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★ Facebook’s Problems

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Last week David Leonhardt devoted the Monday edition of his The Morning newsletter/column at The New York Times to “Facebook’s Four Problems”, which he defined as:

  • “The age problem” — Young people aren’t using Facebook at all and are using Instagram less, but the success of both platforms as advertising revenue bonanzas is predicated on usage by the youth demographic.
  • “The innovation problem” — Facebook hasn’t invented a new hit since the blue app itself and its other successful were all acquired.
  • “The metaverse problem” — They’re betting the company on AR/VR, but it remains to be seen whether that’s going to be a big thing.
  • “The antitrust problem” — No summary necessary.

As usual for The Morning, Leonhardt consulted with and quoted from other Times writers, particularly Kevin Roose. What struck me is that “Apple” didn’t appear once: App Tracking Transparency not only didn’t make the list, it wasn’t even mentioned. As I’ve been arguing, I think this is correct. That’s not to say ATT isn’t a problem for Facebook. Clearly, it is. We all know Facebook has profited from surveillance advertising, and ATT — to some degree — has decreased the ability for cross-app surveillance on iOS. We also all know that iOS users are a far more profitable demographic for advertising than Android users. I just don’t think ATT is one of the top problems facing Facebook, and it seems like others are starting to agree. I also think Mark Zuckerberg knows this better than anyone, and he’s been trying to focus public attention on ATT as an unfair attack by Apple, a competitor, to distract from Facebook’s more serious systemic problems. All four of Leonhardt’s problems would exist for Facebook even if ATT didn’t exist.

Some notes from Leonhardt’s column:

I know that many readers probably still think of Facebook as a behemoth. And in many ways it still is. As Kevin has written: “It can simultaneously be true that Facebook is in decline and that it is still one of the most influential companies in history, with the ability to shape politics and culture all over the globe.”

I’m not counting them out, but unless something dramatic changes, I think we’ve seen the beginning of a long slow decline into general irrelevance. I’m thinking maybe Facebook is the next Yahoo, except that Yahoo’s decline was nothing but sad to watch. I look forward to dancing on Facebook’s grave if, say, Verizon or AT&T acquires them after a stock collapse.

Regarding “the metaverse problem”:

Zuckerberg feels so strongly that the metaverse — based around the world of virtual-reality, or VR — represents the future of the internet that he renamed the company after it.

I do think Zuckerberg is effectively betting the company on AR/VR, but I don’t think the above is quite right about why. (I also think they changed the name of the holding company from “Facebook” to “Meta” not as proof of that commitment but because the name Facebook is now poison in the public mind, like when Philip Morris changed its name to Altria Group.)

It’s too simplistic to say “the future of the internet is AR/VR”. I think what Zuckerberg now sees clearly is that Facebook missed out by not owning one of the major mobile platforms. However big a problem ATT is for Facebook, it wouldn’t be a problem at all if Facebook owned and controlled a mobile phone platform like the iPhone or Android. They tried, halfheartedly, to make the Facebook Phone a thing a decade ago, but “halfheartedly” might be a generous description of how committed they were to that turd.

The nuance I’m trying to emphasize here is that I don’t think anyone believes with certainty that VR is going to be huge. Personally I’m deeply skeptical that it will be. And true AR — all-day augmented reality via normal-looking eyeglasses (let alone something utterly unobtrusive like contact lenses) remains outside today’s technology. Zuckerberg just wants to own a platform, it’s far too late for that to be a phone platform, AR technology isn’t here yet, so ... VR it is.

I think Zuckerberg’s thinking goes like this: We missed out when mobile phones exploded in popularity and became most people’s primary devices. These opportunities for disruptive new platforms only come along once a decade, at best. The only new thing on the horizon that might be such an opportunity is AR/VR. Thus, we should try to own and control the leading, or at least a leading, AR/VR platform. As Ben Thompson wrote back in 2013: “Facebook is an app, not a platform.” Zuck wants a platform.

Platforms are hard, though:

When Zuckerberg unveiled parts of the company’s platform last week, critics mocked it as looking dated. He responded by acknowledging it was “pretty basic” and promised “major updates” soon.

One positive sign for the company: It has sold more than 10 million of its VR headsets, which may suggest the niche is growing. But it remains unclear whether VR has anywhere near the mass-market appeal that social media does.

