Oct 8, 2021 8 min read

A hell of a week for Facebook; plus Amazon, Google, Starlink & more

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Table of Contents

Wiser! #39: It's been a tough week for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook; the whistleblower, the US Senate, the Facebook Files and a 5 hour global outage. Plus Amazon's pursuit of the home, Google are in court (again) and Elon Musk's Starlink.


In this issue of the Wiser! Newsletter:

  • Facebook's tobacco moment
  • Amazon's strategic pursuit to own your Smart Home
  • Facebook's network goes down and the world moves to Snap
  • Google in court again over anti-trust
  • Starlink's global internet network to serve the world's most rural
  • Plus Coinbase, Apple privacy, Google video search, GM robo-taxis and the smartphone you can touch but not see

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Big Trouble In Little DC for Zuckerberg

This has been a tough week for Facebook. It may even turn out to be a pivotal one: Facebook's tobacco moment!

First, the Wall Street Journal ran a series of damning stories called The Facebook Files. Then the whistleblower who had fed the WSJ with the insight and information went on TV for a 60-minute interview.

A few days later, she appeared before a Senate hearing and gave damning evidence of Facebook's wilful denial, greed and cover-ups, knowingly putting profits before the safety of users.

This is as close as Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have come to the "tobacco moment". It's the story of the Emporer's New Clothes and the realisation that Facebook is standing there naked.

Avert your eyes, this isn't going to be pretty!

For the full Wiser! story, go here (because it's too long to include in the body of this newsletter).


***Facebook (again)***

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Facebook went down and the world almost stopped

If the first story wasn't enough for Facebook to contend with, this happened!

Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger all went down this week for over 5 hours, highlighting the extent to which the world relies on the social media network.

The full details of "how" it happened have yet to surface, but the "what" is pretty clear. Facebook managed to delete the Internet routing records, essentially the map that points all the computers in the world to Facebook.

As a result, browsers had no idea where to "find" Facebook.com. They just returned an error page.

This not only affected the 2.9 billion users that use Facebook every month, or the 1 billion that use Instagram, or the 2 billion users who message using WhatsApp, it also stranded its employees from communicating with their internal Facebook tools.

That’s because Facebook’s email and tools are all managed in house and via the same domains that had been stranded.

Immediately, Facebook's share price crashed, wiping $6 billion off Mark Zuckerberg's wealth (although don't shed a tear too soon, he's already worth around $120 billion, which is $118 billion more than he was worth in 2009).

To add fuel to the fire, the conspiracy theorists had a field day because the outage happened shortly after CBS’s 60 Minutes aired the much-anticipated interview with Frances Haugen.

Interestingly, many automated domain registration sites immediately listed facebook.com "up for sale". They had picked up that the domain was no longer in use.

It is hard to say if anyone could have been quick enough to buy it, but imagine the call they'd get the next morning from Zuckerberg, "can I have my domain name back please?"

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***BIGTECH: AMAZON***

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Amazon's strategic pursuit to dominate the home

Last week Amazon announced a clutch of gadgets, gizmos and new smart tech for the smarthome. The headline went to their home robot called Astro (which was also the name of the Jetson's pet dog).

Their strategy takes advantage of the pandemic-fuelled shift to home working and the fact that more than 4 out of every 5 American households has an Amazon Prime account.

Why is Amazon doing this?

Here's a couple of reasons:

🏠 Amazon's goal with everything they do is simple; to drive attention and/or activity onto an Amazon platform. They want to own the rails. The more products they put in the home, the more they drive attention to an Amazon platform that is easily consumed through a subscription based business model.

🏠 Amazon is bypassing conventional computers in its pursuit of an "ambient computing platform". Here, the desktop, laptop or smartphone is no longer the primary connection to the Internet. In Alexa and its associated gadgets, Amazon has created a computing platform that is just as important as Windows, macOS, iOS, or Android.

Amazon already owns a considerable footprint in the home tech market;

👉Amazon accounted for 23% of the global sales for smart speakers in the first quarter of 2020, which was more than all its competitors. (Amazon)
👉Amazon's market share for smart speakers in the US was 53% in 2020. (Voicebot)
👉 Around 100,000 smart home devices support Amazon's digital voice control agent, Alexa. (Techcrunch)
👉 Approximately 11% of digital buyers used Amazon's Alexa for online shopping in 2020. (eMarketeer)

Read the full article here...

