Spirable refuels with $7.4M to serve more personalized video ads in the US – gpgmail


London based adtech startup Spirable has closed a £6M Series A. The round was led by Smedvig Capital, with existing backers Frontline Ventures, Downing Ventures and 24 Haymarket also participating.

The startup is one of several playing in the customized video ads space — offering a platform that simplifies and scales video ad creation by enabling brands and advertisers to combine video templates with creative and data sources to automate the creation and delivery of scores of personalized marketing messages.

Spirable says its platform, which launched in 2014, is now used by more than 50 customers. Campaigns have run across 75+ countries, with more than 100M personalised videos distributed since launch.

Its most successful industries to date are CPG (consumer packaged goods), travel and telco, according to co-founders Dave and Ger O’Meara.

On the travel front, they give the example of a Deutsche Bahn ‘No Need to Fly’ campaign that used dynamic video to show a location-sensitive side by side comparison of flight costs juxtaposed with cheaper train trips to local beauty spots — which Spirable claims achieved a 397% increase in click throughs; a 849% performance increase; and 59% reduction in cost per click vs the control.

Another example they cite is a Vodafone campaign to promote two own brand smartphone models which integrates multiple data feeds (such as contextual weather and date data) with creative assets in order to dynamically spotlight different features of the devices. The personalized marketing messages were served across Facebook, YouTube and Display channels via APIs baked into the platform.

From five video templates the tech automated the creation of more than five and a half thousand “unique” videos, tweaked to be more relevant to the targeted viewers.

On that particular campaign, Spirable says Vodafone saw sales of its own-brand devices increase by 100%. While ad performance increased by up to 50%.

“We can use all the targeting available in Facebook and layer this with contextual live data like the weather, live sports scores etc. So if we know someone is in London (via geo-targeting via Facebook), we can pull the local weather for that location and tailor the video to people in that audience and also update the video when a goal is scored in a match by a team that the audience supports,” they explain. “Once set up the whole process if fully automated. When the weather, sports data etc change the videos update and change.”

As well as automating serving up personalized ads, the platform provides performance reports on the backend, and uses machine learning technology to optimize ad creative to boost engagement.

The startup notes it’s been a Facebook Marketing Partner for more than two years.

The privacy implications of such highly targeted ads are — or should be — plain.

Among the laundry list of data sources that Spirable’s platform lets advertisers plug in to automate “personalized” ads are “CRM data” which it says includes personal data, purchase data, website browsing, service usage data and preferences; “social audience data”, including behavioral data, audience persona, interests, preferences and intents; and “contextual” signals such as store locations, weather (including pollen and UV levels), markets and stock levels live spots, trending events, pricing, time & date, live travel data, Google traffic data and supermarket wi-fi data.

So, for example, a parent who recently logged into a supermarket’s wi-fi network to check their Facebook account and was tracked lingering near shelves of diapers might find themselves being served video ads for a discount on girlie pink baby products at a nearby store.

The sheer volume of data integrations Spirable offers is one of the areas it claims sets its platform apart from competitors — name-checking Clinch and Idomoo as its main rivals in personalized video ads.

“Spirable has an unparalleled amount of data integrations to uniquely personalise video ads in real-time,” it says, further claiming Idomoo “doesn’t talk about live data and pre-render ads and upload to Facebook — so there is a lack of data-driven pipelines”.

Other areas where it reckons its approach stands out vs the competition is because it’s offering a ‘self-serve’ platform — meaning advertisers and brands can use it to “create, scale and optimise personalised video in-house”, without the need for specialist teams or agencies trained in video effects software (such as After Effects) to make use of the platform.

The video ad building process is also “modular” and “100% customisable” — vs the two named rivals not supporting layer level manipulation, meaning it’s less easy for their users to make changes on the fly to optimize ads.

Another claimed differentiator is that Spirable’s platform is cross-channel — with support for “all major social, email, messenger and display channels”.

It says the Series A funding will go on expanding the business in the US, with a plan to ramp up spending there on sales, customer support and marketing. Product development will also get investment.

