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Why won’t they make the thing?


April 23, 2022

In another post, I asked why wouldn’t tech companies want to create a Mac OS tool that lets a user set their availability, and paste it as plain text to another person? The answer I believe is the economics of data collection and value exchange.

For example, what’s more valuable to learn from? How people use their machines or what they do in their web browser? Probably the former, but for tech companies the browser experience makes it so much easier to form more complete conclusions about user behavior because of the amount of tracking that is made possible inside of the browser.

The same can’t be true as easily of the native operating system experience. In fact, I think Apple is trying to make it more difficult with much more opt-in UX.

Anyway, I believe this is one of the most fundamental economic problems in modern tech that almost everyone experiences even if they’re not aware of it.

💡 People being forced to live much of their day in these little browser windows and having to trade data and privacy for functionality.

Then those same people outright refuse to give away their data on their private machines where all of these rich native task management interactions live like Spaces, Command-tab, deep search, Alfred, etc could maybe make their lives easier.

I think as a society, this is where we are having somewhat of a negotiation because you can see the burnout at these tech companies.

💡 These burned out employees are people that live in and out of these browser-based worlds. It really stinks. I’ve seen your tabs y’all!

To the person reading this I ask:

How much more data are you willing to give? And what? Can we record you? Your screen? Your video? All day? Some of the day? Can we set up a camera in your home to see how often you go to the fridge, or the bathroom?

If the answer is no to all of the above, then that may be why so much innovation is happening at the web layer, not at the operating system or the “home os” layer to make your life more sane.

We are making these trade offs in personal productivity and sanity, for access to rich data and features that are only truly valuable in the web layer today. It is no wonder we are creating Web3 and Metaverses where you can live a sort of virtual life.

💡 So from the POV of an enterprise company, there just isn’t enough market and access for data collection in people’s real lives.

It’s crazy to think about, and the only company with an incentive to build that simple feature is a giant corporation (Apple) that serves the general population, not over burdened calendars and people that want to keep more of their data.

So my thinking is there is no possibility of it becoming real (plain text availability) unless it’s for some altruistic reason or some odd-duck upstart or maybe Zuckerberg tosses it into the MetaVerse.

💡 Yes, to just paste text about my calendar availability I’m not even kidding.

What do you think?

About the author

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Bryce Thompson is a senior product designer originally from Syracuse, NY, living in Austin, TX.

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