Leonhardt is asking the wrong question here. VR and social media are different levels of the stack. It’s not even apples-vs.-oranges because apples and oranges are both fruit. It’s more like owning a grocery store chain vs. growing fruit to sell in grocery stores.

Social media is hugely popular on mobile phones. Apple and Google create the only two meaningful mobile phone platforms. Apple and Google both benefit tremendously from their control and ownership over those two platforms. But neither Apple nor Google own meaningful social networks. The social networks play in Apple and Google’s gardens.

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23 days ago
I worked for Yahoo years ago and while there are some similarities to the arc of Yahoo and Facebook I don't know that "Facebook is the next Yahoo" is the right analogy. Maybe it is if you follow Gruber's argument that Facebook missed the boat on owning a mobile platform. Since Yahoo's big mistake was to miss the boat on owning an algorithmic search engine, and the associated ad revenue. But Facebook is also following the arc of previous social media companies: first it is cool, and then the parents, weird relatives, Disney freaks, cooking channels, etc. show up (just to, uh, you know, draw from some personal experience of what litters someone's Facebook feed these days) and its not cool anymore. And then everyone shifts their "engagement" to some other platform, until it too gets swamped by the muck of humanity.
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4 hours, 5 diamonds, $500 dinner and no kids allowed: Inside Disney World’s reopened Victoria & Albert’s

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Editor’s note: TPG’s Summer Hull dined at Victoria & Albert’s courtesy of Walt Disney World, but made all other travel arrangements herself. The opinions expressed below are entirely hers and weren’t subject to review by any entity.

As a Disney World regular who samples as much theme park food as possible — both because I love it and because I do my best to keep up a list of the best restaurants at Disney World — I’ve had my fair share of all the Disney classics. Yet there’s been one big-name Disney restaurant that I’d never stepped foot in until recently: the elusive Victoria & Albert’s.

Named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, this Victorian-themed restaurant on the second floor of the crown jewel of Disney’s resort hotels, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, has intrigued (and intimidated) me for years. With an age requirement that disqualifies little kids (no one younger than 10 is permitted to dine here), a fancy dress code and a high price tag, I’ve wondered repeatedly whether I’d be refined enough to fit in and enjoy this AAA Five Diamond Award-winning fine-dining spot for all it is worth.

However, when the acclaimed eatery announced it was reopening after a two-and-a-half year closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which it also underwent a well-timed refurbishment, I was eager to get past my nerves and experience the restaurant for myself.

So when Disney sent an invite to a media reopening dinner, I found myself packing my fancy dress and heels faster than you could say “Jiminy Cricket.”


Going into the meal, I had so many questions. What is an upscale, kid-free restaurant doing at Disney World? Who is willing to drop more than $300 per person on a leisurely meal at the theme park capital of the world? What is it like to eat and drink for four straight hours? And would a first-time visitor like me feel awkward dining in a room full of people who know infinitely more about food and wine than I could ever hope to absorb?

Here’s what I found out.

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What it’s like inside Victoria & Albert’s

Despite doing my best to dress the part, I was absolutely nervous as I walked into Victoria & Albert’s.

From the moment you enter the high-end restaurant, you feel like you’re far from the casual, family-filled areas commonly associated with Walt Disney World. Live harp music can be heard upon arrival, and all around you stands a small army of servers who are just as dressed to the nines as the guests.

Although I was wary of how I’d feel in this fine dining venue, I immediately found myself at ease as I stepped inside the space. My coworker and I were met at the door like we were old, expected and welcomed friends.


My bag was stored and welcome drinks were placed in our hands before I’d even gotten a chance to fully process exactly where we were — and wow was there a lot to take in.

Featuring decor that leaned heavily into a palate of blues, gold and ivory, the opulent space included the main dining room with about 12 tables, the smaller Queen Victoria’s dining room with four more tables, and a kitchen with a special chef’s table where diners could watch the meal taking shape. (More on that shortly.)


The venue was far from the themed character meals you’re used to at other Disney restaurants. In fact, we only spotted one obvious Disney character in Victoria & Albert’s: Cinderella on the hallway artwork. Most of the murals appeared to be beautiful garden and woodland scenes, like you’d expect to see at a grand, old English country estate.


This is the kind of place where your chair and napkins are reset every time you get up, your purse gets its very own seat, and you and your companions’ plates are served in synchrony, as if part of a practiced dance.