Ambient Computing: Amazon’s in the house
Wiser! #38 (Premium): Amazon has unveiled a clutch of digital smart tech for the home in its pursuit of ambient computing, inc robots, wearables, drones, smartspeakers and AI.

Fun Fact: According to Statista, more than 250,000 marriage proposals have been made to Alexa.


***Google***

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Google appeal the EU's $5bn antitrust penalty

Google are in court to appeal the $5billion antitrust fine imposed by the EU in 2018. Google, which owns the Android mobile operating system, was fined for using its dominance in mobile to obstruct rival search engines.

This is the largest penalty given to any company found guilty of breaching EU antitrust rules.

"The fine that was imposed, a staggering 4.34 billion euros, was not appropriate," Google's lawyer Genevra Forwood told the five-judge panel of the EU's second-highest court.

"The problem is not the headline-grabbing fine per se. The problem is how the Commission reached that figure," the lawyer told the General Court.

Google's argument seems to come down to (a) they didn't mean to do it, and besides, (b) the EU were unfair in how they calculated the fine.

A verdict is not expected until next year.

Source: Reuters


***Starlink***

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Getting Starlink into orbit

The issue: 85% of the world lives in areas covered by 4G, but only half are online. That's around 3.7 billion people who have no internet connection at all. The issue is cost, not coverage according to the World Economic Forum. Mobile broadband is 18x more expensive in low-income countries than in developed economies.

For many, the only option is a mobile phone connection, an expensive workaround in its own right. E.g., 1 gigabit of data in sub-Saharan Africa costs 40% of the average monthly wage. UNESCO report

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The solution: Starlink was founded by Elon Musk SpaceX to provide high-speed internet services in remote and rural areas all over the world using low earth orbit (LEO) satellites. Starlink's LEO satellites fly at about 550km above the earth which is low enough to avoid latency issues and provide speeds of between 50 and 150 mbps.

Starlink currently has around 1600 satellites in orbit serving around 90,000 customers. Their goal is to have as many as 30,000 satellites forming a giant web of internet connectivity and beaming it to the 5% of the world that is both remote and offline. (This is not a solution for towns and cities or areas with mobile coverage.)

The economic driver behind Starlink is to generate revenue to fund the SpaceX program. Elon Musk estimates that Starlink could get as much as 3% of global internet traffic, which is a $1 trillion market and generate $30 billion in revenues to fund SpaceX.

Starlink are not the only game in town when it comes to satellite internet services; there's Amazon's Project Kuiper, OneWeb and Telesat. Read about them here.

Sources: WEF, UNESCO, Space Explored, Elon Musk at Code (video)


***SNIPPETS***

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Snippets of Insight and Information

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Google's search offers results direct from images and videos

Google Search was built around the ability to sort text and links, but more and more information on the internet no longer fits that model. YouTube alone produces 500 hours of content every minute. Google’s answer is called MUM (Multitask Unified Model) and it allows the search engine to produce results from images and videos. Source: YouExec

50 InsurTech startups to watch in Europe

InsurTech is the social media hashtag for insurance technology startups and early-stage tech firms. The insurance industry relies on data and the is ripe for automation. In this excellent analysis from Sønr and InsurTech Insights, a panel of expert judges pick the Top 50 from the European tech scene.  Source: Sonr

GM expects robo-taxi service to charge for rides next year

The car manufacturer has reported that they expect to run their Cruise robo-taxi service from 2022. Their goal is to reach $50B in revenue “over the next couple years.Source: Bloomberg

One of last year’s most significant iOS updates came in the form of App Tracking Transparency, which forces apps to ask whether or not users consent to their data and app usage behaviour being collected by third-party developers. The feature has been touted as a privacy saviour for iPhone owners and has been adopted by 96% of US iPhone users. However, the Wall Street Journal reported that many apps are simply ignoring Apple's new rules. Source: Input

Coinbase to propose a regulatory framework for crypto

The world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, with an 11.3% market share, is preparing the ground for proposals to US regulators. Meanwhile, Elon Musk told the Code Conference last week that it would be better for regulators to keep their hands off. Source: Tech Crunch


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