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The iPod created the two-headed monster that finally killed it

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The iPod’s death has been a long time coming. Somehow, it’s already been eight years since Apple discontinued the iconic iPod classic. Nonetheless, the news this week that Apple is discontinuing its last iPod, the touch is significant: This officially marks the official end of a product that set up the company for two decades of success.

A lot has been written about how the iPod changed Apple’s fortunes, transforming the company from an influential but niche computer maker into one of the biggest companies in the world. Similarly, the iPod’s effect on the music industry almost speaks for itself at this point. The device slowly but surely ended the reign of the CD and moved people to a world in which they could just buy a handful of songs from an album instead of paying $15 for the whole thing on a plastic disc.

That’s probably why the death of the iPod brand doesn’t feel all that notable, despite the fact that I was an iPod early adopter who quickly went all-in on Apple’s ecosystem. It was inevitable that Apple would eventually stop selling the iPod touch, just as the end of the iPod classic in 2014 felt overdue.

That’s probably because both the consumer technology and the music industries have long since moved on from the iPod. It’s not hyperbolic to say that the iPod reversed both Apple’s fortunes and the record industry’s — but we’ve since seen another seismic shift that made the iPod feel almost as quaint as the CD.

The iPod was responsible for several major changes in the way music is consumed. In the 2000s, CD sales began to fall as more and more people started buying music through digital storefronts like the iTunes Music Store. There, you could get an album for $10 or a single song for $1, a significant discount over CDs at the time. And while many people still purchased full albums, uncoupling songs from the record propelled custom mix CDs and playlists to the forefront of how people listened to music. The iPod and iTunes Store killed the romance (and burden) of a physical music library while giving listeners more freedom in how they bought and listened to music.

But in 2022, the music industry has undergone a second sea change. For many, the concept of owning music at all is obsolete. Spotify, Apple Music, and the like have fully moved us to a place where we pay for access — to a catalog of some 90 million songs — not ownership. The idea of the album is even less important now than it was during the iPod’s peak, as the streaming services curated playlists for us, based on our listening histories and what’s popular. Apple, Spotify, and their competitors are the de facto DJs now, guiding listeners to new music the way radio DJs did for decades.

A big part of Steve Jobs’ pitch for the iTunes Store was that it was a response to piracy and a way for music creators to get paid. The thinking was that the store would offer a vastly improved experience over dealing with sketchy piracy apps so that people wouldn’t mind paying a few bucks here and there to download songs, thus putting money back in artists’ pockets.

In the streaming era, however, the debate over the fairness of music streaming payments to artists and songwriters rages on. While the iTunes Store was the first place Apple introduced its controversial 30 percent take, there’s been increasing furor in recent years over how Spotify carves up payments for artists into fractions of a cent per stream. Musicians have often made more money from touring and merchandise sales than album sales, and now that most people are streaming rather than buying music, that gulf has widened even more. (That’s without mentioning how much of a hit artists have taken on touring revenue since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.)

Just as the music industry has moved on since its iPod-fueled transformation in the 2000s, the consumer tech industry no longer resembles one in which the iPod was dominant. The iPod was conceived as a device that did one thing well: play back your music and podcast library. Sure, it picked up other features over the years (most notably displaying your photos and playing videos), but music was always its raison d’etre.

A number of other single-purpose devices flourished around the same time. Amazon introduced the first Kindle in 2007, digital cameras hit the mainstream in a big way throughout the decade and the Flip Video camera had a brief time in the spotlight, just to name a few. But the modern smartphone, which Apple itself ushered in with the iPhone, largely eliminated the need for a dedicated music player, not to mention most other purpose-built gadgets. We’re now 15 years into an era of convergence, where the smartphone is the most versatile and important device we carry.

It’s no coincidence that the last iPod Apple sold was the iPod touch, a device that is basically an iPhone without the phone. For years, it was a good option for kids or people who couldn’t afford an iPhone, but giving children a phone isn’t the taboo it once was, while monthly payment plans mean more people can afford them. It’s not clear who the iPod touch was for in 2022.

Apple may be pulling the plug on the iPod now, but the world moved on years ago. We’re past the point where those of us waxing nostalgic about the iPod can be considered youthful; if the rise of the iPad was a defining experience for you, you’re likely an elder millennial at best. I don’t say all this to downplay the iPod’s importance, though. On the contrary, looking back at how far we’ve come over the past 20 years reveals just how transformative the iPod was for music, and for tech.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.



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‘Fall Guys’ lands on Switch, Xbox and Epic Games Store on June 21st

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It’s been over a year since Mediatonic confirmed Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout was coming to Xbox and Nintendo Switch. After some delays, the wait is almost over. The ridiculously fun battle royale platformer is coming to those platforms, as well as Epic Games Store, on June 21st. A dedicated PlayStation 5 version is on the way too. Full cross-play and cross-progression will be available across all platforms as well.

What’s more, Fall Guys is going free-to-play. Epic pulled a similar move with Rocket League after snatching up Psyonix. Existing players on PlayStation and Steam will receive a legacy pack, which includes three costumes and some other bonuses. Newcomers who pre-register can claim some swag as well. 

It’s not a huge shock that Fall Guys is coming to the Epic Games Store — Epic bought Mediatonic parent Tonic Games Group last year. Users have needed an Epic account to play Fall Guys since November, when cross-progression was added.