You are also asked for dining and dietary preferences well in advance of a meal at Victoria & Albert’s, so there should be no hiccups (or allergens) on the menu for the evening. Upon sitting down, you find a place setting with a  printed menu tucked into a golden envelope — your golden ticket to dine, if you will.


I opted for the traditional menu with a wine pairing, plus a couple of extra courses that are typically only available at the chef’s table or in Queen Victoria’s dining room. While the starting price is $295 for seven courses and $150 for the optional wine pairing, the 10-course menu we had this night would typically set you back $375 for the food and $200 for the accompanying wine.

Guests are not limited to this traditional menu. There is also a plant-based menu, and zero-proof cocktail pairings are available. You can essentially have the menu tailored to whatever your restrictions and preferences are as long as you provide some advance notice.


Related: These are the best hotels at Disney World

Being Disney’s guest for 4-plus hours

Knowing this would be a meal of a lifetime, I strategically skipped lunch and arrived hungry, which I recommend doing if you visit.


The first serving of appetizers was small in size but packed a big punch when it came to flavor. The pink pineapple (below left) was fresh, cool and just the right amount of sweet, but the Thai basil and spiced mango langoustine tartelette (middle) took things to another level with the most beautiful layer of edible flowers in a profusion of colors and flavors. A savory eclair with Iberico ham and miso caramel (right) rounded out the appetizer trio, and each was served on its own special dish.


Next came a caviar course. I’d only had caviar one place before, in Lufthansa first class (using miles, of course). This caviar was quite different, as it arrived atop a creamy cauliflower panna cotta.

While the caviar was certainly enjoyable, it was a bit briny for my taste, so it wasn’t my favorite course of the night. Still, we were off to a great start and found ourselves feeling like the 10-course plating was manageable after getting a third of the way through the meal.


All of the courses I ended up liking best came in the first half of the menu. I quickly found myself favoring the lighter, layered options that mostly featured seafood. They had more flavors than I could ever attempt to describe.

My absolute favorite from a flavor standpoint was probably the Danish hiramasa, an elegant, delightful course composed of fresh yellowtail, carrot and yuzu. It was sweet, savory and spicy all at once and paired perfectly with the riesling served alongside it.

The wild turbot and the Glacier 51 toothfish from the Australian Antarctic that followed were also right up there on my list of standout courses.

The chicken and truffle course (the sixth one during our meal) marked the turning point for me. While I loved the dish, I was starting to find myself feeling full and no longer able to comfortably enjoy what was being served.

Once we hit the seventh course, which featured lamb with pickled blueberries, I knew I was in trouble. I don’t typically eat rich, meat-centric dishes, so that, coupled with my growing feeling of fullness, likely affected my view of the dish. However, many others in the room found the lamb and subsequent Wagyu beef course to be the highlights of the evening.


If you’re a wine connoisseur (or even just an enthusiast), I strongly suggest adding the wine pairing to your repast. You’ll pay extra for this add-on, but you’ll end up enjoying an impressive amount of wines. We couldn’t finish many of the glasses we received but absolutely loved the variety of wines we tried.

With several plates of food and glasses of wine in our stomachs, and after a drool-worthy cheese course, it was time for dessert. I thought that one plate would be the grand finale. However, it was only the first of four desserts that were part of our meal.

Of all the sugary concoctions we got to try, my personal favorite was the second dessert: a warm chocolate cookie. It absolutely melted in my mouth.


The others were impressive as well, though it was hard for me to fully appreciate them in my slightly buzzed and overwhelmingly full state.


By the end, a nibble of each part of the dessert extravaganza was all we could muster. Fortunately, the restaurant will happily box these dishes up for you to take home if you find yourself too stuffed to eat them during the more than four-hour experience.


Whatever you do, be sure to save room for coffee or tea at the end. Brewed in a vacuum percolator, it was part show, part science experiment and all delicious.


Related: These are the most memorable meals we’ve had on planes 

The Disney experience in a fine dining setting

I’ve only been to two AAA Five Diamond Award-winning restaurants before, and both were in Las Vegas. So, it’s very fair to say that I’m not a fine-dining expert. However, I am an expert on Disney service — and I can say that it carries through here in a way that is sophisticated but approachable.

The serving team can tell you where the cows from whose milk the cheeses were made were raised, and how the grapes grown for the wines were harvested, plus how many layers are in the bread (more than 50 in one case) and how many utensils an average guest goes through (at least 26). Additionally, they tell you short stories as they present course after course in a way that keeps the experience exciting while being informative.


