iOS as a social media platform

Also in this edition: Hackers get EA source codes, BharatPe grows up, Niyo makes an acquisition.

Good morning! Amazon made hay while the world stayed at home. Mixed metaphor apart, a Bloomberg report states that Amazon’s advertising rates rose 50% from what they were in May 2020. Essentially, brands had to reach customers online because no one was in stores, so Amazon jacked up the rates. Makes sense.

Aren’t you glad it is Friday? We are, and that’s why we got you some fun stories.

  1. The long disputed Keystone pipeline is dead. 

  2. Tata wants all 1mg.

  3. McDonald’s is offering a 20% discount if you get vaccinated.

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Tata Goes All In

It has been a hectic week if you’re on the Tata investment committee. First, they got Curefit over the line. Then there have been reports of the conglomerate making overtures towards Dunzo and now Tata has a controlling interest in the pharmacy delivery company, 1mg. An Economic Times report states that Tata Digital pumped in about $200-240 million into 1mg. Some part of it was primary (fresh shares issued) and some was secondary (bought shares from an existing shareholder). Reports indicate that Omidyar Network and Sequoia Capital have exited the company. Others have made part exits. The core of the founding team will stick around in the company.

What does Tata get from it? E-pharmacies have started to mature. Until the pandemic, these companies could only deliver over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Anything that required a prescription could not be delivered home. Technology companies had been lobbying governments across the country to get approvals but to no avail. That is, until the pandemic. Governments were forced to lift these restrictions as long as the patient who was ordering the medicine had a valid and recent prescription.


Keystone Runs Out Of Gas

Climate advocates across the world can rejoice. The developers of the contentious Keystone XL oil pipeline have pulled the plug on the $9 billion project. Over a decade in the making, the halting of the oil sands pipeline is a major win for environmentalists and the planet alike.

Owners TC Energy had to bring the project to a standstill after US President Joe Biden revoked an important cross-border permit needed for its functioning.

What’s the story? In 2008, the Keystone XL pipeline was proposed to transport oil from Canadian Western tar sands to refineries in Illinois and Texas in the US over a 1,200-mile stretch. Former President Barack Obama had delayed its completion in 2015. When Donald Trump came to power, he reinitiated permits for the pipeline’s completion.

Good riddance: For years, environmental activists, indigenous communities, farmers, ranchers, business owners, religious leaders, scientists, and economists have been protesting the pipeline. This is because it would have devastating effects on the environment and would derail the world’s efforts for transitioning to greener fuel. There was also the concern of oil spills, safety regulations, and overall increase of greenhouse gases in a world where climate change figures are already off the charts.


Apple Wants A Bite Of Facebook

Earlier in the week, we wrote about Apple’s announcements at its annual WWDC event, especially those focused on data privacy. But there’s another major push that needs to be spoken about. Apple’s charge into Facebook’s territory, and the big blue’s counter. It’s a fight bigger than Godzilla vs Kong, and worthy of your attention.

iSocial: Apple has announced a suite of new social features baked into its upcoming operating systems. For example, users will soon be able to watch movies and stream songs together on FaceTime, which is also coming to Android and Windows devices. The iMessage app is getting upgrades, making it easier for users to share web links, Apple News stories, and more with their network. What’s more, the features will be compatible across the Apple ecosystem’s device lineup, making for a seamless experience.

Simply put, Apple has introduced a lot of the core aspects of a social network minus the fluff, with the added promise of keeping your data private.

Face-off: Apple and Facebook have butted heads for a while now over the differences in their approach to data privacy. Apple landed the latest blow by allowing iPhone users to block advertisers from tracking them. Facebook is hitting back by trying to corner the most valuable piece of social media: its creators.

Of late, most social media platforms have been rolling out monetisation tools, special cohorts, and more for creators. Facebook has been aggressive on the front and upped the ante saying it won’t take any cut of creators’ earnings until 2023, at the least. The announcement came with a direct jibe at Apple’s 30% cut on earnings from the App store.

If that weren’t enough, Facebook is reportedly making incursions of its own into Apple’s territory by launching a smartwatch next year.

The Signal

With its seamless experience and fervent fan base, Apple certainly has the potential to build a successful social network. It might not be on the scale of Facebook, but then again, that’s probably not what Apple is targeting. It’s likely giving people more reasons to buy its devices and tap into the ecosystem, privacy intact. But does it really understand social, especially at a time when all roads appear to lead to a creator-centric economy?

