🐦 Twitter’s decentralization play


January 22, 2021

PLUS: P&G’s 22 billion-dollar brands.

January 22, 2021
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The Big Idea
Twitter

Fly birdy, fly!! (Source: Giphy)

Twitter’s plan to decentralize social media

Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey is committed to decentralization. How do we know? Well, for one, his Twitter bio only says one thing — #bitcoin.

Another thing: He started an initiative called Bluesky to create a decentralized web protocol for social networks.

It would be like the decentralized Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), which is used by different email providers (e.g., Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook) to let you send and receive emails.

With a social network protocol in place… 

…other industry players can build their own customized version of Twitter and make their own moderation calls.

The decision by Twitter (and other tech players) to take Donald Trump offline firmly raised the question of who has the right to police speech.

Dorsey says that he did not “feel pride” in his decision to suspend the former president, but that it had to be done.

A world in which Bluesky exists — and Twitter is just one of many services operating on the protocol — means that people like Dorsey have “less centralized responsibility in deciding” who has a voice on the internet, TechCrunch reports.

Bluesky was started in late-2019 and has been slow moving

It brought in 40-50 researchers from existing decentralized social networks (ActivityPub, Mastodon, Planetary) and announced its first major update only yesterday — an overview of decentralized web systems.

According to TechCrunch, a fully developed Bluesky could allow new social services to:

  • See, search, and interact with content across the protocol
  • Create applications with different interfaces and curation algorithms

Twitter can make money from such a decentralized standard by offering access to moderation tools and its social graph, which are all the relationships between various users.

Without centralized moderation, hate speech can run wild

A change from the status quo is inevitable, though.

It’s clear after Trump’s ban, anyone can instantly lose their bullhorn. Just on Wednesday, China’s US Embassy Twitter account was locked for comments regarding its Uighur population.

Leaders around the world — like in Turkey, which just banned social media firms from advertising because they didn’t establish a local rep — are as committed to freeing their speech from the control of a few US tech companies as Dorsey is to decentralization.

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Snippets
  • Facebook’s independent oversight board just got its biggest case: what to do with Trump’s banned account.
  • Patreon may IPO this year, according to The Information. The service that allows fans to support artists is valued at $1.3B and recently crossed $100m in annualized revenue. (Check out our story on one of Patreon’s most-supported creators, All Gas No Brakes).
  • Ace, the localized marketing place? Soci just raised $80m for its localized marketing platform that helps large chains manage local ads. It brought on Ace — the hardware giant — and more than 100 new customers in 2020.
  • Yellen memes are coming. Biden’s Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen wants to curtail the use of cryptocurrencies. The former Fed Chair believes these assets are primarily used for “illicit financing.”
  • Jay-Z launches a $10m cannabis fund… to help minority-owned businesses, which have mostly missed out on the booming weed industry.
  • Some cheap Raspberry Pi: The makers of the popular microcontroller launched a new model with their own affordable RP2040 chip, meaning kids can now become computer engineers for just $4.
  • A popular tech joke is that Andreesen Horowitz is a “media company that monetizes through VC.” Well, the venture firm — which has a big podcast and publishing arm — is now looking to add an opinion section that will be “unapologetically” pro-tech.
New Tech
growing wood

An MIT lab managed to grow wood. Wait until you see how.

To make a table, you typically need to grow a tree and chop it down — among other things — before you can sell it in a store.

But researcher Luis Fernando Velásquez-García and his team at MIT have another idea:

‘If you want a table, then you should just grow a table.’

Recently, the researchers developed a way to grow wood-like fibers in a lab, without soil or sunlight.

The team’s method works by extracting cells from the zinnia plant and culturing them “in a liquid growth medium” to “metabolize and proliferate.”

We’re not gonna pretend we know what that means — but it’s supposedly similar to 3D printing. Only here, the plant cells “print” themselves into molds.

Growing indoors has major implications for forestry and agriculture

If the researchers find a way to scale production at the right price — and they’re a long way off — then the potential to save trees globally is endless.

Currently, an area where indoor planting does make sense is vertical farming, a budding industry that raised $945m in 2019 VC funding.

Vertical farms layer plants on massive shelves and use solar power, infrared cameras, and other sensors to adjust environmental conditions. These systems support 24/7 growth, generating 350x the produce with < 5% of the water needed for outdoor farms.

Unfortunately, growing a table from scratch is still a ways away. But once it’s available, we’ll be the first in line.

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Big Tech
old school facial recognition

Facial recognition before tech (Source: Good Mythical Morning, YouTube)

The FTC’s punishment of a facial recognition app could be the future of AI regulation

When Google trains its search engine algorithms, it does so on billions of queries a day.

If a facial recognition startup wants to train its algorithm, it needs… faces. One such company is called Paravision (formerly Everalbum), which created an app called Ever to let users upload and modify photos.

Paravision used these images to create a facial recognition product it then sold to law enforcement and the military, according to One Zero.

It turns out the company never had permission to do that…

… which constitutes “illegal deception,” according to a statement from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC ultimately forced Paravision to delete its algorithm. Per the statement, this is a “course correction” from previous FTC decisions that allowed “data protection violators” to retain the value from ill-gotten data.

This ruling may set a precedent for Big Tech

With data undergirding basically every major AI-powered service we use — from recommendation engines to driver routing to credit applications — the surface area for abuse is huge.

One Zero notes that Google was fined $170m in 2019 for deceptive data collection from children without parental consent. The search giant was forced to delete the data but kept the algorithms and insights.

The Paravision case — and Biden’s appointment of Big Tech critic Rebecca Kelly Slaughter to head the FTC — draws a clear (and new) red line.

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P&G Brands

P&G has 22 billion-dollar brands and 19 half-billion dollar brands (Source: P&G)

P&G’s premium brands are selling well during the pandemic. Why?

Valued at $320B+, the Cincinnati-based consumer goods giant boasts 22 “billion-dollar brands” (annual sales $1B+) including Charmin, Crest, Bounty, Gillette, Pringles, and Pampers.

These well-known household products typically sell for more than their counterparts.

In past recessions, this higher price point has hurt sales…

… but spending on premium household products was up last year, the Wall Street Journal reports.

P&G benefited from this consumer shift, with Q4 2020 sales rising 8% YoY to $19.8B.

Why are consumers favoring premium products?

Per WSJ, one reason is the nature of the pandemic, pushing customers to prioritize cleaning products and hygiene.

P&G’s fabric and home-care vertical saw the strongest growth; brands under this category include Tide, Cascade, and — literally the bald head created for this exact moment — Mr. Clean.

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Twitter fact of the day
Jack Dorsey's Twitter

This is the first tweet ever… from Jack Dorsey, on March 21, 2006. The service — originally called twttr (because the domain name “Twitter” was taken) — was an internal messaging service used by employees of a podcast startup called Odeo.

At the time, Dorsey was still an undergraduate student at NYU.

Dorsey has since said that Twitter was the perfect name since “the definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds.’ And that’s exactly what the product was.”

Simpler times.

Shower Thoughts

  1. If people stranded on deserted islands don’t clean up their ‘HELP’ signs before they leave rescuers would spend hours looking for someone who isn’t there.
  2. It’s unlikely that all the technology in Star Wars is standardized between planets, so cord compatibility must be a nightmare.
  3. Even though Uber drivers drive a car all day, they walk to work.
  4. Having a dead animal in your fridge is disturbing and disgusting. Having cut pieces of a dead animal is fine.
  5. It’s not your money, it’s just your turn to play with it.
via Reddit
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