We had genuinely enjoyable conversations with every member of the waitstaff we encountered and laughed more times than I can recount.

If you want world-class food with Disney service that is both friendly and fancy, Victoria & Albert’s is where you’ll find it.

The ideal backdrop for milestone moments

I knew the food would be good, but what I couldn’t quite figure out was who would dine at such a fancy restaurant within Disney World. Since my fellow patrons all appeared to be invited media, I turned to the fine dining venue’s staff to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Unsurprisingly, a mix of people patronizes Victoria & Albert’s. While the clientele on any given night will vary, there are some noticeable trends. On most nights, roughly 40% of diners are first-time visitors, according to the waitstaff I spoke with. However, there are a few repeat guests, too, including one patron who has dined at the restaurant about 150 times.


Travelers from all around the world who simply prefer to dine on the best cuisine in every destination they visit are also known to enjoy a meal at Victoria & Albert’s.

But the real thread that weaves through a large portion of the tables at Victoria & Albert’s is celebrations. Guests overwhelmingly choose the restaurant for extra-special occasions, such as Paw-Paw’s 90th birthday, a college graduation dinner, a 25th wedding anniversary celebration or a romantic honeymoon meal.


The serving team knows that they are stewards of these milestone celebrations. Since meals last four to five hours and involve lots of interaction with the restaurant staff, the servers become a part of the memory of that special moment in time.

Related: This may be the nicest suite at Disney World 

The best table to book at Victoria & Albert’s

The main dining room at Victoria & Albert’s is where you’ll find the harp player and the majority of patrons. It’s also where we sat.

Queen Victoria’s dining room, which is off to the left when you enter, is available for a more intimate experience.

But if you want to be part of the action — and you can find availability — consider booking the Chef’s Table. Located right in the kitchen within steps of the food preparation process, this table offers a one-of-a-kind experience for an already exceptional meal.


You won’t want to sit here if you’re in search of the quietest and most romantic of tables, but I’d still consider it the best table in the house, as you get to see all that goes into making the phenomenal fare you’ll eat while at the restaurant. If I had a chance to pick it for a future visit, I’d do so in a heartbeat.

Related: 5 over-the-top places to stay at Disney World 

Would I pay for a meal at Victoria & Albert’s?

Everybody in their right mind would take Disney up on an invitation to be its guest for a check-free meal at Victoria & Albert’s. But now that I’ve tried it with no financial strings attached, would I ever do it again on my own dime? Maybe.

Like so many of the restaurant’s other guests, I’d reserve Victoria & Albert’s for a major celebration meal. From my experience, it’s clear that the fine dining establishment, which originally opened with the rest of the resort in 1988, is meant to be a highlight of a trip rather than a pricey add-on to a typical Disney vacation.

Assuming my husband would be on board for a trip to Orlando for one of those milestone moments, I would no doubt consider it for a special occasion like a major wedding anniversary. To help rein in the cost, which would exceed $1,000 for two of us with gratuities factored in, I’d stick to the menu with fewer courses.


I’ll never say never to dining here as a paid guest, as it was genuinely a meal to remember. But given the high out-of-pocket expense, it would take the right occasion — and some careful planning — to justify a return visit.

Related: These are the best credit cards to use for dining

How to book Victoria & Albert’s

If you decide this is the place for you, you’ll need not only to pack a nice outfit (no shorts, T-shirts or other theme park attire are allowed here) but also make an advance reservation. Currently, reservations are accepted as far out as 60 days in advance.

You can make a Victoria & Albert’s reservation by calling 1-407-939-3862 on Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There’s also an email address you can try: wdw.victoria.and.alberts@disney.com.

If you’re using a Disney vacation planner for your trip, ask your planner about making a reservation. They may be able to handle the booking logistics for you.


Bottom line

I may not remember all the details about the wines or plates, but I’ll never forget what it felt like to spend an evening at Victoria & Albert’s.

I’ll file it away as a place where very special occasions are celebrated. With a little bit of luck — and a lot of money — I’ll hopefully one day have the opportunity to return to celebrate a special event.

Featured image by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

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24 days ago
My recommendation is to skip the wine pairing. By the end of the meal my wife and I were far enough past buzzed that it made the evening rather less memorable. I would have been happier with just a single bottle of wine to enjoy.
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‘Not a Damn Thing’

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Michael C. Bender, reporting for The New York Times:

Unbeknownst to the public, however, Mr. Trump again pushed inside the White House for significant new gun-control measures more than a year later, after a pair of gruesome shooting sprees that unfolded over 13 hours. Those discussions have not previously been reported.

