With the summer holidays still in full swing, the tech industry seems to be in a holding pattern of sorts, although there are stirrings here and there. The autumn promises to be interesting, with the war in Ukraine, high energy prices and constrained funding environment.
Those tech companies that rely on advertising, such as
What is clear though is that for companies like Meta and Alphabet, ATT makes it more difficult to precisely target advertising, which forces them to charge less for each ad. However, interestingly, the detrimental impact of ATT doesn’t really appear to show up in the numbers.
As someone who is uncomfortable, to say the least, at the widespread maximalist approach to obtaining user data, I find this to be good news. If the impact of ATT does turn out to be limited, this would seem to imply that targeted advertising is not as valuable as thought to advertisers, and then perhaps eventually companies won’t go to such great lengths anymore to hoover up as much data as they can.
On the other hand, it is a shame that Apple is muddying the clear benefit of ATT by exempting its own advertising service. It’s hard to see it as anything other than hypocritical, and by implicitly endorsing the ad tech-based business model, it removes pressure for companies who rely on it to change their ways.
This uncertainty about ATT’s effect also leaves the question of what is really going on with Meta? John Gruber has some speculations that ring true:
My theory is that Facebook’s blue app and Instagram are evolving into something akin to [cable TV networks] in terms of demographic appeal. Stable, huge, but not growing and not for the youth.
The most recent Pew Research Center study on “Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022” seems to bear this out. About 32% of teens use Facebook today, compared to 71% in 2014-15. TikTok use on the other hand is at 67%. Interesting too that YouTube absolutely dominates the landscape, with 95% of teens using it.
Despite questions about the highly targeted advertising model, social media companies are still going full steam ahead on their data collecting. iOS developer Felix Krause figured out that Instagram and Facebook log every keystroke and interaction in the in-app browser. Days later, Krause launched a website that allows you to check any app yourself, and also added TikTok to the list above. The way to avoid the tracking is not to use the in-app browser and open the link in Safari instead (using the compass icon that should be on the page–on iOS of course). Interestingly, TikTok doesn’t provide the button to open a link in Safari, which maybe says something about their attitude to tracking…
VC firm a16z is investing a chunky amount (350m USD) in Flow, WeWork founder Adam Neumann’s new company. This time, after “revolutionising commercial real estate”, Neumann intends to do the same for residential real estate, but how exactly is not very clear. This bit of news manages to neatly tie together all the dysfunction of the current tech environment: hubris (“shelter is one of our most basic needs”), deeply conservative social and economic views (“[renting] is a soulless experience”; “someone who is bought in to where he lives cares more about where he lives”), not to mention greed of course. I wonder if they’ll make a TV show out of this too in a few years (if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend WeCrashed on Apple TV+).
Maybe you’ve received a “wrong number” text lately and wondered what it was about. This article dives deep into the so-called “pig butchering” scam with numerous examples. One wonders what would be possible if the ingenuity and industriousness of these scammers was applied to a noble goal…
Do AI image generators spell death for stock photo services? One blog owner replaced all stock photos with DALL·E 2 generated images, with significantly better results–after substantial tweaking. Very intriguing!
Millions of people were saddened by YouTube’s sudden ban of Lofi Girl. The channel broadcasts a continuous stream of lofi beats that help people focus and study, and find a community in the process. A fascinating bit of internet sociology laid bare here. The channel itself is back up and running in the meantime, it seems. (FT $)