Posts from 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

Firefox Better Web (with Scroll)

Ad blockers are hugely popular. Close to 800mm people around the world use them to avoid intrusive ads and data collection. I do not use an ad-blocker but I completely understand why one would choose to do so.

And yet much of the media business is supported by advertising. There are a growing number of subscription-based media services, but many people cannot or won’t pay for content and the vast majority of content consumed on the web is advertising supported.

So USV has long felt that a subscription-based ad blocker would make a lot of sense. Ad-supported publications could opt-in to get a piece of the subscription revenue and agree to block ads to the subscribers who have the ad blocker.

And that is why we invested in our portfolio company Scroll which makes exactly that.

And today, Scroll and Firefox are launching Firefox Better Web, which is a service inside of Firefox ($2.50 a month to start and $5 a month in time).

I downloaded the latest version of Firefox this morning and signed up. It went like this:

I signed up by giving my email address and entering my payment credentials.

And then I added the Scroll browser extension and was good to go.

I visited SB Nation and got an ad-free experience.

Which compares to this experience in my Chrome browser without Scroll (Scroll works on Chrome too)

The partnership between Firefox and Scroll makes a ton of sense. Firefox has long been committed to privacy and making the web work better for its users. If you use Firefox try the Better Web service. And if you use Chrome or another browser, you can get Scroll and experience more or less the same thing there too.

#Web/Tech

Videoconferencing's Moment

I am going to spend much of today in my Zoom room participating in several meetings around the country and around the world.

If you look at Zoom’s stock price over the last month, since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, you will see that the market thinks that I am not the only one who will be doing that.

The combination of limiting travel due to Coronavirus fears and the desire to lower carbon footprints tells me that we may have reached videoconferencing’s moment.

Maybe attending a meeting in person is a thing of that past and video’ing in is our future. If so, we may look back at this winter of 2020 as the moment that happened.

#Current Affairs#Web/Tech

Tech in 2020: Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

Our friend Benedict Evans posted his annual “macro trends” deck this weekend.

You can also download the PDF here.

In the deck, Benedict poses the question “what is the next S-Curve?”

And while he doesn’t exactly answer that question, these two slides are revealing:

There is a lot more in the deck, particularly around regulatory issues in tech and it is well worth a quick skim this morning.

#mobile#regulation 2.0#VC & Technology#Web/Tech