🚂 Facebook train missed its platform
It seems that, in long-term, it is impossible to lead without a platform of your own
👋 Welcome to FWIW by David Tvrdon, your weekly tech, media & audio digest.
In this edition
Meta’s metaverse future is still far away, a platform of its own would help a lot
Google is going pageless in Docs, and other Workspace features are rolling out
Spotify’s acquisition spree continues, more adtech and analytics
Maybe Facebook should have tried to pull off the same trick as Huawei
At the end of January 2019, Facebook employees couldn’t access lunch menus, use early versions of Facebook apps, including Instagram and Messenger, or reportedly catch a bus to and from work.
Apple had revoked Facebook’s developer certificates over a controversial data-gathering project and it created a chaos internally. It was one of those things you fear and hope will never happen.
It was also a clear sign that there is always a boss above you who makes the rules and can stifle your business anytime.
Three years later, a piece entitled The Worst Day of Mark Zuckerberg’s Reign reminds us that an overlord still looms over Meta’s future.
Apple’s privacy settings (ATT) designed to block ad tracking within iOS apps meant billions in lost revenue and lower projections, news which resulted in Meta taking a quarter-trillion haircut on its market cap.
This Wednesday, Google said it is working on privacy measures meant to limit the sharing of data on smartphones running its Android software.
Although it did not provide an exact timeline for its changes and said it would support existing technologies for at least two more years, it’s safe to say after such statements that there will be real pressure to make this happen faster.
Clearly, Zuck is forward-looking and believes the only long-term future for his company is to be a leader within the next computing paradigm together with having a platform he owns and makes the rules.
There is a problem, though, experts say Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse could be decades away, not years. Purely because of the pace on innovation in computing.
That leaves Meta spending tens of billions of dollars on R&D every year for the next few years (decades). Sure, they have the money and, as I said, the core assumption makes sense but that's still a very long bet and they'll need something to bridge the gap.
I bet Zuckerberg has, for the past few years, been looking back at the failure of the Facebook phone. In my opinion, Facebook gave up too quickly.
Look at Huawei. When Trump blocked Huawei’s access to Android updates and using Google services in 2019, the company came up with Harmony, its own mobile operating system. The switch was painful and not ideal.
Yes, Huawei lost market share outside China but the switch to its own platform kept it going. (I am not advocating for Huawei here by any means.)
Facebook and Zuckerberg made it easy to dump on the company but there is another side to the story which is how Facebook and Instagram made it easier for small companies to advertise and reach new customers, nicely summed up in this piece.
My point is, maybe Facebook and Zuckerberg should have pushed harder for a mobile platform of their own as the metaverse future is still far away and it seems as if Apple and Google are strategically cutting off the company on their platforms.
📺 YouTube’s official blog, chief product officer Neal Mohan published “Look at 2022: Community, Collaboration, and Commerce,” where he announced new product features coming to YouTube this year. It’s a big list from new Shorts feature to better navigation in landscape mode or using your phone to interact with content while watching YouTube on a smart TV. If you’d prefer to hear it rather than read, The Verge had Mohan over for a long interview, it’s a good listen. [Vergecast]
ALSO: People who tuned in to watch the Beijing Winter Olympics on YouTube are instead being served propaganda videos. An analysis of YouTube search results by WIRED found that people who typed “Beijing”, “Beijing 2022”, “Olympics”, or “Olympics 2022” were shown pro-China and anti-China propaganda videos in the top results. [Wired]
🤪 How to choose a crypto wallet (if you must). [Wired]
🤨 In billionaire investor news:
Billionaire Soros buys stake in EV startup Rivian. Effectively, the Soros Fund Management is now among the most prominent investors in the company. [Reuters]
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway purchased a nearly $1bn stake in Activision Blizzard in Q4 of 2021, just weeks before Microsoft announced plans to buy the video game company. Berkshire’s stake is now up 21% this year. [Morning Brew]
🤓 Google’s ‘smart canvas’ vision for Workspace is starting to roll out - pageless documents in Docs, AI-generated summaries, and deeper ties to Maps and Gmail. As many mentioned before, this is Google’s take on what Notion has been doing successfully and also Microsoft Word (ie posting a YouTube link in Word turns it into a thumbnail, nothing like that was available in Google Docs). Features are going to be rolling out to Workspace accounts gradually over the next couple of weeks. [Fast Company, The Verge, Google product blog]
DATA POINT: Google has more than 3 billion Workspace users - a number that includes Gmail and Google Meet along with Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Notion, for instance, had 20 million users in 2021.
