zuckerberg rivalry flourished into a spectacular New York Times piece detailing attempts by a Facebook-backed political firm to anonymously smear Cook, even making a fake presidential campaign to turn Donald Trump against Cook. Meanwhile, speaking to the media and governments, Tim Cook has gotten to cast himself as a savior and raising the question what will it take to psych out this guy?

Zuckerberg named unrelated nemeses as the target audience for war games on Saturday, June 5th, claiming that an unnamed “trail that I like to hike” ran out of hiking permits and now only offers hunting permits. The message to Tim Cook was clear: Mark didn’t want to become a hunter, but his hand was forced.

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Philips Hue Finally Has a Good App

The fourth-generation Philips Hue app is a huge visual improvement over its predecessors.

The fourth-generation Philips Hue app is a huge visual improvement over its predecessors.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

It took four generations, but the Philips Hue app is finally a delight to use. In a significant update to its iOS and Android apps, which control its expansive lineup of smart lights and bulbs, Hue now has an overhauled interface and better automation engine, plus a few other subtle tweaks that make the entire experience more enjoyable overall.

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I used the new Philips Hue app on a Pixel 5. From the first screen, the most notable change is the tinge on the interface. The buttons feature prominent shading to stand out as actionable against the relative flatness of the rest of the Android interface. Beyond that, the Hue home page remains unchanged in terms of content.

Tap on a room, and that’s when you’ll notice the real difference. The Hue app sports a new tile interface with quick access to pre-set scenes and the option to add on and customize your own. The Hue Scene gallery had existed before, but it was a bit of a mess. It looks better categorized in version four and a little less overwhelming to navigate.

Routines have also been revamped. They’re now called Automations. The Hue app will suggest a few to get you started, from setting the lights to sleep at night to having them gradually turn on before you come home. The feature uses geolocation, which you can set up through your device, though it will require configuring the Philips Hue hub for remote access. If you’re using an Android device, you’ll also have to enable the app to access location permissions and run in the background.

The rest of the Automation setup process is more helpful than the previous iteration. If you’re setting up your lights to turn on as you arrive home, for instance, the app will ask whether you want to run the automation every time or just in the evenings. The options were there before, but this time the onboarding process walks you through your choices, rather than tapping around the app to figure out what’s possible. You can then choose which rooms and which lights are affected by the automation. The Hue app will consider if someone is home already, so it doesn’t double up on automations or, say, turn off the lights for everyone else.

Ronald Geerlings, the Hue app’s global product manager, said during a press event that the team had made more than 100 improvements: The interface and automation changes were the “big” changes, while the “small” features are more prevalent in the settings. For instance, you can now manage multiple Hue bridges. The Entertainment Area has also been updated so that it’s more accurate at configuring numerous lights. It’s a handy feature if you plan to use Hue lights to frame your TV viewing experience. The new app includes a 3D view, where you can freely move lights around the room and even select their height and whether they’re bumping up or shining against an object. The Hue app will take care of the rest, like the color of the lights and how they sync up with what you see on the big screen.

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Smart home apps can sometimes feel like an afterthought. The app can enable all the necessities for controlling a gadget, but the interface can leave much to be desired, which is exactly what was happening with Hue. It’s why when you do a search for the app in either the iOS or Android app stores, a bevy of third-party apps appear alongside the official one. The Hue app was always capable of basics, like getting your smart lights online and changing the scene, but it lacked any visual interest. It also didn’t have the best reputation for smart home tinkerers who rely on routines and automated commands.

The new Philips Hue app is a significant improvement, and it’s a good indicator that the company is watching and learning what its users need to keep buying into its vast device ecosystem. The update is available for download now, and the app will also be updated later this summer with dynamic scenes, which will allow lights to cycle through different colors throughout the day.

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Why a Mediocre Keyboard App Is Topping the App Store Charts

Illustration for article titled Why a Mediocre Keyboard App Is Topping the App Store Charts

Graphic: Techin Park, Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)

It’s hard to tell what will go viral online at any given time. Carp? Sure. Andrew Cuomo’s Nipples? That happened. The latest darling of the internet’s eye is less fishy and less… fleshy than both of the above, but no less bizarre: a low-grade knock-off of Apple’s Notepad app that was developed by a tiny Korean studio about two years ago. It’s called Paste Keyboard, and it’s the most popular iPhone app in the US right now.

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An intrepid reporter at Mashable was the first to notice that the app isn’t only rocking the number one spot in the App Store right now, but it managed to snag that spot from TikTok. This is nothing to sneeze at; not only was TikTok the most downloaded iOS app in 2020, but it had also enjoyed its spot at the top of the charts for roughly a year, give or take some blips.

