Wiser! #92: TikTok's anti-China narrative. Biden's crypto consultations. Peloton's brand crisis. AWS v Microsoft cloud. Brand strategy in the Metaverse.
w/Wiser! #92 - Friday 23rd September
Hello Wiser! readers and welcome to a new Friday! Did you watch the Queen's funeral on Monday? I've always loved pomp and ceremony and nowhere in the world does it as well as London does. I thought it was a magnificent and fitting send-off for Her Majesty.
Now the UK has a new monarch, King Charles III. I'm no anti-Royalist, but I have a strong feeling that Charles's reign is going to be a rocky one. Anyway, back to the world of tech...
This week I'm covering:
- A new law in California to protect kids online,
- Peloton's troubles and how they've got it all wrong with the launch of their latest product, a rowing machine (for premium subscribers),
- President Biden's calls for a public consultation on crypto regs,
- TikTok and the anti-China narrative,
- Brand strategy in the Metaverse
- Amazon v Microsoft, who has the biggest cloud?
Plus: the latest videos on the Wiser! YouTube channel, a ton of headlines, productivity suggestions, and other stuff I think you'll find interesting and of value.
Big News: It's finally here! Brand Strategy For The Metaverse will be made available next Wednesday (28th) to Premium Subscribers. It's a comprehensive collection of brand strategy projects in the NFT, metaverse, crypto space. I don't think there's anything like it out there!
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California Passes Bill To Protect Children Online.
Safeguards: The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act is intended to safeguard young people online.
"we know that certain Big Tech social media companies design their products to addict kids, and a significant number of those kids suffer serious harm as a result… such as depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, eating disorders.” Jordan Cunningham, California Assembly.
Many, including me, say it's about time. It's been a decade since Facebook went mobile, introduced the Like button and enabled the explosive growth of social media.
It's also a period that has seen a steady rise in mental health rates amongst young people.
- A seven-year study by the Employee Benefits Research Institute found that while Under-25's only make up 36% of the population, they accounted for 42% of spending on mental health and substance abuse treatment (2020) versus only 20% of overall health care spending.
- In March 2022, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared the mental health crisis among children a national emergency.
- In 2017, British researchers asked 1,500 teens to rate how social media platforms affected them for anxiety, loneliness, body image, and sleep. Instagram scored as the most harmful.
- Facebook’s own research, leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen, identified issues with Instagram impacting the mental health of teenage girls,
- An experiment for Science Direct had young women spend 7 minutes on Instagram or Facebook. The researchers found that “those who used Instagram, but not Facebook, showed decreased body satisfaction, decreased positive affect, and increased negative affect.”
Here's The Thing: None of this is concrete evidence to show causation. However, IMHO, the BigTech firms know there is a link between social media usage and the mental health of young people.
The young brain has simply not developed the capacity to handle rejection, judgement, disappointment and criticism in the way it is amplified on social media. And yet BigTech firms have been allowed to use technology to play on normal human behaviours to fuel their advertising cash generating machines.
Until Now: The California law will impact how youngsters in the American state use social media from 2024. The law requires tech firms to build applications with kids' "best interests" in mind and to be proactive rather than reactive. By kids, I mean any user under the age of 18.
The new law also requires firms to design their platforms so that children's data isn't secretly captured. These products may not allow kids to share or receive messages from strangers. They may be banned from accessing service features.
- Is Instagram to Blame for the Rise in Self-Harm Amongst Teenage Girls?
- Facebook v TikTok: The Battle for Attention and Addiction
- TikTok, Teenage Girls, Eating-Disorders and the Curious Rise in TikTok Tics
US Treasury Asks for Public Input to Shape Crypto Regulations
Ask The Public: The US Treasury has invited public opinion on how digital assets are being used in crime and what the government can do about it.
The call for feedback attempts to address risks linked with digital assets, following President Joe Biden's March executive order when he ordered multiple government agencies to consult on the impact of digital assets, ie, crypto, stablecoins, CBDCs, DeFi and NFTs.
Criminality: The increased usage of digital assets in financial activities raises the danger of money laundering, terrorism, fraud, theft, and corruption, according to the Treasury. Now that the various Agencies have spoken, the Biden administration has turned to the wider public looking for answers.
- This public consultation lists 23 questions on a variety of issues, including the hazards presented by NFTs and what the government can do to prevent DeFi-related criminality.
Here's The Thing: On the one hand there are plenty of reasons to be concerned that something must be done to regulate the wild west of web3. On the other, the question of "what is that?" looms large.
