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Can Apple compete on privacy?



Apple CEO lambasts Silicon Valley for not owning up to privacy mistakes
Time for tech companies to take responsibility for the digital privacy mess they’re created, says Apple chief.
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Apple’s focus on design and details or the tight integration of its silicon, software, and services has effectively countered traditional competitors such as Dell, Palm, and Samsung. For some time, though, Google has been the company’s main competitive threat. Unlike Apple’s 90s nemesis, Microsoft, which would diminish Apple’s standing with missing or inferior versions of its apps for the Mac, Google has broadly and consistently supported the iPhone with apps that are typically at least at parity with those for Android. And it directly contributes to Apple’s bottom line via a 10-figure check that secures its standing as the iPhone’s default search engine. With enemies like that, who needs friends?

But Google’s embrace of Apple’s platforms is less of a hug and more of a squeeze to juice the attention of iPhone users who represent a highly desirable demographic for Google’s advertising business. Paired with Android users, they provide a near census of smartphone users. And, just as Microsoft did with its PC apps and Windows, Google’s mix of juggernaut apps and Android remove the friction for people to switch between iOS and Android, especially if they are tempted by such advances as incredible low-light photography that Apple is sure to answer.

And so, Apple, which does not rely on advertising revenue, has increasingly been turning up the volume on its privacy stance as a differentiator, first in government and industry communications and, more recently, directly to consumers. Google has taken notice, answering Apple’s assertion that privacy is a “basic human right” with the comeback that it should not be a luxury good. Translating the rhetoric into implementation, Google has stepped up the number and visibility of its out-out controls. Apple, though, will typically abstain from collecting personal information in the first place. Furthermore, it has taken more aggressive measures to protect from things that rate relatively low on the creepiness scale (marketers who track you across the web) to things that rate very high (hackers accessing unencrypted home security camera footage).

Apple’s privacy campaign has already had an impact in terms of forcing the competition to pay closer attention to their disclosure and controls. It is unlikely to move the needle in terms of market share, but Apple can only gain as awareness of the great data tradeoff of targeted advertising grows and missteps in executing it continues. It should also be more effective as a retention tool for anyone who has not already been locked into Apple’s milieu through its self-reinforcing portfolio of devices and growing family of services.

Furthermore, while the smartphone market is mature, whatever challenges it as an emerging platform will likely raise even more profound privacy concerns. Already, wearables measure our pulse and assess whether we’ve fallen, and the kind of personal data that could be generated by measuring exactly what you’re looking at via augmented reality gear could make smartphone-generated data seem crude by comparison.

And there’s another potential benefit to Apple’s privacy campaign, one that the company has developed since it first stepped up its advocacy. While the company has taken its message to consumers, it still attracts the scrutiny of regulators. CEO Tim Cook has rightly argued that, even though Apple is a “big tech” company, it is not in the same bucket of regulatory concerns as Facebook and Google. A public-facing campaign, while ostensibly aimed at consumers, could also help raise awareness among regulators that Apple shares many concerns about how private data is collected and used. But, at least for users of Apple products, it can do something about it.


Apple and Google battle for the future of privacy
Both companies talk up the importance of protecting your data, but make opposite cases for whether you should share it.

Apple’s ground game versus Google’s long game
As Android has failed to expand far beyond smartphones, Apple has fortified a device ecosystem around pillars of related operating systems. Google sees AI as its wrecking ball.

New Firefox browser for Android shows boosting privacy boosts speed, too
Dubbed Firefox Preview, the stripped-down Android browser is being piloted now. Apple restrictions keep it off iPhones.

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Twitter announces ‘Super Follow’ subscriptions – TechCrunch



Twitter reveals its move into paid subscriptions, Australia passes its media bargaining law and Coinbase files its S-1. This is your Daily Crunch for February 25, 2021.

The big story: Twitter announces ‘Super Follow’ subscriptions

Twitter announced its first paid product at an investor event today, showing off screenshots of a feature that will allow users to subscribe to their favorite creators in exchange for things like exclusive content, subscriber-only newsletters and a supporter badge.

The company also announced a feature called Communities, which could compete with Facebook Groups and enable Super Follow networks to interact, plus a Safety Mode for auto-blocking and muting abusive accounts. On top of all that, Twitter said it plans to double revenue by 2023.

Not announced: launch dates for any of these features.

The tech giants

After Facebook’s news flex, Australia passes bargaining code for platforms and publishers — This requires platform giants like Facebook and Google to negotiate to remunerate local news publishers for their content.

New Facebook ad campaign extols the benefits of personalized ads — The sentiments are similar to a campaign that Facebook launched last year in opposition to Apple’s upcoming App Tracking Transparency feature.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Sergey Brin’s airship aims to use world’s biggest mobile hydrogen fuel cell — The Google co-founder’s secretive airship company LTA Research and Exploration is planning to power a huge disaster relief airship with an equally record-breaking hydrogen fuel cell.

Coinbase files to go public in a key listing for the cryptocurrency category — Coinbase’s financials show a company that grew rapidly from 2019 to 2020 while also crossing the threshold into unadjusted profitability.

Boosted by the pandemic, meeting transcription service raises $50M — With convenient timing, added Zoom integration back in April 2020.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

DigitalOcean’s IPO filing shows a two-class cloud market — The company intends to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “DOCN.”

