2020年9月24日 星期四

On Tech: What’s the deal with Google now?

Google is facing the possibility of multiple antitrust lawsuits. Here's why and what's ahead.

What’s the deal with Google now?

Yoshi Sodeoka

Why are government lawyers in Washington, Texas and beyond thinking about suing Google for being an illegal monopoly? Let me try to untangle what will be a confusing — but potentially important — legal moment.

What’s the government suing over exactly? Uhhh … we’ll see. Google is so sprawling that the focus of possibly multiple antitrust lawsuits from the federal government and one or more groups of states is up in the air.

What COULD be the problem? One longstanding issue is Google’s evolution from a website that pointed people to the best links online to one that’s swallowing the web.

An example: Until a few years ago, if you had searched for a hotel in Niagara Falls, a local burger restaurant or Tom Cruise’s height, Google probably showed you links to Expedia, Yelp or a People magazine article.

Now, Google is more likely to prominently show information or advertisements from its own computer systems or scraped from other companies’ websites — and keep you within Google’s digital walls. Google isn’t a front door to the internet anymore. It’s the house.

This might be useful for people, maybe. But the government wants to know if Google puts its thumb on the scale to privilege its own services, and therefore unfairly hurts other businesses and gives us worse information than we’d have otherwise. (Google has said that it’s trying to show people the most relevant information.)

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What else? Another issue is Google planting its familiar search box everywhere. It’s the built-in search function on iPhones — a prime spot for which Google pays Apple billions of dollars each year. And in many cases, Google has deals to ensure that its search box has a pole position on Android smartphones. Same question here: Do Google’s actions unfairly hold back competition?

Didn’t you tell me about a different complaint about Google? I did! The government has also dug into the fairness of Google’s less well-known (and boring) role as a middleman in the computerized buying and selling of internet ads. That’s still of interest, maybe to the federal government and definitely to one or more states.

What could happen next? The most honest answer: Dunno. It depends on the specifics of possible lawsuits. The government could narrow its scope to those search contracts, and try to require that people have a choice of a search engine when they get a new phone. (That wouldn’t make a dent in Google.)

Maybe the government wants Google to open its search results by, for example, showing listings from TripAdvisor, not Google, when you hunt for Niagara Falls hotels.

Google’s worst-case scenario: that the government orders the company to break into pieces.

Normal life is over for Google. Any antitrust case or potential new laws taking on Google’s power would probably take years. But even if no U.S. court declares Google an abusive monopoly, the cloud of antitrust will follow it. Google has been dealing with this for years.

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Every time a competitor believes Google is unfairly squashing its business, there are howls. If Google wants to buy another company, it isn’t smooth sailing. The unexamined life is over for Google.

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How to make app stores more fair

Apple has an iron grip on what apps people can download on their iPhones, and some developers are complaining loudly about this arrangement as well as the fees that Apple collects from some apps.

The makers of apps like Spotify, Fortnite and Tinder are now suggesting (squishy and broad) changes to how app stores work to make them more fair, my colleague Erin Griffith wrote. I’ve plucked out a few of their points that I think are worth considering:

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Give people a payment choice: Any iPhone app lets people pay for digital stuff only with their Apple account, and Apple then takes a fee from that transaction.

This coalition seems to be asking that Apple allow app makers to include two payment options: one that lets me sign up for or pay with my Apple account, which would obligate the app maker to pay a commission to Apple; and a second that would let me use my credit card to buy stuff directly from the app maker.

This is how many Android apps work, and it’s sensible and fair.

Or at least let apps tell people where to buy outside the app: On the Kindle iPhone app, people can’t buy an e-book because Amazon doesn’t want to give Apple a cut of its sales. But Apple won’t let Amazon tell people in the app where to buy the e-book. The result is confusion. A web link in the app would be helpful.

Yes, Apple would lose money if it did this. Ditto for the payment choice. Apple says that it deserves to be paid for running the app store and making sure it’s safe. But Apple brings in $28 million in revenue per hour. It will live.

Create a buffer between Apple and competing apps: Apple promotes its own iPhone apps, which don’t have to pay the commissions that rival apps do — making it not a completely fair fight.

Spotify, for example, competes with an Apple music service that can fling free trial offers and other pitches to every iPhone owner, and doesn’t fork over up to 30 cents out of each dollar in commissions as Spotify must.

One app maker I spoke to suggested some kind of independent oversight board that would effectively remove Apple from app approvals or other decisions involving apps that compete with its own.

