w/Issue #88 - 26th August 2022
Welcome to the 88th edition of the Wiser! - the newsletter that makes sense of what's happening in the tech economy. You're in good company too! Over 14k subscribers will get Wiser! this week!
This week, the big stories that have caught my attention are:
- TikTok has eyes on replacing Google as the king of search,
- A whistleblower spells trouble for Twitter ,
- The Tornado Cash debate rumbles on,
- Instagram's killer feature to take out BeReal,
- Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse PR excursion to Spain and France,
- Amazon’s 2022 spending spree continues,
- A new social media app that makes never ending videos,
🎙 Episode 7 of the Big Tech Little Tech podcast is out, and it’s another good one!
Plus, as always, you’ll find dozens of links and headlines and stories from across the tech economy.
First Facebook, Now TikTok Has Its Sights Set On Google
Hungry? TikTok has eaten Facebook’s lunch, now it wants a bite of Google's!
TikTok is to test a feature called “near-by” in its user feed. The idea is simple. To serve up relevant local content based on your geo-location.
Why? TikTok is already the preferred search engine for 40% of young people. That's according to Google's own research, that showed the young demographics prefer TikTok and Instagram for Google Search or Maps for local information.
- The move will strengthen the appeal of TikTok as as preferred search tool for kids who are spending on average 95 minutes a day on the app (compared to c75 mins for YouTube and zero for Facebook).
Here’s the thing: TikTok wants to offer more relevant, interesting and engaging search results than Google. By knowing exactly where you are, it can filter the results to be even better than they are today.
🎙 Big Tech Little Tech Episode #7
The latest episode of the Big Tech Little Tech podcast, co-host Shaun and I discuss the Amazon One payment system that uses your palm signature to authenticate transactions.
We also talk about the rising popularity of BeReal as a social media platform, the Xiaomi CyberOne humanoid robot, and the latest tech news.
Somehow, we get around to mentioning great drummers! Join us by using one of these links, or find us wherever you get your podcasts:
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Twitter Whistleblower Gives Elon Musk False Hope
Insider: A Twitter whistleblower has made some embarrassing allegations this week. He's known as Mudge, a renowned cyber security expert, the former Head of Security at Twitter and was one of the most senior execs at the firm.
Mudge was hired by Jack Dorsey in late 2020 and fired early this year by Parag Agrawal. Mudge had been brought in after the 2020 hack that saw many celebs and famous names have their Twitter accounts hacked. He’d been hired to fix a problem but only lasted just over a year.
- You might say he has a reason to be hacked off (pun intended!).
Anyhow: Mudge has made some astonishing claims about Twitter.
Instagram To Launch New Feature To Kill Off BeReal
Authentic: Last week I wrote a long article for Premium subscribers about BeReal. The Number 1 downloaded photo-sharing app with around 10 million Daily Active Users, up from just 10 thousand less than 18 months ago.
- It’s the app with momentum… and now it looks like it is getting some competition.
The news is that Instagram is testing a new feature called Candid Challenges, which looks very much like a clone of the selfie-sharing app.
🪞 And they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
Mark Zuckerberg Takes The Metaverse To France and Spain, And Gets Whacked!
Ouch: The Zuck is having a torrid time on social media. Last week, the Meta Facebook boss got roasted by BlenderBot3, his own AI chatbot for the Metaverse.
- This week, Meta Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of Horizon Worlds in France and Spain. (Horizon Worlds is the name of the Meta Facebook Metaverse.)
The thing is: The Zuck used a cartoon selfie that has been ripped to shreds across social media. It was even compared to a 2008 Wii game!
Remember: Meta has spent over $10 billion building their Metaverse. The consensus was that the quality of the graphics didn't match the promise of tomorrow’s immersive world for adults!
- Zuckerberg was quick to respond to the critics in an Instagram post, promising “Major updates to Horizon and avatar graphics coming soon.” He also posted an updated avatar.
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Amazon's Spending Spree
Buy, Buy, Buy: Amazon are on track to spend at least $20 billion this year on buying up businesses. That’s roughly 10 times how much it spent on corporate acquisitions in each of the last 3 years!
Their latest acquisition target is Signify Health, a health analytics company that had a market cap of $6.6 billion before the Amazon bid was made public. Signify's stock has seen a 30% uplift since. (Remember I wrote this about Amazon buying One Medical just a couple of weeks ago).
So far this year, Amazon's shopping spree includes:
- One Medical’s chain of walk-in clinics for $3.9 billion,
- iRobot, maker of the Roomba home robot vacuum cleaner for $1.7 billion, and
- MGM Studios for $8.6 billion.
Why are they doing it now?
They have the cash: Amazon had $60 billion in cash and marketable securities as of June 30th.
Prices are suppressed: Amazon is striking while asset prices are cheap in the current bear run. Timing is everything.
Organic growth is not enough: New CEO Andy Jassy, the man who replaced founder Jeff Bezos, has been in post for over a year now. If Amazon are to maintain their stellar P/E ratio of 50+, they have to continue growing top line revenue by 15-25% YoY. You can’t do that organically. So, it’s time for Jassy to impose his growth strategy.
