Posts from 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

Tech:NYC at the NYSE

Tech:NYC is NYC’s tech industry advocacy group. According to its 2019 Annual Report, Tech:NYC has over 800 member companies representing all shapes and sizes of tech companies in NYC. I am the co-chair of Tech:NYC.

Today, the NYSE decided to celebrate tech startups in NYC (some of whom will eventually make their way to the NYSE) by inviting the leaders of Tech:NYC and some member companies to ring the opening bell.

This tweet has a short video that shows the scene as it unfolded:

Here is a photo if you can’t see the tweet:

If you are a tech company in NYC and want to be part of Tech:NYC, please go here and learn about the member companies, what it takes to become a member, and join.

#NYC#Web/Tech

Stack Today, Stack Tomorrow

Our portfolio company Stack Overflow (which I like to call Stack) is an Internet Treasure. My friend Mark Pincus introduced me to the concept of an Internet Treasure many years ago and I am a fan of the notion.

In my view, an Internet Treasure is a service on the Internet that is wide open, gets better when more people use it, and solves a need that many/all of us have. Wikipedia is an Internet Treasure. Quizlet is an Internet Treasure. Reddit is an Internet Treasure. And Stack is an Internet Treasure. There are many more out there but you get the idea.

Stack has a new leader and his name is Prashanth Chandrasekar. Prashanth wrote a “State of the Company” post yesterday on the Stack blog and I would like to highlight a few sections from it.

First, this is what an Internet Treasure looks like by the numbers:

Across Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange network, we saw around 10 billion page views from 100+ million unique visitors over the course of 2019.

In 2019, Stack Overflow added over 2.8 million answers and 2.6 million new questions, with over 1.7 million new users joining the community. There are now over 18 million questions and 27 million answers on Stack Overflow, and over 150,000 people sign up for a Stack Overflow account each month, 12 years after we started.

Every day, users answer thousands of questions on topics like cloud technology, container orchestration, and machine learning. There is an ever growing trove of knowledge on Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure.

Our community members and volunteer moderators handled almost two million flags to keep inaccurate, abusive, unwelcoming, or inappropriate content off the site and in line with our updated Code of Conduct.

Hundreds of thousands of engineers leveraged the power of Stack Overflow for Teams to better collaborate and ship products faster.

Over 40,000 jobs were posted on Stack Overflow Jobs in 2019. We now have over 1,000,000 searchable profiles of developers who are interested in being contacted about a job on Stack Overflow Talent.

Almost a million developers found new and useful tools after seeing a company advertise on one of our sites. 

New leaders don’t want to sit still. They arrive, take measure of the people and the business, and then make big plans.

And this is how Prashanth is thinking about the future of Stack:

1/ Continue to invest in the community, insure that the Code Of Conduct evolves to mantain the trust and safety of the community, and broaden the number of developers who fully engage in a the community.

2/ Continue improve and invest in Stack Overflow For Teams which allows organizations to use the same tool for internal knowledge sharing as they use for external knowledge sharing

3/ Expand the Advertising and Talent offerings to offer developers easy access to new tools and new career opportunities.

4/ Build and expand the team so that the Company can be responsive to the needs of developers and move quickly to adapt as the developer ecosystem changes.

5/ Stay true to the mission of supporting the needs of developers and technical workers and help them succeed in their jobs and develop their careers.

I am excited to see Stack flourish under Prashanth’s new leadership. That’s what we should want for all of our Internet Treasures.

#management#Web/Tech

Managing Multiple Twitter Handles

Like Mitt Romney and Kevin Durant, I manage multiple Twitter handles. Although neither is a secret handle.

I use @fredwilson for my personal tweets and I use @avc for this blog. I have done that since I joined Twitter in the spring of 2007.

The idea is to keep AVC blog discussions on @avc and leave @fredwilson for other things. That isn’t how it plays out however and on a day with a lot of discussion about AVC posts (like the last two days), I get reactions on both and engage actively on both.

Moving back and forth between Twitter handles on the Twitter mobile app is a breeze. You just add a second profile to the mobile app and you can switch back and forth in the profile view.

I have not found that to be as easy in a desktop browser and so I run two browsers, one where I am logged in on @fredwilson and the other where I am logged in on @avc. If there is a better way to do this, I would love to know what it is.

I know most people manage multiple email addresses, one for personal, another for business, and possibly a few more. I do not do that and use my main email address for everything. So I can’t explain why I don’t do the same on social media, but I don’t. And both approaches seem to work well for me.

#mobile#Web/Tech

What Happened In The 2010s

My friend Steve Kane suggested I take a longer view in my pair of year end posts this year:

And so I will.

Here are the big things that happened in tech, startups, business, and more in the decade that is ending today, in no particular order of importance.

1/ The emergence of the big four web/mobile monopolies; Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook. A decade ago, Google dominated search, Apple had a mega hit on their hand with the iPhone, Amazon was way ahead of everyone in e-commerce, and Facebook was emerging as the dominant social media platform. Today, these four companies own monopolies or duopolies in their core markets and are using the power of those market positions to extend their reach into tangential markets and beyond. Google continues to own a monopoly position in search in many parts of the world, has a duopoly position in mobile operating systems, and controls a number of other market leading assets (email, video, etc). Apple owns the other duopoly position in mobile operating systems. Amazon has amassed a dominant position in e-commerce in many parts of the world and has used that position to extend its reach into private label products, logistics, and cloud infrastructure. Facebook built and acquired its way into owning four of the most strategic social media properties in the world; Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Most importantly, outside of China, these four companies own more data about what we do online and also control many of the important channels to reach us in the digital world. What society does about this situation stands as the most important issue in tech at the start of the 2020s.

