Thursday, May 24, 2018

Apple, Spurned by Others, Signs Deal With Volkswagen for Driverless Cars - The New York Times

For another self-driving car realty check, see Disrupters Don’t Stand a Chance Against Car Companies (Bloomberg)

"Apple once had grand aspirations to build its own electric self-driving car and lead the next generation of transportation. Over time, the tech giant’s ambitions ran into reality.

So Apple curtailed its original vision, first by focusing on software for self-driving cars and then by working solely on an autonomous shuttle for its own use with employees. Now, the tech giant has settled for an auto partner that was not its first choice."
Apple, Spurned by Others, Signs Deal With Volkswagen for Driverless Cars - The New York Times

Elon Musk Tweet Storm Blames Big Oil for Negative Tesla Reports - Bloomberg

Tangentially, see Trump admitted he attacks press to shield himself from negative coverage, Lesley Stahl says (The Washington Post)

"Musk, 46, was riled by a Robert W. Baird analyst report that said “increasingly immaterial” headlines were dominating Tesla news cycles. The first of his tweets spurred reactions from several journalists who compared Musk with President Donald Trump.

“Thought you’d say that,” Musk wrote back to a reporter for tech website The Verge. “Anytime anyone criticizes the media, the media shrieks ‘You’re just like Trump!’ Why do you think he got elected in the first place? Because no ones believes you any more. You lost your credibility a long time ago.”

Like Trump, Musk communicates directly to a massive Twitter audience -- about 21.8 million followers, to be precise -- and has been combative and defensive with the media for years. Another tendency he shares with the president is his lack of regard for convention"
Elon Musk Tweet Storm Blames Big Oil for Negative Tesla Reports - Bloomberg

Google employees are being targeted with this ad urging them to consider their role in making search rankings more fair - Recode

A deeply nested digital advertising campaign; also see Yelp wants the EU to launch new antitrust charges against Google (Engadget)

"Many campaigns that push for regulating Google are aimed at regulators. But here’s one that’s targeted at the company’s collective conscience — its employees.

A coalition called Focus on the User, led by Yelp and TripAdvisor, has started “significant social media ad buys” targeting Google employees with a new video, according to a coalition rep. The ad asks Google workers to consider their role in making Google’s search-ranking practices more fair.

The video claims that Google gives “preferential treatment to some of its own content,” such as local listings. (Thus the interest from Yelp and TripAdvisor.) The argument: Instead of Google showing the most relevant results, the company sidesteps its own algorithm to show you only “what Google wants you see” — often, Google’s own content."
Google employees are being targeted with this ad urging them to consider their role in making search rankings more fair - Recode

Trump’s Twitter account violated the First Amendment. Here’s what that means for the rest of Twitter. - The Washington Post

On a related note, see ‘Too inconvenient’: Trump goes rogue on phone security (Politico)

"What about Trump's own First Amendment rights? Don't those guarantee him the ability to treat his followers the way he wants?

Trump didn't give up his First Amendment rights by becoming president, the judge said, but upon taking office he gained a number of other constitutional responsibilities — such as not engaging in governmental viewpoint discrimination that's prohibited by the First Amendment.

“No government official — including the President — is above the law,” wrote Buchwald for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Again, private entities such as Twitter are not subject to this expectation. But government officials like Trump are."
Trump’s Twitter account violated the First Amendment. Here’s what that means for the rest of Twitter. - The Washington Post

Getting a Flood of G.D.P.R.-Related Privacy Policy Updates? Read Them - The New York Times

Check the full article for a timely GDPR + privacy reality check

"You have probably noticed a flood of emails and alerts from companies in the last few weeks informing you about changes to their privacy policies.

Don’t ignore them.

Yes, there is a lot of legalese to wade through. But resist the temptation to immediately delete those emails or close the alerts right away. They may contain important information about managing your digital privacy at a time when it’s become clear that our online data is far from safe."
Getting a Flood of G.D.P.R.-Related Privacy Policy Updates? Read Them - The New York Times

Exclusive: Facebook Opens Up About False News | WIRED

Also see How Facebook Wants to Improve the Quality Of Your News Feed for a related interview

"The central message of the film is that Facebook really does care profoundly about false news. The company was slow to realize the pollution building up in News Feed, but now it is committed to cleaning it up. Not only does Facebook care, it’s got young, dedicated people who are on it. They’re smart, too. John Hegeman, who now runs News Feed, helped build the Vickrey-Clark-Groves auction system for Facebook advertising, which has turned it into one of the most profitable businesses of all time.

The question for Facebook, though, is no longer whether it cares. The question is whether the problem can be solved. News Feed has been tuned, for years, to maximize our attention and in many ways our outrage. The same features that incentivized publishers to create clickbait are the ones that let false news fly. News Feed has been nourishing the sugar plantations for a decade. Can it really help grow kale, or even apples?"
Exclusive: Facebook Opens Up About False News | WIRED

Facebook’s plan to stop revenge porn may be even creepier than revenge porn - Vox

Also see Facebook is expanding its unconventional approach to combating revenge porn (The Verge) and this Facebook Safety post

"Facebook’s program launched experimentally in Australia in November 2017, and expanded on May 22, 2018, to the US, the UK, and Canada. It requires those who wish to avoid being victims of revenge porn to act preemptively, before they become targets — by submitting their own nude photographs to Facebook. The idea is that Facebook can then digitally fingerprint the submitted image and block its potential future spread.

But the potential problems with this procedure are numerous. Though members of the public objected to the basic idea of the program back in November, the announcement of its spread has renewed public scrutiny about its harmful potential — and for good reason."
Facebook’s plan to stop revenge porn may be even creepier than revenge porn - Vox

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

No one’s ready for GDPR - The Verge

Two days to go... On a related note, see Apple launches new privacy portal, users can download a copy of everything Apple knows about them (9to5Mac)
"After four years of deliberation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was officially adopted by the European Union in 2016. The regulation gave companies a two-year runway to get compliant, which is theoretically plenty of time to get shipshape. The reality is messier. Like term papers and tax returns, there are people who get it done early, and then there’s the rest of us.

In today’s meeting with the European Parliament, Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook would be GDPR compliant by the deadline, but if so, the company would be in the minority. “Very few companies are going to be 100 percent compliant on May 25th,” says Jason Straight, an attorney and chief privacy officer at United Lex, a company that sets up GDPR compliance programs for businesses. “Companies, especially US companies, are definitely scrambling here in the last month to get themselves ready.” In a survey of over 1,000 companies conducted by the Ponemon Institute in April, half of the companies said they won’t be compliant by the deadline. When broken down by industry, 60 percent of tech companies said they weren’t ready."
No one’s ready for GDPR - The Verge

Apple invites press to WWDC 2018 keynote, iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 unveil expected | 9to5Mac

In other Apple product speculation, see Next Generation iPhone Chips Go Into Production (Bloomberg)

"iOS 12, macOS 10.14, tvOS 12, watchOS 5, and possibly improvements to Siri and HomePod are expected. Apple typically releases developer betas of its new iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV software the same day, followed by public beta versions a few weeks later and final releases later in September.

Last year Apple’s WWDC opening keynote also included the launch of new MacBook Pros and iMacs as well as a preview of the iMac Pro and HomePod. Hardware expectations this year are slim with a Retina 13-inch MacBook rumored for later in the year, but we’ll find out more in a few short weeks."
Apple invites press to WWDC 2018 keynote, iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 unveil expected | 9to5Mac

Starbucks’s mobile payments system has more users than Apple’s, Google’s - Recode

Pay different

"By the end of this year, a quarter of U.S. smartphone users — 55 million people — over the age of 14 will make an in-store mobile payment. More than 40 percent of those people will have done so through Starbucks’s mobile payments app, according to new data from research firm eMarketer.

The Starbucks app, which launched before the other three top payments apps — Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay — has long been the most successful payments app. It’s likely going to maintain that lead over the next few years.