- Regulate too soon or too tightly and risk squeezing the innovation lifeblood from the nascent stages of the Web3 evolution. Or act too late or not enough and risk Joe Public getting burnt by scammers and fraudsters.
- Not to mention the systemic implications of getting it wrong, as is the case in the definition of a "security". (The SEC claim that all of Ethereum is under its jurisdiction due to the location of validators, in a court case stemming from a 2018 incident.)
IMHO: Regulations are best when they are implemented after the event. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the logic is that (a) nobody can get regulations right based on a million theoretical what-ifs, and (b) whatever regulations are in place, bad people will find a way around them anyway.
- So, it's best to react to what has happened rather than preempt what might be. It's not perfect.
For links to the first tranche of US Gov reports for President Biden's crypto exec order, check out my tweet thread...
Brand Strategy For The Metaverse
Next Wednesday, Premium Subscribers will have access to, IMHO, the most comprehensive collection of big brand projects in the Metaverse. I've spent over 100 hours pulling together examples of NFT projects, early forays into the Metaverse, and the testing consumer appetite for crypto and Web3 engagement.
The Collection includes descriptions, images, tweets and numerous links to source material. The Collection is indexed by market sector, brand name and the technology used.
Premium Subscribers will have access to the Collection from Wednesday 28th September. Here's a short example of what you can expect...
Brands Using NFTs for Event Ticketing
Here's a great example of NFT ticketing.
Coachella: This is a music and arts festival held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, about two and a half hours east of Los Angeles. Dozens of bands continuously play to a quarter of million attendees over two three-day weekends in April amid art installations, gourmet and lowbrow food options, dance parties, games, a vintage market, a record shop and a Ferris wheel.
- For this year's Coachella, all attendees were given a free "In Bloom Seed" NFT minted on the Solana blockchain and accessed via the organiser's app.
Smart Contracts: Here's how it worked. On the Friday morning of each festival weekend, all owners saw their seed blossom into a desert flower designed exclusively for Weekend 1 and Weekend 2 of Coachella 2022.
- The commemorative flower NFT was used to redeem unique festival benefits, such as dedicated entry lines, limited edition Coachella merchandise, and food and drink vouchers.
Flexibility: Other NFT ticketing options included Coachella Keys. These are NFTs that grant lifetime passes to the festival. They come with unique experiences like front row access, lifetime safari camping, or a dinner prepared by a professional chef in the Rose Garden. A lifetime VIP Key starts at $1 million…
Read more in Brand Strategy For The Metaverse (out on Sept 28th.)
Is TikTok A Weapon For The CCP?
Influence: TikTok commands the time and attention of the most influenceable demographic in society (young people). It also happens to be a Chinese tech company.
- The fact that Facebook has commanded the time and attention of the influenceable for the past decade appears to be overlooked. After all, Facebook is not a Chinese company, it's an American one. Nonetheless, there's a growing voice raising questions and concerns about TikTok and the potential for influence from the CCP over this cohort.
Here's The Thing: IMHO, this Western narrative is misplaced anyway. Not because it's focused on China but because there seems to be more concern about "data" than on "content." There's a preoccupation with "who can see my data" that distracts from the bigger question of "who decides what my kids get to see."
In this YouTube I look at the growing narrative that TikTok is a vehicle for the Chinese Communist Party to spy on and exert influence over the West, manipulating the thoughts, opinions and attitudes of younger generations.
I include footage from Scott Galloway, Mathias Dopfner, and last week's US Senate Homeland Security hearings with TikTok's COO Vanessa Pappas.
I wrote about it here too...(🔒)
Which Tech Giant is Bigger in Cloud: Microsoft or Amazon?
It Depends: According to Gartner, Amazon Web Services ("AWS") has 39% of the global cloud-infrastructure market compared to Microsoft’s 21%.
- However, Microsoft says total revenue for “Microsoft Cloud” was $91 billion in the year to June, which is significantly more than AWS’ $72 billion for the same 12-month period.
- But the “Microsoft Cloud" revenue number includes contributions from many different parts of Microsoft, everything from its Azure cloud-services “infrastructure” unit to applications such as Office 365 and most of LinkedIn.
Disclosure: The fact is that Microsoft doesn’t disclose Azure’s actual revenue number.
- In contrast, Amazon Web Services' revenue number is all cloud. AWS is essentially all infrastructure, selling data storage and compute power, with little in the way of applications.
