Technology

GulfNews Technology

Zoom founder is $2 billion richer

Technology|Business|: Zoom Video Communications Inc.'s upbeat revenue forecast sent shares of the company surging. For its founder, that translates into a $2 billion (Dh7.36 billion) wealth bump. Eric Yuan, who owns almost one-fifth of the video-conferencing company, is now worth about $22 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The stock jumped as much as 12 per cent late in the US on Monday as Zoom said revenue could climb 43 per cent in fiscal 2022, more than the 37 per cent analysts tracked by Bloomberg estimated on average. Shares climbed 7.8 per cent to $441.56 in premarket trading Tuesday. Yuan has been one of the biggest winners in the fallout of the coronavirus crisis that forced people to stay home and find new ways to work, shop, learn and entertain themselves. But with multiple vaccines rolling out, questions have been growing about whether companies that did well during the pandemic would continue their meteoric growth. Zoom shares jumped almost 400 per cent last year, making Yuan one of the biggest gainers on the Bloomberg wealth index, and they're up more than 20 per cent in 2021. "We believe we are well positioned for strong growth with our innovative video-communications platform, on which our customers can build, run, and grow their businesses; our globally recognised brand; and a team ever focused on delivering happiness to our customers," Yuan said in the earnings statement. The San Jose, California-based company expects sales of as much as $3.78 billion in fiscal 2022, with profit excluding some items potentially reaching $3.65 per share. Revenue more than tripled to $882.5 million in the fourth quarter and earnings excluding some items climbed to $1.22 cents a share, beating the average analyst projection.

GulfNews Technology

Twitter cracks down on COVID vaccine misinformation

Media|World|: San Francisco: Twitter says it has begun labeling tweets that include misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines and using a "strike system" to eventually remove accounts that repeatedly violate its rules. The company said Monday that it has started using human reviewers to assess whether tweets violate its policy against COVID vaccine misinformation. Eventually, the work will be done by a combination of humans and automation, it said. Twitter had already banned some COVID-related misinformation in December, including falsehoods about how the virus spreads, whether masks are effective and the risk of infection and death. "Through the use of the strike system, we hope to educate people on why certain content breaks our rules so they have the opportunity to further consider their behavior and their impact on the public conversation," Twitter said in a blog post Monday. People with one violation - or strike - will see no action. Two strikes will lead to an account being locked for 12 hours. Five or more will get a user permanently banned from Twitter. Facebook has also stepped up its vaccine misinformation fight after years of half-hearted enforcement. It announced an expanded policy last month that includes all vaccines - not just those against COVID-19. San Francisco-based Twitter did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on whether it also plans to include broader anti-vax misinformation in its policies.

