Any sufficiently large company is indistinguishable from evil. That's not a condemnation, it's a realization that, as a company grows, the likelihood that their every policy and decision will lineup with the best interests of a majority, much less all of their users, shrinks. That's true of Apple, who makes our devices and the platforms they run. That's true of Google and Facebook and Twitter, who make our services and keep us connected. That creates controversy.
Here are your most viewed controversies of 2012.
When you don't sell your product to your users, you inevitably begin selling your users as products. You stop seeing them as human and start seeing them as a commodity to be leveraged and traded, like chattel. Google's relentless drive to catch up in social has seen them force Plus, just like they previously did Buzz, down their users' throats, resulting in all manner of privacy erosions and outright violations. Facebook bought Instagram, which then severed connections to Twitter, and screwed up the PR behind a terms-of-service, just as Facebook has often done before. And Twitter decided it no longer needs the developers who helped make it successful, and so began to starve them out. Increasingly, they build their businesses off of us, and yet do things that aren't in our best interest. They're bastards for doing it, and we're fools for letting them.
Apple's new CEO, Tim Cook, fired Apple's longtime senior vice president of iOS, Scott Forstall. For some, that was fantastic news, a sign that Apple's mobile efforts would be free to go in a new, presumably better direction. For others, it was a cause for concern, that the man who ensured the iPhone would run OS X, and that there would be third party apps, would no longer be there to ensure its future. Cook also fired John Browett, their new head of retail, who had failed to fit into Apple's corporate culture. That's happened before, but Browett seemed so much the antithesis of Apple's retail strategy from the outset, it wasn't his firing that was a surprise. It was his hiring.
A UK court judge said Samsung's tablets weren't cool enough to be copies of the iPad, and ordered Apple to publicly apologize. Instead of just doing it, Apple played cute. Multiple times. And the court got angrier and angrier. So, instead of just swallowing their pride and getting it done with, Apple faced increased attention, increased exposure, and ended up having to pay Samsung's legal fees on top of apologizing. Next time, just hire Denny Crane. Better yet, have the case heard before Judge Judy.
Unlike Apple's hardware and software, which have been relentlessly improved over the years, there's little outward evidence that their services architecture has received anywhere near the same level of attention. Over the course of 2012, repeated Siri, iMessage, Game Center, and iCloud failures suggest the opposite. As Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and other competitors continue to roll out more and better cloud features, moving to a modern, extensible, scalable online system is increasingly critical for Apple. Unfortunately, it's far, far easier for internet companies to buy great apps, designers, and developers than it is for Apple to buy or build great online services.
As much as Apple's services in general suffered through 2012, it was maps that gave them the biggest black eye. Apple had valid reasons, both business and user-focused, to go to their own location service. But it took decades to build TomTom, Nokia, and Google's level of quality, and it takes enormous experience to aggregate, cleanse, sanitize, and verify that kind of data. Apple made a great looking app, something they do incredibly well, but the backend just wasn't there to support it. They oversold and under delivered, the opposite of what Apple's known for, and they paid the price in the media, in the competitive landscape, and worst of all, with their users. To their credit, Apple apologized and is working hard to fix it, but it's not a switch you can pull. It's an arduous process that'll take, days, weeks, months, and perhaps years to get ahead of.
Just because those were the most viewed controversies by the most readers, doesn't mean they're the ones that bugged you the most. So, what got under your skin in 2012? One of the above? Something else?