The Starbucks app lets users pay with their phones and earn credits toward future purchases. That usage is significant: Starbucks said its mobile order-and-pay system accounted for 12 percent of all U.S. transactions in the quarter ended April 1."
Starbucks’s mobile payments system has more users than Apple’s, Google’s - Recode

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Gets an Earful From the E.U. - The New York Times

Also see European lawmakers told Mark Zuckerberg they could regulate — or break up — Facebook (The Washington Post)

"“It is time to discuss breaking Facebook’s monopoly,” said Manfred Weber, a German lawmaker and the leader of the European People’s Party, which makes up the biggest bloc in Parliament. He added that the company had “too much power.”

Another member asked if Mr. Zuckerberg wanted to be remembered in the same high regard as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, or for undermining democracy. In all, nearly a dozen lawmakers spoke, each with multiple questions, some of them very detailed and pointed about issues such as online bullying and election interference."
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Gets an Earful From the E.U. - The New York Times

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Facebook management moves around but people don’t leave - Recode

From an extensive Facebook executive management profile; tangentially, see Tech Companies Embark on a New Apology Tour (Bloomberg)
"It’s sometimes hard to grasp Facebook’s massive scale. The site has more than 2.2 billion users worldwide. In fact, there are nearly as many people who actively use Facebook every month as there are followers of Christianity. Facebook’s 2017 revenue — around $40 billion — was more than the GDP of about 100 different countries. It’s not an exaggeration to think that second- and third-tier Facebook executives have a chance to impact more lives than most of the world’s elected politicians.

That impact has never been more apparent than it is right now. When Facebook’s data policies were exposed during the company’s recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, it affected tens of millions of people (so far). Even the notion that Facebook ads could have affected the 2016 election is a testament to the company’s influence.

We’ve seen this realization wash over Zuckerberg, who has publicly promised to “take a broader view of our responsibility.” But others in Facebook’s upper management believe the same."
Facebook management moves around but people don’t leave - Recode

'Pew Pew' Goes the Blockchain - Bloomberg

More on pew-pew industry dynamics

"We talk a lot around here about the blockchain for banking, and one obvious thing about the blockchain for banking is that it goes pew-pew. You can bring senior executives into a room and tell them that you’re upgrading the infrastructure that you use to reconcile trade settlement data with counterparties, and their eyes will glaze over and they will start nodding off, and you can shout “blockchain! blockchain! blockchain blockchain blockchain!” and they will perk up and hand you a stack of money. The blockchain is exciting in ways that improving database architecture is not. (For reasons that are obscure to me, frankly. I get the pew-pew maps! It is cool when you can move things around on giant wall-mounted touch screens. “The blockchain” lacks that sort of tangible sci-fi experience.) 

But the point is that in a modern economy, actually making stuff work is only part of the job. The other part of the job is performing that making-stuff-workiness to customers and executives. If your goal is to hire engineers to write code to protect your accounts from hackers, first you have to hire different engineers to build maps that shoot lasers, and show the laser maps to executives, to convince the executives to give you money to hire the real engineers to do the real work. (It's easy to hire the laser engineers because, one, fake laser maps are fairly commoditized, and two, if you go to your CEO to ask “can I hire an engineer to build a laser map” of course she will say yes because laser maps are awesome.)"
'Pew Pew' Goes the Blockchain - Bloomberg

Why crypto firms want to become banks (Tearsheet)

What could possibly go wrong?...

"Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase and payments firm Ivy Koin reportedly met with FDIC officials in “recent weeks” about possibilities to obtain banking licenses. Since cryptocurrency business models are already modeled on crypto-fiat exchange, remittance, merchant payment processing, personal and business value storage, ATMs, and even escrow and lending, there’s a good business case for bringing all these services together under one umbrella, said Robert Musiala, counsel with law firm BakerHostetler.

A banking license would give crypto firms FDIC insurance for funds invested and offer a platform to sell other products to customers. Cryptocurrency firms that become banks also need to meet customer and anti-money-laundering requirements that would enable firms to accept large crypto payments. Here are three implications of crypto firms’ pursuit of banking licenses."
Why crypto firms want to become banks

Tesla Model 3 Goes Upscale, and Base-Price Buyers Must Wait - The New York Times

Also see Consumer Reports: Tesla’s Model 3 has ‘big flaws’ (The Washington Post)

"Even as Tesla scrambles to master the production challenges of making its first mass-market electric car, the Model 3, the company is moving to add two high-end versions of the vehicle — versions that its chief, Elon Musk, said may be crucial to its profitability.

In fact, delivering the base-price model at this point would cause the company “to lose money & die,” he declared in a Twitter post over the weekend."
Tesla Model 3 Goes Upscale, and Base-Price Buyers Must Wait - The New York Times

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Location-Sharing Disaster Shows How Exposed You Really Are | WIRED

Also see The Privacy Scandal That Should Be Bigger Than Cambridge Analytica (Slate)

"You couldn’t hope for a much better encapsulation of the hopeless state of data privacy in the US today. You can see the same casual security sloppiness with which LocationSmart and Securus treated your location in the countless exposed databases—revealing everything from personal information to voter records—or in the extremely, entirely, embarrassingly preventable Equifax breach. The same system that allows AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint to sell your location to companies you’ve never heard of also allows thousands of barely regulated, shadowy data brokers to know everything about not just where you are but who you are, and what you do online. And lack of tangible progress, the sense that this has all happened before and will happen again, the resignation; that’s the cumulative effect of years of breaches and leaks and carelessness that make this all feel so futile. This keeps happening, and keeps not getting fixed."
A Location-Sharing Disaster Shows How Exposed You Really Are | WIRED

How the Math Men Overthrew the Mad Men | The New Yorker

A timely advertising reality check partially adapted from Ken Auletta's forthcoming book, “Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else)"

"Once, Mad Men ruled advertising. They’ve now been eclipsed by Math Men—the engineers and data scientists whose province is machines, algorithms, pureed data, and artificial intelligence. Yet Math Men are beleaguered, as Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated when he humbled himself before Congress, in April. Math Men’s adoration of data—coupled with their truculence and an arrogant conviction that their “science” is nearly flawless—has aroused government anger, much as Microsoft did two decades ago.

The power of Math Men is awesome. Google and Facebook each has a market value exceeding the combined value of the six largest advertising and marketing holding companies. Together, they claim six out of every ten dollars spent on digital advertising, and nine out of ten new digital ad dollars. They have become more dominant in what is estimated to be an up to two-trillion-dollar annual global advertising and marketing business. Facebook alone generates more ad dollars than all of America’s newspapers, and Google has twice the ad revenues of Facebook."
How the Math Men Overthrew the Mad Men | The New Yorker

Microsoft acquires AI company to make Cortana and bots sound more human - The Verge

Also see Your parents love you, Cortana. That's why we bought you an upgrade (The Register)

"Microsoft is acquiring conversational AI startup Semantic Machines in an effort to make bots and intelligent assistants like Cortana sound and respond more like humans. Founded in 2014, Semantic Machines uses machine learning to make bots respond in a more natural way to queries. Semantic Machines is led by UC Berkeley professor Dan Klein and former Apple chief speech scientist Larry Gillick. Both are considered pioneers in conversational AI.

Microsoft’s acquisition will boost the company’s Cortana digital assistant, as well as the company’s Azure Bot Service that’s used by 300,000 developers. Microsoft has already used a human voice for its Cortana assistant. The software maker worked closely with Halo developer 343 Industries on the eyelike visual elements and voice actress Jen Taylor for the voice of Cortana back in 2014. “With the acquisition of Semantic Machines, we will establish a conversational AI center of excellence in Berkeley to push forward the boundaries of what is possible in language interfaces,” explains David Ku, chief technology officer of Microsoft AI & Research."
Microsoft acquires AI company to make Cortana and bots sound more human - The Verge

Microsoft makes inroads with U.S. spy agencies as tech giants face off over cloud contract - The Washington Post

In other U.S. government/Amazon news, see Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, other firms (The Washington Post)

"For years, Amazon Web Services, a subsidiary of Amazon.com that provides cloud computing for businesses and government agencies, has been the primary provider of cloud services to U.S. intelligence agencies, thanks to a $600 million contract with the CIA. (Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)

That remains the case after the recent agreement. Still, executives from Microsoft framed the contract agreement as an “awakening.”