Pilot CEO Waseem Daher tears down his company’s $60M Series C pitch deck — For founders aiming to entice investors, the pitch deck remains the best way to communicate their startup’s progress and potential.

Five takeaways from Coinbase’s S-1 — We dig into Coinbase’s user numbers, its asset mix, its growing subscription incomes, its competitive landscape and who owns what in the company.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Paramount+ will cost $4.99 per month with ads — The new streaming service launches on March 4.

Register for TC Sessions: Justice for a conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion in the startup world — This is just one week away!

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Twitter plans to double revenue by 2023, reach 315M daily users – TechCrunch



Just ahead of its 2021 virtual investor day on Thursday, Twitter this morning announced its three long-term goals focused on user base and revenue growth, and a faster pace of shipping new features across its platform. The company said it aims to “at least” double its total annual revenue from $3.7 billion in 2020 to $7.5 billion or more in 2023. It also expects to reach at least 315 million mDAUs — that’s Twitter’s self-invented metric for “monetizable” daily active users — by the fourth quarter of 2023.

That would represent a roughly 20% compound annual growth rate from Twitter’s base of 152 million mDAUs reported in the fourth quarter of 2019, the company noted in a new SEC filing.

Active user growth has been difficult for Twitter — the growth tends to be slow or even flat, at times. Per Twitter’s most recent earnings, mDAUs in the fourth quarter 2020 had reached 192 million instead of the 193.5 million expected, for instance. Investors are used to Twitter under-delivering on this metric — or even inventing its own user base metric to hide that its monthly user growth sometimes declines.

In any event, Twitter’s longer-term plans indicate it believes it will finally be able to deliver on user growth — perhaps aided by its investment in new features.

In its filing, Twitter said it would “double development velocity by the end of 2023,” which means doubling the number of features shipped per employee that “directly drive either mDAU or revenue,” it said.

On this front, Twitter has been fairly active in recent months. Late last year, it launched its “stories” feature called Fleets to its global audience. It’s also now testing new features including a Clubhouse rival, Twitter Spaces, and a community-led misinformation debunking effort known as Birdwatch. And it acquired newsletter platform Revue, which is already now integrated on the Twitter website. The company has made smaller acquisitions, as well, to build out product teams, including with social app Squad, stories template maker Chroma Labs, and podcasting app Breaker.

New features may help to attract increased Twitter usage, but revenue growth will also come from diversification beyond advertising. Twitter has spoken several times about its plans to build out a subscription product, which the company said would begin in 2021 but wouldn’t impact Twitter revenue in the near-term. The company has also said it may investigate other areas of monetization, like tipping and various paid consumer-facing features.

Today, Twitter said publicly it plans to reach the $7.5 billion or more target by “growing our audience and gaining advertising market share in both brand and direct response.” But the company did not speak to its plans for subscriptions.

Investors are already responding favorably to Twitter’s announcements this morning. Twitter stock is up by nearly 7% as of the time of writing.

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New Facebook ad campaign extols the benefits of personalized ads – TechCrunch



Online advertising can be a “pretty dry topic,” as Facebook’s head of brand marketing Andrew Stirk acknowledged, but with a new campaign of its own, the social networking giant is looking to “bring to life how personalized ads level the playing field” for small businesses.

The Good Ideas Deserve To Be Found campaign will include TV, radio and digital advertising. Individual businesses will also be able to promote it using a new Instagram sticker and the #DeserveToBeFound hashtag on Facebook.

The campaign will highlight specific small businesses on Facebook, including bag and luggage company House of Takura, whose founder Annette Njau spoke about the benefits of digital advertising at a press event yesterday.

“What those platforms allow us to do is, they allow us to tell stories,” Njau said. “I can’t tell this story on TV, I can’t tell this story in a huge magazine because it costs money and I don’t know who will see it.”

These sentiments are similar to a campaign that Facebook launched last year in opposition to Apple’s upcoming App Tracking Transparency feature, where apps will have to ask for permission before sharing user data for third-party ad targeting. In response, Facebook claimed that it was “standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere,” though the social network also pointed to these changes as one of the “more significant advertising headwinds” that it expects to face this year. (Apple’s Tim Cook, in contrast, has said that these changes provide consumers with the control that they’ve been asking for.)

When asked how this fits into the broader dispute with Apple, Stirk said that while Facebook has been publicly opposed to Apple’s changes, this campaign is part the company’s longer-term support for small business.

“There is a degree of urgency in the fact that … small businesses are hurting right now,” he said.

Head of Facebook Business Products Helen Ma added that this is “very much an extension of the work that we did on the product side at the very start of the COVID period,” which included the launch of the Businesses Nearby section and a #SupportSmallBusiness hashtag.

In addition to launching the campaign today, Facebook is announcing several product changes, including a simplified Ads Manager dashboard, new options for restaurants to provide more information about their dining experiences and more information about personalized ads in Facebook’s Business Resource hub and Instagram’s Professional Dashboard.

The company also said it will continue to waive fees on transactions through Checkouts on Shops through June 2021, and will do the same for fees collected on paid online events until August 2021 at the earliest.

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