😲 Fake faces created by AI look more trustworthy than real people. Synthetic human faces are so convincing they can fool even trained observers, and they may be highly effective for use in scams. [New Scientist]
🤦♂️ EU takes on SpaceX and Amazon with its own satellite internet system. Regulator says it’s a waste of money. [FT]
🎧 Sony's $180 wireless LinkBuds bring a novel open-style earbud design. According to the review, they are comfortable, have superb voice call performance, but not the best battery life for an all-day use. [The Verge]
📉 This post on the decline of Google Search and emergence of Reddit as a more useful alternative has been widely shared in my Twitter feed. TL;DR Google Search has too many ads now, Reddit has nicely structured forums even on niche topics - plus, people discussing them makes it a better/useful read. It is a nice, provocative read with an overblown headline - at the end of the post, the author writes that he meant to say the quality of search results is declining. [DKB]
🤔 Samsung has adopted Google Messages as its default messaging app in the US, starting with the Galaxy S22 series. [9to5Mac]
Why does this matter? Watch this video from MKBHD. TL;DR - Google has RCS, Apple iMessage.
Small promo for 🇸🇰 Twitter users.
🏉 Super Bowl Ads
Crypto ads seemed to outperform everyone in terms of creativity and impact. Although Bloomberg has a different take: Crypto-related firms with ads underperform on downloads.
The 5 best Super Bowl ads of 2022 according to Fast Company and the worst one (yes, Budweiser)
👀 Piano acquires SocialFlow. Strategically, I think this is a good acquisition for Piano, opens up a lot of doors to publishers as SocialFlow has many customers. And sure, it is a good social media tool, though I have seen little and underwhelming case studies on attracting subscribers via social media (perhaps, independent newsletter writers being an exception with converting following into subscribers). [PR]
😒 Instagram’s video ad-revenue sharing program for IGTV has underwhelmed participating publishers. Not a surprise. Also, CEO Adam Mosseri said Reels are priority but the problem is how do you atribute ad revenue. Instagram remains, at least in my eyes, a somewhat functional, yet not big, conversion funnel and a branding channel. [Digiday]
👏 Financial Times nears 1 million digital-only subscribers. In total, the company has 1.17 million paid subscribers. [Axios]
📺 ViacomCBS changes corporate name to Paramount signaling Paramount+ is its big bet for the future. Paramount+ reached 32.8 million subscribers to end 2021. [Variety]
📜 International Journalism Festival 2022 programme is online, at least the first 150+ sessions. The definitive programme will contain approximately 270 sessions. If you will be there, let me know and we can grab a beer. [IJF]
📝 State of Data Journalism Survey 2021. Some findings: Access to quality data is the biggest challenge, most data journalists are self-taught, Python is the most popular programming tool followed by HTML/CSS and R, Excel remains the go-to tool for 74%. [DDJ]
📈 In a profile of Gazeta Wyborcza’s success with digital subscriptions, the Club premium tier is highlighted. The leading Polish newspaper said the most used feature, taken up by nearly 70% of Club members is the opportunity to pass on two additional subscriptions to friends or relatives. In a sense, this is a win-win and creates also a useful network effect often used by startups. [WNIP]
👩🏫 A new study suggests parents really want useful education news and aren’t getting it, if you are looking for under-reported (or reported badly) topics. [NiemanLab]
FROM THE FIX
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🤑 Spotify is acquiring two major podcast tech platforms: Chartable and Podsights. Podsights is a leading podcast advertising measurement service that helps advertisers better measure and scale their podcast advertising. Spotify says it will be making Podsights measurement even more accessible. As for Chartable, some of its features like SmartLinks and SmartPromos will be folded into Megaphone and probably not be available for non-subscribers. Not sure what is going to happen with charts and other features. [The Verge]
📊 These stats will tell you what kind of podcast to start next. Not in English, try Russian, not something in the society & culture category, maybe Astronomy. [Rephonic]
📑 Podnews is launching the first annual report card for the podcast industry. In the end, there will be report on how well podcast platforms are performing, especially Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. Help James out and fill it in, the listener perspective is also important. [Podnews]
❓ Poll: What is your preferred productivity or note taking app / suite of apps?
Last poll results: How many video streaming services do you subscribe to? 24% have two, 21% only one, 17% have five or more, 17% have zero, 12% have three, 9% have four.
🙏 And big thanks to Celine Bijleveld who helped me edit this newsletter. You can follow her on Substack here.