What 2 runaway llamas taught us about net neutrality

"Katy was so worried when you two just took off like that"

For about two hours today, all the Internet wanted to talk about was the FCC’s historic net neutrality decision. (They’re in favor of it.)

Then, suddenly, all work stopped as the digerati focused their collective attention on two runaway llamas scampering around Phoenix.

Short attention span much? Sure. Never accuse the Twitterverse of being able to focus on any one thing for very long. And if it involves cute animals, a skycam, or — wonder of wonders — both of those things, well, it’s hard for those of us brought up in the school of quick clicks to resist.

But the two events are more connected than you might think. Without belaboring the point too much, it’s clear that the Llama Drama could never have happened without a fairly substantial stack of technologies, all working together smoothly.

Helicopters? Check. High-bandwidth, real-time digital video connections from the helicopter to the TV station? Check. A social network primed to share links (and jokes) about an entertaining, developing “news” situation as it happens? Check.

The ability for a local TV station in Phoenix to broadcast live video anywhere in the world, in real time, with a minimum of lag and pretty decent video quality? Check.

Now imagine a world where that TV station wasn’t able to broadcast real-time HD video without paying extra fees. Where Netflix, because it had paid extra fees to your ISP, could guarantee that you’d be able to watch the upcoming release of House of Cards season 3 without hiccups, but at the expense of the live video feed from ABC 15 in Phoenix. Where ABC 15 couldn’t even be sure its video feed would get across at all, because it hadn’t made extra payments to every ISP and content delivery network along the path from its servers to your browser.

Now, this argument works for both sides of the net neutrality debates. The FCC just made its decision today, but as of today’s Llamapalooza, those rules were not yet in effect.

ISPs and wireless carriers — starting with Verizon — have mocked the FCC for trying to apply ancient, 1930s-era communications policy to the modern world’s technologies. And we were all able to watch the llamas without an explicit net neutrality mandate just fine, thank you very much.

But net neutrality proponents point out that there are plenty of examples already where carriers have prioritized the content of paying customers over others. It’s only a matter of time, the argument goes, until you can’t get through to customers in any kind of reasonable way without paying extra. Just because you could watch Llamarama today doesn’t mean it’ll be streaming smoothly the next time it happens — and that’s why we need regulatory enforcement.

As for me, I can see both sides of the argument, but I feel there’s a strong argument to be made for the FCC to ensure that everyone — individual consumers as well as small-time video broadcasters — have access to a basic level of service. That shouldn’t eliminate the option for companies like Netflix to hire CDNs to ensure fast, timely delivery — as long as that priority channel doesn’t adversely affect the transmission of basic email, web content, and video.

In other words, as FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said today, this isn’t a restrictive regulatory move (unless you’re a rapacious carrier). This is a guarantee of non-restriction.

This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech!” Wheeler said today, nearing yelling.

As for the llamas: Well, they’ve now been regulated. Both were eventually lassoed, bringing an end to the epic that future generations might call the Llamayana.

We mourn. But, like the Left Shark, the images of the llamas will live on. And so will the Internet.

from VentureBeat » Dylan Tweney http://ift.tt/18rYsYm

What 2 runaway llamas taught us about net neutrality

Dylan’s Desk: Why the coming messaging economy will be very big business

WhatsApp, Line, Skype, WeChat -- how do you want to chat?

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There’s a deep shift in the way we communicate happening, and it’s about to turn media and marketing businesses upside-down.

In short, the Web-based world is about to become secondary to the message-based world.

Messaging apps like WhatsApp (now part of Facebook), WeChat, Line, Snapchat, and Kik are sitting pretty in this new world. That’s because they’re the apps that young people increasingly use to communicate. Some striking stats:

  • WhatsApp: 700 million monthly active users
  • WeChat: 468 million monthly active users
  • Line: 181 million monthly active users
  • SnapChat: 100 million monthly active users
  • Tango: 70 million monthly active users

Kik, whose cofounder and chief technical officer Chris Best was on a panel discussion with me earlier this week, doesn’t report monthly active users for some reason. Instead, it reports that it has 200 million registered users — of which some unknown, smaller proportion are active users. Tango also reports 200 million registered users, so we can estimate that Kik, like Tango, probably has about 1/3 as many active users, or about 70 million.

