The big news last week was the Snap IPO – the biggest since Alibaba – which raised $3.4 billion for Snap, a company which managed to lose $514.6M last year and has lost money every year since it began commercial operations in 2011,” according to CNBC and, forest through the trees, “has warned that it will never make a profit.”
Facebook tried to buy Snap nee, Snapchat, a few years back for some $3B – pass – so they bought Instagram instead, for the now seemingly bargain price of $1B. Of course, Instagram didn’t have the number of eyeballs that Snapchat did at the time, but since Facebook, um, appropriated features that Snap had innovated – Stories comes to mind – Instagram’s popularity and growth has far outdistanced Snap’s. And remember: eyeballs/exponential growth are the holy grail of Silicon Valley investors and the market. We do know that Twitter has come up more than once in articles covering the Snap IPO, as how long did Twitter skate after the IPO, promising continued user growth, which never materialized. Au contraire, but they did go a good long time with nary a sustainable revenue model in sight, and a falling user base, which does go far in explaining the lack of a buyer for the company.
For the record, ‘growth potential,’ ‘eyeballs,’ – this is the language of Web 1.0, when it was all potential, all the time. The potential was there; the timing was off: the bubble burst. That was then and this is now, and we’re at the Too Big to Fail Stage in the history of tech.
Back in the days of Web 1.0, we had it all wrong. Content is king was the rallying cry, and eyeballs rather than business model/profits were the coin of the realm in naiveté that New Economy. The web was referred to as the Information Superhighway, but was viewed as a way to access information, rather than to gather it.
The bones were there, the focus was off.
And anyone who believes that the Snap IPO will mirror Twitter’s doesn’t understand the new New Economy: Snap pretty much owns its demographic, and therein lies the difference.
We always pay attention when language/designations change. In the Age of Social/Tracking, we no longer refer to users as eyeballs. Now its engagement and note to self: only the words have been changed to deceive the clueless. Or to obfuscate the fact that watchers are always watching, whether you’re engaged or not. In case you missed it: Uber’s Greyball Tool. Seems the God View, which only last week we voiced skepticism as to whether or not had been disabled, or if Uber had kept its promise to tell the Attorney General’s office if it ever starts collecting GPS information from mobile devices even when the app isn’t open (Crimes, Misdemeanors – and Business As Usual), is alive and well and, again, only the name has been changed to deceive the clueless.
According to PJ Media, “Uber has been using a tool they call Greyball that collects data from the Uber app that can identify officials who call Uber for a ride, and then avoids picking them up by sending them false information. The intent is to prevent these officials from gathering information and contesting some of Uber’s practices. It’s being used in cities around the world to obstruct regulators, including those that are investigating whether Uber is breaking the law.” In fact, according to the article, “A few months ago, Uber required users to provide permission to track them all the time, even when they were not using the app. There was no option to track us just when calling for a ride. Many wondered whether Uber could be trusted. If a scathing story by Mike Isaac in The New York Times is any indication, perhaps they can’t. It’s been revealed by several employees that Uber is using personal information to selectively track and screen some of its riders, specifically to deceive local law enforcement authorities who have been investigating Uber’s entry into their markets.” Cover a crime with a bigger crime, which seems to be another part of the new, New Normal. Greyball/God View – it’s digital stalking by any definition. “But this latest issue should be a cautionary note to all of us,” warns PJ Media. “When Uber, or any company, asks to track us 24 hours a day, we can only imagine how they might use this information against us. There are no restrictions on Uber selling our location to advertisers, knowing when we are on vacation, and tracking our every movement to learn our habits.”
Of course, turnabout is always fair play. Case in point: Fawzi Kamel, the Uber driver who recently picked up company founder Travis Kalanick, and had a bone to pick with him, accusing Kalanick of lowering fares and costing him thousands of dollars, all the while recording the conversation with his dashboard cam. Thanks to the change in Uber’s pricing, said, Kamel, he was unable to keep going at this rate. Kalanick retorted, “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own s**t.” Kamel turned the video over to Bloomberg (In Video, Uber CEO Argues With Driver Over Falling Fares), who notes, “The video shows off Kalanick’s pugnacious personality and short temper, which may cause some investors to question whether he has the disposition to lead a $69 billion company with a footprint that spans the globe.” No one should know better than Kalanick that someone’s always watching. Always a good idea to keep one’s ego in check: given the impact and virality of social, it’s never really clear who’s truly in the driver’s seat. Onward and forward.