“This is a huge win from a Microsoft perspective,” said Dana Barnes, vice president of the company’s joint and defense agencies business unit. “It’s kind of an awakening as far as the intelligence community is concerned that you can’t be a one-cloud community.”"
Microsoft makes inroads with U.S. spy agencies as tech giants face off over cloud contract - The Washington Post

How One Company Scammed Silicon Valley. And How It Got Caught. - The New York Times

Movie version starring Jennifer Lawrence expected in 2018; also see Theranos Could Have Been Stopped (Monday Note)
"The question of how it got so far — more than 800 employees and a paper valuation of $9 billion — will fascinate business school classes for years. The first line of defense should have been the board, and its failure was shocking. Some of the directors displayed a fawning devotion to Holmes — in effect becoming cheerleaders rather than overseers. Shultz helped his grandson land a job; when the kid reported back that the place was rotten, Grandpa didn’t believe him. There is a larger moral here: The people in the trenches know best. The V.I.P. directors were nectar for investor bees, but they had no relevant expertise. 
Even outsiders could have spotted red flags, but averted their eyes as if they wanted to believe. Fishy excuses — Holmes blamed a production delay on an earthquake in Japan — were blithely accepted. When a Walgreens team visited Theranos it pointedly asked for — and was denied — permission to see the lab. A company consultant pleaded that the chain not go ahead with in-store clinics. “Someday this is going to be a black eye,” he predicted. But Walgreens was plagued by a “fear of missing out.” Like many executives, they were looking over their shoulder and not at the evidence."
How One Company Scammed Silicon Valley. And How It Got Caught. - The New York Times

Banks Adopt Military-Style Tactics to Fight Cybercrime - The New York Times

Average number of "pew pew" maps per fusion center tbd

"Like many cybersecurity bunkers, IBM’s foxhole has deliberately theatrical touches. Whiteboards and giant monitors fill nearly every wall, with graphics that can be manipulated by touch.

“You can’t have a fusion center unless you have really cool TVs,” quipped Lawrence Zelvin, a former Homeland Security official who is now Citigroup’s global cybersecurity head, at a recent cybercrime conference. “It’s even better if they do something when you touch them. It doesn’t matter what they do. Just something.”

Security pros mockingly refer to such eye candy as “pew pew” maps, an onomatopoeia for the noise of laser guns in 1980s movies and video arcades. They are especially useful, executives concede, to put on display when V.I.P.s or board members stop by for a tour. Two popular “pew pew” maps are from FireEye and the defunct security vendor Norse, whose video game-like maps show laser beams zapping across the globe. Norse went out of business two years ago, and no one is sure what data the map is based on, but everyone agrees that it looks cool."
Banks Adopt Military-Style Tactics to Fight Cybercrime - The New York Times

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Apple and Its Rivals Bet Their Futures on These Men’s Dreams - Bloomberg

Check the full article for an AI history reality check

"Over the past five years, artificial intelligence has gone from perennial vaporware to one of the technology industry’s brightest hopes. Computers have learned to recognize faces and objects, understand the spoken word, and translate scores of languages. The world’s biggest companies—Alphabet, Amazon.com, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft—have bet their futures largely on AI, racing to see who’s fastest at building smarter machines. That’s fueled the perception that AI has come out of nowhere, what with Tesla’s self-driving cars and Alexa chatting up your child. But this was no overnight hit, nor was it the brainchild of a single Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

The ideas behind modern AI—neural networks and machine learning—have roots you can trace to the last stages of World War II. Back then, academics were beginning to build computing systems meant to store and process information in ways similar to the human brain. Over the decades, the technology had its ups and downs, but it failed to capture the attention of computer scientists broadly until around 2012, thanks to a handful of stubborn researchers who weren’t afraid to look foolish. They remained convinced that neural nets would light up the world and alter humanity’s destiny."
Apple and Its Rivals Bet Their Futures on These Men’s Dreams - Bloomberg

'Speed and simplicity': How Square plans to bring bitcoin payments to the masses (Tearsheet)

Also see Jack Dorsey Is All In on Bitcoin as the Currency of the Future (Bloomberg)

"“We want to go back to that original idea of having people purchase a coffee with it,” Dorsey said at Consensus, the New York blockchain and cryptocurrency conference happening this week. “Our focus is [on] how we get this to an everyday currency… We won’t necessarily be the company that comes up with the right framework, algorithms or technologies, but I do believe we’ll help with the simplifying of it, making it more straightforward and helping educate” consumers as well as regulators.

To do that, Square is leaning on its original approach of helping people complete sales and move money, rather than bucketing itself as a card reader or a software company."
'Speed and simplicity': How Square plans to bring bitcoin payments to the masses

Elon Musk’s Empire Converges: Boring Tunnel to Link L.A. With SpaceX - Bloomberg

Commute different

"Boring’s stated mission is to “solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic,” via a large network of tunnels, shuttling autonomous pods with the capacity to travel more than 600 miles per hour. Closely held SpaceX is going to build its next rocket, known as BFR, at the Port of Los Angeles, an area Musk envisions people getting to using a Boring Hyperloop -- if the city approves the idea.

The “Boring Company Hyperloop will take you from city center under ground & ocean to spaceport in 10 to 15 mins," Musk tweeted Wednesday. But although the entrepreneur has always been long on vision, the City of Los Angeles is a complex, sprawling place. To realize Musk’s idea, Boring will need permits and buy-in from city officials and residents, many of whom felt blindsided when the company first made its goals public. In addition, local neighborhood groups are suing the city over the company’s plans."
Elon Musk’s Empire Converges: Boring Tunnel to Link L.A. With SpaceX - Bloomberg

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Amazon Tests Ad Tool That Rivals Google, Criteo - Bloomberg

Digital advertising disruption ahead

"The tool lets merchants selling on Amazon’s online marketplace purchase spots that will follow shoppers around the web to lure the consumers back to Amazon to buy. The company is inviting select merchants to test the new ads later this month, according to people with knowledge of the plans.

Currently, merchants can buy other types of ads on Amazon, and the company has been giving more-prominent placement to these sponsored product spots in its search results. The new tool lets these sellers bid on ads that will appear on other websites and apps, giving them much wider reach. Merchants will only pay Amazon when customers click on the ads."
Amazon Tests Ad Tool That Rivals Google, Criteo - Bloomberg

Amazon is moving into blockchain with a new partnership (CNBC)

Also see AWS Moves to Simplify Production-Grade Business Blockchains (Coindesk)

"The cloud computing giant will team with a new start-up launching Tuesday called Kaleido, which was born out of leading blockchain incubator known as Consensys. The company is aiming to give AWS customers an "easy button" to get into the same technology that underpins bitcoin.

"They can focus on their scenario and they don't have to become PhDs is cryptography, we give them a simple platform to build their company on blockchain," said Steve Cerveny, one of the founders of Kaleido."
Amazon is moving into blockchain with a new partnership

Facebook Says It Deleted 865 Million Posts, Mostly Spam - The New York Times

More spring cleaning

"On Tuesday, the Silicon Valley company published numbers for the first time detailing how much and what type of content it takes down from the social network. In an 86-page report, Facebook revealed that it deleted 865.8 million posts in the first quarter of 2018, the vast majority of which were spam, with a minority of posts related to nudity, graphic violence, hate speech and terrorism.

Facebook also said it removed 583 million fake accounts in the same period. Of the accounts that remained, the company said 3 percent to 4 percent were fake."
Facebook Says It Deleted 865 Million Posts, Mostly Spam - The New York Times

Monday, May 14, 2018

Facebook has suspended around 200 apps so far in data misuse investigation - The Verge

Spring cleaning
"It’s not clear that any of those apps have actually abused their access to Facebook user data, but Facebook has some concerns and is suspending them from working “pending a thorough investigation into whether they did in fact misuse any data.” That investigation will involve Facebook conducting interviews with developers, requesting information about app and the data it has access to, along with audits “that may include on-site inspections.” 
In the event that Facebook does discover that more apps have abused access to this kind of user data, it will ban them immediately, and notify users through this page, which much like Cambridge Analytica will inform them if either they or their friends allowed for their data to be compromised through the app."
Facebook has suspended around 200 apps so far in data misuse investigation - The Verge

‘Alexa’ is a less popular baby name since Amazon launched Echo - Recode

Cortana naming trend line tbd...

