What is QUANTech? An easy-to-digest selection of what’s hot in tech and the impact on society to help you keep ahead in this rapidly changing digital world.
The past week was highlighted by Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference. This is the one-off yearly gathering to discuss the latest advancements of the social network. This year’s edition was still tainted by last month’s Cambridge Analytica —the company announced they are shutting down… but with new business perspectives— scandal, which placed the topics of data protection and privacy on top of speech priorities as Facebook executives took the stage.
Among noticeable announcements, it is worth mentioning the future launch of a new dating feature, novelties for both messaging apps Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp and a $199 Oculus GO headset to boost mass adoption of the VR technology Mark Zuckerberg believes so much in. You can read a rundown of day 1 here and day 2 here.
Facebook’s 10-year roadmap (2018 update)
Following this year’s F8 touted numbers of success and developments perspectives, there is one thing for sure: whether we like it or not, Facebook has become significantly ingrained in so many people’s lives. And it seems here to stay, no matter how and through which services (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Internet.org, Oculus, you name it). Engadget published an article worth reading about it. Given the size and influence of Facebook, the growing concern around data collection for sheer advertising purposes could lead the social network to consider a paid subscription for choosing either to be the product using Facebook for free or having an ad-free experience. This did not stop WhatsApp’s co-founder Jan Koum to leave the company though.
Talking Facebook’s role in our daily lives, we have also learned about a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites project Facebook is reportedly having with Athena to beam Internet across the world. The company using another company name has long shown interest in beaming Internet from above. Their most well-known project to date is Internet.org with Aquila. With this Athena project, Facebook would join SpaceX and its 12,000-sattelite Starlink project and Softbank Vision Fund funded project OneWeb. These three are worth looking at closely. As to Google’s Project Loon, it does seem on pause mode or stopped for now.
Facebook aside, noticeable news came from China over the past week, too. Talking digital society, the country started rolling out its social credit system on 1 May. We also learned about companies using tech to read brain signals at work for performance optimisation and although nothing surprising, a Chinese official is admitting publicly that it is able to retrieve deleted conversation history from the 1b-user WeChat messaging app, which the Tencent-backed company refutes.
On a lighter note, a new record was broken for the number of synced drones in the air. The previous record was signed by Intel at PyeongChang’s Olympic Winter Games. And the one before by Ehang. The latter took back the crown with this new record using 1,374 drones. The record setting took place in the Chinese city of Xi’an. See for yourselves:
Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk also shared vision about the future of the company at Q1’s earnings call outlining future plans for a network of autonomous cars and how revolutionary the car production process is to be with Tesla Y in 2020.
• Sergey Brin’s letter to investors talking society and technology.
• Lyft puts 30 self-driving cars to work in Las Vegas.
• YouTube now has 1.8 billion logged-in viewers each month.
• Twitter is asking users to change their password after an internal bug.
• LinkedIn turns 15.
• Telegram is now banned in Iran, affecting 40 million users.
• Telegram scraps plans for public ICO.
• Amazon threatens to suspend Signal’s AWS account over censorship circumvention.
• Why being excited about 5G.
• How to stop people using your face for porn (or other scarier things).
• Facebook vs. Google: Clash of the privacy infringers.
While Facebook is considering a paid subscription, it is worth addressing online advertising to wrap up this week’s QUANTech. Last March, founder of the World Wide Web (WWW) Tim Berners Lee published a letter in The Guardian to celebrate the 29th birthday of its creation. In it, he had these wise words: « Two myths currently limit our collective imagination: the myth that advertising is the only possible business model for online companies, and the myth that it’s too late to change the way platforms operate. On both points, we need to be a little more creative ». Such a quote reminds us of WhatsApp’s co-founder Brian Acton who once said: « You don’t make anyone’s life better by making advertisements work better ».
As the debate around the attention economy tied to online advertising gained momentum lately, Firefox shared about new ways to generate revenues while respecting privacy using their acquired app pocket to make money out of content. An approach worth looking at. This will to innovate —we need to take responsibility as consumers for all we consider free and take for granted online first— brings up another initiative popularised by US news website Salon, which is likely « the first publisher to ask users running ad blockers to either turn them off or make up for it by letting Salon use their computers’ processing power to mine cryptocurrency in the background ».
This cryptocurrency is then convertible to €, $ or whatever currency to reward and pay content producers. The most qualitative content, the more time spent, and the biggest revenue generated. Two ideas worth digging. Especially the second one. UNICEF is one interesting example for the latter, using computer power to mine cryptocurrency to raise money for worthy causes.