But Kik claims that 40 percent of people in the U.S. between the ages of 13 and 25 have Kik accounts. Forty percent! That’s an astonishing number that gives some hint of how ubiquitous messaging apps are becoming.

At first glance, you might wonder what the big deal is. Why does anyone need one of these apps to communicate when we’ve already got email, instant messengers from Facebook, Google or AOL, and SMS-based text messages?

The answer is complex, but boils down — I think — to the fact that these message apps let people create unique identities that aren’t tied to their email accounts or phone numbers, and they support a wider range of content. You can send funny GIFs to your friends. You can send them custom stickers. You can send them goofy selfies that (usually) disappear in a few seconds. You can play games with them.

And, increasingly, you can read the news or make purchases via message apps.

In this, the U.S. is a bit behind Asia, where you can even buy insurance and apply for a mortgage via WeChat. But transactional features are coming to our shores.

And content: Snapchat’s move into content, with its Snapchat Discover channel, is just the start.

And search: As NYC Techstars’ Alex Iskold recently wrote, I’ve seen the future of search, and it ain’t Google.

And even more: One new startup out of Y Combinator called Magic is promising to fulfill whatever it is you need — whether that’s a pizza and a Pepsi, an order of sushi and some flowers, or a tiger. Magic works via SMS right now, but it’s easy to imagine it working in any of the major messaging apps.

Web- and content-based businesses, like Google and Facebook, will have to recalibrate their entire business models. (Facebook seems to understand this, and was willing to spend an enormous amount, $22 billion, in acquiring WhatsApp as a hedge against this message-centric future.) That goes double for publishers like Yahoo, Buzzfeed, Vox Media, the New York Times, and, yes, VentureBeat.

Apps that aren’t message-centric will need to transform themselves, or else find a way to insert themselves into the message economy somehow. Instagram’s recent direct message feature is a perfect example of a content-centric app trying to turn itself into a messaging app.

For marketers, messaging apps are incredibly tempting — and potentially revolutionary. Kik, for instance, says that 70 percent of the branded messages it has sent to its users are opened in the first hour, an enormous open rate. That’s not based on a small sample size, either: It has sent 100 million of these messages to date. What’s more, it says that the click-through rates on those messages are 10 to 50 times higher than on Twitter or Facebook. The reason it’s seeing such high rates of engagement are because people have already opted-in to receive those message. If you’re following Funny or Die (a content partner on Kik), you’ve already self-selected as someone who is interested in that brand’s content. Also, Kik limits marketers to just four branded messages per month, to help keep the frequency low and the novelty high.

Other message-centric apps are taking different approaches. WhatsApp claims that it will not carry advertising — though that’s the fundamental raison d’etre for its parent company, Facebook, so we’ll see how long that lasts. Snapchat has just started to experiment with making money. WeChat hasn’t made nearly the traction here that it has seen in Asia, and offers fewer features to its English-speaking users (and marketers). Tango has been aggressively courting game developers.

Whatever approaches win out, one thing seems clear: Message apps are flush with cash, and know that they’re sitting on top of an incredibly valuable resource — the time and attention of a young and tech-savvy demographic. Look for a lot of experimentation to happen in the next year or two.

And who knows, maybe the next big media brand will emerge on a messaging app instead of on the Web.


from VentureBeat » Dylan Tweney http://ift.tt/1FZNOGa

Dylan’s Desk: Why the coming messaging economy will be very big business

I want to go there.

This week, Science published a noise map of the U.S., showing where the loudest and quietest places are.

It reminded me of a tree map of the U.S. published a couple of years ago.

If I were a maps geek, I’d try to combine these two maps so I could see at a glance the places that are both filled with trees and quiet. Because those are the places I want to go.

Sometimes a tree-filled and noisy place, like Central Park, can be invigorating, while a quiet and treeless desert, like Death Valley, has its own special charms, too. But most of the time what I’m missing is being among the trees, in silence, like a druid.

New map show's America's quietest places, from Science Magazine
New map show’s America’s quietest places, from Science Magazine
Where the trees are, from the NASA Earth Observatory
Where the trees are, from the NASA Earth Observatory
I want to go there.

Think mobile is big? You ain’t seen nothing yet

Mobile technology has been one of the biggest drivers of growth in the tech sector since the iPhone’s launch in 2007. But if Digi-Capital‘s predictions hold water, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

According to the research and advisory firm’s latest Mobile Internet Investment Review, investors plowed more than $32 billion into mobile tech companies in 2014.

