Posts from Web/Tech

Breaking Up Big Tech

With the news that two-thirds of Americans favor breaking up big tech combined with the news that Liz Warren (the biggest advocate of the idea) has broken out of the pack in Iowa, I thought I would return to this topic.

I wrote about this back when Liz first put the idea forward.

I am in favor of reigning in the monopoly/duopoly/oligopoly power of the large American tech companies. I am also in favor of reigning in the power of large tech companies that are not resident in the US.

Doing one without the other is bad policy and could give large tech companies outside of the US (particularly in Asia) a competitve advantage.

A better approach, as I advocated for in my earlier post on this topic, are policies, like the European’s GDPR, that would impact all companies doing business in the US equally.

I do not love GDPR. It is overly bureaucratic and for the most part has resulted in all of us robotically opting into being cookied everywhere.

But users do have a right to online privacy. We also have a right to self sovereign identity and ownership of our data.

Apple is offering Sign In With Apple in iOS13 to help us reduce our reliance on signing in with Facebook and Google. That’s great but it just replaces one boogyman with another.

What we need is an open sign-in protocol in which users control their sign-in keys and also all of the data we create and have created over the years once we are signed in.

Government can force industry into a regime like that with regulations that dictate that tech companies of all sizes adopt such approaches.

That is what we should be doing to reduce the market power of big tech instead of breaking them up. That is because their market power comes from this single sign-on oligopoly and the data that comes with it.

Government should not dictate the design of such a protocol or any of the technology that is required to produce such a regime. The market can and will do that once the requirements are put in place. We have much of what we need already in the form of cryptography and user centric wallet infrastructure.

We just need a forcing function to get big tech to adopt these technologies, which they won’t do on their own because they will reduce their market powers. Which is exactly why we need to do this.

#crypto#Current Affairs#entrepreneurship#hacking government#law#mobile#Web/Tech

Tumblr

The news hit yesterday that WordPress has purchased Tumblr from Verizon (which owns it by virtue of its acquisition of Yahoo! and AOL).

USV seeded Tumblr along with our friends at Spark in the summer of 2007 and were actively involved in the development of the company until its sale to Yahoo! in 2013.

I maintained an active Tumblog from before we invested in 2007 until October 2016, when I stopped posting there. There was no moment when I decided to stop posting there. I just did.

The narrative around the sale of Tumblr to WordPress is all about Yahoo! paying more than a billion for it and selling it for $3mm. It is absolutely true that Yahoo! never figured out how to turn Tumblr into a business and ending up losing its shirt on the investment.

But it is also true that Tumblr was bypassed by native mobile applications like Instagram and Snapchat where it was even easier to post about your life. Tumblr was both a blogging platform and a social media application and while I always loved the versatility of the platform, native mobile applications benefit from simplicity, not complexity.

There was a time around 2010 and 2011 when Tumblr was the most engaging social platform that I was on. I followed and met quite a few interesting people there and it was a lot of fun to be on it.

David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, always focused on making Tumblr a “positive” experience. That is why he refused to have comments, even though I pushed him to do it and hacked Tumblr by putting Disqus on mine. That is why he made the primary (only?) form of engagement a heart.

And it worked. Tumblr was a happy place and using it made people feel good about themselves.

While the world of social media has evolved a lot in the last six years, since Tumblr sold to Yahoo!, it has not really gotten better. One could make a very strong argument that it has gotten a lot worse. Tumblr was an example of how to do social media right and we can learn a lot from it.

#mobile#Web/Tech

Awesome Features That I Did Not Know About: Version Management In Google Sheets

One of the joys of using technology for me is discovering awesome features that I did not know about. This happens to me every so often and always brings a smile to my face. So I thought I’d blog about this when it happens to me.

This recently happened with version management in Google Sheets. When I work with a big spreadsheet, I always worry about making some change and messing the entire thing up. I have been using spreadsheets since Lotus123 and have messed up many a spreadsheet. So I like to make copies of my work regularly so I have something to roll back to.

Sometime in the last few weeks, I accidentally deleted a row and could not undo it. So I searched for “version management in Google Sheets” and got this one box answer:

This works for all Google apps but is particularly valauble for Google Sheets.

So now I can stop saving my work regularly. Google is doing that for me. Awesome.

#Web/Tech

Cloudflare's Galileo Project Turns Five

Our portfolio company Cloudflare provides a suite of mission critical security services, and increasingly other services too, in the cloud to their customers. Among the most well known of these security services is DDOS protection (aka denial of service attack protection). A DDOS attack is a massive traffic burst aimed at a website to take of offline.

Among the most vulnerable and attacked websites are those belonging to non-profits and other organizations doing work that upsets those in power.

So Project Galileo is Cloudflare’s effort to provide security services to these sorts of organizations for free so they can stay online and continue to do their work.

And Galileo turns five years old this week.

Matthew Prince, Cloudflare’s CEO and co-founder, wrote this blog post yesterday celebrating five years of Galileo and he explains why this is so important to Cloudflare, the Internet, and the world.