It’s impossible to say exactly what the tipping point was, but in the last few days of May, Paste exploded. An independent analysis by the mobile app researchers at AppFigures shows that the keyboard went from enjoying about 100 to 150 downloads per day, on average, to rocking 29,000 downloads on May 29th. The next day, more than 127,000 people downloaded it. Then 182,000. Over the past two weeks, the apps’ been downloaded more than 346,000 times—almost entirely from folks in the US.

The app went from being #910 in the App Store’s “Utilities” category to being #1 in literally four days. Its numbers are still skyrocketing. But why?

It helps if you hum the Twilight Zone theme while looking at this chart.

It helps if you hum the Twilight Zone theme while looking at this chart.
Screenshot: AppFigures (Gizmodo)

If you download the app, you’ll find it’s just a utilitarian copy and paste tool. It’s a blank white canvas that lets you type out soliloquies, copypastas, or really anything you want, and then save that to a dedicated keyboard so you can paste it somewhere later. That’s it. Not to say that this isn’t a useful tool, but I think we can all agree it’s not #1 app material.

I didn’t have to look very far to find out what people are doing with the app. When I pulled up the most recent five-star reviews for the Paste Keyboard, I was faced with what can only be described as a wall of straight-up, unvarnished Zoomer Humor:

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Illustration for article titled Why a Mediocre Keyboard App Is Topping the App Store Charts

Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

Miss the Rage is a single that was released by TikTok-favorite rapper Trippie Red in late May after he’d spent months hyping up his upcoming track on the platform. The only way I can describe the track and the accompanying music video is: A Lot. There’s a burning car. There’s a balaclava. There’s a floating head that’s almost certainly a Zordon rip off. Like I said: A Lot.

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The final version of the video is missing something though—a hook by fellow rapper Mario Judah shouting “I miss the rage” in his best nu-metal voice. While the verse was unceremoniously dropped before the song’s final release, it didn’t stop teens from spamming the line across TikTok to their followers, which quickly morphed into those same teens trying to one-up each other by spamming walls and walls of text at each other. Don’t think too hard about it, it is what it is.

As it turns out, the tool that they’re using to spam their pals is the Paste Keyboard. On TikTok, right now, there are entire tutorials laying out how to use the app. There’s a fair share of YouTube tutorials, too. Having downloaded the app myself, I can confirm that it makes spamming walls of text at people really easy. Instead of combing through forums (or your notepad app of choice) every time you want to pull up that obscure spam to send your friends, the keyboard just saves it for you. All you need to do is pull it up, tap the Pasta you want, and you have an entire wall of text, ready to go. Yes, it’s really stupid.

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Ostensibly, the app popped off out of nowhere because irony-poisoned teens realized they could use it to spam low-effort walls of text across cyberspace. Like literally every TikTok trend in recent memory, I can’t say I really “get” why it’s funny, and I probably never will. Then again, my own generation’s humor really isn’t any better.

You’ll Have to Wait Until June for Apple’s Paid Podcast Subscription Service

Illustration for article titled You'll Have to Wait Until June for Apple's Paid Podcast Subscription Service

Image: Apple

Apple’s pushing back the launch of its podcast subscription marketplace until June to ensure it’s “delivering the best experience for creator and listeners,” according to a company email to podcasters obtained by 9to5Mac. Apparently, its new service still needs a few tweaks before it’s ready to see the light of day.

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Unveiled in April, Apple Podcasts Subscriptions essentially functions as a Patreon for podcast creators within the existing Apple Podcasts app. Listeners pay a monthly fee to subscribe to their favorite creators for the opportunity to unlock unique perks. Apple recently opened its affiliate program to podcasters ahead of the service’s wider release, which was initially set for this month.

In an email to podcast creators obtained by 9to5Mac, Apple acknowledges several issues creators have reportedly run into using Apple Podcasts Connect, a portal for submitting shows and monitoring their performance:

“Over the last few weeks, some creators have experienced delays in the availability of their content and access to Apple Podcasts Connect. We’ve addressed these disruptions and encourage creators experiencing any issues to contact us.”

Apple also said it addressed some concerns users expressed with the Apple Podcasts application design that came with iOS 14.5. Its latest update tackles some of these issues, and “additional enhancements” are planned for the Library interface “in the coming weeks,” the email reads. Apple did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but we’ll be sure to update this blog when we hear back.

With this new service, podcasters get to set their own prices and subscriber perks, such as ad-free listening, bonus content, or early access to new releases. However, just as with its App Store, Apple keeps 30% of the subscription fees in the first year and 15% in subsequent years. A new “channels” feature planned to debut alongside the service will add the option to browse lists of recommended shows (including both free and paid versions) curated by creators.

