Here’s your Last Week in Digital Media and all the news you may have missed.
- the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, is stepping down as of Q3 2021 and into the role of Executive Chair. Andy Jassy, who currently leads Amazon Web Services, will become replace Bezos.
- Instagram is testing a vertical feed for stories. This is a prototype and not available to the public, but given the pressure from TikTok and Snap, it’s not hard to imagine vertical stories becoming a feature.
- Facebook is rolling out Facebook Messenger to Oculus headsets. Mark Zuckerberg is bullish on VR chat’s potential, making a surprise guest appearance on a Clubhouse chat comparing VR to teleporting. In related news, Facebook’s AR glasses “Project Aria” got FCC approval (PDF link) and will be in limited field testing with Facebook employees.
- the rumors about Apple’s AR headset continue to grow. The Information (paywall) claims to have viewed internal Apple images (and has sketched a mock-up), there are multiple reports the device will be priced at over US$3k, with twin 8K video displays.
- twitter has moved fast post the Revue acquisition, with Newsletters now integrated into the twitter desktop experience.
- in other twitter news, twitter’s clubhouse competitor (twitter Spaces) is in broader beta testing. If you see a purple icon next to someone’s fleet, that is to let you know they have a Space. You can still listen-in without being part of the Spaces beta.
- Google seems to be losing enthusiasm for its cloud gaming service, Stadia. This includes closing its gaming studio, positioning Stadia more as a platform for other companies to use. For what it’s worth, Amazon’s incoming CEO has underscored a commitment to gaming, and indirectly Amazon’s Luna, a similar service to Stadia.
- Alphabet (including Google and YouTube) had a strong Q4 (PDF link). YouTube revenues were US$6.9B, Search US$31.9B,
- the Q4 Spotify results showed that Spotify’s bets on podcasts are paying off, with ~25% of users engaging with a podcast. Total Month Active Users (MAU) grew to 345MM (ad-supported subs are ~200MM). If you’re interested, here’s a good chart that shows just how well Spotify is outperforming Apple Music.
- the Pinterest Q4 results (PDF link) saw MAUs of 459MM. Ad revenue for Pinterest continues to grow, with the full year up 48% (US$1.69B).
- Snap’s Q4 earnings slide presentation (PDF link) saw Q4 Daily Active Users (DAUs) of 265MM. Snap claims over 200MM engage with lenses every day, and Spotlight (their new TikTok-Esque video product) has grown to 100MM MAUs. Slide 8 of the Snap presentation is worth a look, as it shows that Snap’s user growth is coming from outside of North America and Europe.
- US Senator Amy Klobuchar has introduced a bill intended to overhaul US antitrust regulations. It’s noteworthy because Senator Klobuchar has been a vocal critic of big tech, she is the incoming Chair of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, and her proposal includes strong post-merger retrospective investigations (the latter was flagged in FTC comments about Facebook-Instagram)
- a bill to reform S230 has been proposed by Senator Mark Warner (also backed by Senator Klobuchar). The SAFE Tech Act (PDF link), full name “Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism, and Consumer Harms Act,” would provide a way for users, in certain circumstances of real-world harm, to sue platforms without the platforms being able to use S230 as a shield to have claims dismissed.
PRIVACY, TRUST, and SAFETY
- Tim Cook’s full speech at the Computers, Privacy & Data Protection (CPDP) conference is now available on YouTube. At just under 12min, it’s worth a listen. Tim Cook connects privacy and data collection to challenges like fake news, disinformation, and scams, calls for US and global laws on privacy and data security; and claims that Apple is driving “ripples of positive change.” He also refers to the paper Apple published on Privacy Day called “A Day in the Life of your Data” (PDF link), which is also worth reading.
- TikTok has made some changes to limit the spread of misinformation on the platform. This includes labeling content that cannot be verified (both to the person watching and the original creator) and prompts people to think before they share such content but stops short of preventing the content from being shared.
- as Apple’s iOS14 changes get closer and various tech. companies mount public campaigns against Apple; there’s an article on Harvard Business Review that suggests that some of the data that models the potential negative impact is misrepresented. It’s worth a read to get an alternate perspective.
- that said, Facebook does appear to be increasingly nervous about the iOS 14 App Tracking Transparency (ATT) change and is testing its own pre-emptive notification to encourage users to share data with Facebook.
- here are links to iOS 14 blog updates from various platforms Google, Facebook, twitter, and Snap, in case it’s helpful. There is an increasing frequency of iOS 14 updates and blog posts being shared publicly and statements made during quarterly earnings reports.
- rumors are surfacing that Google too, is now considering an Android equivalent of ATT. Google is still in the early stages of considering what a solution may look like.
Stay safe and have a great week.
PS. A distraction of the week. This website lets you relive NASA Apollo missions in real-time. You can join just before liftoff, switch between various audio and (where available) video feeds throughout the mission. If you don’t want to listen for days, you can also jump to key points in a mission, like moments before the moon landing.