Posts from Web/Tech

Some Thoughts On Twitter

When I read the news a few weeks ago that Elon Musk had offered to buy Twitter, I wrote this:

I continue to believe that decentralization is the right long-term answer for a core communications protocol of the Internet and hope that Elon will think about doing just that once he owns it and is not concerned with the stock price and meeting quarterly revenue targets.

My partner Albert wrote this yesterday:

Albert’s suggestion would return Twitter to where it was a decade and a half ago when it first launched and that would be a fantastic first step towards full decentralization.

I continue to believe that a single person owning one of the most important communications protocols of the internet is a bad idea, but maybe it can be a bridge to something better.

Certainly being a public company has not been the right ownership model to make the big fundamental changes which are badly needed.

#Web/Tech

Content Moderation and Free Speech

Mike Masnick wrote a good piece on this topic on his Techdirt blog last week.

I particularly like this part:

First, let’s look at the world without any content moderation. A website that has no content moderation but allows anyone to post will fill up with spam. Even this tiny website gets thousands of spam comments a day. Most of them are (thankfully) caught by the layers upon layers of filtering tools we’ve set up.

Would anyone argue that it is “against the principles of free speech” to filter spam? I would hope not.

But once you’ve admitted that it’s okay to filter spam, you’ve already admitted that content moderation is okay — you’re just haggling over how much and where to draw the lines.

And, really, the spam example is instructive in many ways. People recognize that if a website is overrun with spam, it’s actually detrimental for speech overall, because how can anyone communicate when all of the communication is interrupted or hard to find due to spam?

https://www.techdirt.com/2022/03/30/why-moderating-content-actually-does-more-to-support-the-principles-of-free-speech/

I, like many in tech, would prefer a world where there is little to no moderation and where you get a lively expression of different views. I use Twitter explicitly to hear voices I don’t hear in my day-to-day routines.

But as Mike notes, you must moderate content online in order to create spaces where conversations can be had.

And inevitably, this leads me to the same conclusion that Mike comes to at the end of his post. What we need are way more venues for conversations and way more venues with different moderation policies.

In other words, the concept of free speech should support a diversity of communities — not all speech on every community (or any particular community). And content moderation is what makes that possible.

https://www.techdirt.com/2022/03/30/why-moderating-content-actually-does-more-to-support-the-principles-of-free-speech/

The early days of Twitter are instructive here. The Twitter website was unreliable and the API allowed anyone to build a third-party client. So many Twitter users used a different user interface to access Twitter and use Twitter. Had that architecture endured it could have created many “clients” with different moderation policies. Just like we have many email clients. It did not endure and so we have one company controlling the moderation policy of the entire Twitter conversation. That is not ideal.

Contrast this with Ethereum. We have a single protocol with many self custody wallets. Each self custody wallet has a slightly different user interface that allows users to access the Ethereum network in slightly different ways. But all of the teams working on the Ethereum ecosystem have a shared incentive to improve the network because they all own ETH. So a single protocol with a rich variety of third-party clients becomes sustainable.

If we want free speech then we want less concentration of market power and business models that allow for that. Advertising does not. Token-based business models do.

#Web/Tech#Web3

Analog Summer

It is officially summer now and with adult vaccination rates passing 70% in many parts of the US, people are out and about. I’ve heard the term “analog summer” used to describe this moment. If the past 15 months have been a digital lockdown, then the next three months are going to mark a return to analog activities; beaches, parks, concerts, bars, restaurants, nightlife, etc, etc.

We’ve already seen the effect of this change in behavior in our portfolio companies, many of which benefited significantly from the digital lockdown. Digital providers of education, entertainment, shopping, and so much more had banner months in 2020 and the first half of 2021.

I am looking forward to the analog summer. I can’t wait to do all of the things that we could not do in the last year and a half. I think it will be a much-needed return to normal for all of us.

As for our portfolio and the tech sector more broadly, I am not too concerned about the return to normal. These businesses all got a huge boost in business over the last year and they aren’t going to give it all back. But their growth rates will be more like what they were in 2019 than 2020. And they will be growing from a much larger base.

I think we all learned some new behaviors during the pandemic and while we are eager to shed some of them this summer, I think we will keep a lot of them going forward. The covid pandemic will mark an inflection point in the adoption of digital services and our analog summer, as great as it is going to be, will not change that.