Strategic: The $4 trillion US Healthcare market is a strategic target for Amazon. It’s big enough, ugly enough and disruptable enough to satisfy Amazon’s need for top line growth. (Your fat margin is my opportunity, and all that!)
But here’s the thing: Amazon have become a massive conglomerate. And they just keep getting massiver. And more disparate, from cloud computing to media and entertainment, from robotics to eCommerce. The list goes one.
The big question that investors will be asking themselves is “how much would the sum of the parts be worth if they broke up the Amazon conglomerate?” The answer is almost certainly “alot more than the sum of the whole!”
AWS Gone: My money is on Amazon Web Services being the first to be spun out of the Amazon conglomerate. And probably much sooner that you think!
- Peloton has announced an agreement to sell its products on Amazon. This is the first time Peloton will sell through a 3rd party and opens up an already interested market previously closed to it. Amazon report that there are around 500,000 searches for Peloton on its marketplace every week!). The stock popped 20% on the news, which is seen as a possible first step toward Amazon buying the entire company.
Debate Over Tornado Cash Sanctions Continue...
It's Just Code: Remember last week I wrote about Tornado Case, the computer code that anonymises financial transaction in the crypto space?
- IMHO, the US Treasury sanctioning computer code is a wrong move. Now it seems that a US lawmaker takes the same POV as me!
US Congressman Tom Emmer has written in a letter to Janet Yellan, the US Treasury Secretary, saying “the growing adoption of decentralised technology will raise new challenges” for regulators.
I rarely find a reason to side with a Republican politician, but on this occasion, I have.
Scarcity and Status: The Secret Sauce Driving NFTart
#6873: This Pudgy Penguin has just sold for 400 ETH (that’s over $600,000 in fiat money). I know, it sounds crazy. It does to me to.
But here’s the thing: It’s a collectible.
- Is this any more crazy than the 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card bought for $125,000 on eBay?
- Or the $2.3 million paid for the Treskilling Yellow Stamp (the most expansive postage stamp in the world)?
Because that’s the point, innit?
They all have 2 things in common. They are all scarce (the only 1 in existence). And they all convey status (look what I own).
That’s why NFTs are so appealing to a digital demographic...
The Social Media App That Makes Never Ending Videos
Flywheel Effect: Social media networks rely on collaboration and engagement to grow. It’s called the flywheel effect, namely, the more people that use the network, the more people it attracts to use the network and so it goes, on and on.
- Last week I wrote about BeReal and its novel approach to stimulating engagement amongst friendship groups.
Getting Along: This week I want to introduce you to another new app.
- This one is called Along.
It’s a video sharing app with a difference. Because, unlike videos on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, the videos on Along never end.
Along has removed all restrictions to allow never-ending collaboration videos with multiple creators. It is based on the concept of infinite videos called “tapes.”
Tapes: A creator can start a tape by recording a clip and later add as many clips as they want. They also can enable collaboration for a tape, so other creators can add their own videos on a similar theme. Once the original poster approves these collaborations, they’re added to the tape.
The idea is similar to the “Add This” feature that Meta recently rolled out to its short-form video offering called Reels. Except in Along’s case, users are collaborating on a video “tape,” curated by the original user, not simply contributing to a trend page.
The app is currently in private, invite-only testing.
📰 Headlines from the Tech Economy
- Dating app Bumble reported Q2 2022 earnings above estimates with revenue up 18% YoY to $220.5 million. But it also reported losses continue with a net loss of $6.4 million. Bumble is developing a new “communities” offering called “Hive,” which may include support for features like group chat, polls and video calls. (Remember how Clubhouse is turning into a Communities platform…the emphasis on the current buzzword of the moment “Communities”)
- Apple’s big security bug issue broke as I was putting last week's Wiser! to bed. I thought it might be a bigger story than it turned out to be, given how security is a key differentiator for the Apple brand. It turns out that nobody got hurt and everythings alright on the night.
- They’ve made a movie about Blackberry. Based on the 2016 book called, appropriately, “Losing the Signal”, it tells the story of the spectacular rise and fall of the number 1 smartphone in the world, courtesy of Steve Jobs and the iPhone in 2007.
- Ukraine has detailed how it spent $54 million of its crypto donations in the war effort.
- In Nigeria, 840,000 people have downloaded the wallet for the nation's Central Bank Digital Currency. Unlike crypto, a CBDC is real money but in a digital format. And unlike cashless payments with your debit card or iPhone, it's YOUR money, not someone else's borrowed to make the trade.
- The EU is set to make a final decision related to a privacy complaint regarding Instagram’s handling of children’s data in the region. The decision is expected at the end of August, with a hard deadline of the first week of September.
- Google’s quantum computer has been cracked by an algorithm running on a standard machine.
- Mastercard and Visa are stepping up on Bitcoin payments. Interestingly, they’re starting South America first. MasterCard is working with Binance to enable Bitcoin payments in +90 million stores worldwide, starting in Argentina. Meanwhile VISA has launched a pre-paid Bitcoin card in Brazil that also pays Bitcoin rewards.
Thanks to James Hirst for sharing this story in the Slack #Watercooler:
Interesting Read: BITCOIN IS A BETTER STORE OF VALUE THAN REAL ESTATE
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