GulfNews Technology

Google, Facebook must pay for news: Here's why

Dubai: Journalists are being made redundant everyday, everywhere. An avalanche of layoffs have become part of the monthly rhythm in news organisations. Its members have only the foggiest idea about what hit them. There’s a flip side to this story: the media are seeing a growing audience, almost everywhere. 2020 was the banner year for news. There’s a whole world of evidence for this, as shown from data analytics tools. People on a massive scale seek out out credible, fact-checked information, especially about the coronavirus. In general, community media are witnessing the biggest online traffic spike. Despite the rising relevance of news, a lion’s share of ad money goes to Facebook and Google. Here’s the long and short of why these the two media giants must pay for news: Q: What is Facebook? It's one of the most popular social media platforms on the planet.   Q: What is Google? It's the most popular search engine and news aggregator on the planet.  Q: How do they make money? By keeping you hooked to them. They make money via advertising. On this, there’s a well known metric in digital ad industry: revenue per 1,000 page views (aka RPM). That means when you view a page 1,000 times, you’re bound to click on an at least one, or several, ads. They charge for it, not you, but advertisers. Image Credit: Seyyed dela Llata / Gulf News Q: But where do the ads go? To follow the money, you must follow the news. And the news today are on Facebook and Google. These two social media giants together form what is generally called “Big Tech” with a combined market capitalisation of nearly $3 trillion. If they’re a country, they’re much bigger than Russia, which has a GDP of $1.7 trillion or Australia, with a $1.4 trillion GDP in 2019. Q: What do Google and Facebook have to do with news? News is everything to both. Especially news with credibility, from legit news organisations. News have become a key part of the offering to billions using Google and Facebook. Q: What’s the problem with news on Google and Facebook? Nothing, on the face of it, except that we all consume news. But dig deeper and you’ll see: where there’s consumption, there’s money. In reality, there’s a whole lot of trouble that news organisations go through to put content together, while Google and Facebook get all the ad revenues. It’s that simple. Q: How did ‘Big Tech’ become so rich? Again, follow the news. People are consuming news and information — now more than ever. And they’re available on Facebook and Google, now more than ever. News are not created by the two giants themselves; instead they’re kicked up in search results on Google, or part of the “News Feed” on Facebook. Q: How does it work? Here’s an exercise. Search Google using simple search words such as “Ramadan”, “UAE”, “India vaccine”, “Philippines”. We’ve done it for you. Image Credit: Google / Gulf News Q: What part of the content kicked up by search results were created by Google? Answer: Zero. Except the ads. Image Credit: Google / Gulf News Image Credit: Google / Gulf News Image Credit: Gulf News Q: What part of the results were generated by the news media? Answer: 100% Q: When did news become part of Facebook? There was News Feed when Facebook started in 2004. Users just go from profile to profile to check up on friends. ■ In 2006, Facebook launched News Feed. This was providential: It retrained users to just go to the Facebook home page, from where everything would simply land on your lap. After news, brands soon followed, scampering to build an audience through Facebook’s content stream. Then as Facebook users shifted from desktops to Android and iOS, it won the mobile sweepstakes. Mobile phones with tiny screens, low-quality app, poor connections, slow-loading sites, were clunky but people seized upon Facebook’s single app which had content from everywhere. The result: people kept scrolling, instead of bouncing around from page to page. This is addictive. ■ In 2011, when Twitter became more popular, Facebook launched a counter-attack, with its Subscribe feature, in which news links gained more visibility in the feed. ■ In 2014, “Facebook the big news machine” was in full swing with Trending. Hashtags and news outlets poured resources into growing their Pages. With algorithm-driven News Feed, it oriented users into waiting for the big world-changing headlines to come to them — rather than jumping from the home pages of various publishers. Ads follow where eyeballs go, thereby prompting advertisers to move their ad spend from the publisher sites to Facebook. ■ In 2015, Facebook realised users hated waiting for slow mobile websites to load, so it launched Instant Articles. Q: What’s the problem with us being addicted to Google and Facebook? Addicts don’t usually know it or acknowledge the condition. Facebook and Google now have the power to decide what types of content, what topics, and what sources are important. Though Facebook touts itself as “neutral" tech platform, what it serves up to you in News Feed in effect gives it editorial judgement — thus playing the role of media company. That editorial or value judgement is driven not by a human being, but by an algorithm. It is this addiction, driven by profit motive (what is the post popular news or post) that keeps the feed alive. Would you like a single cyborg editor, whose only guide is algorithmic motive of pumping up ad revenuews, determine your news consumption? It’s a dire situation, but that, in effect is what’s happening. And we pretend not to know or are unaffected. Ah but such pontifications don't mean anything if they don't translate into dollars. Q: Outside Facebook, was are the other major sources of traffic for publishers? Publishers have few major sources of traffic outside of Facebook and Google Search.  Q: What’s the way out for people who want a more direct relationship with news? They should go to the publisher's site, like gulfnews.com, or get on Feedly or RSS reader — or add a few favourite sites to their browser’s bookmark bar. But that’s clunky, only techies could do. Q: What’s Facebook’s overall plan? To create value for users, which is great. To do that, Facebook has endeavoured and managed to centralise attention typically spread across the web. It’s trying to do the same with Watch (YouTube), Marketplace (Craigslist and eBay/Amazon) and many other features. It’s a smart plan. But here’s the problem: the demonetisation and eventual defunding of some news publishers means content creators do all the work, and Facebook (and Google) get all the money. Q: What are Instant Articles (IA)? Why is it a ruse? Instant Articles is touted as Facebook’s publisher-friendly news platform launched in May 2015. By design, it scraped off heavy code from news websites that makes loading sluggish. Facebook extolled the initiative as a “commitment” to helping publishers “monetise” journalism via its platform. Facebook spent inordinate amount of PR to court publishers. So far so good. By 2017, top publishers went out with Instant Articles. Q: How does Instant Article work? IA is