Wiser! #91: Ethereum's Merge happens, signalling a major change in the evolution of the new tech economy. Meanwhile, old tech giant Google loses in court and lands a $4.1 billion fine. BigTech's leaders go to Code. Thunderbirds made into NFTs and is TikTok a propaganda machine?
w/Wiser! #91 - Friday 16th September
Hello Wiser! readers and a happy Friday to you! A special welcome to all the new subscribers who signed up for Wiser! this week.
This week I'm covering:
- the biggest story of the year in crypto and why it matters,
- Google's $4.1 billion fine from the EU, a week after Facebook's record fine!
- Big Tech's leaders converged in California. What did we learn?
- Thunderbirds are Go! (Well, NFTs are Go! really).
- TikTok's domination of the attention economy, and the growing concern that it's a weapon for espionage and mind manipulation by the Chinese Communist Party,
- And the Elon Musk Twitter soap opera releases episode #149 as we get closer to the season finale on October 17th!
Plus: in the latest episode from Big Tech Little Tech, Shaun and I look at Apple's consumer products. There are 2 new videos on the YouTube channel, inc a look at the Metaverse and NFTs with James Hirst.
As always, there's a ton of news headlines from across tech, some tips and tricks, and other stories, content and stuff I think you'll find interesting and of value.
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Ethereum Completes The Merge
Big News: If you're wondering why this week's lead story is about The Merge, it's because it's the biggest crypto story of the year.
Here's Why: Cryptocurrency gets a hard time because of the amount of electricity it consumes powering the computers that "mine", i.e, make, cryptocurrency.
- Mining uses as much energy as all the nation’s home computer usage combined (between 0.9% and 1.7% of total electricity use) and creates as much greenhouse gas emissions as the diesel fuel used in the country's railroad system.
Changing The Way Crypto Works: "The Merge" is the name for Ethereum successfully transitioning to a new way of working.
Save The Planet: The move positions the Ethereum as environmentally friendly as well as being a step towards greater scalability and economic sustainability for the second largest network in crypto, after Bitcoin.
- Ethereum will reduce its energy consumption by 99.95%
Jargon: In technical terms, Ethereum has changed the way it works.
- Instead of Proof of Work, a blockchain consensus mechanism that is run by miners, Ethereum will now achieve the same end-game using a mechanism based on "validators" called Proof of Stake. (Validators are responsible for verifying transactions to keep the network running.)
Here's The Thing: Bitcoin stands alone in the scrutiny/criticism of cryptocurrency's green credentials. The problem for the Bitcoin protocol is that it can't change from PoW to PoS the way that Ethereum has.
As the realities of climate change increasing draw closer every day, there's now clear blue water between the two very different ways of doing crypto.
Whilst Bitcoin was the first and is still the largest crypto by a country mile, Ethereum now has a clear differentiator for a crypto community that sees far more utility in the Ethereum network than in Bitcoin.
- Understanding the cost of Bitcoin mining. (I wrote this in May of last year).
🎙 Big Tech Little Tech #9
In the latest episode, Shaun and I discuss the recent Apple "Far Out" event, called Far Out, in which Apple updated the iPhone, the Apple Watch and AirPods.
We also discuss Meta’s largest ever EU fine, Canoo EVs, wearables stats, and what Shaun would take on his desert island.
Code2022: Some Of The Biggest Names In BigTech Converge in California
BigNames: At Code2022 last week, an annual gathering of the Kara Swisher fan club, the great and the good from Big Tech came together in California.
As a signed up member of the Swisher fan base, I loved following the 3 day event from afar. It's a reflection on Swisher's standing as a tech journalist that she is able to pull in the likes of Apple CEO Tim Cook, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel and a host of other big names from the world of BigTech.
Sadly, this is Swisher's last Code as the host. Here's a selection of the key moments:
- Apple CEO Tim Cook talks about Steve Jobs' perspective on privacy.
- Steve Jobs was surprised to be "so relevant" with the iPod Nano.
- "Buy your mum an iPhone"
- Why does Alphabet spend $15 billion with Apple?
- “None of us were talking about TikTok three years ago.”