The 30% ‘Apple tax’ is a huge pain point, and the crux of the legal battle between Fortnite developer, Epic Games, and Apple. Now, the platform Fanhouse is locking horns with Apple so it can continue paying its creators 90% of their earnings. If it forces the issue, Apple might only end up pushing creators away into the laps of its competitors. In which case, its social network remains, only, for fans.


Catching Up With Covid

93,463: The number of new cases of Covid-19 reported in India for Wednesday.

2,177: Deaths due to Covid-19 reported in India for Wednesday, excluding the revised figures from Bihar.

6,148: Number of new fatalities because of Covid-19 recorded on Thursday. It’s the highest-ever single-day death toll across the world. The massive jump happened after Bihar revised its figures to account for the people who died in private hospitals and under home quarantine.

Voucher for vaccines: That’s what McDonald’s is offering. A 20% discount voucher for those getting vaccinated. Chaayos is offering discounts on chai and Beer Cafe on beer. There are many others standing in line, waiting for you. Just get vaccinated.

500 million: The number of Pfizer vaccine doses the US is going to send to 100 countries over the year. It falls short of the 11 billion doses needed to vaccinate the world according to the World Health Organisation’s estimates, but still is a step in the right direction.

Japan’s woes: The island country has been swiftly vaccinating its elderly. But the number of people seriously ill with Covid-19 could surge if it ends up lifting the current restrictions in urban areas as it is supposed to on June 20. Olympics or no Olympics, Japan has a problem.



Super agent: We’ve always been fascinated by sports agents and how they impact the business of sport, by extension. This New Yorker profile of Rich Paul, LeBron James’ agent, is quite instructive in this regard. The duo met in 2002, stayed in touch, and since Paul started his agency nine years ago, he’s negotiated “nearly two billion dollars in deals for his clients”. But beyond those numbers, Paul (and James) has been associated with “player empowerment”, which is also anchored in social events (racial injustice, etc.) relevant to the US.

Curious history: At The Signal, we also enjoy reading stories about random objects. Two such things today. One, file cabinets, an important “milestone in the history of storage,” which came about thanks to a former US Secretary of State, Elihu Root. And two, Indian truck art, which has its roots in the… World Wars.

Teachfluencing: How do you earn $25 million a year? That too by teaching English on TikTok? Brazil’s Rhavi Carneiro seems to have found the magic pill. He’s what this piece calls a “teachfluencer”, using social media platforms to teach English to Portuguese speakers, and building a business on top of that.

Bonus: Speaking of influencers, how about this story of Khaliverse, an Instagram-based phenomenon, featuring the WWE Hall of Famer, The Great Khali? It’s weird and viral.

No screenshots, please? Let’s talk screenshots, or what academics call, the “evidentiary technique haunting the online realm”, and their evolution. From a literal shot of the screen (no kidding there!) from a Polaroid in 1959 to the next controversy, courtesy of a personal online exchange that has been leaked, or made into a meme, or even sold online as NFTs. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Deli-cious: Or… a screenshot (by a journalist) can travel and help an obscure Western New Jersey Deli (curiously named Your Hometown) with a previous year's revenue of $13,976 earn a valuation of $113 million on a decentralised stock market. This investigation is quite the delicious (pun intended) end to the week.


What Else Made The Signal?

EA hacked: Hackers have stolen a trove of source code and related tools from gaming giant Electronic Arts, the publisher of Battlefield, FIFA, and The Sims.

Pe-back: BharatPe has made its first-ever acquisition with a $30 million deal for loyalty platform PAYBACK India.

Finally: After a month-long delay, Apple Podcasts has finally announced that in-app subscriptions will launch on June 15.

Indexed: Neo-bank Niyo has acquired a Bengaluru-based startup called Index that deals in personal finance.

Unicorn on the block: CarDekho, an online marketplace for cars in India, is in talks with investors to raise at least $150 million. This could make it the latest startup to join India’s growing unicorn party.

e-Sahamathi: Karnataka farmers will soon be able to sell their harvest directly to big retail chains like BigBasket and Reliance Fresh using an online app from the state government.

Pound of flesh: The US chief of JBS, the world’s largest meat supplier, has said the firm paid $11 million in Bitcoin to cybercriminals to avoid more disruptions to its production plants.

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