touted as tool for collaborating with news and content publishers. On the face of it, publishers can choose to use which articles they post. Initially, most of the publishers willingly offered up their most cherished content on IA, in the hope of taking a piece of the action. To become part of the Instant Articles ecosystem, publishers must allocate resources (people, salaries, time) to host their articles on Facebook’s servers. The posts then became “native” to Facebook. With the now-native content, loading is promised to happen at lightning-speed, especially on mobile phones, via Facebook’s app. The publishers were promised rewards — wider reach, more eyeballs and revenue— as mobile content now loads at super-fast speeds. Many of the largest reputable outlets fell out of IA completely. Q: What does Facebook say about Instant Articles? An undated blog on “Facebook for Media” section states: “As always, our goal with ads in Instant Articles is to maintain the best reading experience for people, while driving revenue for publishers and performance for advertisers.” Q: Better and faster news? The Facebook blog states: “We know that Instant Articles provide a better, faster reading experience for people on Facebook, which we've seen drive a significant boost of traffic for publishers. In aggregate, Instant Articles delivers between 20 - 50% more traffic, compared to mobile web content.” “On top of this boost in traffic, we are investing heavily in new features to help publishers build deeper relationships with their audience through call-to-action units and increase ads monetization, with recent enhancements like adding flexibility in ad placements and enabling new types of Facebook ads. Those efforts are paying off. Q: How much does Facebook pay content providers via IA? Facebook’s undated blog states: “Instant Articles now pays out more than $1 million per day to publishers via Facebook Audience Network. In the last 6 months alone, RPM, or revenue per 1,000 page views, that publishers see from Facebook Audience Network in Instant Articles has increased by over 50%.” Q: How many publishers are on Instant Articles platform? Facebook states: “We now have over 10,000 publishers around the world using Instant Articles, growing over 25% in the last six months alone. More than a third of all clicks to articles on Facebook are now to Instant Articles.” “More than a third of all clicks to articles on Facebook are now to Instant Articles.” Facebook blog (undated) “While we continue monitoring the impact of ad units in the recirculation section, there are other features publishers should leverage to generate as much value as possible from Instant Articles.” What really happened with IA? There was so much excitement when IA was launched: It allows publishers to inject ads with Instant Articles. When IA was launched in 2015, 72 published joined as “original partners” in the US, according to a Columbia Journalism Review report. It took some time before news organisations started to comprehend a slow-release shock. Then came the realisation: It was a ruse, a way to cement Facebook’s privileged standing now as the to-go platform for news and information, and everything in between. Through IA, the social media giant roped in top publishers to its algorithmic-driven ecosystem. Facebook benefited from free, decent content people loved and helped the platform grab even more eyeballs — and ad revenues — away from the content publishers. The CJR reported that by January 17, 2018, 38 publications completely stopped posting on Instant Articles — even as Facebook has continued to tout it as a “success” among its journalism efforts. How much money did publishers get from IA? An undated Facebook blog entitled “Expanding Monetization Opportunities on Instant Articles, states: “Instant Articles now pays out more than $1 million per day to publishers via Facebook Audience Network.” It added: “In the last 6 months alone, RPM, or revenue per 1,000 page views, that publishers see from Facebook Audience Network in Instant Articles has increased by over 50%”. What is AMP? It stands for Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). It’s dubbed as the "next big thing in SEO” (search-engine optimisation). It’s a bit like Facebook’s Instant Articles. AMP is designed to help web publishers create content optimised for mobile phones. It loads instantly on all devices, according to Google. It is aimed to “make content like video, animations and graphics work alongside smart ads, and to load instantaneously," Google wrote in a blog post. "We also want the same code to work across multiple platforms and devices so that content can appear everywhere in an instant — no matter what type of phone, tablet or mobile device you're using.” What is AMP’s role in news? It's everything. AMP is focused on news stories from online publishers. This is an important details. News is the primary content Google search users currently see as AMP pages in mobile search results. However, AMP is also relevant for other types of businesses, such as ecommerce organizations, for which the AMP results carousel and other components are well-suited. What are other countries doing about the overwhelming, or monopoly power of Facebook and Google. Australia: Canberra has introduced a new law forcing the tech giants to pay for news. Europe: Brussels has introduced legislation forcing the tech giants to pay for news. Brazil: Google has agreed to payGoogle has agreed to pay some publishers for content. Germany: Google has agreed to pay some publishers for content. US: The Federal Trade Commission, joined by nearly all of US states, has sued Facebook in December 2020 an anti-trust case, alleging that the company has engaged in monopolistic practices. Also in December 2020, dozens of US states also filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Google, alleging abuse of monopoly power, gouging out both advertisers and consumers. Are the giants paying up? Yes. At least in Australia, Europe and Brazil. How much are we talking about? Millions of dollars. On February 28, 2021, Facebook signed a deal with 3 Australian news publishers, a day after Canberra passed a law that would make the digital giants pay for news. It was not immediately clear how much the deal was worth. Google had earlier set up $82m fund for French publishers. In June 2017, the European Union slapped Google with a €2.4 billion ($2.8 billion; Dh10.35 billion) fine over unfair competition. An EU reform approved in 2018 mandates payment by internet aggregators like Google News to pay new content providers for displaying snippets of their article online. Are other countries set to introduce laws that would make both platforms pay for news? Yes. Indian newspapers have asked Google to pay publishers 85% of ad revenues. Is this a domino effect that would clip the tech giants’ power? It’s too early to say. Let’s just say the trip-of-the-iceberg redundancies among media professionals look grossly unfair, considering the billions of dollars the giants generate off content the emaciated media people work so hard each day to produce.

