EU fines Apple nearly $2 billion for ‘blocking’ alternative music apps

Following months of speculation, the European Commission has officially handed down its fine to Apple, and it's much higher than initially expected. Apple is on the hook to pay €1.8 billion ($1.95 billion) for restricting alternative music streaming apps on the App Store — the EU's first fine for Apple and its third-largest ever announced. It follows an investigation initially opened in 2020 following Spotify's filed complaint alleging Apple took steps to suppress the music service due to competition with iTunes and Apple Music. 

The Commission has announced "that Apple bans music streaming app developers from fully informing iOS users about alternative and cheaper music subscription services available outside of the app and from providing any instructions about how to subscribe to such offers." The practice, known as anti-steering, is illegal under EU antitrust laws. 

The investigation found that Apple banned app developers from telling users the price of any subscriptions on the internet or the difference in price between in-app and outside purchases. The company also prevented developers from including information about or links to alternative subscription purchasing pages on their websites or in emails. Apple has engaged in these practices for nearly 10 years and might have caused iOS users to pay more for music streaming subscriptions than necessary due to the fees it imposes (that developers then factor into their prices). The Commission found Apple's actions also "led to non-monetary harm," creating a more frustrating user experience. 

The news follows February rumors that Apple would be hit with a fine of €500 million ($542.6 million) due to its antitrust App Store policies — less than a third of the final number. The European Commission claims it set the fine at €1.8 billion to be "sufficiently deterrent" to prevent Apple repeating its actions. However, Apple plans to appeal the decision. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/eu-fines-apple-nearly-2-billion-for-blocking-alternative-music-apps-134001372.html?src=rss

Meta is starting to test the Threads API with third-party developers

Meta is starting to bring the Threads API online, though it will still be some time before it’s widely accessible to developers. The company has begun testing its new developer tools with a handful of companies, Meta engineer Jesse Chen shared in a post on Threads.

According to Chen, whose post was first spotted by TechCrunch, the API is currently in “beta” but a wider rollout could come “by the end of June.” The initial group of companies testing out the beta version of the API include social media management platforms Sprinklr, Hootsuite, Social News Desk and Sprout Social. Meta is also working with tech news aggregator Techmeme and live video platform Grabyo. For now, it sounds like the API will primarily enable the publishing of content to Threads from these services, but Chen said there are also plans to “enable reply moderation and insights capabilities.”

Having an API could help Threads attract more publishers and power users, who often rely on third-party software for posting and analytics. Instagram head Adam Mosseri has previously expressed some reluctance to woo publishers, saying that his “concern” was that a dedicated API would “mean a lot more publisher content and not much more creator content.” (Mosseri has also said he doesn’t want to “amplify news on the platform.”)

But with 130 million users, Threads is starting to look more and more like a viable alternative to X, and offering professional-level tools is a good way to get publishers and brands to post more to the platform. Having an API could also, potentially, aid the company’s plans to support interoperability with Mastodon and the rest of the fediverse, though Meta hasn’t publicly discussed its API in that context,.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/meta-is-starting-to-test-the-threads-api-with-third-party-developers-200125403.html?src=rss

Meta is starting to test the Threads API with third-party developers

Meta is starting to bring the Threads API online, though it will still be some time before it’s widely accessible to developers. The company has begun testing its new developer tools with a handful of companies, Meta engineer Jesse Chen shared in a post on Threads.

According to Chen, whose post was first spotted by TechCrunch, the API is currently in “beta” but a wider rollout could come “by the end of June.” The initial group of companies testing out the beta version of the API include social media management platforms Sprinklr, Hootsuite, Social News Desk and Sprout Social. Meta is also working with tech news aggregator Techmeme and live video platform Grabyo. For now, it sounds like the API will primarily enable the publishing of content to Threads from these services, but Chen said there are also plans to “enable reply moderation and insights capabilities.”

Having an API could help Threads attract more publishers and power users, who often rely on third-party software for posting and analytics. Instagram head Adam Mosseri has previously expressed some reluctance to woo publishers, saying that his “concern” was that a dedicated API would “mean a lot more publisher content and not much more creator content.” (Mosseri has also said he doesn’t want to “amplify news on the platform.”)

But with 130 million users, Threads is starting to look more and more like a viable alternative to X, and offering professional-level tools is a good way to get publishers and brands to post more to the platform. Having an API could also, potentially, aid the company’s plans to support interoperability with Mastodon and the rest of the fediverse, though Meta hasn’t publicly discussed its API in that context,.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/meta-is-starting-to-test-the-threads-api-with-third-party-developers-200125403.html?src=rss

Apple backtracks on plans to get rid of web apps on iPhones in the EU

Apple has walked back its decision to remove home screen web apps in the European Union (EU). After initially blaming its decision to ditch them on the Digital Markets Act’s (DMA) requirement to support non-WebKit browsers, Apple now says European users will return to enjoying the same web app experience from before when iOS 17.4 arrives early this month.