“We have an exciting product roadmap of new features that will enable us to reach our vision of making video ads as engaging and useful as any other content a person sees on digital. This requires investment to scale up our engineering and product teams,” the co-founders tell gpgmail.

Commenting on the funding in a statement, Joe Knowles, principal at Smedvig Capital, added: “Spirable is a critical enabler of personalised video advertising, one of the major trends in video advertising today. Every marketer wants to use video in a more personalised way. But so far, slow and expensive content creation has been a barrier to mass adoption. Spirable’s Software as a Service removes this barrier and makes real time, automated video personalisation at scale a reality.

“Having tracked the business for over a year, we are excited to work with Ger, Dave and the high-quality team they are building at Spirable.”


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Facebook Dating launches in the U.S., adds Instagram integration – gpgmail


Are Americans ready to trust Facebook with their dating life? Barely more than a month has passed since the U.S. Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook a record $5 billion over its privacy lapses, and imposed a modified corporate structure to hold the company more accountable for its decisions over user privacy. In the wake of this historic action, Facebook’s brand-new dating product is today launching to all in the U.S., promising to leverage the company’s deep insight into people’s personal data to deliver better matches than rival dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, Match and others.

With its U.S. arrival, Facebook Dating will now also allow users to integrate their Instagram posts in their dating profile and add their Instagram followers to their “Secret Crush” list, in addition to Facebook friends.

By year-end, Facebook Dating users will be able to select which Facebook or Instagram Stories they want to add to their dating profile.

FB and IG Stories

Trusting Facebook to find your match

Though the U.S. is the 20th market for Facebook Dating, it’s one of the most important for the product, which was first announced at the company’s F8 developer conference last year.

The new service represents a significant step toward making Facebook a tool for connecting with people who aren’t just friends or family.

This is an area where the company is now heavily invested. The Facebook Groups product, used by a billion people on a monthly basis, connects users by similar interests or by geographic location, as with its neighborhood groups. The company also launched Facebook at Work a few years ago to allow businesses to build their own networks on top of Facebook infrastructure.

Arguably, none of these efforts require as much trust as opening up your Facebook data — to a company known for its mishandling — in the hopes of finding love.

Entry Points 2 DF

Facebook, well aware of the potential privacy pitfalls in such a product, has taken a number of steps to lock down the Facebook Dating experience so you’re not unwittingly outed to family or friends, or to work colleagues and other professional acquaintances. (Or, you know, to your spouse or significant other.)

For starters, the people you’re shown on Facebook Dating will not include your Facebook Friends. You can also opt to have Facebook Dating only show you those people where you don’t have any friends in common, for another layer of protection. And you can pre-emptively block people from seeing your profile on Facebook Dating — which may work well as a way to ensure an ex’s profile never, ever comes up and to make sure they never see yours.

And of course, Dating is an opt-in experience.

Privacy DF

Your profile will never be visible to friends anywhere or to any people not on Facebook Dating, and it won’t appear in the News Feed. With the newly added Instagram integration, only your photos will be shown — not your Instagram handle.

However, there is still a way to add a Facebook friend as a “Secret Crush,” which will only be revealed if the interest is mutual. People are also limited to nine “crushes,” to prevent abuse of the feature. This now extends to Instagram followers, too, with the U.S. launch.

Profile Creation 1 DF

The product, which lives within the main Facebook app, also allows you to connect with people attending the same events or who participate in the same groups — though this is off by default and can be enabled on a one-by-one basis.

Beyond that, however, Facebook Dating will present you with a set of profiles based on other factors — mutual friends (if enabled), mutual groups (if enabled), mutual schools and other, unknown factors.

Profile Creation DF

This is where things get tricky.

Facebook, of course, has been known to be eerily accurate with its friend recommendations — so much so that some people believed it had to have been spying on them. (As it turned out, Facebook did know more about who you were connecting with than people had realized.)

In terms of Facebook Dating’s recommendations, it’s unclear what “other” data, specifically, Facebook will be using.

Officially, Facebook says that match suggestions are based on “your preferences, interests, and other things you do on Facebook.”

