Google Bets: Chump Change

April 30, 2021

In the midst of stakeholder ebullience about Alphabet Google’s money making prowess, I spotted one interesting comment. “Alphabet Reports Q1 2021 Revenue of $55.3 Billion” included this statement:

The closely-watched “Other Bets” continues to lose money. It reported $198 million revenue primarily generated by Verily and Fiber from $135 million in Q1 of 2020. However, it lost $1.15 billion compared to $1.12 billion in the same quarter of last year.

For a company of Alphabet Google YouTube’s scale this is a modest loss. However, it does beg a couple of questions:

  1. Is the data analysis used to decide upon what to wager flawed?
  2. Is there high value information about the firm’s management of certain projects contained in these increasing and continuing losses?

Alphabet does online advertising and data vending. Innovation may be more of a reach than some expected.

Stephen E Arnold, April 30, 2021

Smart Software: What YCombinator Has Been Doing

April 28, 2021

I read a very good overview of Y Combinator’s involvement in smart software. Artificial intelligence generates significant investor interest and spins out massive hyperbole. “What Over a Decade of Y Combinator Data Reveals About Artificial Intelligence” takes a factual approach to characterizing Y Combinator’s activities in this active area of software and services.

The write up states:

The majority of AI funding in YC has been placed into what can be defined as Next Gen AI Infrastructure. The backbone of AI is Infrastructure which consists of numerous subcategories such as AI model development, computer vision, development operations, and natural language generation/natural language processing.

I was surprised to learn that YCombinator has placed emphasis on blocking and tackling, not spray painting the gym walls with slogans.

I circled the conclusion with a red marker.

Y Combinator’s 15 years’ worth of information suggests AI is rapidly heading towards mainstream adoption as companies are utilizing data to automate their activities. The data also suggests certain industries are getting more AI dollar investment than others (e.g., Business Operations, E-Commerce, Sales & CRM). Nonetheless, founders of startups specializing in Next Gen AI Infrastructure, Healthcare, and other mainstream industries should be encouraged that capital allocation will continue to grow in their respective sectors.

Well done. Worth reading.

Stephen E Arnold, April 28, 2021

Financial Warfare: Another View of FinTech

April 21, 2021

I usually ignore articles about big finance and international wheeling and dealing. I did read “China’s Digital Yuan Displaces the Dollar.” The headline struck me as misleading and somewhat deceptive. You will have to read the original write up and make your own decision.

I am not going to walk through the argument and the facts supporting the point of view in the essay. I will cite one interesting passage:

The $16 trillion of offshore dollar deposits at international banks won’t turn into the equivalent amount of Chinese Yuan. Instead, that $16 trillion will shrink to a small fraction of its present volume, because the Big Tech/fintech revolution will make them redundant. Instead, as Morgan Stanley analysts explained this week, “banks will lose their deposit base” as digital currencies replace their most basic functions.

Let’s assume that this assertion is correct.

From an intelligence perspective, consider these questions:

  1. What’s the impact of the US printing dollars to cover Covid et al?
  2. What happens if China takes direct action to add Taiwan to its collection of entities?
  3. What happens if Russia annexes Ukraine?
  4. What happens if these events occur at the same time?

I try to stick to online information in this blog. Therefore, one final question:

What happens if the cyber attacks based on SolarWinds, Exchange Server, Pulse Secure, and similar entities move into a new phase of active aggression?

Maybe Texas power problems on steroids? Thumbtyping and sucking down YouTube and TikTok content might become problematic. ATMs are online devices and possibly vulnerable.

Stephen E Arnold, April 21, 2021

Amazon Withholds Its E-Books from Public Libraries: Who Remembers Andrew Carnegie?

April 16, 2021

This was not what the Internet was supposed to bring—quite the opposite. We learn of a growing problem from The Washington Post in their article, “Want to Borrow That E-Book from the Library? Sorry, Amazon Won’t Let You.” Tech giant Amazon has never forgotten it began with books and has now grown into a powerful publisher as well as book vendor. However, the company’s obsession with its bottom line is posing a real problem for society—it is refusing to sell its digital titles to public libraries. Reporter Geoffrey A. Fowler writes:

“[Amazon] won’t sell downloadable versions of its more than 10,000 e-books or tens of thousands of audiobooks to libraries. That’s right, for a decade, the company that killed bookstores has been starving the reading institution that cares for kids, the needy and the curious. And that’s turned into a mission-critical problem during a pandemic that cut off physical access to libraries and left a lot of people unable to afford books on their own. Many Americans now recognize that a few tech companies increasingly dominate our lives. But it’s sometimes hard to put your finger on exactly why that’s a problem. The case of the vanishing e-books shows how tech monopolies hurt us not just as consumers, but as citizens.”

