I’m trying to remember when I first visited DaringFireball.net. My best guess is that it was somewhere around 2009 or 2010. I was a teenager at the time, and the site was too sophisticated for my adolescent taste. But as I finished high school and eventually realized I wanted to be a software developer, my interest in the site increased. By 2012 I was reading the site fairly often and listening to an occasional episode of its Talk Show podcast. By 2013 I bought my first t-shirt. By 2014 I bought my second t-shirt. By 2015 I was reading everything and listening to most everything. By 2016 I had built a robot that sent me an SMS message whenever new linked list items were posted to the site. Today, I don’t know where I would be without Daring Fireball.
This week, Daring Fireball turns fifteen years old. When the blog started in 2002 as a column for “Mac Punditry and Curmudgeonry,” Apple was relatively small in the list of world companies, and the World Wide Web was still relatively new. Today, Apple has the highest market capitalization of any company in the world, and the World Wide Web has matured into a platform of billions of regular users. It stands to reason then that over the course of the past fifteen years, many blogs and columns surrounding the subject of Apple would have cropped up. They have. But none of them have arrived at the same caliber with which Daring Fireball started. Daring Fireball has no peers; it has no close seconds. I cannot improve upon how its author put it two years after the site’s debut:
The implicit immodesty of the sentence to follow pains me, but here goes: I don’t think there’s anything else quite like Daring Fireball.
This statement was factually correct in 2004, and it remains so in 2017. There’s a danger in attempting to list an outline of the reasons why there’s nothing else quite like Daring Fireball, and that is this: it might incline the reader to reduce its differentiation into a formula that is replicable. And while it might be tempting for skeptics to postulate that there is no secret sauce to the site’s superiority to all other Apple columns, such skeptics would be remiss to deny that there is a peculiar quality about Daring Fireball that is difficult to place one’s finger on. Though hard to define, it is undeniably present. I have spent much time thinking upon this, but I am no closer to arriving at pontificating what precisely this is than when I began, though my lack of success has not stifled my enthusiasm for its pastime. Be that as it may, the obvious points of outward distinction can be described easily enough, and they are worth visiting on the fifteenth anniversary.
- The site has an attention to detail that is unparalleled in its every aspect. The design is impeccable. The language structure and choice of words has a finesse and a distinctive air of being simultaneously deliberate and natural. John Gruber once said that he made a somewhat lousy software employee, which I think was a brutally candid confession. His thoroughness is too complete to be of optimal usefulness in the environment of most technical enterprises. That very drawback though is the thing that makes Daring Fireball so unlike anything else.
- The writer has his moments of frustrations and critiques, but they are done at a high level, as from someone who has an internal locus of control, who knows he’s right, who’s okay if all the world disagrees. These rants are not done in the way that so many others do them; they are not generally seething with ill-founded righteous indignation and with the dismay that perhaps all is chaos and ultimately doomed. Instead, they are built upon the calm conviction that there is absolute right and wrong, come what may, and that eventually all paths lead to the resolution of justice. This stability issues forth out of a belief that offers no proof; indeed, it feels no need to offer any proof.
- Importantly, these aforementioned attributes have not arisen as an effect of Daring Fireball’s popularity. When you peruse the earliest columns of the site, you recognize these attributes immediately. They are innate; it is unfair to to say that these attributes were construed at the site’s debut as an artifice to boost its appeal. Rather, they have worked because they reflect the genuine nature of the author.
- The site has its fair share of meanderings and distractions as do columns abroad, but these bypaths are done with a level taste and unusual pathos that forces the reader to (perhaps sometimes grudgingly) appreciate them.
I do not agree with Daring Fireball on many things, and I am very vocal about my disagreements. I mention this as a strength of the site. Strongly disagreeing with certain pieces on the site does not preclude enjoying it. That’s a testimony to just how there’s nothing else quite like Daring Fireball.
To avoid the embarrassment of being perceived as obsessing over a specific site or individual, there is a constant temptation to say that all good tech columns are more or less operating on a level playing field, and that they deserve an equal amount of time in one’s browser. This is profoundly wrong. Not all Apple blogs are created equal. Daring Fireball’s unique position is recognized by Apple’s VPs, who read it and give its author exclusive access at WWDC. Spending a disproportionate amount of time with Daring Fireball is becoming.
There’s a tendency in human nature to be silent in admiration and loud in complaining. I am as guilty as anyone in this matter. We keep quiet about Daring Fireball’s excellence because we know it, and we assume everyone else knows it. We find plenty of time to murmur, and too little time to praise. At the fifteen year anniversary, it’s a good time to reflect upon what the world would be without Daring Fireball.
Here’s to another fifteen years, John.