"Amazon started widely selling its Echo speaker, voiced by the Star Trek-inspired personal assistant Alexa, in 2015. That year, 6,050 baby girls in the United States were named Alexa, or 311 for every 100,000 female babies born.

Since then, the name has declined in popularity 33 percent, according to new data from the Social Security Administration crunched by University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen. Last year, just 3,883 baby girls were named Alexa.

Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant that launched on iPhones in 2011, has never been a very popular name. That name peaked in popularity two years earlier, when 120 female babies in the U.S. were named Siri, about 6 per every 100,000 girls.

Last year, 20 U.S. girls were named ‘Siri,’ or about 1 per every 100,000."
‘Alexa’ is a less popular baby name since Amazon launched Echo - Recode

Steve Eisman of ‘The Big Short’ Bashes Cryptocurrency: ‘I Don’t See the Purpose of It’ - WSJ

Seems to be a pattern emerging...

"Mr. Eisman now joins a growing chorus of prominent market participants, including Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway and Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase , who have been openly critical of digital currencies. Mr. Buffett said earlier this month that bitcoin is “probably rat poison squared’ and predicted that cryptocurrencies “almost certainly...will come to a bad ending.”

In a panel discussion and subsequent interview that ranged from current economic conditions to the moment he knew the U.S. housing market would collapse—May 8, 2006, when Wachovia Corp. made a $26 billion bet on the mortgage market—Mr. Eisman said he has never bought or sold any cryptocurrencies.

“I don’t touch it,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m looking at...I have no interest”"
Steve Eisman of ‘The Big Short’ Bashes Cryptocurrency: ‘I Don’t See the Purpose of It’ - WSJ

Friday, May 11, 2018

Apple paves the way for breakthrough carbon-free aluminum smelting method - Apple

Smelt different

"Aluminum giants Alcoa Corporation and Rio Tinto Aluminum today announced a joint venture to commercialize patented technology that eliminates direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional smelting process, a key step in aluminum production. This is a revolutionary advancement in the manufacturing of one of the world’s most widely used metals.
As part of Apple’s commitment to reducing the environmental impact of its products through innovation, the company helped accelerate the development of this technology. And Apple has partnered with both aluminum companies, and the Governments of Canada and Quebec, to collectively invest a combined $144 million to future research and development."
Apple paves the way for breakthrough carbon-free aluminum smelting method - Apple

Former Facebook advertising targeting boss Antonio García-Martínez on Too Embarrassed to Ask podcast - Recode

Later in the article: "“Any app, and I’m using ‘Facebook’ broadly to mean whatever social media thing we have — whatever the face of social media is, people are more than willing to sacrifice this abstract notion of privacy that Brussels bureaucrats care about, in pursuit of this community thing,” he said."

"“Here’s the reality: Most people don’t care about privacy,” García-Martínez said. “Media elites care about it, underemployed Eurocrats care about it. And the entire privacy-industrial complex — there’s an entire set of very loud voices who are constantly beating the drum and building media careers around this.”

“For those who doubt, here’s a pop quiz: When in the past two or three months did Facebook reach the highest point in app rankings in the Android app store?” he asked. “Literally the day after the #deletefacebook hashtag went viral.”"
Former Facebook advertising targeting boss Antonio García-Martínez on Too Embarrassed to Ask podcast - Recode

Don't Skype Me: How Microsoft Turned Consumers Against a Beloved Brand - Bloomberg

Probably not a great ROI on Microsoft's $8.5B Skype acquisition, but perhaps better than average for Steve Ballmer's big bets... In other inadvertent gifts to Facebook, see Millennials really hated Snapchat’s redesign (Recode)
"The company hasn’t updated the number of Skype users since 2016, when it put the total at 300 million. Some analysts suspect the numbers are flat at best, and two former employees describe a general sense of panic that they’re actually falling. The ex-Microsofters, who requested anonymity to discuss confidential statistics, say that as late as 2017 they never heard a figure higher than 300 million discussed internally.

Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella has repeatedly said he wants the company’s products to be widely used and loved. By turning Skype into a key part of its lucrative Office suite for corporate customers, Microsoft is threatening what made it appealing to regular folks in the first place. “It is like Tim Tebow trying to be a baseball player,” Malik says. “The product is so confusing, kludgey and unusable.”"
Don't Skype Me: How Microsoft Turned Consumers Against a Beloved Brand - Bloomberg

Amazon Stops Buying Prized Shopping Ads on Google - Bloomberg

Big shifts ahead in the digital advertising complementor/competitor model

"Right now, Amazon offers similar sponsored product ads on its flagship e-commerce site. Mizuho Securities USA Inc. recently estimated Google’s product ads are four times as effective as Amazon’s at getting people to buy. However, the brokerage firm said Amazon could improve and surpass Google. The note concluded that most spending on Amazon ads comes from marketers switching away from tradition offline ads, rather than cutting into Google budgets.

Still, other analysts see Amazon’s massive web reach, subscription base and voice search services, such as Alexa, as the gravest threat to Google’s business. A broader standoff over ads would add to an already tense year."
Amazon Stops Buying Prized Shopping Ads on Google - Bloomberg

A huge pension fund says Facebook is like a ‘dictatorship’ - The Washington Post

Seems like a simple solution: don't buy the stock, if you have issues with the company's governance model

"Yet another major institutional investor is slamming how Facebook is governed, describing it as "akin to a dictatorship" and calling for an end to the way it structures voting power among its shareholders, a system that gives founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg unusual control over the company and erodes the influence of other investors.

In an op-ed published Thursday morning in the Financial Times, an executive with the country's second-largest pension fund wrote that it is "time to end" the dual-class share structure at companies like Facebook, where special "Class B" shares have 10 times the voting power as regular "Class A" shares."
A huge pension fund says Facebook is like a ‘dictatorship’ - The Washington Post

Goldman Sachs and Apple Plan to Offer a New Credit Card - The New York Times

Also see What the Goldman Sachs-Apple Pay credit card would mean for mobile payments (Tearsheet)

"Apple executives have said they aim for Apple Pay to eventually replace cash and plastic as the primary way to pay. But Apple’s payment service has a long way to go. One of the people familiar with the discussions between Apple and Goldman said that taking Apple Pay into the physical world would help expand its reach. With an Apple Pay credit card, loyal iPhone users could use Apple Pay even in places that don’t yet accept digital payments, the person said.

The research firm Loup Ventures estimated last year that just 13 percent of active iPhones had activated the service. And Apple Pay isn’t even the most popular mobile-payment service. It faces stiff global competition from Samsung Pay and Google’s Android Pay, as well as Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay in China."
Goldman Sachs and Apple Plan to Offer a New Credit Card - The New York Times

Facebook Shares Recover From Cambridge Analytica Scandal - Bloomberg

All is forgiven, for now... Tangentially, see Facebook’s blockchain foray is about trust, not crypto (Tearsheet)
"Since the revelation in mid-March that Cambridge Analytica, a political ad consulting firm, got data on tens of millions of users without their consent, Facebook has been scrambling to address criticism. The company reviewed all its products and made changes to how much information it shares with app developers.

Facebook shares climbed as much as 1.4 percent to $185.25 in morning trading in New York. The stock had closed at $185.09 on March 16, just before the news broke. It rebounded 16 percent from a low for the year in late April."
Facebook Shares Recover From Cambridge Analytica Scandal - Bloomberg

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Microsoft reflects on the failures of Courier, KIN, and ultra mobile PCs - The Verge

Check the full article for a tour of some ahead-of-their-time Microsoft products/projects
"Friedman is still at Microsoft and he’s now responsible for the design of Office 365. Friedman held a similar talk at a design conference in Seattle two years ago, but this is the first time he’s spoken at Microsoft’s own conference about past product failures. The timing of Friedman’s talk is ironic as Microsoft is now rumored to be working on a Courier-like device for taking digital notes. The mysterious device has been spotted many times in patents from the Surface team, and reports suggest it will include dual displays with a unique hinge and a special notepad app to mimic writing like a real notebook.