For decades lawmakers have evaluated the harm monopolies cause by asking one simple question—are prices going up? In the case of tech firms like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple, their large-scale operations often mean the answer is no. But that metric misses a lot of factors. Fowler notes:

“But we’re not just price-sensitive consumers — we’re also citizens. We need products that are made fairly, serve our needs and are equitably distributed. Groundbreaking government antitrust lawsuits filed in late 2020 argue Google’s monopoly hurts us because it’s blocking competitors and prioritizing its own inferior services. In my own investigation, I found Google search results are getting worse as it puts its own business ahead of our interests. Libraries losing e-books matters because they serve us as citizens.”

Yes, libraries are critical to maintaining an informed public even in the digital age. As with physical books, most publishers happily sell libraries e-book versions of their works. In fact, libraries typically pay more for each publication than an end consumer would. That apparently is not enough for Amazon. Why spare even one potential sale for the greater good?

The American Library Association testified to Congress on the matter, calling digital sales bans “the worst obstacle for libraries.” Maryland, New York, and Rhode Island have proposed bills that would force Amazon and other publishers to sell their e-books on reasonable terms. We will see whether any of these or similar bills make it into law. Meanwhile, authors who want to see their books on libraries’ virtual shelves should turn to other publishers.

Cynthia Murrell, April 16, 2021

Fables of Googzilla: The Theoretical Information Tsar and the Search Duck

April 14, 2021

The mom and pop online ad vendor (hereinafter “The Google”) will appear in a thrilling new video series tentatively titled “Tales of Googzilla.”

Public sources (aka open source intelligence or OSINT) reveals two magnetic programs.

The first is summarized in “YouTube Pulls Florida Governor’s Video, Says His Panel Spread Covid-19 Misinformation.” The plot involves an emerging star named Gov Ron. In the midst of Covid, spring break dust ups, and NASCAR races — the Alphabet Google YouTube mom and pop online ad vendor hit the delete button. The write up reports:

Video of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and a panel of scientists apparently trading in Covid-19 misinformation has been pulled from YouTube.

To add some back alley darkness, the report noted:

It had been embedded in a Tampa-area TV station’s news story and it’s removal was flagged by the American Institute for Economic Research, a “free market” think tank based in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

Ah, ha. Misinformation “embedded.”

What will Gov Ron do? Will Googzilla continue to squash certain info bugs? What if Googzilla, like a drunken elephant, get frisky amidst the shanties erected by other alleged miscreants? How does one corral an elephant under the influence?

The second is reported in “DuckDuckGo Promises to Block Google’s Latest Ad-Tracking Tech — If Google Allows It.” The semi mighty metasearch engine Duck is honking in an intimidating manner at Googzilla. Can the Duck thing cause the mom and pop giant to discard its new approach to ensuring the privacy of Google services’ users?

The DuckDuck write up asserts that the Duck:

announced that the latest version of its Chrome extension would prevent websites from tracking users via their FLoC identification. Of course, the company notes that the extension update will have to be approved by Google before it becomes available to its users.

This seems like a fair fight. Issue a news release, honk angrily, and then point out that unless Googzilla grunts, “Okay,” the “new” user privacy methods will be implemented. Quack, quack, quack.

What’s the point of these two programs?

Advertising. Power. Control. Power. Did I already mention power? And PR/marketing. Yes.

Googzilla is the creation of the mom and pop finding system which has a large appetite for revenue.

Programs will air exclusively on streaming services supported by a company which lives in fear of Qwant, a fact revealed by Googzilla’s former keeper, Eric Schmidt.

Roar. Stomp. Quack. Quack. Delayed programs in the series may be released on Amazon Twitch. Programs air at random and in response to real life, just like YouTube influencer videos containing wholesome family entertainment like Valentine’s Day Inspired Try On Haul Fashion Nova Lingerie, Sleepwear & Dresses. Hey, four million views of Disney-grade excellence at this link.

Stephen E Arnold, April 14, 2021

Scrutinizing Technology Wild Stallions: Regulators Care

April 13, 2021

Does government regulation bring some adulting to technology companies running wild? Yes, if the information in the weird orange newspaper is accurate. “Chinese Tech Groups Scrap IPOs at Record Pace after Ant Listing Pulled” reports [Note: You may be asked to pay to read the orange one’s write up. Sorry. You will have to subscribe]:

Companies cancel plans to sell shares on Shanghai’s Star Market as regulatory scrutiny rises.

Will this tactic work in the longer term? Nope, but it does suggest that some controls are applied to frisky tech horses.

It is possible that these stallions will work at dude ranches, happily carrying semi-authentic cow pokes to the faux cook out. But that’s a long shot.

Here’s a more practical response in my opinion:

  • Look elsewhere. That’s the greener pastures approach. What type of controls can one expect in London or a more exotic location in the EU
  • Pivot. There are plenty of doctors and dentists who are eager to invest in a whiz bang high tech stallion. With some lawyering, there are opportunities for private deals.
  • Look for Softbank-type outfits, get some cash, and leave it to the wizards in the lead funding outfit to find a buyer.