A new season will also get underway on June 21st. Mediatonic is resetting the counter and calling it Season 1: Free For All. It will be the first seasonal update since November and, as ever, there will be new levels and more cosmetics.

For the first time, there will be a premium (i.e. paid) season pass with 100 tiers and extra cosmetic items. Those who receive the legacy pass will get free access to the premium season pass for season one. A free season pass will still be available with other items to unlock. 

Crowns will no longer be used for currency to buy items in the store. The crown rank feature will be boosted with more rewards. Unspent crowns will be converted into Kudos. There will be another in-game currency called Show-Bucks, which can be used to buy the premium season pass. Costumes that are on the way include Ezio from the Assassin’s Creed series, along with Mecha Godzilla and Mothra.

There’s one more big update on the way: a level creator. This was announced as being “under construction” and, while it won’t be arriving any time soon, it’s an exciting feature to look forward to.

The game debuted on PS4 and Steam in August 2020 and was an instant hit, racking up millions of players on PC in just a few days and becoming the most-claimed game in the history of PlayStation Plus at the time. It seems player numbers have dropped quite a ways since the early days — having increasingly lengthy seasons likely hasn’t helped. However, the arrival of Fall Guys on more platforms, the free-to-play shift and a new season should all bring new and lapsed players into the fold.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.



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Buffalo shooting suspect reportedly shared plans on Discord

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The alleged gunman behind the attack in Buffalo, New York that left 10 dead and three injured on Saturday used Discord to discuss and share plans ahead of the assault, according to Bloomberg.

As far back as December, the suspect is reported to have used a private server on the popular chat service to describe his intentions to carry out an attack. He later shared links to Discord logs describing his attack plan and white supremacist views, according to Bloomberg. The report says that the suspect mentioned the terrorist who attacked a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand more than 30 times and used racist slurs and extremist phrases while in the app.

“As soon as we became aware of it we took action against it and removed the server in accordance with our policies against violent extremism,” a Discord spokesperson told Bloomberg. The company did not immediately respond to The Verge’s request for more information on its moderation policies.

Discord’s moderation team “splits its time” between responding to user-reported messages and “proactively finding and removing servers and users” engaged in “high-harm activity,” the company wrote in 2021. That approach to moderation was created after Discord learned that white supremacists had used its app to organize the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

“Trust & Safety has spent a lot of time since 2017 trying to ensure that another event like Charlottesville isn’t planned on our platform,” the company wrote last year.

As recently as 2019, Discord was primarily relying on user reports to moderate its platform and not actively monitoring private or public servers, according to a PC Gamer story from that year. The company’s moderation team does have the ability to read messages from private servers, the story said, but Discord typically only did so when a message was reported by a user.

Saturday’s attack is being investigated as a hate crime, Buffalo police have said. CNN reports that the suspect, identified as Payton S. Gendron, told authorities he was targeting a Black community; 11 of the people shot were Black.

The suspect is also alleged to have used Discord to plan to livestream the attack. Video of the assault was broadcast live on Twitch, which claims to have stopped the stream “less than two minutes after the violence began.” Even so, footage has continued to spread online as major platforms struggle to crack down on new uploads of the horrific footage.



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With Twitter deal on hold, Musk says a lower sale price isn’t ‘out of the question’

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Billionaire Elon Musk is continuing to clash with Twitter over the accuracy of its bot count, and hinted today that he may try to renegotiate the $44 billion deal. Musk told attendees at a Miami conference that a deal at a lower price wasn’t “out of the question,” reported Bloomberg. Musk’s potential bid for a lower price is an unexpected twist, given that the SpaceX exec agreed to pay a 38 percent premium on Twitter when he reached a deal with the company’s board back in April.

“Currently what I’m being told is that there’s just no way to know the number of bots,” Musk said at the conference. “It’s like, as unknowable as the human soul.”

Musk’s potential bid for a lower price is an unexpected twist, given that the SpaceX exec agreed to pay a 38 percent premium on Twitter when he reached a deal with the company’s board back in April. 

Last Friday, Musk had announced that a buyout of Twitter was “temporarily on hold” due to concerns that the number of bots on the platform was much higher than the company estimated. The billionaire tweeted that his team would do an independent analysis on bot count and also tried to crowdsource bot estimates from his own followers. Musk was later reprimanded by Twitter’s legal team for revealing — in a tweet, of course — the company’s methodology for estimating the proportion of bot accounts across the platform.

Earlier today, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal explained in a series of tweets that external estimates of bots are likely wrong, since the platform includes private data in its count.

“Unfortunately, we don’t believe that this specific estimation can be performed externally, given the critical need to use both public and private information (which we can’t share),” tweeted Agrawal.

Musk responded to Agrawal’s explanation with a series of his own tweets, one that included a single poop emoji. Musk also suggested that Twitter verify whether users are human or not by calling them on the phone.

Tesla expert Dan Ives — an analyst at financial advisory firm Wedbush Securities — put the chances of Musk going through with the deal at under 50 percent. If Musk chooses to walk away, he’ll be subject to a $1 billion “kill fee”. But according to legal experts who spoke to The Washington Post, Twitter could sue Musk for the financial damages inflicted on the company due to the hasty reversal of the deal.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.





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