It’s not clear if Microsoft’s mysterious Surface device, codenamed Andromeda, will ever make it to market, but Friedman’s talk does show that the company is aware of its past failures and is trying to learn from them."
Microsoft reflects on the failures of Courier, KIN, and ultra mobile PCs - The Verge

California is requiring solar panels on all new houses: here’s what that means - The Verge

Later in the article: "Though buyers could see their monthly mortgage go up by $40, their utility bills would fall by $80. Over time, a family would save $19,000 of today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation, over 30 years, according to Beck."

"California has become the first state to require that new homes be built with solar panels. The rules go into place in 2020 and are part of the state’s ambitious efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But these requirements also make it more expensive to build in a state where housing is already extremely expensive.

The new building rules approved by the California Energy Commission apply to all residential buildings up to three stories high (including both single-family buildings and condos). They’ll no doubt help California reach its goal of having at least half of electricity come from renewable energy by 2030. Solar is already responsible for about 16 percent of California electricity."
California is requiring solar panels on all new houses: here’s what that means - The Verge

Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t. - The New York Times

Later in the article: "Apple said its smart speaker, HomePod, is designed to prevent commands from doing things like unlocking doors, and it noted that iPhones and iPads must be unlocked before Siri will act on commands that access sensitive data or open apps and websites, among other measures."

"Many people have grown accustomed to talking to their smart devices, asking them to read a text, play a song or set an alarm. But someone else might be secretly talking to them, too.

Over the past two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio."
Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t. - The New York Times

How Misinformation Spreads on Social Media—And What To Do About It - Lawfare

Ample room for improvement

"Last year, the company’s engineering team revealed how its current algorithm works. As with Facebook and YouTube, Twitter now relies on a deep learning algorithm that has learned to prioritize content with greater prior engagement. By combing through Twitter’s data, the algorithm has taught itself that Twitter users are more likely to stick around if they see content that has already gotten a lot of retweets and mentions, compared with content that has fewer. 

The flow of misinformation on Twitter is thus a function of both human and technical factors. Human biases play an important role: Since we’re more likely to react to content that taps into our existing grievances and beliefs, inflammatory tweets will generate quick engagement. It’s only after that engagement happens that the technical side kicks in: If a tweet is retweeted, favorited, or replied to by enough of its first viewers, the newsfeed algorithm will show it to more users, at which point it will tap into the biases of those users too—prompting even more engagement, and so on. At its worse, this cycle can turn social media into a kind of confirmation bias machine, one perfectly tailored for the spread of misinformation."
How Misinformation Spreads on Social Media—And What To Do About It - Lawfare

And for His Next Act, Ev Williams Will Fix the Internet - The New York Times

From a timely Evan Williams reality check

"And as for Twitter, which remains a highly addictive app with millions of compulsive users? Well, Mr. Williams said, the company is working to fix its problems, including weeding out some of the most noxious rule breakers on the service. (The company recently solicited proposals for tools to help it measure “conversational health.”)

But he is not convinced that the problems with social platforms can ever be fully solved, nor does he believe it’s entirely incumbent upon tech companies to solve them. Ultimately, Mr. Williams said, it will be up to users to choose, and stick to, their own information diets.

“There’s a huge buffet,” he said. “If you eat whatever’s put in front of you, you’re not necessarily going to be making the best choices.”"
And for His Next Act, Ev Williams Will Fix the Internet - The New York Times

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Google AI Blog: Google Duplex: An AI System for Accomplishing Real World Tasks Over the Phone

Check the full post for some impressive example scenarios

"A long-standing goal of human-computer interaction has been to enable people to have a natural conversation with computers, as they would with each other. In recent years, we have witnessed a revolution in the ability of computers to understand and to generate natural speech, especially with the application of deep neural networks (e.g., Google voice search, WaveNet). Still, even with today’s state of the art systems, it is often frustrating having to talk to stilted computerized voices that don't understand natural language. In particular, automated phone systems are still struggling to recognize simple words and commands. They don’t engage in a conversation flow and force the caller to adjust to the system instead of the system adjusting to the caller.

Today we announce Google Duplex, a new technology for conducting natural conversations to carry out “real world” tasks over the phone. The technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments. For such tasks, the system makes the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, like they would to another person, without having to adapt to a machine."
Google AI Blog: Google Duplex: An AI System for Accomplishing Real World Tasks Over the Phone

‘Oops’: Walmart’s Biggest Deal Ever, Announced by SoftBank’s CEO - Bloomberg

For some context-setting, see Why are Walmart and Amazon desperate to buy Flipkart? (Quartz)

"This isn’t the way multibillion-dollar deals usually get announced.

Hours before Walmart Inc. was scheduled to unveil the largest acquisition in its history, Masayoshi Son, chief executive officer of SoftBank Group Corp., spilled the beans to a roomful of investors and journalists in Tokyo. He confirmed that the U.S. retailer has agreed to buy control of Flipkart Online Services Pvt, the leading Indian e-commerce player backed by SoftBank.

“I think we announced it last night,” he said, during an investor call after his own company’s earnings. “If not, well then that means I’m just spouting this out. In any case, it’s been decided.”"
‘Oops’: Walmart’s Biggest Deal Ever, Announced by SoftBank’s CEO - Bloomberg

Google Strikes Humble Tone While Promoting A.I. Technology - The New York Times

Sundar Pichai also extended Google's mission statement in his opening keynote -- noting “Our core mission is to make information more useful, accessible and beneficial to all of society” (emphasis mine; Google's Our company page still has “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”)

"But in a year when some of its most popular products have been used to propagate misinformation, spread conspiracy theories and meddle with elections, Google struck a more measured tone on Tuesday. Speaking at this year’s Google I/O conference, Sundar Pichai, the company’s chief executive, said advancements in artificial intelligence had pushed Google to be more reflective about its responsibilities.

“There are very real and important questions being raised about the impact of these advances, and the role they will play in our lives,” Mr. Pichai said during his keynote speech. “We know the path ahead needs to be navigated carefully and deliberately. We feel a deep sense of responsibility to get this right.”"
Google Strikes Humble Tone While Promoting A.I. Technology - The New York Times

Facebook Shakes Up Management; Main Divisions Get New Heads - Bloomberg

For more reorg details, see Facebook to Reorganize After Scrutiny Over Data Privacy (NYT)

"The Menlo Park, California-based company also unveiled a new initiative to explore the use of blockchain, the decentralized ledger technology that underpins digital currencies like Bitcoin. The team dedicated to blockchain will be run by David Marcus, who formerly headed the Messenger chat app.

Facebook’s chief product officer, Chris Cox, has been promoted to oversee all of the company’s apps. Will Cathcart will become head of Facebook’s core application, the company said. The former leader of news feed, Adam Mosseri, was named head of product at photo-sharing app Instagram, replacing Kevin Weil, who will join the blockchain team."
Facebook Shakes Up Management; Main Divisions Get New Heads - Bloomberg

Vox Media Punches Up Podcast Ads WIth a Kara Swisher Character Chat – Variety

Parody different

"Vox Media publishes many articles that get people talking. But now the company is doing something it hopes will get its consumers to listen – even when its journalism and analysis aren’t at the center of the conversation.

Listeners to Recode’s “Recode/Decode” podcast this week may have been surprised to hear host Kara Swisher take a break from the program and start to interview Russ Hanneman, the erratic technology investor from HBO’s comedy “Silicon Valley.” In the exchange – laden with profanity – Swisher quizzes the fictional character (played by actor Chris Diamantopoulos) on his efforts to launch cryptocurrencies, which is one of the current plotlines of the program. The interview will also be heard on The Verge’s “Vergecast” and Recode’s “Recode Media.”"
Vox Media Punches Up Podcast Ads WIth a Kara Swisher Character Chat – Variety

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Microsoft Tries a New Role: Moral Leader - The New York Times

Tangentially, see Apple is an 'amazing' company with best profit potential in tech, Bill Gates says (CNBC); also see At Google, ‘responsibility’ upstages new technology (Washington Post)
"But while the company’s power has diminished since a couple of decades ago, when it controlled computing through Windows, Microsoft remains an influential voice. On Monday, its market capitalization of $733 billion made it the third most valuable technology company, behind Apple and Amazon and ahead of Google parent company, Alphabet, and Facebook.