- CEO Andy Jassy unwilling to accept the outcome of the historic union election that marked the first win by a union at an Amazon warehouse US.
- Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen explained how Facebook has failed to learn their lesson.( The case against Facebook is that their share price was over inflated because investors and users did not know what they needed to know about the world's largest social network.)
- The CEO of Snap didn't speak on the most recent Snap earnings call?
- CEO Evan Spiegal isn't selling Snap.
- Mathias Döpfner, CEO Axel Springer, shares why he thinks TikTok should be banned internationally. (See more on this at the end of the newsletter.)
- How Disney nearly bought Twitter, and they decided not too.
Big Tech Regulations
- Senator Amy Klobuchar's advice to BigTech...stop coming up with “bullshit” excuses.
- “You need some kind of rules in place where you don’t have the gatekeepers also controlling who wins in the marketplace”
- 40,000 people were killed in car accidents in America last year. Pete Buttigieg says, "If we were in a world where all cars were self-driving and they killed 10,000 people per year, it would be a 75% reduction."
- This is going to happen.
USA - Scott Galloway
- In one month in 2022 the US will produce as much economic output as they did in the whole of 1950.
- The abysmal state of healthcare in America.
- Mark Cuban talks about his disruptive move in pharmaceutical distribution.
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Google Loses Appeal Against Mega EU Anti-Trust Fine
$4.1 Billion: That's the size of the fine the EU has won again Alphabet/Google.
- The money will go into the EU's coffers after the Court of Appeal upheld the 2018 ruling in the anti-trust lawsuit against Google.
- At the heart of the matter was Google’s abuse of its market position by forcing phone makers to pre-install Google apps on their Android phones.
Ouch! There's no denying that this is a serious blow for Google. Not so much because of the size fine as much as the way it changes Google's business model.
On the flip side, the win strengthens the position of the EU’s antitrust advocates, led by Margrethe Vestager. It's a decision that will be watched closely by US regulators, FTC Chair Lina Khan and US lawmakers like Amy Klobuchar.
Block and Tackle: Google’s main line of defence was that it is not a monopoly. Users can go with iOS, right? It’s the same defence that Apple use when it is defending against anti trust. Users can go with Android, right?
But the reality is that there is a duopoly in smartphones. It’s a 2-horse race in a market of around 6.6 billion smartphones dominated by Apple and Alphabet's Android.
Wiser! On YouTube
I loaded up 2 videos this week to the Wiser! YouTube channel.
1) Metaverse and NFTs in conversation with James Hirst
In this episode of Wiser!, I am joined by James Hirst, founder of The Intelligent Brief, an AI creativity startup, to talk metaverse, NFTs and emerging utility of what we broadly call Web3.
2) Wiser! #33 - Apple, Meta, TikTok
#33 features Apple's Unfair Advantage, Meta's largest ever fine, and 3 reasons why TikTok is as addictive as playing the slot machines. Watch it here.
100 Brands in the Metaverse
Thunderbirds are Go! ITV Studios have launched a series of NFTs for the iconic 1960s TV series, Thunderbirds.
A collection of 1,000 digital assets is now available on OpenSea, including a Digital Pass to join the project’s community, aka the International Rescue Club.
- And get this, NFT holders will be able to attend real-life “Rescue Missions”, which means I'll be able to get my Virgil Tracy outfit out of the loft one more time!
Fans Love Collecting: fans have always loved collecting collectables. There's nothing new here.
But what is new is that an NFT enables the "collectible" to come as a smart contract. This means the seller/issuer can build a whole new layer of benefits and features and personalise them inside a digital asset.
Ubiquitous Technology: Some day, sooner rather than later, everything will be a digital asset. Which means that NFTs are, IMHO, the most likely technology to hold them.
NFTs are here to stay. Check this out...👇
🤖 Use AI Writing Tools To Do The Heavy Lifting
Do you ever need to summarise an interesting, long-form article without going through the effort of doing it yourself? Like, when your boss can’t be arsed to read it themselves and they dump it on you to do it for them. Well, here’s a hack you’ll find useful (and one that I use myself).
Check out Quillbot’s Summariser Tool. There’s a free and a paid version and you have options to adjust how you want the summary presented for you.
