The Information has published a lengthy report today covering the development of Siri. The article documents Siri’s tumultuous changes in leadership and management over the last few years, indicating that Siri 1.0’s infrastructure was very creaky, which held back the service.

The big takeaway from The Information’s reporting is that Siri launched with a poorly scalable infrastructure that caused bottlenecks for years after it launched in 2011.

At the initial release, the popularity of Siri ‘exceeded expectations’ and led to a lot of unreliability. The backend was not designed to handle enough users. Apple has spent the intervening years modernising the system apparently.

At one point, an employee reworked the code so significantly that a Siri component went from requiring 500 servers to just 5.

The delay in launching third-party app support for Siri was shelved whilst Jobs was still alive but even when it came back on the table, the code simply could not support it:

Leadership of Siri appears to be very fraught with conflict, moving through many different managers since 2011. The Information cites disagreements between many key project leads resulted in the Siri division lacking focus and vision. There were also disputes between the natural language and search departments.

Apple bought Topsy in 2013. The Information says Topsy engineers were put off working on Siri due to the poorly made infrastructure ‘that had been patched up but never completely replaced’ since its launch.

In late 2015, Apple acquired VocalIQ, a UK company that focused on more advanced AI. The report says Apple has now successfully used VocalIQ’s technology stack for Siri’s calendaring requests. It seems like Apple will expand this tech into more domains in the future.

Whilst it seems like Siri struggled for many years due to poor engineering decisions for the 1.0, it seems like the technical details are now finally being smoothed out. Hopefully, this will be reflected in user-facing advancements soon. In September, Apple SVP Craig Federighi took over leadership of the Siri division.

The Information includes the following statement from Apple. You can read the full report, including a more detailed breakdown of leadership changes, in The Information’s original report.