“The irony for Microsoft is that they lost in search, they lost in social networks and they lost in mobile, and as a consequence, they have avoided the recent pushback from governments and media,” said David Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School. “This has given Microsoft the freedom to take the high road as the ethical leader in technology.”"
Microsoft Tries a New Role: Moral Leader - The New York Times

Opinion | What Will New York Do About Its Uber Problem? - The New York Times

A timely sharing economy reality check; on a related note, see Airbnb is freaking out over NYC's report on rising rents (CNet)
"New Yorkers who can afford to avoid their dysfunctional subway system are spoiled for choice these days. In addition to long-established taxis, livery cabs, black cars and limousines, they can summon rides through Uber, Lyft, Via, Juno and other app-based ride-hailing and ride-sharing services. While this new surfeit of options has been a boon to people trying to get around town, it has also helped lay waste to the livelihoods of taxi drivers and turn New York’s already busy streets into glorified parking lots — and leaders like Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Albany and the City Council have yet to come up with an effective strategy to deal with these problems.

Cities have a long history of intervening to impose order on their streets. No large metropolis can accommodate everyone who would like to drive or be privately driven around — street space is a limited resource, especially in the densest neighborhoods and at the busiest times of the day. In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, New York created its taxi medallion system because drivers looking for work flooded the streets, far outstripping demand and driving down wages for drivers. With the rise of Uber, Lyft and the like, the city is again confronting a tragedy of the commons."
Opinion | What Will New York Do About Its Uber Problem? - The New York Times

Bitcoin Sees Wall Street Warm to Trading Virtual Currency - The New York Times

Also see Should the Fed Create ‘FedCoin’ to Rival Bitcoin? A Former Top Official Says ‘Maybe’ (NYT)

"The parent company of the New York Stock Exchange has been working on an online trading platform that would allow large investors to buy and hold Bitcoin, according to emails and documents viewed by The New York Times and four people briefed on the effort who asked to remain anonymous because the plans were still confidential.

The news of the virtual exchange, which has not been reported before, came after Goldman Sachs went public with its intention to open a Bitcoin trading unit — most likely the first of its kind at a Wall Street bank.

The moves by Goldman and Intercontinental Exchange, or ICE, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, mark a dramatic shift toward the mainstream for a digital token that has been known primarily for its underworld associations and status as a high-risk, speculative investment."
Bitcoin Sees Wall Street Warm to Trading Virtual Currency - The New York Times

Just in Time | Asymco

Revisiting the iMac on its 20th anniversary
"In retrospect you have to wonder if Apple, with the iMac, was lucky to survive into this next era or if that era would have ever happened without the iMac. It’s a question of causality which quickly devolves into an un-winnable argument about stochastic vs. deterministic existence.

Regardless, the result was felt more than seen. The computing industry was pivoting. The results are seen also in the graphs above. The iMac came right in the middle of the “desert” of platform choice of the late 1990s. By the 2000s mobile platforms detonated on the scene. The iPod was Apple’s first entry, in 2001, but it was not a computer. It was an appliance. A stepping stone at a time when the early platform contenders Nokia, Palm, Microsoft and BlackBerry surged before realizing that they did not have sound foundations upon which to build ecosystems. Their advances could not be consolidated."
 
Just in Time | Asymco

Monday, May 07, 2018

Cambridge Analytica: how did it turn clicks into votes? | News | The Guardian

Check the full article for an overview of Cambridge Analytica modus operandi

"While this was undoubtedly a highly sophisticated targeting machine, questions remain about Cambridge Analytica’s psychometric model – ones Wylie, perhaps, isn’t best placed to answer. When Kogan gave evidence to parliament in April, he suggested that it was barely better than chance at applying the right Ocean scores to individuals. Maybe that edge is enough to matter – or maybe CA was selling snake oil. And even if individuals were correctly labelled with the five factors, is advertising to them based on that really as simple as slightly hokey-sounding appeals to love of order, or fear of the other?

That said, there’s clearly something in it. Take a look instead at a patent filed in 2012 on “determining user personality characteristics from social networking system communications”. “Stored personality characteristics may be used as targeting criteria for advertisers ... to increase the likelihood that the user … positively interacts with a selected advertisement,” the patent suggests. Its author? Facebook itself."
Cambridge Analytica: how did it turn clicks into votes? | News | The Guardian

What Europe’s Tough New Data Law Means for You, and the Internet - The New York Times

On a related note, see Who Strikes Fear Into Silicon Valley? Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s Antitrust Enforcer (NYT) and The agency in charge of policing Facebook and Google is 103 years old. Can it modernize? (Washington Post)
"Much will depend on how strictly national regulators enforce the rules, and how they use their tight budgets. Data-protection agencies in each European Union country will be in charge of policing the companies that have European headquarters within its borders.

That oversight structure is leading to concerns that officials in countries such as Ireland, where Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and many other data-heavy companies are based, will be overmatched.

A lot of responsibility also falls on you to keep tabs on how companies use your data.

The General Data Protection Regulation provides ways to take action if your information is being misused. But the question is whether people care enough, or if trading privacy for convenience remains a worthwhile deal."
What Europe’s Tough New Data Law Means for You, and the Internet - The New York Times

Berkshire’s Annual Meeting: Buffett Approves of Apple’s Buyback Plan - The New York Times

A long-term investor perspective

"Warren Buffett and Charles Munger saved their harshest words for cryptocurrencies.

“Cryptocurrencies will come to bad endings.” Mr. Buffett said, responding to an attendee from Ukraine.

Mr. Buffett’s main argument against cryptocurrencies is the same one he has made about gold: They are not a “productive asset.” That means the value of cryptocurrencies is determined solely by what someone is willing to pay for it.

“If you had bought gold at the time of Christ and you figure the compound rate on it, it’s a couple tenths of a percent,” Mr. Buffett said."
Berkshire’s Annual Meeting: Buffett Approves of Apple’s Buyback Plan - The New York Times

John Micklethwait: The Future of News - Bloomberg

From a wide-ranging journalism reality check

"Nowadays, journalists increasingly prep their story templates to be filled in by a computer system called Cyborg that dissects a company’s earnings the moment they appear and produces not just instant headlines but, in a matter of seconds, what is in effect a mini-wrap with all the numbers and a lot of context. All this is in competition not just with Reuters but with specialist news-scraping sites that serve hedge funds looking for microseconds of advantage. An arms race has developed, with the battleground moving to secondary data—like the number of iPhones sold in China—that can often move a share price more than the profit numbers. Today, a quarter of the content produced by Bloomberg has some degree of automation.

It’s not just the financial press. The Washington Post, for example, uses automation to cover high school sports. News organizations that used to first hear about news from local reporters now use banks of computers to find news, trawling through reams of social data for words like “explosion,” “resignation,” or even “Kardashian.”"
John Micklethwait: The Future of News - Bloomberg

Friday, May 04, 2018

YouTube has 1.8 billion logged-in viewers each month - The Verge

Tangentially, in other streaming news, see Disneyflix Is Coming. And Netflix Should Be Scared. (The Atlantic)

"YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki says that 1.8 billion registered users are watching videos on the platform each month, not counting anyone who’s watching without an account. Wojcicki announced the milestone at YouTube’s Brandcast presentation to advertisers, alongside some of the year’s most noteworthy successes — like Beyoncé’s record-setting 41 million livestream views at Coachella and the “Despacito” music video passing 5 billion views last month. The company previously announced that it had 1.5 billion logged-in monthly users in mid-2017.

Wojcicki used the Brandcast event to obliquely address some of the problems YouTube has faced, including questions over inappropriate kids’ videos and conspiracy theories on the platform. “This is the impact of an open platform: it brings the world together in ways that were just not possible before. But we’ve also seen that with openness comes challenges, as some have tried to take advantage of our services,” Wojcicki said. “It is incredibly important to me and to everyone at YouTube that we grow responsibly.”"
YouTube has 1.8 billion logged-in viewers each month - The Verge

Google's Cloud Division Wins Some Business From Twitter - Bloomberg

In other Twitter news, Twitter urges all users to change passwords after glitch (Reuters)

"Twitter Inc. said it’s tapping Google for some of the social-media services’ data-storage and computing needs, the latest in a string of partnerships between the companies.

