TikTok Shuns Russia | War on Patent Trolls | Chrome is ‘Faster than Safari’

Welcome to The Long View—where we peruse the news of the week and strip it to the essentials. Let’s work out what really matters.

This week: ByteDance restricts TikTok in Russia, Unified Patents escalates the fight against trolls, and Google Chrome beats the magic 300.

1. Not for your For You Page

First up this week: Russian TikTok users won’t be able to view or upload new content. For users in Russia, TikTok has frozen its catalog of cringe.

Analysis: Emotional damage

Putin’s vague new “fake news” law is concentrating minds in Beijing’s ByteDance. Is your organization exposed too? To protect its employees—and perhaps its users, too—it’s hitting the Safe Mode button.

Dan Milmo: TikTok restricts service in Russia

Chinese-owned TikTok said it would block livestreaming and uploading of new content in Russia after the Kremlin criminalised the spreading of what it deems to be fake news about its invasion of Ukraine. … The BBC, CNN and other global media outlets have temporarily suspended reporting in Russia to protect their.

TikTok spokesperson Hilary McQuaide said the app in Russia now appears in “view-only” mode and won’t let people post or see new videos or livestreams. They can still see older videos, but not if they came from outside the country.

She said, “The safety of employees is our top priority,” … adding that the video-sharing service—part of China-based tech company ByteDance—did not want to put either its Russian employees or users at risk of severe criminal penalties.

With more on that head-scratching law, here’s Aimee Chanthadavong:

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law on Friday that bans what the country calls “fake” news about the military. This law will target any statements referring to the invasion of Ukraine as an “invasion”, any attempt to discredit the armed forces, or calls for sanctions on Russia. Those found to be spreading so-called fake news could face up to 15 years in prison.

TikTok’s in-app messaging service will not be affected. … “We will continue to evaluate the evolving circumstances in Russia to determine when we might fully resume our services with safety as our top priority,” TikTok added.

And Scott Nover thinks about the effects on Russian citizens:

Russia’s fake news law is a severe step for a country whose government is already antagonistic to … a free press. … The country has blocked Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube proactively, but TikTok beat Russia to the punch. The result is the same, however: The people of Russia … will be locked out from another window into the real-life consequences of Putin’s war.


2. Patent Trolls Still Attacking

“Patent assertion entities,” also known as “non-practicing entities,” are organizations that don’t produce anything, but simply acquire and hoard patents—later asserting them against unsuspecting organizations. The aim is to extort money from those they claim are infringing.

The problem? Many of those patent claims are as weak as a sickly kitten.

Analysis: PAEs aka NPEs are NBG—SNAFU

You might think you’re safe, but trolls also go after the users of the disputed technology. Examples include podcasting, JPEG images, order-confirmation emails, geo-locating a car and even caching data.

Steven Vaughan-Nichols: Open Source Zone grinds away at patent trolls

Patent trolls, aka Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs), have plagued … software for ages. … The attacks keep mounting up. The reason is simple: It’s profitable.

[But] Unified Patents, an international organization of over 200 businesses … brings the fight to the trolls. It deters patent trolls from attacking its members by making it too expensive for the troll to win. … With United Patents’ high success rate in knocking out bad patents, slowly but surely the patent trolls are being driven back.

For example, an Accelerated Memory Tech patent 6,513,062, was used by the troll IP Investments Group to claim … Redis, which manages cache resources on the cloud, violated the patent. [The troll] went after Hulu, Citrix Systems, Barracuda Networks, Kemp Technologies, and F5 Networks for their use of Redis software. IP Investments Group gave up rather than fighting it out. Everyone who uses Redis wins.

Ban software patents? Beware of throwing out the baby with that bathwater, thinks WierdUncle:

Patents themselves are a good idea: … Inventive people should be rewarded for their contributions to the economy.

[But] patent trolls are parasites who contribute nothing to the prosperity of citizens. … The patent troll business plan is unfortunately quite viable. You don’t invent anything, or fund new developments. You have sufficient funds to clobber anybody who challenges you, by having better lawyers.

The issue is weak patents. Here’s nzkbuk:

Start suing the patent office for damages against wrongly issued patients. It would then be in their best interest to set up this sort of thing as an alternative where the patient can be investigated first.


3. Google Gloats on Chrome Mac Perf

Google Chrome on macOS boasts a better benchmark score than Safari on an M1 MacBook Pro. Hilariously, this is using Apple’s own Speedometer benchmark tool.

Analysis: Benchmarks aren’t the be-all and end-all

Great PR, and popcorn-worthy Cupertino trolling. But aren’t there better optimizations Google could be making?

Frederic Lardinois: Chrome on macOS is now faster than Safari

Version 99 of Chrome on macOS manages to score 300 points on the Speedometer benchmark, which was originally developed by Apple’s WebKit team. This, Google points out, is the fastest performance of any browser.

It’s been a while since competition in the browser market focused on speed. … When a new chip comes along, though, there’s always room for optimization. Originally, Chrome on Apple’s M1 chips had passable performance, but… Chrome now runs 43% faster on them.

Speedometer 2.0 tests for responsiveness, which makes it a good proxy for user experience. … It doesn’t take much to make software feel more responsive, so the 43% on M1 Macs will surely make you feel more productive.

How? Try not to gloat, Max Christoff:

Building on many performance changes over the last year, we enabled ThinLTO in M99, a build optimization technique that inlines speed-critical parts of the code base, even when they span multiple files or libraries. … Two of the other major contributors to Chrome’s speed are the V8 Sparkplug compiler and short builtin calls. Sparkplug is a new mid-tier JavaScript compiler. … Short builtin calls are used by the V8 JavaScript engine to optimize the placement of generated code inside the device’s memory [which] boosts performance by avoiding indirect jumps when calling functions.

We know that benchmarks are just one of many ways of measuring the speed of a browser. [But] combined with recent graphics optimizations (namely, pass-through decoder and out-of-process rasterization) … Chrome is now 43% faster than … 17 months ago.

Benchmarks/schmenchmarks, thinks codedokode:

Browser developers are optimizing the wrong thing. … Optimizing for speed usually causes increased memory consumption, and this increases the chance of invoking swapping. If the system starts swapping, it becomes orders of magnitude slower.

If the browser could use [half the] memory while using twice amount of CPU time, that would be perfect. Just think how many laptops with 2 or 4 GB of RAM would become usable again.


The Moral of the Story: Good words shall gain you honor, but good deeds shall gain you friends.

You have been reading The Long View by Richi Jennings. You can contact him at @RiChi or [email protected].

Image: Rostislav Artov (via Unsplash; leveled and cropped)

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