These 68 companies have $1B+ valuations.

The most valuable of those companies — the 68 mobile “unicorns” with a valuation of $1 billion or more — added $28 billion to their combined value in just the fourth quarter to reach a total of $261 billion.

“To put the $28B value added last quarter in perspective, that’s $300M [per day] — or more than 30 Tim Cooks (who got paid over $9M last year) a day,” said Tim Merel, the managing director of Digi-Capital.

“But it wasn’t all plain sailing, as fourteen of the billion-dollar companies lost value (in some cases multiple billions of dollars). Admission also doesn’t guarantee lifetime membership, with two former unicorns falling below $1B in Q4 for a total of five dropouts last year.”

You might think that these unicorns are the cream of the crop, and you’d be right. But even within this exclusive club, there’s a tier of truly successful elite companies.

Just 20 of those 68 billion-dollar mobile companies account for almost 70 percent of the entire group’s value, or $178 billion of the $261 billion total. Those top 5? Uber, WhatsApp, Twitter, Flipkart, and Snapchat.

The Pareto principle at work: The top 5 mobile unicorns account for 70% of the value.

Digi-Capital predicts that revenue from the mobile Internet will top $700 billion annually by 2017, more than tripling its 2014 figure. The vast majority of that, $500 billion, will come from m-commerce, or purchases made by people using their phones to order things online.

The U.S. and Europe will account for a fair amount of m-commerce growth. But where the market will really boom is in Asia, which will account for almost half of the m-commerce total by 2017, Digi-Capital predicts.

There are some other intriguing data points in this report. Not surprisingly, Android app downloads greatly outnumber iOS app downloads, while iOS apps are far better at making money. That’s a story we’ve been hearing for a couple of years now.

But what surprised me is that the Google Play store only accounts for a minority of Android app downloads worldwide. Google Play has 20 percent of overall downloads, while iOS has 17 percent — but competing Asian Android stores are close behind, with Baidu at 17 percent, Tencent at 16 percent, and Qihoo at 11 percent.

Android and iOS app store market shares and monetization, 2014.

Not surprisingly, mobile games dominated mobile app revenues, with 74 percent of the total.

And if there’s a power law operating in the valuations of the biggest mobile companies, it’s an even more powerful effect when you examine the performance of the top mobile apps. For instance, the top 1 percent grossing apps have 35 times more sessions per day than the top 5 percent, and 20 times the customer lifetime value. That’s an enormous differential that shows where the money is mostly going in this market.

The question, then, is how to capture some of this epic growth. That’s where VentureBeat’s Mobile Summit comes in. I’ll keep my pitch short: This small, invitation-only event that we’re hosting next week will bring 180 of the top mobile executives, founders, and investors into one place to talk about ad tech, user acquisition strategies, how to make the best use of mobile data, and how to optimize and personalize apps for your customers.

And Digi-Capital will be giving a detailed, 47 page summary of its extensive 578 page report to all attendees.

If you’re in the mobile industry and want to find out how to get on the leading edge of the growth curve described in these charts, the Mobile Summit is well worth the price of admission. I hope to see you there.


Think mobile is big? You ain’t seen nothing yet

Facebook’s fake “real names” policy

Dana Lone HillIn October, Facebook issued a very clear statement saying that it’s never been the company’s policy to require legal names — but rather, to require people to use the names they go by in real life. “For Sister Rosa, that’s Sister Rosa. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that’s Lil Miss Hot Mess,” a company spokesperson said.

But Facebook is repeatedly reneging on that promise. For Native Americans, for instance, it insists that names like “Dana Lone Hill” don’t meet its guidelines — and then it requires legal documentation (copies of a driver’s license, for instance). For punk music writers like Legs McNeil, it requires a more “legitimate” sounding name. For video blogger Jay Smooth, it briefly suspended his account (and then reinstated it when Smooth, who has quite a following, complained about it on Twitter.)

Whenever the company gets called on this behavior, it says each individual instance was a mistake. But this is a repeated pattern. The “mistake” excuse does not hold water.

This is not responsible corporate behavior. This is the behavior of a company that believes it can say one thing publicly and do something completely different in daily practice.

Facebook’s fake “real names” policy