#Web/Tech

Stack Overflow For Teams Goes Freemium

I could not help but use the word Freemium in the headline to this post. For those that don’t know, the word Freemium was invented here at AVC, back in 2006. I am quite proud of that fact, even though I did not come up with the word myself.

With that business taken care of, let’s move on to the topic of the day.

Our portfolio company Stack Overflow, best know for its massive free knowledge sharing service for programmers, has been building a companion business over the last few years called Stack Overflow For Teams. Teams is the same knowledge-sharing software that programmers know and love but for private sharing inside of companies.

Since launching Teams, it has been free for the first thirty days. But it takes longer than that to build great knowledge sharing inside of companies. So last week, Stack launched a new version of Stack Overflow For Teams that is now free forever for teams of 50 or less.

If you use Stack Overflow and love how it surfaces the answers to your questions and you want to use it for your team, you can do that for free right now. Go here and click Create A Free Team.

A Freemium Stack for your team. I love it.

#Web/Tech

Open Source Exposure Alerting Apps

The Linux Foundation announced its Linux Foundation Public Health initiative yesterday.

They are starting with two open-source exposure alerting apps called Covid Shield and Covid Green. These are two apps that use the Google Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) infrastructure. The codebase for both apps has been open-sourced.

The Linux Foundation had this to say:

“To catalyze this open source development, Linux Foundation Public Health is building a global community of leading technology and consulting companies, public health authorities, epidemiologists and other public health specialists, privacy and security experts, and individual developers,” said Dan Kohn, LFPH general manager. “While we’re excited to launch with two very important open source projects, we think our convening function to enable collaboration to battle this pandemic may be our biggest impact.”

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/tech-leaders-and-health-authorities-from-around-the-globe-collaborate-to-combat-covid-19-301096039.html

Countries, states, public health organizations, etc can build on these open source code bases to create exposure alerting and other apps that can help with the Covid pandemic and potentially other public health issues going forward.

I quite like how this is playing out. Google and Apple have built the base level infrastructure, the open source community is coming together to build the application level code base, and governments and public health organizations can take all of that and put applications into the market.

I am hoping we will see applications built this way coming to market in the near future.

#Current Affairs#mobile#Web/Tech

Mail Hosts

I got a question this past weekend that kind of stumped me. The question is – are there any really good mail hosts other than Gmail and Outlook?

I realize that Yahoo still operates a mail host as does AOL. And that many of the ISPs offer mail hosting. But all of those feel like 20 year old technology. Of course I could be wrong about that.

I am not talking about mail clients like Superhuman and Hey and others (including Apple and Microsoft’s mail clients). I feel like there has been a lot of innovation in that area over the years.

I am talking about the hosting platform that receives the email, filters out spam, and provides the connectivity to the mail client.

If you know of a modern and reliable mail host that supports the various third party mail clients, I would love to know about it.

If you are reading this on the web, please click on the button that says “Discuss On Twitter” and share your suggestion with me and everyone else who is interested.

If you are reading via email, please reply to this email or go to the web and share it with everyone via “Discuss On Twitter.”

I appreciate the replies!!

#Web/Tech

Real-Time Recount

Our portfolio company Recount Media, which I have blogged about here before, recently launched an interesting partnership between Recount, Twitter, and brand marketers. They are calling this partnership “Real-Time Recount.”

Recount is a news organization which publishes short-form video news on their owned and operated web and mobile apps, and also on platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc.

These short-form videos are particularly popular in social media platforms like Twitter.

What Real-Time Recount allows marketers to do is associate with a branded news organization while also taking advantage of the scale and hyper-targeting available on the scaled social platforms.

Ad Age has a good story today about this partnership (behind paywall) and Recount CEO John Battelle has a good post on his blog about it as well.

