Weekly Web News Round-Up

This week has flown by for the busy bees at Fotofire, and it is now time to relax into the weekend – pass the bottle opener! But just before we let our hair down, let me tell you about the latest tech and web news that’s been getting us psyched this week.

Mobile Makeover

If tradition and reported rumours prevail, September will likely mark the launch of iOS 7. This will host a range of new features. From iTunes Radio and Notification Center updates, through to features capable of changing the way consumers use and navigate their iPhones and iPads such as gesture updates. Apple has characterized iOS 7 as the biggest revision to its mobile operating system since its debut.

This sounds very cool, but what would an Apple product be without something at least a bit quirky. In this case, it’s the aesthetics of iOS 7. Everything is getting the ‘Jonny Ive Makeover’. Apple have always had a kind of sense of humour somewhere in their designs – think the smiley face of old start-up screens. This made Macs friendly. Seemingly, iOS 7 is moving away from this jollity and it seems that things are getting more and more serious.

The new iOS 7 aesthetic has a few main characteristics. Things are being simplified, nipped, tucked and minimised. Taking advantage of Apple’s high-density displays, new typography with a focus on taller fonts with thinner weights will be used. A new colour palette that leans heavily on pastels, and the extended use of translucence will give iOS 7 users a clean, crisp and professional experience.

There is a real risk that Apple will lose differentiation on the look of the OS. This is particularly true when compared with Android, which has also employed taller, thinner fonts. Skeuomorphism brought levity to the Apple OS experience. Whether you liked it or not, it was a definite contrast from the flatter designs of other phone interfaces. Apple’s buttons have always been in a 3D style and as realistic as technology would allow. This realism has always been an Apple thing. Even the trashcan icon and desktop folders are arguably verging on that skeuomorphic thing that is suddenly ‘yesterday’.

And of course, what Apple did that really changed the world was WYSIWYG – the fact that the page you were typing looked just like what you got when you selected ‘Print’. The ultimate in skeuomorphic ways?

I am not saying that wood effects and leather bound address books were a smart move but let’s hope Apple don’t lose their quirks. There has always been a sense of awesome geeky programmers with humour and flare behind it all. And we loved it.

Is Apple moving towards that dull centre ground with a polished boring perfection, or will we look back and think the new operating system design with its transparency and ‘layers’ concept was yet another stroke of genius?

Things really have to ‘just work’ and work better than we, personally, could ever imagine in the first place. That’s what Apple have always been good at. It is not about colours or new icons. It’s about making things easy, removing the complex decisions and choices facing technology users. Enabling us to do more, without effort.

Will iOS 7 be another step forward? We will have to wait until September 10th (ish) to find out.

Breaking Bad

The return of the hit TV show Breaking Bad generated lots of buzz on social networks. Even though viewers in the UK were able to get access to the latest episode, Blood Money, via Netflix and iTunes within hours of its US airing, figures show that many people downloaded it illegally via torrent sites instead.

TorrentFreak technology blog claims that 80,000 people were sharing the episode within hours of release, and that torrented downloads had topped half a million within 12 hours. These figures only cover downloads. It is unknown how many people watched Blood Money on unlicensed streaming sites, which have become an increasingly high-profile headache for broadcasters in recent years.

According to TorrentFreak’s sample of downloads, Australian fans accounted for 16.1% of the Breaking Bad episode’s BitTorrent downloads, ahead of the US (16%), Canada (9.6%) and the UK (8.5%). This is the latest sign of Australia’s frustration at the often-long delays between TV shows airing in the US, and being broadcast in their own country.

The desire for ‘instant syndication’ is partly driven by social media, with shows like AMC’s Breaking Bad and HBO’s Game of Thrones usually trending on Twitter as soon as they air in the US, risking spoilers for fans elsewhere in the world. AMC told All Things Digital that 5.9m Americans watched Blood Money on August 11th, while ratings company Nielsen tracked more that 760,000 tweets from 400,000 users during the broadcast.

Is getting the highest piracy ratings replacing the Emmy? It is safe to assume AMC would prefer a pile of Emmy awards for the final season of Breaking Bad rather than a tower of piracy milestones. Even so, the anticipation around the new series may make the latter inevitable.

Wiki Made Easy

Earlier this month, Wikipedia launched version 1.0 of VisualEditor, a way to edit pages without needing to learn the arcane 'wiki markup language'.

In the past, editing Wikipedia has required people to learn some wiki markup – the syntax and keywords used by the MediaWiki software to format a page. While this was considered acceptable in 2001, today it drives away some contributors.

Now VisualEditor allows users to edit and become members of the community, even if they are not wiki markup experts.

“If you know the Wiki user interface it's very primitive. You click on 'edit' and you get basically plain text but with lots of codes in it. We think this is problematic because it excludes a lot of people from editing,” said Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales at an event in London on Monday evening.

“VisualEditor is a user interface that is much more familiar to people. When you click edit you get something that looks very much like any word processor, and you can change things and do whatever you want.”

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