🐦 Create Better Tweets
Typefully is a must-have for Twitter creators who are serious about crafting quality content and engaging their audiences meaningfully.
Twitter Shareholders Approve Musk's Takeover Offer
All Stations Are Go: Twitter shareholders have given the thumbs up to Elon Musk’s takeover bid...even though Musk doesn’t want to go through with it!
This week, Twitter's shareholders (inc yours truly) officially gave the green light for Elon Musk’s $44 billion takeover to go through.
Coincidentally, the shareholder vote came on the same day that former Twitter security executive Peiter “Mudge” Zatko testified before Congress about Twitter’s alleged security flaws.
Mudge’s allegations include:
- foreign spies (Chinese) are employed at Twitter,
- “an employee could take over the accounts of all the senators in this room.”
- Twitter's security is a shambles.
I wrote about it here...
Court of Chancery: Here's the thing, this is all going to come down to the Delaware Court of Chancery next month.
A judge will decide if Musk has to go through with his $44 billion takeover, which I think is a dead cert that he is going to have to (unless he sees the writing on the wall and buys his way out before hand). Ouch!
- Twitter is to expand its fact-checking programme, called ‘Birdwatch’. The invite-only programme is adding 1,000 users to Birdwatch ahead of the US midterm elections to combat false facts on the network.
- Someone is digging for dirt on the Twitter whistleblower. Whoever’s behind it is willing to pay...but his former colleagues are keeping schtum.
- US bans sale of Nvidia and AMD chips to China.
- Facebook has been spying on American users' private communications and data and reporting them to the FBI if they show anti-government or anti-authority views, according to DOJ officials.
- US Treasury Department released guidance on how Americans can withdraw their funds from Tornado Cash. I wrote about Tornado Cash here and here.
- Zoom to launch Email and Calendar products to compete with Microsoft and Google.
- Starbucks rolls out a blockchain-based loyalty platform and NFT community, called Starbucks Odyssey.
- MicroStrategy plans to buy more Bitcoin. (I made this YouTube about putting Bitcoin on the balance sheet.)
- Tesla accused of making deceptive claims about its self-driving technology.
- Microsoft's acquisition of Activision faces further scrutiny from UK regulators.
- Paris is clamping down on dark stores for one-hour grocery delivery. Meanwhile, ex-Uber founder, Travis Kalanick is expanding his dark kitchen/dark store model across Latin America. (I wrote this about Dark Kitchens and Kalanick.)
- $48 Billion: The global market for natural catastrophe insurance is set to grow from $35 billion by 2026, according to Swiss Re.
- 660 Million: That's the size of the population decline for China over the next 75 years or so, i.e., nearly half its population. South Korea, Japan, and several European countries, are set to shed a similar percentage.
- 3 Trillion: That's how many photos Apple say were taken on iPhones last year. For comparison, according to Kodak, consumers took about 80 billion photos in 1999 at the peak of camera film.
- 76%: The share of Americans who have used PayPal, Venmo, Zelle or Cash App.
Just The Markets
- Oracle came up short on Q1 profit expectations but reported 18% revenue growth on their $28 billion acquisition of Cerner.
- Peloton co-founders John Foley and Hisao Kushi will leave the company in a broad executive shakeup.
- Adobe to buy collaborative design platform Figma for $20 billion.
- How many people are in Space right now. And I mean, right now!
- Nike's sneaker cleaning robot looks like a car wash for shoes.
- Memorising Google Maps is easier than you think
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Instagram Struggles to Repeat TikTok’s Success.
Beaten: The Wall Street Journal has reported a leaked internal study from Meta FaceBook into the creator economy.
- The report concluded that Instagram's Reels lags far behind TikTok in both popularity and engagement.
Here's the thing: When it comes to younger demographic, TikTok is bossing it!
- Under-18s are spending more time on TikTok than on every other streaming platform combined!
Just compared to Instagram, TikTok users are watching 197.8 million hours a day on TikTok, compared to only 17.6 million hours being watched on Reels. (That's over 11x more time on TikTok than on Instagram!)
The issue is partly the addictive dynamics of TikTok (read this), and partly because less than 20% of the creators on Instagram post anything each month.