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💬 Is WhatsApp a social media platform?
April 18, 2022
PLUS: AirZona iced tea vs. inflation, $24B kosher food, and endangered internet sounds.
In February, SpaceX’s Starlinkpassed 250k total satellite internet subscribers. Last week, a French court revoked its license to provide internet in the country — citing monopolization concerns. It raises the question: Can you stop a monopoly before it starts?
In today’s email:
WhatsApp: Is Meta’s messaging app the next social media giant?
Chart: AriZona iced tea vs. inflation.
Digits: How many years would it take to complete Spotify, $24B kosher food, and more wild numbers.
Around the web: Bizarre McDonald’s history, a museum of forgotten sounds, career switch tips, and other cool internet finds.
🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to hear a special episode about the wild economics of Netflix’s buttons — one which saves users 195 cumulative years each day, and one that propelled Netflix to stardom.
The Big Idea
Could WhatsApp be the next social media giant?
The story of WhatsApp’s founders, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, reads like a modern epic.
After getting rejected by Facebook for engineering jobs in 2009, the pair founded WhatsApp — then sold it to Facebook for $21.8B 5 years later.
By mid-2018, both founders had left the company, citing disputes with Zuck over his plans to monetize their global messaging behemoth.
Since their departure…
… Zuck has struggled to make WhatsApp a revenue generator. The original plan was to turn it into an advertising gold mine, but the app’s focus on privacy made data collection difficult, forcing Zuck and Co. to abandon the strategy.
But recent news suggests Meta brass is finally ready to embrace that same focus on privacy.
According to TechCrunch, WhatsApp is planning to launch a Communities feature utilizing the app’s end-to-end encryption.
Much like Facebook Groups, the feature will allow all types of organizations to create a digital space for members to interact. But there are some big differences:
Unlike Groups, Communities are invite-only and not searchable
While Groups are often made up of many strangers with a shared interest, Community members can see one another’s phone numbers, making for a more intimate experience
The feature will also include admin and moderation tools to combat spam and misinformation.
… could help Meta remain relevant in a social media landscape shifting toward privacy. Twitter, Snap, and Meta’s own Instagram, have all launched features that allow users to distinguish posts for “close friends.”
It also adds WhatsApp to the list of messenger apps offering community functionality, including Telegram, Signal, and Discord, the community-focused chat upstart that Microsoft tried to acquire for $10B last year.
So would WhatsApp’s founders approve of Zuck’s newest ambitions for their baby? It’s unclear.
Brian Acton’s last tweet was in 2018 when he encouraged people to “#deletefacebook.” If he feels similarly about WhatsApp, we’ll likely find out soon.
Etsy sellers are contemplating a union.This news follows a strike that drew thousands of Etsy sellers in protest of increased fees. #ecommerce-retail
California’s main power grid ran on 97%+ renewable energy on the afternoon of April 3. Though brief, officials say it demonstrates advances toward the state’s zero-carbon goals. #clean-energy
House tech: Icon, an Austin-based startup, 3D-printed the walls of a 2k-square-foot home in just 8 days. It uses a high-strength concrete material called “lavacrete.” #emerging-tech
Coachella, too? The music fest offered guests a free NFT redeemable for merch and food. Other NFTs are up for auction, including a lifetime festival pass going for $1m. #fintech-crypto
Twitter’s new edit feature may keep a record of your OG tweet, which could curb misuse. #big-tech
Why is AriZona iced tea increasingly cheap?
A 23-ounce can of AriZona iced tea has been the same price for 30 years — 99 cents. Adjusted for inflation, it costs less than ½ as much as it did in 1992.
How does AriZona manage this?
Don Vultaggio, the 6-foot-8 co-founder and chairman of the private company, is reportedly a stubborn man, according to the LA Times. He’s a wealthy man, too, with a net worth of $4B+.
Vultaggio’s take is that raising prices to meet inflation will net a short-term profit but push away customers. AriZona commands a 16% market share in the ready-to-drink space and sells ~1B cans annually.
Plus, whereas AriZona loses money on things like aluminum — at $3,250 per ton from $1,750 just 18 months ago — it saves money in areas like marketing. (The company has 506.3k TikTok followers vs. Coke’s 208.4k.)
The brand even pokes fun at its inflation defiance, recently tweeting that it should “run the economy for one day” and posting a meme about itself as an inflation-defending knight.
Inspiration from 26 top brands on Instagram
We thought the comeback of the chronological feed might change things.
If you’re also sick of scrolling, we’ve curated a diverse list of bold brands that’s worth a gander. There are a variety of niches covered, including food, finance, arts and crafts, clothing, beauty, home improvement, and more.
When you try to complete Spotify. (Getty Images / Kemter)
Digits: Spotify in years, kosher food, and goo-goo gaga
1) The number of songs on Spotify jumped from 70m to 82m in 2021, or 33k each day. Notably, 1.5% of songs had 500k+ lifetime streams, and 25.8% had 100 streams or fewer. (Napkin math: Assuming the average song on Spotify runs 3 minutes, 30 seconds, it would take ~546 years to listen to all of them.)
2) Kosher food — certified during production by Rabbis to ensure it adheres to Jewish requirements — is a $24B global market. Since the certification is generally considered a mark of good quality, Jews only make up 20% of the customer base.
3) Taxes are due today, in case you were unaware. By the end of March, 91m returns were filed. On average, ~43m filings — ~29% of individual returns — are received within the last 3 weeks. And for the procrastinators here, ~11% of taxpayers file late.
4) Goo-goo gaga. As of March, ~29% of baby formula products were out of stock in the US. Now, Walgreens is limiting purchases to 3 per customer, saying that the shortage is a result of increased demand and supplier struggles.
5) Georgia, withh its generous $1.2B film tax credit, is weighing a $900m annual cap on the program. Studies have shown programs like these aren’t as economically favorable as once thought, returning 27 cents per dollar invested, on average.
AROUND THE WEB
🧺 On this day: In 1934, the 1st laundromat opened in Fort Worth, Texas, allowing customers to rent 1 of 4 washers by the hour.
🔔 That’s cool: The Museum of Endangered Sounds is full of sounds we may no longer hear again, like AOL Instant Messenger alerts and skipping CDs.
🌙 That’s interesting: A 1986 McDonald’s commercial featured a moon man singing a “Mack the Knife” parody. MEL presents the oral history of this bizarre character, from lawsuits to internet weirdness.
🤓 How to: If it’s been a while since you’ve changed jobs, Harvard Business Review has 5 tips for starting a new gig as a mid-career professional.
🦙 Aww: And now, an extremely charming alpaca.
Tweet of the Day
Now that’s how you fight inflation. (Source: Twitter)
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