Issue 7/2019

Facebook posts record profit

Here are eight bits of news I found interesting this week, along with some brief commentary.

1. Facebook soars after it crushes earnings, posts record profit.

“Average revenue per user, or ARPU, crushed analyst estimates, at $7.37 — a 21 percent increase from last quarter, and a 19 percent increase from last year.” I’m actually impressed. Facebook has managed to hoodwink companies into buying advertising space on its platform despite the recent negative attention. Active user growth in Europe was slow and it was zero in North America, although the latter was responsible for the vast majority of the revenue growth (55.4%). The active user count should be taken with a grain of salt, but revenue can’t be faked. Essentially, North American companies are buying/paying more for adverts on Facebook’s various platforms, even though there is zero active user growth in North America. Interestingly, 88% of the active user growth came from Asia Pacific (60%) and Rest-of-world (28%). Click farms?.

2. Ride-hailing companies suspend Barcelona services after new regulations.

“The Catalan government ruled that ride-hailing services could only pick up passengers after a 15-minute delay from the time they were booked.” Unable to compete with the new kid on the block, Barcelona’s taxi drivers lobbied the government for some good ol’ fashioned regulation. The result is a more expensive, less reliable option for consumers. Once an incumbent is heavily regulated - i.e. taxi plate licencing - political forces make it difficult to disrupt. Those seeking the regulation of Facebook/Google should take note.

3. Apple says it’s banning Facebook’s research app that collects users’ personal information.

“The app allowed Facebook to track users’ app history, their private messages, and their location data. Facebook’s research effort reportedly targeted users as young as 13 years old.” More despicable behaviour from Facebook. It exploited Apple’s “Developer Enterprise Program” - designed to let companies test apps internally prior to public release and which Apple has now closed - to inject its malware into users’ phones, violating Apple’s privacy guidelines. Note that Google just pulled its equivalent spyware app before Apple could ban it.

4. Singapore says personal details of 14,200 HIV patients were posted online.

“Following a hack disclosed last summer that affected the patient records of up to 1.5 million citizens, Singapore’s Ministry of Health revealed today that personal details and the HIV-positive status of 14,200 people were posted online by a convicted fraudster.” I predict Australia’s centralised “My Health Record” will experience something similar at some point in the next decade.

5. Mozilla streamlines Firefox tracker blocking controls.

Mozilla is making it easier for you to block adverts on its Firefox browser. Meanwhile, Google is looking to remove ad blockers from its Chrome browser. What possible motivation could an advertising behemoth have to remove ad blockers, I wonder? If you were tossing up between Chrome and Firefox, the decision should now be obvious.

6. Apple booked $13 billion in revenue from China last quarter, down 27% from a year ago.

Apple doesn’t have a China problem, it has a competition problem. So does Samsung. I don’t buy the media’s take that this is a Chinese economy story, it’s more one of good old fashioned competition. The likes of Huawei, Xiaomi and other Chinese rivals are now big players in Asia, particularly China and India. They’re simply crowding out the more established, more expensive brands like Samsung and Apple.

7. Top U.S. Subscription Video on Demand App Revenue Grew 62% in 2018 to Nearly $1.3 Billion.

While Netflix again leads the pack, YouTube saw the fastest growth (114%). The click-based advertising framework (Google/Facebook) won’t work as well on video as it does on text or image-based mediums, so I’m happy to see subscription video on demand services continue to grow. I’m not sure who is going to win this space, or how many streaming subscriptions for which users will be prepared to fork out. There’s a lot of competition on the very near horizon, and a lot of these services are yet to come close to profitability.

8. “Deadbeat Debtors Near me?” China has a WeChat App Map for That.

George Orwell, eat your heart out. Designed by the Higher People’s Court in Hebei, this app shows users a map with the locations of anyone within 500 metres who has failed to meet their credit obligations. Yes, it’s real, and if you report a debtor you witness buying frivolous items to the authorities, you can improve your “Good Citizen Score”. Yes, that’s also a real thing. Scary stuff.

Image of the week

Samsung this week announced that it’s going to start offering the world’s first 1TB embedded Universal Flash Storage (eUFS) for smartphone manufacturers. With that in mind, here’s a look at how memory prices have decreased over the past several years.

Memory prices since 2013

That’s all for now, have a great weekend.

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Facebook posts record profit was compiled by Dr Justin Pyvis. Feel free to send feedback, suggestions for future issues, ideas, insults, or pretty much anything that crosses your mind to his Keybase chat.