They All Do It: Microsoft are not alone when it comes to reporting apps usage in the cloud revenue numbers. Google do it too, including applications services, such as word processing, human-resources tools, and email.
Oracle used to be in that camp as well but last week it began breaking out cloud infrastructure from applications, giving investors a better window into its performance.
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- Apple may move a quarter of iPhone production to India by 2025, according to JP Morgan.
- Apple is to raise App Store prices in certain countries in Europe and Asia starting October 5, a likely reaction to a strengthening Dollar.
- Twitter’s lawyers will depose Elon Musk on September 26 and 27, according to a report from Bloomberg.
- Meanwhile, Elon Musk is floating plans to deploy thousands of Optimus humanoid robots, aka Tesla Bots. (Watch This.)
- In a bid to compete with the way TikTok compensates creators, YouTube will share ad revenue with creators who make short-form videos using YouTube Shorts.
- New research from Mozilla shows that YouTube users have little control over what content is recommended to them.
- The Federal Trade Commission is investigating Amazon’s $1.7 billion purchase of iRobot, maker of the popular Roomba vacuum cleaner.
- Nasdaq is launching a new crypto division that will provide custodial services for institutional investors trading bitcoin and ether.
- Revolut has been hit by a cyberattack, likely the work of a phishing campaign, that ended up exposing the personal data of tens of thousands of users.
- So has Uber. The ride-hailing giant's computer systems were breached last week.
- Spotify has launched an audiobook streaming service with over 300,000 titles. What's unique is that every title is individually priced, just like in a bookstore. Spotify intends this to be one of the "key differentiators and competitive advantages of its service.”
- Spotify has also opened Planet Hip-Hop, a futuristic hip-hop universe inside the Spotify Island experience in Roblox.
- Peloton’s new rowing machine is finally here.
- MicroStrategy bought more bitcoin, and now has 130,000 coins in its stash. That's 1 in 161 Bitcoin in circulation today.
- Starlink arrives in Antarctica. SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service is now potentially available on all seven continents.
- Palantir ranked No. 1 in worldwide artificial intelligence software study in market share and revenue by IDC.
- 70%: Percentage of Roblox usage that is played on a mobile device (compared to a desktop).
- $6 billion: The amount YouTube paid to music right-holders last year (the total global physical market was only $5 billion!).
- $71 billion: This is how much Mark Zuckerberg's wealth has dropped in the last year since pivoting Facebook into the Metaverse.
- 46: The number of US states that have asked an appeals court to reinstate the antitrust lawsuit against MetaFacebook.
- Podcast conversation: Implications of the Ethereum Merge for Web3, with Justin Drake of The Ethereum Foundation (link here)
- Since June 2016, China’s police have conducted a mass DNA collection program in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
- How TikTok used its watermark to fend off Instagram.
- Parler’s pivot from social app to service provider for the “uncancellable economy”.
This is thanks to a tiny, stent-like implant in his brain that interprets brainwaves and translates them into mouse clicks, swipes and emails.
The man was the first to receive such an implant in America, marking a watershed moment in the evolution of brain-computer interfaces (BCI). The pioneer is Tom Oxley, an Australian doctor and founder of New York start-up Synchron. Source: Michael Spencer
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Let me tell you about a summer project I have just completed with Sophia, the daughter of some very good friends of mine. It has nothing to do with Wiser!, big tech or the Metaverse!
It was a project for Sophia to learn about researching, thinking and understanding. She's just turned 13 and started senior school this week. It was a bit of fun, we enjoyed making it and Sophia learnt a few thinks along the way. I hope you like it.
Can Peloton's Rowing Machine Save The Sinking Ship?
It's finally here! After much hype and a ton of teasers, Peloton have unveiled the "Row", their new, premium priced $3,195 rowing machine (and don't forget the $44/month subscription charge!).
- Row is a product that's priced substantially above the highly-popular competition. Which begs the question, "who/what do Peloton want to be?" A luxury, high product (think Ferrari) or a mass market premium product (think Apple).
- Peloton is drowning in inventory it can't sell. It is sitting on over $1 billion worth of inventory whilst demand for its bikes and treadmills has collapsed. Peloton's hardware revenue declined by 55% year over year in the fourth quarter to $295 million.
- The company is losing money hand over fist! The net loss for the last full year was a staggering $2.8 billion on $3.6 billion of revenue. With the collapse in demand for new bikes and treadmills, which drives the subscription numbers, Peloton's numbers will almost certainly get worse before they get better.