Before we go …

  • Bless those silly, blocky digital bricks: Emily Flake wrote for The New York Times’s Parenting newsletter about her nearly 8-year-old daughter deepening connections with friends through the Lego-like Roblox virtual game at a time when the pandemic kept them from being together in real life.
  • An important Facebook monitoring tool may be flawed: Facebook suggested that U.S. state election officials use a data tool it owns called CrowdTangle to spot and report election-related misinformation that’s going viral in their locales. But Bloomberg News wrote that a tech watchdog said CrowdTangle doesn’t accurately track information that is gaining ground in some Facebook spots, including most individual accounts and private groups, which are a hub for problems like conspiracies and bullying.
  • I don’t understand the internet: So these 27-year-old twins got popular on TikTok because people thought they were clueless for botching the name of Leonardo da Vinci. It turned out that’s what they wanted you to think, BuzzFeed News reported. Internet culture is a complicated set of in-jokes, and I am confused.

Hugs to this

This is a very elaborate investigation into people cheating in a fishing contest. It involved lab tests of strontium isotopes in a part of a fish’s ear. (Apparently fish have ears?)

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2020年9月23日 星期三

The T List: Five things we recommend this week

A Croatian monastery turned hotel, a new show at the Sculpture Center — and more.

Welcome to the T List, a newsletter from the editors of T Magazine. Each week, we’re sharing things we’re eating, wearing, listening to or coveting now. Sign up here to find us in your inbox every Wednesday. You can always reach us at tlist@nytimes.com.

Book This

A Restored 15th-Century Croatian Monastery

Left: architects and engineers retained the massive fortress that protects the monastery, even keeping some of the original plaster from the 16th century. Right: each of the property’s five suites features a range of artworks that the Thyssen-Bornemisza family has amassed over four generations, an impressive collection that spans between the 13th and 21st centuries and was once said to be the largest collection after the Queen of England’s.Courtesy of Lopud 1483

By Michaela Trimble

T Contributor

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Several years ago, while the architect Frank Gehry was boating by a derelict 15th-century monastery on the island of Lopud in the Elaphiti Islands of Croatia, he convinced the fourth-generation art collector and philanthropist Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza (of the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, opposite the Prado in Madrid) to restore the former Franciscan treasure to its original grandeur. Collaborating with the Italian designer Paola Lenti and the Zagreb-based architect Rujana Markovic, Thyssen-Bornemisza embarked on a 20-year renovation of the 5,000-square-foot complex, originally constructed in 1483 as a cloistered sanctuary for contemplation and healing and abandoned in 1822. Now, with five luxurious hotel suites converted from 12 former monk chambers, Lopud 1483 is something of an oasis. It’s also home to one of the world’s greatest private collections of Renaissance and contemporary art, including works that once adorned Thyssen-Bornemisza’s family property in Lugano, Italy, as well as commissioned pieces by the artist Olafur Eliasson and the architect David Adjaye. Behind the property’s walls, guests can dine alfresco on local oysters and Dalmatian ham or stroll through the property’s extensive gardens, lined with rows of lemon and olive trees and over 80 species of plants inspired by the Franciscan monks’ traditional knowledge of medicinal herbs. lopud1483.com.

Read This

#QueerCorrespondence as a Form of Art

Beatriz Cortez and Kang Seung Lee’s “Queer Correspondence #2” (July 2020), commissioned and produced by Cell Project Space in London. Jaeseok Kim/Gallery Hyundai from Seoul, Korea

By Nicole Blackwood

T Contributor

When the pandemic began, the London-based associate curator Eliel Jones, who works at Cell Project Space, started writing love letters to his boyfriend in Los Angeles. Jones came to see his correspondence as longing made tangible. Letter writing has a rich queer history, he observed, and often bridged the gulf between isolated individuals while reminding them of their distance. Enter Cell’s new mail art project, “Queer Correspondence.” Artists originally slated to showcase in the gallery this year were asked to correspond through letters and visual art, which would then be copied and mailed to a (now-full) list of over 800 global subscribers every month through December. In June, Alex Margo Arden and Caspar Heinemann shared a facsimile of a letter and a bottled scent. In July, Beatriz Cortez and Kang Seung Lee engaged with activist traditions of flyposting, and in August, Ezra Green and Martin Hansen bound emails and poems in a small purple booklet. Though Jones posts fragments of the work digitally and is considering eventually displaying it in the gallery, the project exists primarily for subscribers, who can share with and browse the hashtag #QueerCorrespondence on social media. As witnesses to queer intimacy, onlookers are twice removed from the source — right now, there’s no such thing as pure connection. cellprojects.org/exhibitions.