GulfNews Technology

Etihad to be airline partner for Abu Dhabi's Hub71 and its tech startups

Aviation|Technology|: Dubai: Etihad Airways has signed up to be the official airline partner of Hub71, Abu Dhabi's tech and startup cluster, The airline will offer more than 100 global startups within the hub special rates and access to a dedicated booking platform to simplify their travel needs. “Etihad is looking forward to collaborating with Hub71, a flagship initiative of Ghadan 21, Abu Dhabi’s accelerator programme,” said Mohammad Al Bulooki, Chief Operating Officer of Etihad Aviation Group “The MOU will support the government’s efforts in diversifying the economy by rewarding businesses who choose to develop innovative technologies in Abu Dhabi.” Read More Etihad Airways' passengers to get up-to-date COVID-19 related info with new app Etihad, Gulf Air agree to broaden codeshare deal Possible mentoring Through the partnership, Etihad will engage with Hub71’s startup founders and entrepreneurs to launch “innovation-driven activities.”. The airline will also explore mentorship opportunities, workshops, and community events. “Etihad looks forward to working with Hub71’s global pool of innovators to actively source, support and enable the rapid trial and production of promising solutions for the aviation industry,” said Al Bulooki. Solid expansion Hub71’s tech community expanded from 35 startups to 102 in under two years, and raised Dh185 million ($50.4 million) for startups in 2020. “As the world prepares to open up, global connectivity will be vital for our growing community of startup founders to be in a position to export their innovative products and services to new markets,” said Hanan Al Yafei, CEO of Hub71. “Our strategic partnership with Etihad Airways reflects the value we place in unlocking global opportunities from Abu Dhabi, and together we will help grow technology-driven businesses that can sustain the aviation industry with bold new ideas and innovations.”

GulfNews Technology

One Abu Dhabi company is soaring from investments in spaceship maker SpaceX

Markets|Technology|: Dubai: Abu Dhabi’s International Holding Co. (IHC) is flying high… literally. It’s investments in SpaceX – the US company building rockets and spaceships – is paying off. In a filing made late last month, SpaceX confirmed that it had completed an $850 million equity funding round. That values the company at around $76 billion – a sharp 60 per cent increase on the $46 billion it had in August last. All of which would bring a lot of cheer to IHC, an investment company whose share price shot up in three-digit terms in recent months. In the second-half of last year, IHC purchased a 94 per cent stake in Falcon CI IV LP, a Cayman Island based private equity fund that has invested in California-based SpaceX. SpaceX journey SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. It is building new prototypes of its Starship, a next-generation re-usable rocket; it has two active spacecrafts – Dragon and Falcon 9; and is building out Starlink, a global broadband internet satellite constellation which will have more than 12,000 satellites for world coverage. Read More UAE stock high-flier IHC takes on a new challenge in Sudan Abu Dhabi's secondary stock market to see three listings from International Holding Corp. “There are a number of venture capital deals that we have invested in as part of our mandate to secure interests in fast growing, scalable technology, media and biotech ventures,” said Peter Abraam, Chief Strategy & Growth Officer, IHC. “We were able to gain exposure in SpaceX via our fund acquisition in Falcon CI IV, while other deals such as Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Multiply Marketing and YieldMo were done directly through acquisition or financing rounds.”