A eulogy for Dark Sky, a data visualization masterpiece

Srini Kadamati has written “A Eulogy for Dark Sky a Data Visualization Masterpiece” for Nightingale, the Journal of the Data Visualization Society. Dark Sky was the weather app acquired by Apple, discontinued, and folded into the company’s Weather app.

Apple's Dark Sky Weather on Apple Watch
Apple’s Dark Sky Weather on Apple Watch

Srini Kadamati for Nightingale:

On January 1, 2023, Apple sunsetted (pun intended) the Dark Sky mobile app on iOS. Apple purchased the company behind the popular weather application in early 2020, then announced that it would be shutting down the Dark Sky applications (first on Android, then on iOS and web), and finally stated in 2022 that the forecast technology would be integrated into the Apple Weather app with iOS 16.

But Dark Sky was much more than just an API or a set of “forecast technologies.” The design of the Dark Sky mobile application represented a hallmark of information design because the team clearly obsessed over how people would actually use the app on a daily basis.

The design of Dark Sky was so wonderful that I could understand the shape of the weather at a glance, even from a zoomed out view of the app…

The world needs more Dark Sky-like experiences to help us improve our spending habits, help us sleep better, and more. If you’re working on information software, I hope you can be inspired by the body of design and engineering work that Dark Sky pioneered.

MacDailyNews Take: The full article, with many screenshots and highly recommended, is here.

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  1. “Dark Sky” is/was by far, better than Apple’s weather app; so why did mister cook and company feel the need to ‘fix it’?

    They bought it because it was a better product; so why not just rename it?

    “Weatherbug” is a better alternative as of March 2023.

    1. Fixed it?

      I would say Cook and Co. visually neutered and flattened another great graphics example of data information design.

      Starting with iOS7, Apple went off course of the magical, almost Disney like visuals, the duo of Jobs and Forstall were famous for that informed and delighted the viewer.

      Reduced by shallow abstract thinkers producing flat austere one dimensional designs that are as delightful to look at as wet plywood.

      The reasons Cook must GO, just keep adding up…

  2. With Dark Sky, one could get a by-hour predicted forecast for a whole day, and it proved a nice degree of accuracy. And it presented it as crowdsourced data enhanced.

    And as I would imagine this article describes, it provided helpful AND visually nice looking detail in its complications rather than just a cloud and sun or umbrella — it included the temperature in that image.

    I’m hopeful Apple gets why it was above the fray of other weather services, my guess is that they do and they are working to configure the crowdsourcing feature under their own implementation, and that’s coming. But with that I hope they borrow or learn from Dark Sky’s visuals.

  3. There are players that come on the field from time to time and hit home runs that take the “win” from Apple’s game. Dark Sky was one of those players.
    Apple, you’re good, but you need to learn from these batters to be great again. Your batting average, it needs to come up.

  4. The forecasting model is inaccurate! When Apple ‘fused’ Dark Sky with their weather app, they lost the granularity and local accuracy of the weather model. It can be raining outside for hours and Apple will show the current weather as partly cloudy. Forecast predictions are worthless.

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