I like how John summarizes this opportunity at the start of his post:

It’s time to get back to the work marketers used to be really good at: Deciding on the appropriate context in which to engage your audience. And it’s time to pull back from a habit most of you have fallen into: Letting the machines choose your audience for you. Thanks to new approaches which fuse at-scale ad targeting with high-quality editorial product, you can step into this renewed role without sacrificing the reach, precision, and targeting afforded by the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and their kin.

https://battellemedia.com/archives/2020/06/marketers-have-given-up-on-context-and-our-national-discourse-is-suffering

Since the AdAge article is behind a paywall, I will pull a quote from yours truly to wrap up this blog post:

It won’t be for all advertisers in the beginning, but the ones who are courageous and can think about how to do it in a way that is consistent with their brand and their values, I think they’re going to be rewarded because they will get a lot of audience. They will get it in a [scaled] way, with high frequency and high quality. So, I think that’s one of the opportunities and challenges for The Recount is to bring advertisers along with us. Advertisers are used to being in cable news and linear television. They understand what that is. We’ve got to educate them on how to do it in social platforms, to do it in a way they can be comfortable with.

#Web/Tech

Fiber To Home

I’ve been working on getting a fiber internet connection to the home we are quarantining in. With nine of us living and working from home together, we are consuming a lot of bandwidth. And with everyone on our block doing more or less the same thing, the cable internet connections we all have are bogged down.

As I understand it, cable internet suffers from a few problems relative to fiber. The bandwidth in cable is usually (always?) non symmetric, meaning the upload speeds are not nearly as good as the download speeds. For applications like browsing the web, that’s fine. For applications like videoconferencing, that’s not so fine.

I also believe that cable bandwidth is frequently shared with your neighbors whereas fiber is usually a direct connection to the telco’s main internet connection. That means if your neighbors are using a lot of bandwidth, that can slow you down if you use cable, but not if you have fiber.

These are things I’ve heard over the years and believe to be true but I am happy to be corrected on Twitter (click the button below) if I am wrong about any of this.

In any case, we are moving to fiber in an effort to make our large group work from home situation a bit better for everyone. And I suspect that I am not the only one doing this right now.

USV has two fiber investments, Ting (owned by Tucows) and Pilot, and I believe that both will see demand for their services increase this year and beyond as we all need and want more bandwidth.

#Web/Tech

Do People Care About Privacy?

I got a lot of feedback on my post yesterday and a bunch of it was around the issue of privacy and whether we really care to keep our personal data private.

I think we are increasingly aware of our data and the need to have more control over it and how it is used.

When people ask me about this, I like to show them this chart:

That is the daily search traffic on our portfolio company DuckDuckGo’s private search engine.

The 65mm searches a day on DuckDuckGo is about 1% of Google’s estimated 7bn searches a day.

But it is also the case that search activity on DuckDuckGo is growing faster than Google’s search activity. If that continues to be the case, then that 1% can grow to something much more than that over the next decade.

People do care about privacy, but the sacrifices we make for privacy must come at a low enough cost that we will make them. As DuckDuckGo has improved its product, more people have used it. The combination of increasing awareness of the issue of data privacy combined with better user experiences for privacy-focused competitors will drive us all to an online experience where privacy has a lot more value to everyone.

#Web/Tech

The Internet

I linked to a post by Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince the other day. In it, he wrote:

The super heroes of this crisis are clearly the medical professionals at the front lines saving people’s lives and the scientists searching for a cure. But the faithful sidekick that’s helping us get through this crisis — still connected to our friends, loved ones, and, for those of us fortunate enough to be able to continue work from home, our jobs — is the Internet.

The data is kind of incredible. My friend Paul sent me this from Akamai:

– Since the week of Feb 10th, Akamai has seen a 30% increase in traffic in four countries with early lock-downs (China, South Korea, Japan, Italy) vs. RoW.

– Since the week of March 9th as more countries implemented lock-downs, global traffic saw 30% Y/Y growth vs. 3% on average

–  Peak traffic has more than doubled Y/Y to 167 Tbps.

– AKAM execs calling it the “greatest spike in Internet traffic the company has ever experienced”

Cloudflare is seeing similar numbers.

Big cloud providers are investing massively in their infrastructure to keep up.

I was on a Zoom yesterday and the clarity of the picture was remarkable. I thought to myself, “how are they doing this when everyone is using this service?”

And the answer, of course, is that Zoom doesn’t have to provide all of the bandwidth for their service. We all do.

Netflix doesn’t have to provide all of the bandwidth for their service. We all do.

The decentralized architecture of the internet is showing itself off right now. And it is a beautiful thing to behold.

#Web/Tech