“We have received requests to continue to offer support for Home Screen web apps in iOS, therefore we will continue to offer the existing Home Screen web apps capability in the EU,” Apple wrote Friday in an updated developer support document. “This support means Home Screen web apps continue to be built directly on WebKit and its security architecture, and align with the security and privacy model for native apps on iOS.”

Progressive web apps (PWAs) act much like native apps with features like dedicated windows, notifications and local storage. Apple removed them for European customers in the second iOS 17.4 beta, instead asking if users want to open the website in Safari.

At the time, the company claimed web app support could compromise security, given the DMA’s requirement to support non-WebKit browser engines. “Addressing the complex security and privacy concerns associated with web apps using alternative browser engines would require building an entirely new integration architecture that does not currently exist in iOS and was not practical to undertake given the other demands of the DMA and the very low user adoption of Home Screen web apps,” the company wrote in February.

The Open Web Advocacy organization chimed in quickly to criticize Apple’s now-reversed move. “Apple has had 15 years to facilitate true browser competition worldwide, and nearly two years since the DMA’s final text,” the organization wrote in February. “It could have used that time to share functionality it historically self-preferenced to Safari with other browsers. Inaction and silence speaks volumes.”

The EU didn’t sound much happier about the web app removal. European Commission officials said in late February they were probing Apple’s decision in what sounded like the build-up to a formal investigation. The Financial Times reported that regulators sent developers questions about the impact of Apple’s PWA removal.

Whatever may have happened between then and now to change Apple’s mind, it’s remaining tight-lipped. Instead, the company is framing its reversal as a simple response to “requests” it received to continue offering home screen web apps. Perhaps EU officials assured the iPhone maker the company wouldn’t need to support PWAs from other browser engines, or maybe the company merely wanted to head off a formal probe (and the bad PR it could generate). Regardless, only European iOS 17.4 beta users are without web apps, and they’ll have them back once the software’s final version arrives.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apple-backtracks-on-plans-to-get-rid-of-web-apps-on-iphones-in-the-eu-195232177.html?src=rss

Apple backtracks on plans to get rid of web apps on iPhones in the EU

Apple has walked back its decision to remove home screen web apps in the European Union (EU). After initially blaming its decision to ditch them on the Digital Markets Act’s (DMA) requirement to support non-WebKit browsers, Apple now says European users will return to enjoying the same web app experience from before when iOS 17.4 arrives early this month.

“We have received requests to continue to offer support for Home Screen web apps in iOS, therefore we will continue to offer the existing Home Screen web apps capability in the EU,” Apple wrote Friday in an updated developer support document. “This support means Home Screen web apps continue to be built directly on WebKit and its security architecture, and align with the security and privacy model for native apps on iOS.”

Progressive web apps (PWAs) act much like native apps with features like dedicated windows, notifications and local storage. Apple removed them for European customers in the second iOS 17.4 beta, instead asking if users want to open the website in Safari.

At the time, the company claimed web app support could compromise security, given the DMA’s requirement to support non-WebKit browser engines. “Addressing the complex security and privacy concerns associated with web apps using alternative browser engines would require building an entirely new integration architecture that does not currently exist in iOS and was not practical to undertake given the other demands of the DMA and the very low user adoption of Home Screen web apps,” the company wrote in February.

The Open Web Advocacy organization chimed in quickly to criticize Apple’s now-reversed move. “Apple has had 15 years to facilitate true browser competition worldwide, and nearly two years since the DMA’s final text,” the organization wrote in February. “It could have used that time to share functionality it historically self-preferenced to Safari with other browsers. Inaction and silence speaks volumes.”

The EU didn’t sound much happier about the web app removal. European Commission officials said in late February they were probing Apple’s decision in what sounded like the build-up to a formal investigation. The Financial Times reported that regulators sent developers questions about the impact of Apple’s PWA removal.