2/ The massive experiment in using capital as a moat to build startups into sustainable businesses has now played out and we can call it a failure for the most part. Uber popularized this strategy and got very far with it, but sitting here at the end of the 2010s, Uber has not yet proven that it can build a profitable business, is struggling as a public company, and will need something more than capital to sustain its business. WeWork was a fast follower with this strategy and failed to get to the public markets and is undergoing a massive restructuring that will determine the fate of that business. Many other experiments with this model have failed or are failing right now. When I look back at the 2010s, I see a decade during which massive capital flowed into startups and much of it was wasted chasing the “capital as a moat” model.

3/ Machine learning finally came of age in the 2010s and is now table stakes for every tech company, large and small. Accumulating a data asset around your product and service and using sophisticated machine learning models to personalize and improve your product is not a nice to have. It is a must have. This ultimately benefits the three large cloud providers (Amazon, Google, Microsoft) who are providing much of the infrastructure to the tech industry to do this work at scale, which is how you must do it if you want to be competitive.

4/ Subscriptions became the second scaled business model for web and mobile businesses, following advertising which emerged at scale in the previous decade. Startups that developed the skills to execute a subscription business model with positive unit economics delivered fantastic returns to investors and capital flowed into this sector as a result. This was a very positive development as subscriptions better align the interests of the users and the developers of mobile and web applications and avoid many of the negative aspects of the free/ad supported business model. However, as we end the decade, a subscription overload backlash is emerging as many consumers have signed up for more subscriptions than they need and in some cases can afford.

5/ Silicon Valley’s position as mecca for tech and startups started to show signs of weakening in the 2010s, largely because of its massive successes this decade. It is incredibly expensive to live and work in the bay area and the quality of life/cost of life equation is not moving in the right direction. The physical infrastructure (transit, housing, etc) has not kept up with the needs of the region and there is no sign that it will change any time soon. This does not mean “Silicon Valley is over” but it does mean that other tech sectors will find an easier time recruiting talent to their regions and away from Silicon Valley. And talent is really the only thing that matters these days.

6/ Cryptography emerged in the 2010s as a powerful technology that can solve some of the web and mobile’s most vexing issues. Cryptography and encryption have been around for a very long time, well before the computer. Modern computer cryptography came of age in the 1970s. But the emergence of the internet, web, and mobile computing largely did not integrate many of the central ideas of cryptography natively into the protocols that these platforms were built on. The emergence of Bitcoin and decentralized money this decade has shown the way and set the stage for cryptography to be built natively into web and mobile applications and deliver control back to users. Credit to Muneeb Ali for framing this issue for me in a way that makes a lot of sense.

7/ Technology inserted itself right in the middle of society this decade. Our President wakes up and fires off dozens of tweets, possibly while still in bed. We are all hostage to our phones and the services that we rely on. Our elections are conducted using machine learning technology to segment and micro-target important voting groups. And bad actors can and do use the same technologies to interfere in our elections and our public discourse. There is no putting the genie back in the bottle in this regard, but the fact that the tech sector has such a powerful role means that it will be highly regulated by society. And there is no putting the genie back in the bottle in that regard either.

8/ The rich got richer this decade. Axios wrote in a recent email that:

“The rich in already rich countries plus an increasing number of superrich in the developing world … captured an astounding 27% of global growth.”

But the very poor also had a great decade as Axios also reported:

The rate of extreme poverty around the world was cut in half over the past decade (15.7% in 2010 to 7.7% now), and all but eradicated in China.

The losers in the 2010s were lower middle class and middle class people in the developed world whose incomes stagnated or fell.

Technology played a role in all of this. Many of the superrich obtained their wealth through technology business interests. Some of the eradication of extreme poverty is the result of technology as well. And the stagnation of earning power in the lower and middle class is absolutely the result of technology automation, a trend that will only accelerate in coming years.

9/ This a post publish addition. A huge miss in my original post is the emergence of China as a tech superpower and a global superpower. There are many areas (digital money for example) where China is light years ahead of the western world in technology and that will likely accelerate in the coming years. Being a tech superpower is a necessary condition to being a global superpower and China is already that and getting more powerful by the day.

I will end there. These are the big mega-trends I think about when I think about the 2010s. There is no doubt that I left out many important ones. You can and will add them in the comments (wordpress for now), emails to me, and on Twitter and beyond. And that is what I hope you will do.

#crypto#entrepreneurship#machine learning#policy#Politics#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Adversarial Interoperability

As I’m gearing up for two big posts tomorrow and wednesday, I will simply give you a link (courtesy of Nick) to read.

Cory Doctorow’s EFF post on Adversarial Interoperability explains the move we need to make to fix what’s wrong with big tech, monopolies, duopolies, etc, etc. Basically everything that is wrong with the Internet, mobile, and web.

If I was able to issue required reading to everyone who is regulating tech or running for offices that are in a position to regulate tech, this would be it.

#policy#Politics#Web/Tech