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Visit This

Jesse Wine’s Sleep Works at the Sculpture Center

An installation view of Jesse Wine’s “11:10 am / 15.10.1983 / 75 Heath Lane / Chester / United Kingdom / CH3 5SY” (2020) at the Sculpture Center in New York.Courtesy of the artist, Simone Subal Gallery, New York and the Modern Institute, Glasgow. Photo: Dario Lasagni

By Thessaly La Force

Opening this week at the Sculpture Center is “Imperfect List,” a new exhibition of work by the New York City-based, English-born artist Jesse Wine. Wine was interested in exploring the idea of sleep, especially as it functions in a capitalist society — “the more capitalism consumes the world, the less we get to sleep,” he told me — and his free-form ceramic figures consist of slumbering heads and limbs that appear to have been jolted awake. Wine also crafted a fleet of ceramic transport trucks, inspired by those he could hear idling outside his studio in Red Hook as he worked. It reminded him of the sleep function on a computer, he said, “where the machine is neither on nor off but in an intermediate state.” “Imperfect List” was supposed to open in May but was then postponed; Wine said that, in the intervening months, he returned to see the Sculpture Center’s garden overgrown as if it, too, had been busy while it slept. Inspired to include evidence of the garden’s growth alongside his exhibition, Wine added a tuft of a weed to one of his finished pieces. “I wouldn’t have noticed that normally. I wouldn’t have been slowing down,” he said of his pre-pandemic existence. There is much to admire in Wine’s ability to harness complex thoughts and quiet observations into gestures and figures that seem born from a more subconscious space. “Imperfect List” is on view at the Sculpture Center through Jan. 25, 2021, sculpture-center.org.

Covet This

A Unisex Uniform From Georgia ic25

Left: Yves B. Golden wears the Nova Knit tank, $145. Right: the model in the Mesa Chore jacket, $245, and Ray apron, $155. Ira Chernova

By Gage Daughdrill

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Season after season, the fashion industry takes larger strides toward a more gender-fluid understanding of clothes, breaking down old modes of thinking, including whether or not a garment belongs strictly to a man or a woman. The Los Angeles-based designer Maria Dora is unconcerned with such distinctions, leaving the clothes of Georgia ic25 completely undefined by gender. Inspired by studies of the artist couple Charles and Ray Eames, as well as the pioneering painter Georgia O’Keeffe, Georgia ic25 offers four modular pieces — a chore jacket, a five-pocket pant, an apron and a tank top — that are meant to be building blocks for a working artist’s uniform. So while Georgia ic25 offers functionality, it also evokes a moment in art history when the artist was both stylish and unconventional. Dora believes that the pieces are a kind of blank canvas for individuality — from there, Dora says, “It’s whatever the person wearing it wants it to be.” From $175, georgia-ic25.com.

Eat This

A Gluten-Free Bread Maker Goes National

Left: Breadblok’s gluten-free sourdough. Right: the Santa Monica, Calif., shop, with interiors by Commune Design.Courtesy of Breadblok; Laure Joliet

By Kurt Soller

Gluten-free diets may be trendy, but the Charlier family — who run a farm in Provence, France — has been eating that way for three generations, because of a history of celiac disease and wheat allergies. Now they’re helping others do the same: Last April, Chloé Charlier, 28, opened Breadblok in Santa Monica, Calif., which sells organic baguettes, brioches, shortbread cookies, crackers, croissants and other pastries — all made without wheat, soy, gums or refined sugar. And beginning this month, her most popular offerings will be available for nationwide delivery through Breadblok’s website. As someone who loves sourdough bread to the point of occasionally baking it myself, I have found that Charlier’s version — created with brown rice, buckwheat, tapioca, sorghum and coconut sugar, among other ingredients — is the only gluten-free loaf I’ve tried that mimics the tang, earthiness and airy crumb of the original. breadblok.com.

From T’s Instagram

48 Hours: A Fashion Show on Roosevelt Island

Though she is known for her vibrant prints, this season, Ulla Johnson also embraced solid colors, such as the soft terra-cotta shade of this dress, worn by the model Chloe Blanchard. “It was all very grounded in this urban feeling,” the designer said.Nina Westervelt

Last Wednesday, the designer Ulla Johnson arrived at Four Freedoms Park at the southernmost tip of Roosevelt Island. Here, the skyscrapers of Manhattan to the west and the lower-slung buildings of Long Island City to the east would provide the backdrop for her spring 2021 show — it was a fitting setting for a collection she had dreamed up as a tribute to her home city and its people. “I’m pretty much the most ride-or-die New Yorker you’ll ever come across,” she explained. And indeed, hers was one of the most ambitious presentations during New York Fashion Week. This season, instead of shying away from the runway format, she embraced it, not only staging a show (albeit one without an audience) but also a video shoot. (The resulting short film depicting the collection, directed by Yelena Yemchuk, a longtime collaborator, debuted online last week.) Still, the designer acknowledged that “trying to remain focused on designing clothes when there’s so much chaos in the world, sometimes, it’s complicated.” Read the full story by Katherine Cusumano with photos by Nina Westervelt (@vnina) at tmagazine.com — and follow us on Instagram.

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