Asked how exactly Facebook will rank its profile suggestions, Nathan Sharp, the Product Lead for Facebook Dating, said he can’t discuss the details of the system.

What I can say is that, in terms of privacy, none of the people you would see or encounter would be divulging any sort of information,” he explains. “So, if you and Taylor, for example, had gone to the same college, but you’d never posted that on your dating profile, you may be up-ranked. But Taylor would never see what college you went to and you would never see what college Taylor went to,” says Sharp. 

Sharp notes that people may discover their mutualities — like sharing the same alma mater, for instance — naturally, through conversations had within Facebook Dating chat.

EventsandGroups multiple 1

Though it’s not unusual for a dating app maker to be tight-lipped about its secret sauce, the amount of data Facebook has to play with here is a competitive advantage and possibly a cause for concern as users are in control of what profile data Facebook is using behind-the-scenes.

On Tinder, you may write that you “love hiking,” but Facebook would know if you actually participated in hiking-related groups or events, and how often. It may know a lot more, too — like your check-ins to hiking trails, if there are mountains in your photos, if you posted updates with the keyword “hiking,” if you “Liked” Facebook Pages about hiking, etc. But Facebook won’t confirm if this sort of data is used or how.

If people can look past the uncertainty around Facebook’s use of their personal data — and that’s a huge unknown for the U.S. market — the product itself has several advantages.

Facebook Dating’s larger goal is to make matchmaking feel personal again. It aims to remind people there’s a real person behind these profiles. That dating is not meant to be a game. This could be a big differentiator from a market tired of but still committed to using dating apps.

The issue is that today’s dating apps aren’t incentivized to help people make long-lasting connections — after all, people who find a relationship abandon their dating service. That’s bad for the apps’ bottom line. What better, then, but to double down on the “single lifestyle,” as Tinder is now doing, to ensure users stick around?

Facebook, on the other hand, isn’t exactly worried about user churn. With the social network’s 2.4 billion monthly users, it has the bandwidth to make dating an additive feature. Its sheer numbers also mean the potential for a far larger pool of daters, including those who wouldn’t otherwise think to join a dating app.

Another advantage is that Facebook is a company that knows how to build a compelling user experience. It shines in the details on Facebook Dating — like how easily it flows you into a gender identification screen at setup, or how it gives you a way to quickly share your live location for first-date safety with a trusted friend on Messenger .

It’s cracking down on the sending of unsolicited photos and porn-bot spam that plague dating apps, by limiting chats to text and GIFs only. That means no links, photos, payments or videos can be shared in messages.

And when Story integration goes live by year-end, checking out daters’ less-polished updates may become a new favorite activity.

Gender Identity Flow

Finally, because its raison d’être is not (for now at least) direct monetization of core dating features — like messaging or returning to a profile you accidentally swiped past — Facebook can create a free product where you’re not limited by the app’s need to squeeze you for dollars.

PauseMatch SecondLook DFThat said, the product can’t help but borrow from Tinder, with its set of rounded like/dislike buttons (why is there never a maybe?), photo-centric profiles that reward the genetically blessed, the integrated private chat and now Instagram integration, too.

Instagram Posts

In addition to the U.S., Facebook Dating is live already in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Guyana, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Suriname, Thailand, Uruguay and Vietnam. It will be in Europe by early 2020. 

The company won’t say how many users are on the Dating product so far, but claims it’s “doing well.”

Facebook Dating is rolling out to users 18 and over in the U.S. starting today.


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Facebook rolls out new business tools for Messenger, kills the ‘Discover’ tab – gpgmail


Facebook today is formally rolling out a new suite of tools for its 40 million active businesses on Messenger, including appointment booking, lead generation, and others announced earlier this year at its F8 developer conference. As a part of these changes, Facebook will also begin to phase out the Discover tab in Messenger — a feature that became home to both games and businesses following last fall’s redesign.

Today, Facebook says the Discover tab will be pulled from the Messenger app over the next several months. Instead, it will invest in making sure Facebook users are directed to interact with businesses via Messenger in other ways.