Whatever may have happened between then and now to change Apple’s mind, it’s remaining tight-lipped. Instead, the company is framing its reversal as a simple response to “requests” it received to continue offering home screen web apps. Perhaps EU officials assured the iPhone maker the company wouldn’t need to support PWAs from other browser engines, or maybe the company merely wanted to head off a formal probe (and the bad PR it could generate). Regardless, only European iOS 17.4 beta users are without web apps, and they’ll have them back once the software’s final version arrives.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apple-backtracks-on-plans-to-get-rid-of-web-apps-on-iphones-in-the-eu-195232177.html?src=rss

Google Chrome’s new slate of features will allow search even with a ‘bad’ network connection

Google just announced a trio of features for its Chrome browser to allow for “more helpful suggestions.” Some of these tools are for the smartphone app, while others work with the standard PC-based browser.

First up, desktop Chrome users are getting new search suggestions that pull from what others have been using the browser to look for. The browser will still remember your recent queries and auto populate related search suggestions, but you’ll also see user-generated options to the right of those usual autofill suggestions, under a tab marked “People also search for.”

Chrome users on iOS and Android will now see more images to accompany suggested searches. In the past, Chrome only displayed images for search suggestions in the address bar that exactly matched a specific query, with Google giving an example of “Isanti dining table.” Now, broader searches — say, “bohemian table” — will tie an image to each option from the pull-down menu. A picture’s worth a thousand words, right?

An image of the new Chrome image feature.
Google

Perhaps the most puzzling new feature is that Chrome for iOS and Android is getting an optimization tool that allows for search even when users have a bad network connection. Google hasn’t revealed how this works, simply stating that it's due to “improved on-device capabilities.” The company says search will continue to work with a “bad” connection, so it’s likely some level of connection will still be necessary.

All three of these features are available today, so have at it. These are just the latest tools for the search engine, as Google seems to be constantly tweaking the service. The company recently added a trio of generative AI features and a Gemini-based writing tool.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-chromes-new-slate-of-features-will-allow-search-even-with-a-bad-network-connection-181522574.html?src=rss

Google Chrome’s new slate of features will allow search even with a ‘bad’ network connection

Google just announced a trio of features for its Chrome browser to allow for “more helpful suggestions.” Some of these tools are for the smartphone app, while others work with the standard PC-based browser.

First up, desktop Chrome users are getting new search suggestions that pull from what others have been using the browser to look for. The browser will still remember your recent queries and auto populate related search suggestions, but you’ll also see user-generated options to the right of those usual autofill suggestions, under a tab marked “People also search for.”

Chrome users on iOS and Android will now see more images to accompany suggested searches. In the past, Chrome only displayed images for search suggestions in the address bar that exactly matched a specific query, with Google giving an example of “Isanti dining table.” Now, broader searches — say, “bohemian table” — will tie an image to each option from the pull-down menu. A picture’s worth a thousand words, right?

An image of the new Chrome image feature.
Google

Perhaps the most puzzling new feature is that Chrome for iOS and Android is getting an optimization tool that allows for search even when users have a bad network connection. Google hasn’t revealed how this works, simply stating that it's due to “improved on-device capabilities.” The company says search will continue to work with a “bad” connection, so it’s likely some level of connection will still be necessary.

All three of these features are available today, so have at it. These are just the latest tools for the search engine, as Google seems to be constantly tweaking the service. The company recently added a trio of generative AI features and a Gemini-based writing tool.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-chromes-new-slate-of-features-will-allow-search-even-with-a-bad-network-connection-181522574.html?src=rss

Nintendo lawsuit accuses Switch emulator creators of ‘piracy at a colossal scale’

Nintendo has filed a lawsuit against the creators of a popular Switch emulator called Yuzu, which gives users a way to play games developed for the platform on their PCs and Android devices. In the lawsuit shared by Game File's Stephen Totilo, the company argued that Yuzu violates the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). 

Nintendo explained that it protects its games with encryption and other security features meant to prevent people from playing pirated copies. Yuzu has the capability to defeat those security measures and to decrypt Nintendo games. "[W]ithout Yuzu's decryption of Nintendo's encryption, unauthorized copies of games could not be played on PCs or Android devices," the company wrote in its complaint. 

It's illegal to "circumvent technological measures put into place by copyright owners to protect against unlawful access to and copying of copyrighted works" under the DMCA, Nintendo continued. And distributing "software primarily designed to circumvent technological measures" also constitutes unlawful trafficking. The defendants are, thus, "facilitating piracy at a colossal scale," the lawsuit argued. This case could set a precedent for future lawsuits against emulators, which aren't illegal in and of them themselves. As Ars Technica notes, Nintendo's arguments are calling their very nature unlawful. 

To illustrate how much Yuzu has affected its business, Nintendo revealed in its complaint that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was illegally distributed a week and a half before its official release. It was apparently downloaded over a million times from pirated websites, which specifically noted that people can play the game file through Yuzu. The company also mentioned that Yuzu's creators are making money from their emulator. They're getting around $30,000 a month from their Patreon supporters and have earned around $50,000 from the paid version of their software on Google Play, so far. 