It’s not clear exactly how many creators have signed on at this point, but Apple claimed it’s fielded “hundreds of new subscriptions and channels submitted from creators across the globe every day” since its announcement in April, according to the email shared by 9to5Mac. Among the partners Apple has already confirmed include Tenderfoot TV, Pushkin Industries, Radiotopia from PRX, QCode, NPR, the Los Angeles Times, the Athletic, and Sony Music Entertainment.

Twitter’s App Store Listing Shows Rumored ‘Twitter Blue’ Subscription Service for $2.99 Per Month

Illustration for article titled Twitter's App Store Listing Shows Rumored 'Twitter Blue' Subscription Service for $2.99 Per Month

Photo: Alastair Pike / AFP (Getty Images)

Twitter may have accidentally spilled the beans on its rumored subscription service Twitter Blue thanks to an update to its App Store listing. As you can see in the screenshot below, “Twitter Blue” is now listed as Twitter’s sole in-app purchase for $2.99 per month, though the feature doesn’t seem to be fully enabled yet.

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The update was first spotted on Thursday by app researcher Jane Manchun Wong, who through reverse engineering has uncovered several details about Twitter’s upcoming subscription service and what exactly that $2.99 a month will get you. According to screenshots she shared, paid subscribers will get an “undo tweet” feature, customization options for color themes and app icons, and access to “reader mode,” which ostensibly converts winding Twitter threads into easy-to-read text. Previously, she also found evidence that Twitter Blue may let users create bookmark collections.

“For testing, I’ve become the first paying Twitter Blue customer,” Wong tweeted on Thursday.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.

Earlier this month, Wong reported that Twitter appears to be working on a tiered subscription model. At the time, she speculated that higher-priced tiers could unlock additional paid features and a more clutter-free, premium experience for users.

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Of course, I have to include the disclaimer that Twitter hasn’t officially confirmed any of these details at this time. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told Insider last year that it’s in the “very, very early phases” of exploring a subscription model, but the company has remained quiet about pricing or what specific features may be included. When Twitter acquired Scroll, a paid subscription service that gets rid of ads on participating websites, earlier this month, it also announced plans to enter a private beta as it integrates “a broader Twitter subscription later in the year.”

Technically even the name “Twitter Blue” remains speculation, but this updated App Store listing is the closest thing to confirmation that we’ve seen yet.

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Have any of these leaked features sold you on buying a subscription for the bird site? Let us know in the comments. Personally, I’m not convinced. I’m pretty sure I could take those three bucks a month and spend it on something significantly more beneficial for my mental health like, say, these little squishy guys. Or candy. Yeah, no, candy sounds much better.

Google Is Launching Its Own Version of Apple’s Privacy Nutrition Labels

Google’s new privacy disclosure policy in the Play Store will help better inform Android users about what apps are up to in the background.

Google’s new privacy disclosure policy in the Play Store will help better inform Android users about what apps are up to in the background.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Google is taking a page from Apple’s playback with a new safety section in the Google Play Store to help users better identify the kinds of data access and permissions that Android apps have in the background. It’s not immediately clear what the section will look like or where you should look for it, but it’s coming, and developers have until early 2022 to comply.

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Android developers will be required to label what type of data is collected and stored and how that data is used.

“If we find that a developer has misrepresented the data they’ve provided and is in violation of the policy, we will require the developer to fix it,” Google said in the Android Developers blog announcing the change. “Apps that don’t become compliant will be subject to policy enforcement.”

Google lists the kind of criteria it will highlight in the Play Store. It includes whether:

The app has security practices, like data encryption

The app follows our Families policy

The app needs this data to function or if users have choice in sharing it

The app’s safety section is verified by an independent third-party

The app enables users to request data deletion, if they decide to uninstall

Every Android app in the Play Store will be required to share this information, including Google’s apps. The company said it will share new policy requirements and resources with developers sometime this summer, along with detailed guidance on app privacy policies. Google also promises to “continue providing new ways to simplify control for users and automate more work for developers.”

Google Play Store users will start to see the privacy and security-minded page pop up in early 2022. App developers have by the second quarter of 2022 to abide by the new policies, though they’ll have access to the new declaration features by the end of 2021.

Currently, Android users have to dig through the settings panel to check on Permissions accessed by apps installed. In the mobile version of the Play Store, there’s an option to expand app permissions, but it takes about three taps before it’s revealed.

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The new page is similar to the app privacy nutrition labels Apple introduced in its iOS 14 update last year. In the iOS App Store, users are able to see what permissions a company will ask for and what data will be linked to them before they even download an app, similar to what Google is proposing.