On Aug. 3, 2019, a far-right gunman killed 23 people at a Walmart store in El Paso. Early the next morning, a man shot and killed nine people outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio. Both assailants used semiautomatic rifles.

At the White House the next day, Mr. Trump was so shaken by the weekend’s violence that he questioned aides about a specific potential solution and made clear he wanted to take action, according to three people present during the conversation.

“What are we going to do about assault rifles?” Mr. Trump asked.

“Not a damn thing,” Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff, replied.

“Why?” Trump demanded.

“Because,” Mr. Mulvaney told him, “you would lose.”

Mick Mulvaney now works for CBS News, which I’m sure is proud to employ him.

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117 days ago
Not that I want to defend any of Trump's goons, but don't blame Mick for pointing out the truth. Blame the systems that give disproportionate representation to small, rural states. Blame our constitution that gives every state two senators and at least one representative. Or blame the filibuster. Or better yet try to change those somehow so that the actual majority of the population can write the laws that we want and need.
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MacOS Server, Adieu

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Andrew Cunningham, writing last week for Ars Technica:

Apple announced today that it is formally discontinuing macOS Server after 23 years. The app, which offers device management services and a few other features to people using multiple Macs, iPhones, and iPads on the same network, can still be bought, downloaded, and used with macOS Monterey. It is also still currently available at its normal $20 retail price but will no longer be updated with new features or security fixes.

Cunningham has a good rundown of its history, and Michael Tsai, as ever, has a good roundup of links. I don’t have much to add, but we should all pour one out for Mac OS X Server.

The thing to remember is that in the 1990s, it was industry-wide conventional wisdom that no one could put a consumer or prosumer interface in front of Unix. People who were already using NeXTstep would scream from the rooftops “We already have it” but no one could hear them. Mac OS X brought Unix to the masses. But Mac OS X Server went even further, and didn’t just use Unix as an under-the-hood implementation detail of the modernized Mac operating system, but put a Mac-style interface in front of a lot of Unix-as-fucking-Unix server features.

The shift to “cloud computing” was inevitable. Yes, there’s nothing magic about “the cloud” — they’re all just computers. But before cloud computing teams and companies really needed their own servers. Mac OS X Server — and its long-gone hardware counterpart, the Xserve — enabled small teams to do remarkable things for the time, without the expertise of a Unix guru sysadmin on staff.

Mac OS X Server was never a significant factor in Apple’s financials. But it was a huge factor in re-establishing the company’s credibility with creative people — people with taste — who understand and demand technical excellence.

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150 days ago
Man, the businesses full of Sun, HP, and SGI workstations I supported in the mid to late 90s sure would have been confused by these comments. That was no longer true by the 2000s, but the 90s?
150 days ago
All those still existed into the mid-2000s, they were just overshadowed by Windows XP having complete consumer dominance. Even then, I liked the Sun workstations more than generic XP boxes.
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HomePods Are Appreciating in Value

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Sean Hollister, writing for The Verge:

I thought it was really strange when Apple kept selling the original $299 HomePod months after it got discontinued. But now, it’s starting to make sense — not only are some people still willing to pay a premium for the somewhat smart speaker, they’re willing to pay more than Apple charged for it.

We took a look at eBay sales numbers after spotting 9to5Mac editor-in-chief Chance Miller’s tweet, and we soon discovered it wasn’t just a joke: on average, an Apple HomePod fetched $375 this past week. That’s 25 percent more than Apple charged.

I don’t think it’s strange or incredible that HomePods are fetching $375 on eBay. They’re wonderful devices, and there does not exist any competing product with even vaguely the same sound quality at anything near their price. People who think HomePods are overpriced peers to Alexa and Google voice dinguses have no idea how good HomePods sound, especially when paired.

What’s strange and somewhat incredible is that Apple discontinued them without a replacement.

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156 days ago
But what Apple used to excel at and either forgot or just got wrong in this case is that amazing hardware isn't worth much without the corresponding software. And Siri just isn't as good or useful as the competition.
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Food for thought. . .


Source: Too Much Coffee Man

The post Life appeared first on The Big Picture.

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174 days ago
I sure hope that last PLAY gets to repeat at least a few times.
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