The MBAs and legal eagles can find other options as well.

The main point is that regulation often spurs innovation in the financial sector. How about an NFT for Chinese high tech companies? How about some regulation in the US of FAANGs?

No. Okay.

Stephen E Arnold, April 13, 2021

Autonomy: Some Search History

April 6, 2021

I want to offer a happy quack to The Register, an online information service, for links to Autonomy documents. The slow moving legal carnival train is nearing its destination. “Everything You Need to Know about the HPE v Mike Lynch High Court Case” provides a useful summary of the trial. In addition, the article includes links to a number of fascinating documents. These provide some helpful insights into the challenges vendors of enterprise search and content processing systems face. Furthermore, the documents make clear that enterprise software can be a business challenge. The sales cycle is difficult. Installing and optimizing the software are challenges. Plus keeping the customer’s expectations for a solution in line with the realities of the solution often require the intellectual skills of big time wizards. Why are these documents relevant in 2021?

First, some vendors of search and content processing systems ignore the realities exposed in these documents.

Second, today’s customers are fooled by buzzwords and well crafted demonstrations. The actual system may be “different.”

Third, the users of today’s systems are likely to find themselves struggling to locate and make sense of information they know is available in the organization.

But marketing and complex interactions among software and service vendors and their partners are fascinating. Are similar practices in play today?

That’s an interesting question to consider.

Stephen E Arnold, April 6, 2021

Blockchain and Reality

April 2, 2021

Sure, I wrote a chapter in Transforming Scholarly Publishing With Blockchain Technologies and AI, but my focus was everyone’s favorite online bookstore: The Bezos bulldozer aka Amazon. I read “Enterprise Blockchain Doesn’t Work Because It’s About the Real World.” The essay was interesting even though there was zero consideration of Amazon’s technological presence in the techno-space.

I did spot an interesting statement in the essay:

The price of accuracy is unreality. The Bitcoin blockchain is accurate only because what it “records” isn’t real: bitcoin holdings are shadows cast by the blockchain itself. Enterprise blockchains reach beyond these shadows into the real world – but in doing so they abandon the surety that is the technology’s distinctive promise.

The statement is worth thinking about the “value” of some NFTs.

Stephen E Arnold, April 2, 2021

Google Maps to Drive Profits

April 2, 2021

Google loves money. Google wants to make more money. How does Google make more money when it already monopolizes Internet ads and search engine traffic? Auto Evolution tells how in the article, “Google Has Crazy Idea To Bring More Ads To Google Maps.”

Google recently filed a new patent called “Valuing advertisements on a map” that essentially will put more ads on Google Maps. The patent reads:

“Depending on a user’s view of a map, different combinations of locations can be shown. Similarly, different combinations of advertisements associated with those locations can also be shown depending on the user’s view of the map and the amount of display space available for advertisements, Advertisers can advertise on a map to promote businesses that may satisfy a user’s intent, such as to identify a navigational route, to explore a geographical area, or locate desired products or services. These advertisers may also find value in differentiating themselves from other advertisers, and/or from being unique in their local area.”

Google continues that it could “have a positive impact on the user.” In other words, it is more targeted ads in places that do not need them.

Market Screener explains another way Google is trying to make money: “Alphabet: Google To Offer Travel Sites Free Hotel Booking Links.” Google will now offer hotel and travel sites the ability to list empty hotel rooms for free on price-comparison pages. The goal is to support vendor competition and give users more options. Google is under mounting scrutiny for influencing Internet commerce. Travel sites have a love-hate relationship with Google because of this influence:

“Travel sites have seen Google as one of the biggest drivers for new business. But some of them say the company is also a big competitive threat, with critics saying that Google’s travel boxes and other kinds of specialized search products increasingly keep users within the Google ecosystem, encouraging them to use Google products rather than clicking to other sites to transact business.”

Google will continue to search for new ways to wrestle money from the Internet. One wonders if they even see Amazon as a threat.

Whitney Grace, April 2, 2021

Who Spends $69 Million on a Digital String? Pals Do.

April 1, 2021

The buyer of Beeple’s digital art is Metakovan. One suggestion is a person allegedly named Vignesh Sundaresan. NBC, the real news outfit, was not convinced and reported: “Metakovan’s real identity is not known.

Sure but don’t tell The Straits Times which reported in the story “I Don’t Have a Car or House” that the savvy buyer of a digital string is allegedly Vignesh Sundaresan, an entrepreneur, a technopreneur in fact. Plus, I love the quote attributed to the digital Warrant Buffet type:

I don’t have a car or house.

Makes sense. Singapore has apartments, lots of apartments. A rental in a Marina Bay makes it easy to get around. No encumbrances to haul around like some Roman statues from a covert dig near Naples (Italy, not lovely Florida). A Grab ride is good enough when physical movement is required.

Yep, a digital Warren Buffet.

Stephen E Arnold, April 1, 2021

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