It’s telling that Google pushed through this new privacy and security mandate for Android apps a mere two weeks out from the Google I/O virtual developers conference. Perhaps it’s to help highlight that the Android maker is doing its parts to reel in the doubts—some more justified than others—about the platform’s security protocols. And it certainly seems well-timed in light of Apple’s latest iOS 14.5 update, which lets you opt out of letting apps track you across websites and other apps. 

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60% of School Apps Are Sharing Your Kids’ Data With Third Parties

Illustration for article titled 60% of School Apps Are Sharing Your Kids' Data With Third Parties

Photo: Kena Bentacur (Getty Images)

Over the past year, we’ve seen schools shift to digital services at an unprecedented rate as a way to educate kids safely during the covid-19 pandemic. We’ve also seen these digital tools slurp up these kid’s data at a similarly unprecedented rate, suffer massive breaches, and generally handle student’s personal information with a lot less care than they should.

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Case in point: A new report published Tuesday by the tech-focused nonprofit Me2B Alliance found the majority of school utility apps were sharing some amount of student data with third-party marketing companies. The Me2B team surveyed a few dozen so-called “utility” apps for school districts—the kind that students and parents download to, say, review their school’s calendar or bussing schedules—and found roughly 60% of them sharing everything from a student’s location to their entire contact list, to their phone’s mobile ad identifiers, all with companies these students and their parents likely never heard of.

In order to figure out what kind of data these apps were sharing, Me2B analyzed the software development kits (or SDKs) that these apps came packaged with. While SDks can do all sorts of things, these little libraries of code often help developers monetize their free-to-download apps by sharing some sort of data with third-party ad networks. Facebook has some super popular SDKs, as does Google. Of the 73 apps surveyed in the report, there were 486 total SDKs throughout—with an average of just over 10 SDKs per app surveyed.

Of that 486 total bits of code, nearly 63% (306) were owned and operated by either Facebook or Google. The rest of those SDKs were sharing data with some lesser-known third parties, with names like AdColony and Admob.

But the data sharing didn’t stop there. As the report points out, these lesser-known SDKs would often share the data pulled from these student apps with dozens—if not hundreds—of other little-known third parties. What’s interesting here is that these SDKs, in particular, were found abundantly in Android apps, but way fewer iOS apps ended up bringing these pieces of tech onboard (91% versus 26%, respectively).

There are a few reasons why this might be the case. First, even if Apple isn’t always careful about following its own privacy rules, the company does set a certain standard that every iOS developer needs to follow, particularly when it comes to tracking and targeting the people using their apps. Most recently, Apple turned this up to 11 by mandating App Tracking Transparency (ATT) reports for the apps in its store, which literally request a user’s permission in order to track their activity outside of the app.

Even though Android does have its own review process for apps, historically, we’ve seen some insecure apps slip through the cracks and onto countless people’s devices. Also, there’s a good chance that many apps developed for Android are beaming some degree of data right back to Google.

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And with Apple slowly tightening its standards surrounding ATT, it’s possible that the divide between the two OS’s will only keep broadening—which leaves student’s data stuck in the middle.

Apple Mulled Lowering Its App Store Commissions Way Back in 2011, Emails Show

Apple executive Phil Schiller arrives for Monday’s hearing in the Epic Games v Apple case.

Apple executive Phil Schiller arrives for Monday’s hearing in the Epic Games v Apple case.
Photo: Noah Berger (AP)

At the heart of Epic Games’ case against Apple is the company’s 30% App Store commission and its iron rule over in-app purchases. We now know, thanks to internal documents unearthed through the Epic’s lawsuit, that Phil Schiller, the top executive in charge of App Store, had floated the idea of cutting its infamous Apple tax to as low as 20% way back in 2011.

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“Do we think our 70/30 split will last forever?” Schiller wrote in an email to then CEO Steve Jobs and Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services. The email was included as part of Epic Games’ evidence against Apple on Monday and was first reported by Bloomberg. “While I am a staunch supporter of the 70/30 split … I don’t think that 70/30 will last that unchanged forever.”

Schiller goes on to say that he believed that Apple would eventually face competition from rivals, but that any change to Apple’s commission would have to come “from a position of strength rather than weakness.” He then suggested that such a change could happen once Apple began making over a $1 billion annual profit from the App Store. So long as Apple could potentially maintain that $1 billion profit, Schiller then suggested possibly cutting the so-called Apple tax to 25% or even 20%. Also included in the email is a link to a 2011 Wall Street Journal article, which focuses on how developers could potentially use HTML5 to avoid in-app transactions in the App Store.