Nintendo is asking the court to stop Yuzu's creators from promoting and distributing the software. It's also asking for an unspecified amount in "equitable relief and damages."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/nintendo-lawsuit-accuses-switch-emulator-creators-of-piracy-at-a-colossal-scale-093157736.html?src=rss

Nintendo lawsuit accuses Switch emulator creators of ‘piracy at a colossal scale’

Nintendo has filed a lawsuit against the creators of a popular Switch emulator called Yuzu, which gives users a way to play games developed for the platform on their PCs and Android devices. In the lawsuit shared by Game File's Stephen Totilo, the company argued that Yuzu violates the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). 

Nintendo explained that it protects its games with encryption and other security features meant to prevent people from playing pirated copies. Yuzu has the capability to defeat those security measures and to decrypt Nintendo games. "[W]ithout Yuzu's decryption of Nintendo's encryption, unauthorized copies of games could not be played on PCs or Android devices," the company wrote in its complaint. 

It's illegal to "circumvent technological measures put into place by copyright owners to protect against unlawful access to and copying of copyrighted works" under the DMCA, Nintendo continued. And distributing "software primarily designed to circumvent technological measures" also constitutes unlawful trafficking. The defendants are, thus, "facilitating piracy at a colossal scale," the lawsuit argued. This case could set a precedent for future lawsuits against emulators, which aren't illegal in and of them themselves. As Ars Technica notes, Nintendo's arguments are calling their very nature unlawful. 

To illustrate how much Yuzu has affected its business, Nintendo revealed in its complaint that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was illegally distributed a week and a half before its official release. It was apparently downloaded over a million times from pirated websites, which specifically noted that people can play the game file through Yuzu. The company also mentioned that Yuzu's creators are making money from their emulator. They're getting around $30,000 a month from their Patreon supporters and have earned around $50,000 from the paid version of their software on Google Play, so far. 

Nintendo is asking the court to stop Yuzu's creators from promoting and distributing the software. It's also asking for an unspecified amount in "equitable relief and damages."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/nintendo-lawsuit-accuses-switch-emulator-creators-of-piracy-at-a-colossal-scale-093157736.html?src=rss

Pokemon Legends: Z-A for Switch returns the series to Lumiose City

In celebration of Pokémon Day (the first games launched on February 27, 1996), The Pokémon Company revealed the franchise’s latest “Legends” entry on Tuesday. Pokémon Legends: Z-A returns the series to Lumiose City, last seen as one of the regions in Pokémon X and Y on the Nintendo 3DS. The game arrives on Switch in 2025.

Developed by Game Freak, Pokémon Legends: Z-A’s trailer and press materials only provide a minimal glimpse at the upcoming title. The Pokémon Company describes it as “an exciting new adventure” and “an ambitious new entry” as the company tries to wrestle the narrative back from its guns-blazing off-brand counterpart Palworld. (That fast-growing title has already gotten the attention of The Pokémon Company’s legal team.)

Pikachu prances in wireframe animation. Trailer for Pokémon Legends: Z-A.
A prancing Pikachu in wireframe minimalism.
The Pokémon Company

The trailer teases an urban redevelopment plan in a mysterious metro area, finally revealed as Lumiose City. Within the game world, a renovation project strives to help humans and Pokémon live together in the sprawling urban landscape. The trailer even teases Mega Evolutions, initially introduced in Pokémon X and Y.

The Pokémon Legends: Z-A trailer below — largely an extended teaser — doesn’t show any gameplay footage, and its shots of Lumiose City use wireframe models, suggesting an incomplete nature (or at least surprises reserved for another day). The game will have a simultaneous global launch when it arrives next year.

Pokémon Day also saw the announcement of a new digital trading card game. Pokémon Trading Card Game Pocket is a new mobile app (Android and iOS) set to arrive later this year. It will allow players to “enjoy the thrill of opening booster packs and collecting cards,” which will include “immersive cards” and visual effects unique to the app (in addition to classic artwork). The app’s trailer showcases a satisfying ripping animation when “opening” the digital packs (gotta get you hooked!).

Players using the app will receive two free booster packs daily. The company hasn’t officially announced the availability of additional packs through in-app purchases. However, the Pokémon Company’s language describing the app as “free-to-start” may provide a hint about its plans. The app will support trades and “quick battles,” using streamlined rules based on the card game’s battle system.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/pokemon-legends-z-a-for-switch-returns-the-series-to-lumiose-city-174208223.html?src=rss