Twitter Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal wrote in a blog that the company is moving its long-term, rarely used data, known as cold data storage, to Google’s Cloud service.

Twitter also uses Hadoop, a popular open-source system for weaving remote servers together into a single, powerful computer. Agrawal said Thursday that Twitter also will run some Hadoop computing tasks on the cloud service of Alphabet Inc.’s Google."
Google's Cloud Division Wins Some Business From Twitter - Bloomberg

Facebook to Research Ad-Free Subscription-Based Version - Bloomberg

Sort of like Workplace by Facebook, but for your personal life...
"Facebook Inc. has been conducting market research in recent weeks to determine whether an ad-free version paid by subscriptions would spur more people to join the social network, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company has studied such an option in the past, but now there’s more internal momentum to pursue it in light of Facebook’s recent privacy data scandal, the people said. The plans aren’t solid and may not go forward, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private."
Facebook to Research Ad-Free Subscription-Based Version - Bloomberg

How rich is Apple? Its recent stock buyback is more valuable than 275 companies in the S&P 500 - The Washington Post

Also see Apple and the Fruits of Tax Cuts (Paul Krugman in NYT)
"Like a bottomless ATM, the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant has delivered $275.2 billion to its shareholders in dividends and stock repurchases over the past 6 and 1/2 years as the iPhone has become the dominant mobile communications device in the world.

The company spent $22.8 billion buying back its shares in just the first three months of 2018, a record for a U.S. company. Apple is responsible for nine of the 20 largest quarterly stock buybacks in S&P history. 
Thought of another way, the $22.8 billion Apple spent on its first quarter stock buyback is enough buy any of 275 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index."
How rich is Apple? Its recent stock buyback is more valuable than 275 companies in the S&P 500 - The Washington Post

Facebook’s new features specifically target businesses - The Washington Post

From a timely Workplace by Facebook reality check

"Although tens of millions of small businesses have Facebook pages for their companies, most of the owners I know do not really consider the social media platform to be a business productivity or collaboration tool. That perception may soon change.

This week, Facebook announced some big upgrades to Workplace, its $3 per month “premium” user office collaboration service. Workplace was launched in 2016 and has quietly grown as a popular way for companies of all sizes (including big brands like Walmart, Starbucks and Domino’s) to internally collaborate with employees, customers and others in its community via group chats, messaging and video calls.

It is a large and growing industry. Collaboration and work group messaging applications are part of a projected $3.2 billion market, according to research firm IDC."
Facebook’s new features specifically target businesses - The Washington Post

T-Mobile’s 5G Argument to Regulators Is Compelling - The New York Times

Tbd if they'll manage to complete their 5G networks before SpaceX's Starlink is finished

"The investment would dramatically boost the industry’s levels of capital expenditure. The larger rivals AT&T and Verizon, which are competing to be leaders in 5G, dedicated approximately $22 billion and $17 billion to network investments last year. T-Mobile and Sprint together mustered just $6 billion, according to Eikon data. And 5G is an expensive endeavor. New Street Research estimated that Verizon will spend $35 billion over the next five years to cover just 20 percent of the country. The cost ratchets up “significantly” to expand beyond that, the research firm said.

Mr. Legere is pitching a plan that by concentrating on 5G, T-Mobile will induce his competitors to follow suit aggressively. He started a price war some six years ago that left AT&T and Verizon little choice but to copy T-Mobile’s moves. T-Mobile and Sprint also have complimentary spectrum that when slammed together would help improve coverage in urban, suburban and rural areas."
T-Mobile’s 5G Argument to Regulators Is Compelling - The New York Times

Thursday, May 03, 2018

‘Boring, bonehead questions are not cool’: Elon Musk lashes out at analysts during a wide-ranging earnings call - The Washington Post

CEO different

"Maybe he was tired. Maybe he was hangry. Or maybe the stress of trying to revolutionize the way the world produces cars is finally getting to Elon Musk.

Whatever the reason, Tesla’s billionaire chief executive lashed out at analysts during a wide-ranging earnings call Wednesday, turning the session into what Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas called “the most unusual call I have experienced in 20 years on the sell-side.”

Tesla’s stock closed down 5.55 percent Thursday to $284.45."
‘Boring, bonehead questions are not cool’: Elon Musk lashes out at analysts during a wide-ranging earnings call - The Washington Post

Bloomberg’s New Paywall Will Charge Users $35 a Month - WSJ

See this page for Bloomberg paywall details. Amazon Prime customers, incidentally, can subscribe to The Washington Post (basic digital) for $3.99/month (after a free 6-month trial phase).
"Other major national news brands have paywalls in place. New York Times charges readers $15.99 a month for digital access after a yearlong introductory period. The Wall Street Journal costs $36.99 for digital access each month after an introductory period, and the Financial Times charges a $36 monthly fee for basic digital access, both slightly higher than Bloomberg’s least expensive package. 
In a world where consumers are flocking to subscription services such as Netflix and Spotify, executives at Bloomberg believe users are willing to pay for news and information that helps them get ahead, said John Micklethwait, the editor in chief of Bloomberg News."
Bloomberg’s New Paywall Will Charge Users $35 a Month - WSJ

Despite all of the Cambridge Analytica drama, Facebook’s F8 still felt like F8 - Recode

For F8 keynote recaps, see F8 2018: Sharing to Stories, AR Camera Effects, Oculus Go and More Highlights from Day 1 and F8 2018: Open AI Frameworks, New AR/VR Advancements, and Other Highlights from Day 2 (Facebook Newsroom)

"This year, Facebook’s day two presentation was very technical and focused on short-term problems, like text translation and the use of AI to identify questionable content. The company never mentioned the in-home speakers it’s building, and Bloomberg reported before the conference that Facebook’s plan to unveil them at F8 was scrapped to avoid a bad look right after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Apparently it’s not a great time to ask people to put a Facebook speaker in their living room.

“I think we wanted to make sure we were putting a spotlight on the ways in which we’re using tech in the very near future to help with these [privacy and security] issues,” CTO Schroepfer said in an interview with Recode after his keynote. “We’re still working on other awesome stuff, but I didn’t think it was the time to come out with a big science show today.”"
Despite all of the Cambridge Analytica drama, Facebook’s F8 still felt like F8 - Recode

Amazon Offers Retailers Discounts to Adopt Payment System - Bloomberg

For another Amazon category compression case study, see Amazon Launches Own Pet Product Brand, Wag; Starts With Food (Bloomberg)

"Amazon.com Inc. is offering to pass along the discounts it gets on credit-card fees to other retailers if they use its online payments service, according to people with knowledge of the matter, in a new threat to PayPal Holdings Inc. and card-issuing banks. 

The move shows Amazon is willing to sacrifice the profitability of its payments system to spread its use. Swipe fees are a $90 billion-a-year business for lenders such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc., networks including Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc., and payment processors like First Data Corp. and Stripe Inc., which pocket a fraction of every sale when shoppers swipe cards or click “buy now.”"
Amazon Offers Retailers Discounts to Adopt Payment System - Bloomberg

Tesla Is Still Burning Cash, but Elon Musk Sees a Turning Point - The New York Times

Also see Tesla earnings show record revenues with record losses (TechCrunch)

"Tesla’s shares fell sharply in extended trading during the call, to about $285. They have lost more than 20 percent of their value since their peak last year, when Tesla surpassed the Detroit automakers in market value.

While Tesla still has many fans and believers, analysts now tend to take a cautious look at Mr. Musk’s pronouncements.

In a report issued before Tesla released its results, a Barclays Capital analyst, Brian Johnson, told investors that he believed the company to be “fundamentally overvalued.” Barclays expects Tesla shares to head down to $210."
Tesla Is Still Burning Cash, but Elon Musk Sees a Turning Point - The New York Times

Cambridge Analytica to File for Bankruptcy After Misuse of Facebook Data - The New York Times

Rebranding and regrouping

"In recent months, executives at Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group, along with the Mercer family, have moved to created a new firm, Emerdata, based in Britain, according to British records. The new company’s directors include Johnson Ko Chun Shun, a Hong Kong financier and business partner of Erik Prince. Mr. Prince founded the private security firm Blackwater, which was renamed Xe Services after Blackwater contractors were convicted of killing Iraqi civilians.