“We want to make it more seamless for people to reach out to businesses on Messenger in places where they’re already looking to connect,” explains Facebook, of its decision to kill off the Discover feature. “We will put more investment into tools to connect people and businesses – including updates to m.me links, web plugins, various entry points across our family of apps, as well as ad products – that lead to Messenger,” the company says.

In terms of its new business tools, the lead generation product will launch as a Messenger template within Facebook Ads Manager this week. The template lets businesses create automated experiences to help qualify their leads in Messenger, then continue conversations in the app or integrate with existing CRM tools to track the leads further.

The feature has been in beta following F8, but will now be publicly available.

Appointment booking was announced at F8, too, but is only now launching into beta with select developers and businesses. This feature allows businesses to accept appointment requests and make bookings in real-time through Messenger. It also integrates with existing calendar booking software, and can help Messenger conversations be turned into in-store traffic, as well as online and phone appointments, the company says.

The feature will be launched globally to all developers later in the year.

Another update mentioned today involves plans to launch improved event reporting in Messenger later this year, which will allow businesses to report and track their Messenger conversations.

Plus, Facebook says it’s updating the Standard Messaging window for businesses to 24 hours (which is how long they have to respond to inquiries from customers.) This brings it in-line with WhatsApp’s window.

After 24 hours, businesses can still use sponsored messages to re-engage customers, and message tags (e.g. updates on purchases, event reminders, changes to their account, and now in closed beta, “human agent,” which will let agents respond to issues that need resolution after the standard messaging window closes.)

Messenger’s Subscription Messaging beta program, meanwhile, is changing today as well.

It’s now going to be limited to “vetted news organizations.” This came about because some businesses were using the feature in violation of Facebook’s guidelines, the company admitted. The feature is designed to send regular news updates to subscribers. The timing of this change is somewhat interesting, as Facebook is preparing to relaunch efforts to feature top news stories on its social network, this time vetted by journalists and featuring content Facebook pays for. There’s room for some interoperability here between the news product and subscriptions/updates, but it’s not clear if or how that will come to pass.

Of course, the biggest Messenger consumer news from F8 — a desktop app for Mac and PC — hasn’t yet come to pass, but is expected sometime this year.

 

 


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The 11 best startups from Y Combinator’s S19 Demo Day 1 – gpgmail


Y Combinator, the genesis for many of the companies that have shaped Silicon Valley including Airbnb, PagerDuty and Stripe, has minted another 200 some graduates. Half of those companies made their pitch to investors today during Day 1 of Y Combinator’s Summer 2019 Demo Day event and we’re here to tell you which startups are on the fast-track to the unicorn club.

Eighty-four startups presented (read the full run-through of every company plus some early analysis here) and after chatting with investors, batch founders and of course, debating amongst ourselves, we’ve nailed down the 11 most promising startups to present during Day 1. We’ll be back Tuesday with our second round of top picks.



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Microsoft tweaks privacy policy to admit humans can listen to Skype Translator and Cortana audio – gpgmail


Microsoft is the latest tech giant to amend its privacy policy after media reports revealed it uses human contractors to review audio recordings of Skype and Cortana users.

A section in the policy on how the company uses personal data now reads (emphasis ours):

Our processing of personal data for these purposes includes both automated and manual (human) methods of processing. Our automated methods often are related to and supported by our manual methods. For example, our automated methods include artificial intelligence (AI), which we think of as a set of technologies that enable computers to perceive, learn, reason, and assist in decision-making to solve problems in ways that are similar to what people do. To build, train, and improve the accuracy of our automated methods of processing (including AI), we manually review some of the predictions and inferences produced by the automated methods against the underlying data from which the predictions and inferences were made. For example, we manually review short snippets of a small sampling of voice data we have taken steps to de-identify to improve our speech services, such as recognition and translation.

The tweaks to the privacy policy of Microsoft’s Skype VoIP software and its Cortana voice AI were spotted by Motherboard — which was also first to report that contractors working for Microsoft are listening to personal conversations of Skype users conducted through the app’s translation service, and to audio snippets captured by the Cortana voice assistant.

