Back in June, Parth Dhebar and I received a tip from an Apple enthusiast who decided to explore what occurred behind the scenes when you used iCloud. Setting up a test environment using the popular web traffic monitoring utility Charles, our tipster quickly discovered that iMessage utilized Azure and Amazon AWS when he sent images over the service.
In the tip, we were sent various screenshots of his findings, which detailed exactly what was happening in the steps of the web transaction. Parth wrote a post about it and it was covered throughout the blogosphere.
However, our hard facts were evidently not convincing enough for one GigaOM writer. In pursuit of the truth, she decided to run our screenshots by “three networking and cloud experts at major companies”, all of whom claimed that the proof was inconclusive.
What? So some industry “experts” hiding behind the veil of anonymity should be trusted over facts?
Let’s revisit what these “experts” had to say.
Two sources said that the log could simply show that the image sent over iMessage was itself initially hosted on Azure or Amazon.
Perhaps in an alternate reality where web-hosted images could be “embedded” then sent over iCloud in this fashion — and not in the form of just a link to the content, which is sent and then received as merely link text — this point may be considered valid.
The third expert did however make a somewhat legitimate speculation that iCloud may have been utilizing these services for a CDN.
A third source said Apple may be using Azure and AWS for content delivery network (CDN) purposes. That would mean that the files are ultimately hosted on Apple servers, but Apple is caching copies of some data on strategically placed CDN servers run by Azure and Amazon’s CloudFront to help speed up delivery. In other words, Apple could be leveraging cloud services from Amazon and Microsoft for short-term iCloud caching to boost speed and reliability — not because its own servers are incapable of handling the content.
Following GigaOM’s post, we wanted to dig deeper into this and bring additional facts to the table. I reached out to Rafael Rivera who then set up a test environment with Fiddler to see the HTTP traffic which occurred when the same task of sending an image via iMessage was performed. We saw that Apple were using Azure and AWS for storage purposes, and that iCloud was merely used to manage links to uploaded content.
This was detailed with a raw dump of the transaction included in the blog post we wrote about the discoveries. The post was circulated throughout the blogosphere once again.
Fast forward to Friday, September 2nd, The Register wrote a post about our discoveries, which stated that their “sources” have “confirmed rumours circulating in June that Apple’s iCloud is running on Azure and Amazon.” Rumors? If I remember correctly, we had already confirmed the use of Azure and AWS by iCloud three months ago.
The post that The Register published did not have any new insight or developments to contribute to the story. Surely, the tech blogosphere would experience a sense of deja vu when encountering this post, right? Sadly not.
Like machines, AppleInsider, VentureBeat, and Neowin all aggregated The Register’s report, citing them as the authoritative original source in the matter. Gizmodo had even written about this a second time, after already covering it in June. Clicking the link within The Register’s article to Mary-Jo Foley’s post from June would have revealed that The Register’s post was a useless repost of old news that they had no part in breaking.
Sadly, many tech bloggers are part of this echo chamber ecosystem. They robotically just scan the web for suitable content and mindlessly paraphrase without performing fact checking, or even adding value or insight to what they’re writing about. I’m not dishing out these remarks as some holier-than-thou blogger who has done no wrong; I’m saying this as one who has been a part of this problem in the past. I can completely understand the mindset of the bloggers who do this.
I’m fine with the aggregation of content as long as it’s done right. Fact-check, amend your posts if a mistake was made, add value by doing some investigation into the story yourself, sharing insight about it or in some cases by blogging your own opinions on it.
ReadWriteWeb penned a brilliant blog post criticizing the tech blogosphere from a different angle. Here’s a quote from it which I think applies to a lot of the content that’s posted within the tech blogosphere these days:
We’ll tweet about it, discuss it on Google Plus, blog about it. Then we’ll move onto the next such story, probably within a day, without having really learned anything.