Lots to unpack over the last several weeks, from name changes to privacy (and subsequent earnings reports) and more. Let’s get into it!
Meta and the metaverse
One of, if not the, biggest stories to come out over the month was Facebook’s rebranding. It was a busy month or two for Facebook — they had a massive outage in early October (possibly a BGP/DNS routing issue), then Instagram-related backlash from WSJ’s seminal Facebook Files report. In a likely effort to separate themselves from that piece of news, Facebook announced on October 28th that they shall now be known as Meta.
Meta will now compose of two subsidiary organizations: Family of Apps (which includes popular apps like Facebook, Instagram & WhatsApp) and Reality Labs, Meta’s AR/VR cornerstone, which has already developed & released the Meta (previously: Oculus) Quest & Horizon Workrooms.
What is meta and the metaverse? Meta, from Google, means “denoting something of a higher or second-order kind.” An example of this is metadata — a document’s main data is its content, while its metadata may include author name, time of publication, file size and potential keywords/tags attributed to the work. Now, what about metaverse? The word metaverse has appeared a few times historically in literature, notably in Neal Stephenson’s dystopian novel “Snow Crash” from 1992. It foretells the next iteration of the internet, one where we can conduct meetings, chat with friends and explore the Eiffel Tower right in our rooms using VR headsets and AR glasses.
Building the metaverse will be a huge undertaking and one I cannot wait to follow (and maybe even contribute to someday!). Apart from the technical hurdles, we need to have open standards, interoperability (eg. Microsoft’s metaverse should be compatible with Meta’s) and democratic governance. Overall, I am excited about this technology and the immersive experiences it may be able to bring. At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, I am hesitant about users’ privacy (will we be digital assets, where each of our clicks and moves in the metaverse is tracked for targeted ads, among other things?) and how this will impact COVID-recovery, where many people are eager to “get back into the real world” after almost two years of intermittent lockdowns and restrictions.
Regulations in China
In mid-October, Microsoft announced that they would be pulling LinkedIn out of China after 10+ years of operation there. Throughout the 2000s, Microsoft tried to make its presence in China known — apart from LinkedIn, Bing, its cloud based Azure software & its Windows OS in particular are used by many in the country.
LinkedIn’s reasoning for the move? “… a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements.” LinkedIn generates around 6% of Microsoft’s yearly revenue and will now look to other ways of expansion. Given its a social network at its roots, acquiring more users and “growth hacking” through referrals and network effects are key — thus, LinkedIn should be eyeing other rapidly developing regions in Asia (India, Indonesia, etc.) and Africa (Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, etc.).
Other regulation-related updates from China include its online-video game time restrictions for youth under 18 and its crackdown on edtech companies. Regulations have been cropping up elsewhere, too — take the EU’s stringent new Digital Services Act, which limits the ability of tech companies to favour their own platforms by directing users to their services instead of rivals’ (eg. Google search directing a user to Google Shopping for a product search).
Yahoo! also left China due to regulations and legal (data localization) concerns recently.
- Netflix faced trouble with its Dave Chapelle special, “The Closer”. Deemed transphobic and released despite qualms from some of its workers, the executive admitted there was not enough transparency & democracy with the decision.
- Snapchat and Facebook posted misses in revenue at their quarterly earnings updates. They deemed the reason for this to be Apple’s big iOS privacy change called App Tracking Transparency. Users need to agree/opt-in from the start of using an app that their data can be collected — less people doing this means less data for Snapchat & Facebook, ads not as well targeted and less ad revenue. I feel mixed about this, because a) as a consumer, I would rather have targeted ads than random ones if they’ll be there regardless and b) some speculate Apple made this move not as a charitable being, but so that it can further propel its own apps and ad business, which could definitely be the case. Google left this issue relatively unscathed given that it can host its ads and products on the Android OS, separate from Apple & its privacy rules. The question that arises from all this — is there a price to pay for privacy? iCloud subscribers get even more privacy features from Apple… will this be a future trend? Who knows.
- Facebook and Coinbase partnered to create a digital wallet that allows people to send money internationally without fees. The DeFi industry is nearly a $100B business today.
- Google released its Pixel 6. Critically acclaimed by reviewers, the phone features the Tensor chip, marking Google’s discontinuation of the Snapdragon chip in its previous Pixel phones. Material Design (Material You) looks as good as ever and the phone features an improved camera that can capture 150% more light than its predecessor. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro retail for $599 and $899, respectively.
Lastly, the business side: First, the markets. Rising inflation has plagued the US and the greater world for months now. This has been attributed to the conflict between a surge in demand of raw materials & products and supply chain bottlenecks.
I read an interesting Hacker Noon article a couple weeks back comparing Bitcoin and the USD. From it, the author Ales Kovalevich essentially argued against the adoption of Bitcoin as a future universal currency that will replace the greenback. They named the ‘black swan event’ in March, 2020 — when, at the onset of lockdowns, leveraged traders sold their assets for cash, triggering a 40% BTC price drop — to highlight its volatility, said that “moderate inflation is a sign of a healthy economy,” and that the more 1 BTC is worth, the more “it will turn into a pure investment asset, like gold, rather than a currency. According to Ales, people value low transaction cost, speed, stable value and universal acceptance, all of which Bitcoin does not have… yet. Coins like XLM or XRP are closer, but still far away from being legitimate currencies given the lack of their widespread acceptance.
Regarding IPOs, GitLab, a DevOps tool, became public on October 15th. Allbirds and Toast recently went public, as well.