Cambridge and SCL officials privately raised the possibility that Emerdata could be used for a Blackwater-style rebranding of Cambridge Analytica and the SCL Group, according two people with knowledge of the companies, who asked for anonymity to describe confidential conversations. One plan under consideration was to sell off the combined company’s data and intellectual property."
Cambridge Analytica to File for Bankruptcy After Misuse of Facebook Data - The New York Times

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Facebook will spend so much reviewing political ads in 2018 that it will lose money on them - Recode

Time for Brad Parscale to recalc his advertising model

"He said the company was reasonably confident it would be able to thwart the efforts of “state actors and fake news trolls” to interfere in the upcoming U.S. elections — in part because it has had success fending off interventions in recent French and German elections, as well as last year’s special Senate election in Alabama.

But he also assumes that Facebook will see more attacks than it did two years ago. “I know that people are going to try to abuse the systems, especially after feeling like they were able to get a [return on investment] doing that in 2016.”"
Facebook will spend so much reviewing political ads in 2018 that it will lose money on them - Recode

Seven Things Wall Street Wants to Know From Elon Musk - Bloomberg

Tense Tesla times

"Musk, 46, spent the last earnings call talking about how battery production at his gigafactory east of Reno, Nevada, was the “limiting factor” on Model 3 output, but we haven’t heard much about it since. The Tesla CEO has said automated assembly line components from Germany would arrive at the battery plant by March. So did they? Is the new line up and running? It’s hard to know if battery module production is still a limiting factor, or if other, unforeseen production issues have cropped up there or at Tesla’s assembly plant in Fremont, California. 

Equally important is expenditures: Tesla ended 2017 with $3.4 billion in cash on hand and $9.4 billion in outstanding debt. Many analysts said Tesla will need to raise money again, despite the company’s stated position that “it does not require an equity or debt raise this year, apart from standing credit lines” when it reported delivery and production figures in early April."
Seven Things Wall Street Wants to Know From Elon Musk - Bloomberg

Xi Tightens His Grip, and China’s Tech Giants Feel the Squeeze - The New York Times

Later in the article: "But in the United States, disagreements can be hammered out in court. China’s judiciary is controlled by the Communist Party. Making themselves useful to the government is often the price that Chinese firms must pay for regulatory and financial blessings — even for the very right to exist as a business."

"For the past decade or so, China has defied the truism that only free and open societies can innovate. Even as the Communist Party has kept an iron grip on politics and discourse, the country’s technology industry has grown to rival Silicon Valley’s in sophistication and ambition.

President Xi Jinping’s tilt toward strongman rule could put all that to the test.

As Mr. Xi starts his second term, the Chinese government, which once viewed the internet primarily as a threat to its stranglehold on information, is harnessing big tech companies’ capital and knowledge to realize its broader goals for the country."
Xi Tightens His Grip, and China’s Tech Giants Feel the Squeeze - The New York Times

The power of Workplace integrations – interoperable, mobile, transparent and secure – Workplace Stories

A better-integrated Workplace by Facebook
"We now have integrations available for both Premium and Standard customers. Everyone will now have the ability to connect Workplace to other cloud applications they use at work.

Premium customers will have access to a wide range of integrations through our Integration Directory. We listened to our customers’ feedback and built integrations with some of the most popular SaaS tools like Jira Cloud by Atlassian, Microsoft Sharepoint, ServiceNow, Adobe Sign and SurveyMonkey. For now, Standard customers will have access to a more limited set of integrations, including content integrations with tools like Box, OneDrive and Dropbox and RSS feed integrations, which can be added to any group."
The power of Workplace integrations – interoperable, mobile, transparent and secure – Workplace Stories

Oculus Go review: Facebook's $200 portable VR headset goes for the mainstream - The Washington Post

For a detailed review, see Oculus Go review: The wireless-VR future begins today for only $199 (Ars Technica)

"It costs just $200. It has no cables. It’s easy to use. It works for iPhone people and Android people, Mac people and PC people.

And it’s for more than just playing games. Call it Oculus and chill: The Go lets you curl up and watch TV virtually along with a faraway friend. Or on a long flight, you can use one as your private movie theater. Noise-cancelling headphones, meet the annoying-seatmate canceling headset."
Oculus Go review: Facebook's $200 portable VR headset goes for the mainstream - The Washington Post

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Facebook Plans a Dating Feature, Sending Match, IAC Plunging - Bloomberg

For a big-picture Facebook reality check, see Mark Zuckerberg Says It Will Take 3 Years to Fix Facebook (Wired); in other social networking news, see Snap's Sales Fall Short as Users Shun Redesign; Shares Slide (Bloomberg)
"The feature would help connect people who aren’t Facebook friends and be for “building real, long-term relationships -- not just for hookups,” Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said during a presentation at the company’s F8 developer conference. Match, which owns apps like Tinder and OkCupid, fell 22 percent, the worst single-day drop in its history, while IAC fell 19 percent, the most since 2001.

“If we’re focused on helping people build meaningful relationships this is perhaps the most meaningful of all,” Zuckerberg said."
Facebook Plans a Dating Feature, Sending Match, IAC Plunging - Bloomberg

Apple Tops Sales Estimates on Services Growth, iPhone Stability - Bloomberg

Check this Apple page for details

"Apple Inc. reported revenue and profit that beat analysts’ estimates and projected continued sales momentum, calming concern about demand for the iPhone, its most-important product.

The Cupertino, California-based company also unveiled a new plan to return more money to shareholders and said services sales jumped 31 percent.

Apple shares rose more than 4 percent in extended trading, after closing at $169.10 in New York on Thursday."
Apple Tops Sales Estimates on Services Growth, iPhone Stability - Bloomberg


Four publisher groups to Google: Your GDPR proposal ‘severely falls short’ - MarTech Today

Check the full 5-page joint letter here (pdf)

"Essentially, the tech giant is telling publishers that they are responsible for getting consent from their EU visitors if Google ads are served on their sites. Additionally, the publisher groups say in the letter, they will have to share that personal data with Google, which won’t reveal how it intends to use that info, and liability for violations reside with the publishers.

“Your proposal severely falls short on many levels,” the letter reads in part, “and seems to lay out a framework more concerned with protecting your existing business model in a manner that would undermine the fundamental purposes of the GDPR and the efforts of publishers to comply with the letter and spirit of the law.”"
Four publisher groups to Google: Your GDPR proposal ‘severely falls short’ - MarTech Today

Bill Gates got President Trump fired up about a universal flu vaccine — and also (maybe) got a job offer (STAT)

From a wide-ranging interview

"Trump hasn’t named anyone to fill the vacant post of White House science adviser. The last director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, John Holdren, resigned at the end of the Obama administration.

Many in the scientific community are worried about this vacancy. Gates brought it up during his 40-minute meeting with Trump.

“I mentioned: ‘Hey, maybe we should have a science adviser.’”

And?

“He said: Did I want to be the science adviser?”

That’s not the answer Gates was looking for. “That’s not a good use of my time,” Gates recalled telling the president."
Bill Gates says he got Trump fired up about a universal flu vaccine

WhatsApp Co-Founder Leaving Facebook Amid User Data Disputes - The New York Times

In other Facebook news, see Facebook’s Privacy Changes Leave Developers Steaming (NYT)

"On Monday, Mr. Koum, 42, a member of Facebook’s board of directors, said in a post on the social network that “it is time for me to move on.” He did not give a reason for his exit.

But according to a company executive, who asked not to be identified because the details of Mr. Koum’s departure were confidential, Mr. Koum had grown increasingly concerned about Facebook’s position on user data in recent years. Mr. Koum was perturbed by the amount of information that Facebook collected on people and had wanted stronger protections for that data, the person said. Mr. Koum had discussed leaving the company since late last year, the person added."
WhatsApp Co-Founder Leaving Facebook Amid User Data Disputes - The New York Times