If you’re looking at the headline confused, I’m pretty sure you’re not alone. USB Impelementers Forum (USB-IF) announced USB4 2.0, which will be capable of 80 Gbps through a physical layer augmentation on the USB cable. It will still be USB Type-C. But a USB4 2.0 active cable will be capable of the higher speed.
USB-IF has been the butt of jokes for quite a while now. Early on, we had USB 1.0, 1.1, 2.0 and so on. It got a little messy with the peripheral end of the connection as they worked towards miniaturization. The host end basically stayed USB Type-A until USB 3.0 came around, when the USB Type-C connection came around. But on the device end, we got USB Type-B, USB mini-B, and USB micro-B. When USB 3.0 came around with higher transfer speeds, a 3.0 variant of these connections came around as well.
Funny story: In the early days of USB 3.0, I bought a USB 3.0 hard drive. It had a USB 3.0 micro-B connection on the drive end. I saw multiple reviewers complain about the “proprietary” connector.
Anyway, while it was a bit messy back in the early days, it was still manageable. USB 3.0 is when things started getting crazy.
USB Type-C was a game changer for USB. It’s a faster reversible connection. It’s backward compatible with USB 2.0.
Intel introduced Thunderbolt, which worked over USB-C. USB 3.0 only really demanded a USB protocol at higher speeds, reaching upwards to 5 Gbps. Thunderbolt, upwards to TB3, started pushing this to 40 Gbps and exposing additional capabilities.
USB-IF also started pushing out PowerDelivery standards. As of now, PD is pushing 100W over that tiny USB-C port, and there’s a pending update to this to allow 240W.
But to maximize the capabilities, you needed the right cable. A USB-C cable was no longer universal.
To make things worse, we got USB 3.1, then 3.2. But instead of leaving the versions alone, USB-IF decided to make it downright confusing by changing USB 3.2 to mean 3.1 with added information to define speeds.
When USB4 was announced, it seemed like it was going to solve the mass confusion around USB3. It, basically, includes everything from TB3. But USB4 was defined such that a device maker could pick and choose some capabilities.
USB4 isn’t universal. USB4 cables are not universal. Calling something USB4 doesn’t inform you of its capabilities nor its requirements.
And if you are wondering why I complain that these are not universal, USB literally stands for Universal Serial Bus. It’s in the damn name.
And now we have USB4 2.0. We have a new cable using the same connector as before. And we have a new set of problems.
If you’ve been around technology long enough, you know USB 2.0 already existed and is still SUPER common. So why USB4 2.0 and not a better name, or even going USB5? The change is not a small one, by spec, nor by capabilities, so a USB5 seems fine. Hell, even USB4-80 would be better.
At this point, with how long this nonsense has been going on, with the confusion and the complaints, it’s very difficult to attribute this to ignorance and becoming easier and easier to attribute it to malice. I really feel like USB-IF is intentionally doing this for shits and giggles.
Technology is already difficult for the masses to fully grasp. Not long ago, my mom bought a new USB cable for her iPhone and called me because she thought she bought the wrong cable because the charger end didn’t plug into any of her chargers. People are going to buy whatever they can get their hands on and wonder why it doesn’t work. This stuff should not be hard to use. They’ve had DECADES to learn this.
What the hell is going on at the USB-IF?
I love seeing the technology advance. But, seriously, fix the standards, the definitions, and the naming. This is beyond silly.