#Politics#Web/Tech

The Business Model Pivot

I saw Zuck’s post on pivoting to private interactions from public posts yesterday and I had a flashback to Bill Gates’s Internet Tidal Wave memo to his company almost twenty-five years ago.

I have always seen a lot of Gates in Zuck. They both have this incredible ability to see someone else’s product and realize that they need to build their own version of it.

But copying someone else’s product is a lot easier than copying someone else’s business model, particularly when you already have a fucking great one that makes you and your shareholders billions of dollars a year.

It will be interesting to watch Zuck do what Gates was ultimately unable to do – completely reboot the company’s business model to position itself to win the next wave in tech.

In the case of Gates, it was the pivot from paid software to free advertising supported software (aka – the attention economy that we are now paying for).

In the case of Zuck, it will be the pivot from monetizing attention to monetizing the protocol. The good thing is he is headed in the right direction, and surrounded some of the smartest people I know in crypto. The bad news is when you have this anchor called a legacy business model, it means making the right moves and making them quickly a lot harder.

Here is an example of one of those choices Facebook will need to make and make correctly:

In any case, it is game on. Being on the verge of 60 years old means I have seen this game play out at least once before and so I have a frame of reference to observe it. That’s really great. It is an exciting time again in tech.

#blockchain#crypto#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

The Convergence Of The Phone And Laptop

The Gotham Gal wanted to get a new laptop. Her late 2015 Macbook has started to fade on her.

So yesterday we made a visit to the local Apple Store and checked out the options. We looked at the Macbooks, the Macbook Airs, and we also looked at the iPad Pros. We debated the choice and she ended up deciding to go for the iPad Pro. We work with a few people who have iPad Pros and love them. And she noticed how much I am using and enjoying my Pixel Slate.

One of the most interesting things about these hybrid tablet/laptop devices is that they run operating systems that are designed for the tablet or phone. They are touch devices like our phones vs mouse devices like our laptops.

A good example of this is how I do email on my Pixel Slate. I could run Gmail in the browser on my Pixel Slate. But I have found it much more pleasing to do email in the Gmail Android App on my Pixel Slate. I swipe emails away like I do on my phone. But I also have the keyboard when I want to write a long response. It is literally the best of both worlds.

I am writing this post on my Pixel Slate (in the WordPress web app in Chrome). When I want to go back up to the start of the post and re-read/edit it, I just swipe up. No messing around with the touchpad, up button, or down button. It is so much more natural, although it took me a while to get used to it.

I am helping the Gotham Gal set up her iPad Pro this morning and we are downloading all of the mobile apps she likes to use on her iPhone. I think that is how she will want to use her new “laptop”.

So if this is the future we are heading into, where the user interfaces and applications our computing devices and our phones use start to converge, it suggests that there is a bit of an opening for new applications that are designed from the ground up to work in this way.

#mobile#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

The Free And Open Internet

I realize that publications need to have a business model to stay afloat. And the past month has seen a number of online publications (and offline publications) layoff a large number of employees. So it isn’t even clear that all of these hard paywalls, soft paywalls, and advertising based models are going to make the online publishing business work.

But the cost of all of this business model exploration and extraction is a continued degradation of the clean and fluid user experience that made the early free and open Internet so compelling.

A few days ago I saw a link on my phone that said “John Dingell’s Last Words For America.” I thought it was worth reading what a lifelong public servant had to say on his deathbed. So I clicked on the link and got this:

I never got to read what a lifelong public servant’s last words for America were. Sure I could have purchased a subscription to the Washington Post, but I don’t believe opinion pieces should be behind a paywall and I certainly don’t believe that something like Dingell’s last words should be behind a paywall. So I’m not going to reward the Washington Post for bad behavior with my money.

The truth is Dingell’s family should never have asked the Washington Post to publish his last words. Even the Washington Post’s owner Jeff Bezos knew to publish his words that he wanted everyone to read on an open platform like Medium.

The mainstream publications, like Washington Post, have ceded their role as the public square to places like Twitter and Medium that remain open and free.

That further limits their relevance. In search of a business model they cede the very thing that made them what they once were.

So what is my point? That paywalls are bad? No, I think subscriptions have their place in the publishing business. But the way paywalls are implemented today stinks. Some content should never ever be put behind one. And paywalls should federate, like the early ATMs did, so that joining one means joining them all.

That won’t get us all the way back to the free and open Internet that sucked us all in twenty plus years ago, but it will get us a lot closer to it.

#rants#Web/Tech

Pixelated

Google had its big event yesterday and announced two new Pixel phones, the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3XL. I’ve been using Google phones for quite a while now, first the Nexus phones and now the Pixel phones. I love my Pixel phone but I will be upgrading shortly, probably to the larger form factor 3XL.

But even more exciting to me is the Pixel Slate. I’ve been using a Pixelbook at the USV office for the last month and I like it quite a bit but it badly needs a biometric login to the device. The Slate apparently comes with a fingerprint unlock. 

So I will probably swap out my Pixelbook for the Pixel Slate and see how that goes.

I will let you know once I’ve got the new devices and have been using them for a bit.

#Web/Tech