Tag: New York Times (page 1 of 12)

The end of the Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy

What goes up must come down. In this case with prices of services backed by VC firms, the reverse is true…

For years, these subsidies allowed us to live Balenciaga lifestyles on Banana Republic budgets. Collectively, we took millions of cheap Uber and Lyft rides, shuttling ourselves around like bourgeois royalty while splitting the bill with those companies’ investors. We plunged MoviePass into bankruptcy by taking advantage of its $9.95-a-month, all-you-can-watch movie ticket deal, and took so many subsidized spin classes that ClassPass was forced to cancel its $99-a-month unlimited plan. We filled graveyards with the carcasses of food delivery start-ups — Maple, Sprig, SpoonRocket, Munchery — just by accepting their offers of underpriced gourmet meals.

These companies’ investors didn’t set out to bankroll our decadence. They were just trying to get traction for their start-ups, all of which needed to attract customers quickly to establish a dominant market position, elbow out competitors and justify their soaring valuations. So they flooded these companies with cash, which often got passed on to users in the form of artificially low prices and generous incentives.

Now, users are noticing that for the first time — whether because of disappearing subsidies or merely an end-of-pandemic demand surge — their luxury habits actually carry luxury price tags.

Source: Farewell, Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy | The New York Times

Taking breaks to be more human

I have to say that I’m a bit sick of the narrative that we need time off / to recharge so we can be better workers. Instead, I’d prefer framing it as Jocelyn K. Glei does as asking yourself the question “who are you without the doing?”

The point isn’t just that it’s nice to goof off every so often — it’s that it’s necessary. And that’s true even if your ultimate goal is doing better work: Downtime allows the brain to make new connections and better decisions. Multiple studies have found that sustained mental attention without breaks is depleting, leading to inferior performance and decision-making.

In short, the prefrontal cortex — where goal-oriented and executive-function thinking goes on — can get worn down, potentially resulting in “decision fatigue.” A variety of research finds that even simple remedies like a walk in nature or a nap can replenish the brain and ultimately improve mental performance.

Source: How to Take a Break | The New York Times

A world without apps?

Steve Jobs standing next to a huge screen that shows the original iPhone. The words on the screen read "Your life in your pocket. The ultimate digital device."

When Steve Jobs demonstrated the iPhone in 2007, he didn’t show off the App Store. That’s because it didn’t exist.

The full Safari engine is inside of iPhone. And so, you can write amazing Web 2.0 and Ajax apps that look exactly and behave exactly like apps on the iPhone. And these apps can integrate perfectly with iPhone services. They can make a call, they can send an email, they can look up a location on Google Maps.

Steve Jobs

Jobs’ vision was for a world where web apps worked as well as native apps. Unfortunately, at the time, web technologies weren’t quite ready for his vision, so, almost as a temporary workaround, Apple invented a billion-dollar industry.

Writing in The New York Times, Shira Ovide reflects on the recent controversy around Epic Games and Apple, among other things, and wonders whether we actually need apps?

Apple and Google dictate much of what is allowed on the world’s phones. There are good outcomes from this, including those companies weeding out bad or dangerous apps and giving us one place to find them.

But this comes with unhappy side effects. Apple and Google charge a significant fee on many in-app purchases, and they’ve forced app makers into awkward workarounds. (Ever try to buy a Kindle e-book on an iPhone app? You can’t.) The growing complaints from app makers show that the downsides of app control may be starting to outweigh the benefits.

You know what’s free from Apple and Google’s iron grip? The web. Smartphones could lean on the web instead.

Shira Ovide, Imagine a World Without Apps (The new York Times)

It’s almost impossible for a small developer to get discovered in the Apple and Google app stores these days. As VentureBeat put it three years ago, “you have a better chance of making the NBA than making your app viral.”

Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, make an alternative, web-centric world a reality. When Google launched its gaming service, Stadia, on iOS, it used a PWA to bypass the Apple App Store.

Screenshots showing Pinterest PWA being installed on a smartphone.
Image via Tigren

Organisations from Twitter and Tinder to the Financial Times have PWAs. Pinterest used it to increase the number of people installing their app by 45%.

This is about imagining an alternate reality where companies don’t need to devote money to creating apps that are tailored to iPhones and Android phones, can’t work on any other devices and obligate app makers to hand over a cut of each sale.

Maybe more smaller digital companies could thrive. Maybe our digital services would be cheaper and better. Maybe we’d have more than two dominant smartphone systems. Or maybe it would be terrible. We don’t know because we’ve mostly lived with unquestioned smartphone app dominance.

Shira Ovide, Imagine a World Without Apps (The new York Times)

Initiatives such as Mozilla’s Firefox OS were cursed with being too early to the market. Had they kept going, or if it were launching now, I think we’d see very different adoption rates.

As it is, and as Todd Weaver, CEO of Purism points out, it’s going to require a combination of both market dynamics and regulation to fix the current situation. Let’s get back to that original vision of the web as the platform for human flourishing.