“I know that this is controversial,” Schiller concludes. “I just tee it up as another way to look at the size of the business, what we want to achieve, and how we stay competitive.”

For its part, Apple told Bloomberg that Schiller didn’t actually say the App Store was making $1 billion in 2011, and that there’s no indication that “the fee structure is tied to the profit produced by the App Store.” The report also cites Epic’s expert witness as estimating the App Store’s profit margin at roughly 80%. A separate Bloomberg report noted that analytics firm Sensor Tower had estimated the App Store made $22 billion from commissions last year. It does not take a mathematical genius to suss that number is well over the $1 billion Schiller suggested a decade ago.

The email isn’t quite a smoking gun, but it does show that at least Schiller had mulled the idea of reducing rates to be competitive. It also indicates Apple was aware that its commission rate wasn’t tenable in the long run—and technically speaking, Apple has tweaked how much it actually charges developers. The 30% commission rate is still the standard, but in 2016, Apple lowered its cut to 15% after the first year for app developers with long-term paid subscribers. (This is part of Apple’s defense against Spotify.) Then in November, Apple again announced it would reduce commissions from 30% to 15% for developers who earned less than $1 million the previous calendar year. Unsurprisingly, the move was not appreciated by Apple’s critics—especially larger developers with profits well above the $1 million thresholds.

Epic Games’ legal beef with Apple has been dramatic from the get-go, and that hasn’t changed now that the trial has officially kicked off. The first day of hearings was a technical disaster, and the whole thing is expected to last roughly three weeks. Each company is expected to bring a stacked list of experts to plead their case, and both Epic CEO Tim Sweeny and Apple CEO Tim Cook will also testify. This email is likely just one of the first among many salvos, so buckle up. It’s about to get messy.

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The Epic vs. Apple Hearing Is Already a Disaster

Illustration for article titled The Epic vs. Apple Hearing Is Already a Disaster

Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP (Getty Images)

The Epic v. Apple trial kicked off on Monday morning, and it’s already devolved into a giant, internet-fueled mess.

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First, the court had issues getting both teleconference lines up and running, and even when they were humming along fine, everyone’s lines seemed to be unmuted. On the main line, one person chanted, “Epic Games! Epic Games!” Another chimed in, “I’m going to tell my mom, just don’t pick up the line,” while yet another offered this insightful commentary: “Tim Sweeney better know what he’s doing. If he messes up once, we won’t have iOS back. This call is live, by the way.”

The additional line suffered from the same audio issues as well. About 35 minutes into the hearing, while Epic’s legal team was still giving its opening statement, the audio suddenly cut out. Journalist Geoff Knightley’s livestream of the hearing buzzed with people typing “The audio went out” into the chat. But one audience member figured out he was unmuted.

“FORTNITE SUCKS,” that person yelled into the mic. “Yo, yo, yo, we can’t hear anything, bro. The audio died or some shit.”

The same audience member went on to question if anyone else could hear him. While everyone on the line was unmuted (another person listening in confirmed this), the same person continued his commentary: “Raise your hand if you think Sweeny is gay,” he said before adding “Man, I’m going to hell for this.”

In August 2020, Epic Games purposefully violated its Apple App Store agreement by giving Fortnite players a direct payment method that bypassed the App Store. This is explicitly prohibited by Apple, as it prevents the company from receiving a 30% cut, which Apple takes from most app store transactions. But Epic didn’t just violate its agreement with Apple. It put on a showcase designed to put one of Apple’s business practices in a big, anti-trust spotlight.

Apple responded to Epic’s intentional rules violation by booting Fortnite from the App Store; in turn, Epic sued Apple, which brings us to today’s mess.

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After about 10 minutes into the dead feed, the court got the audio working again. But it wasn’t long before the single-person peanut gallery chimed in again. “Please don’t free Fortnite!”

The lawyer continued on for a minute, but was quickly interrupted again by the same person breathing heavily into the mic and making what I can only describe as drunk train whistle noises before shouting, “Reddit, Reddit, Reddit.”

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From there, a verbal tug of war happened. The second one of the lawyers started talking, the same person would scream incoherent babble into the mic, forcing the lawyer to stop. A second of sweet, sweet silence would ensue before the same person would start again.

As if this writing, it seems like the court finally figured out how to mute everyone. The court probably should have streamed this hearing on its YouTube page, like it’s been doing with other hearings, including others related to Epic v. Apple. Hopefully, they figure out these technical issues or decide to stream the audio to everyone for the rest of the hearing this week.

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Otherwise, we’ll be treated to the same “insightful commentary” of audience members who sound like they should be in school instead of interrupting a court proceeding with animal noises.