Asked about the privacy policy changes, Microsoft told Motherboard: “We realized, based on questions raised recently, that we could do a better job specifying that humans sometimes review this content.”

Multiple tech giants’ use of human workers to review users’ audio across a number of products involving AI has grabbed headlines in recent weeks after journalists exposed a practice that had not been clearly conveyed to users in terms and conditions — despite European privacy law requiring clarity about how people’s data is used.

Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have all been called out for failing to make it clear that a portion of audio recordings will be accessed by human contractors.

Such workers are typically employed to improve the performance of AI systems by verifying translations and speech in different accents. But, again, this human review component within AI systems has generally been buried rather than transparently disclosed.

Earlier this month a German privacy watchdog told Google it intended to use EU privacy law to order it to halt human reviews of audio captured by its Google Assistant AI in Europe — after press had obtained leaked audio snippets and being able to re-identify some of the people in the recordings.

On learning of the regulator’s planned intervention Google suspended reviews.

Apple also announced it was suspending human reviews of Siri snippets globally, again after a newspaper reported that its contractors could access audio and routinely heard sensitive stuff.

Facebook also said it was pausing human reviews of a speech-to-text AI feature offered in its Messenger app — again after concerns had been raised by journalists.

So far Apple, Google and Facebook have suspended or partially suspended human reviews in response to media disclosures and/or regulatory attention.

While the lead privacy regulator for all three, Ireland’s DPC, has started asking questions.

In response to the rising privacy scrutiny of what tech giants nonetheless claim is a widespread industry practice, Amazon also recently amended the Alexa privacy policy to disclose that it employs humans to review some audio. It also quietly added an option for uses to opt-out of the possibility of someone listening to their Alexa recordings. Amazon’s lead EU privacy regulator is also now seeking answers.

Microsoft told Motherboard it is not suspending human reviews at this stage.

Users of Microsoft’s voice assistant can delete recordings — but such deletions require action from the user and would be required on a rolling basis as long as the product continues being use. So it’s not the same as having a full and blanket opt out.

We’ve asked Microsoft whether it intends to offer Skype or Cortana users an opt out of their recordings being reviewed by humans.

The company told Motherboard it will “continue to examine further steps we might be able to take”.


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Facebook to admit ownership of Instagram, WhatsApp in barely visible small-print – gpgmail


For the first time in more than half a decade, Facebook wants to inform you that it owns Instagram, the hyper-popular rival social networking app it acquired for a $1BN steal back in 2012.

Ditto messaging platform WhatsApp — which Mark Zuckerberg splurged $19BN on a couple of years later to keep feeding eyeballs into his growth engine.

Facebook is adding its own brand name alongside the other two — in the following format: ‘Instagram from Facebook’; ‘WhatsApp from Facebook.’

The cheap perfume style rebranding was first reported by The Information which cites three people familiar with the matter who told it employees for the two apps were recently notified internally of the plan to rebrand.

“The move to add Facebook’s name to the apps has been met with surprise and confusion internally, reflecting the autonomy that the units have operated under,” it said. Although it also reported that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also been frustrated that Facebook doesn’t get more credit for the growth of Instagram and WhatsApp.

So it sounds like Facebook may be hoping for a little reverse osmosis brand-washing — aka leveraging the popularity of its cleaner social apps to detoxify the scandal-hit mothership.

Not that Facebook is saying anything like that publicly, of course.

In a statement to The Information confirming the rebranding it explained it thus: “We want to be clearer about the products and services that are part of Facebook.”

The rebranding also comes at a time when Facebook is facing at least two antitrust investigations on its home turf — where calls for Facebook and other big tech giants to be broken up are now a regular feature of the campaign trail…

We can only surmise the legal advice Facebook must be receiving vis-a-vis what it should do to try to close down break up arguments that could deprive it of its pair of golden growth geese.

Arguments such as the fact most Instagram (and WhatsApp) users don’t even know they’re using a Facebook-owned app. Hence, as things stand, it would be pretty difficult for Facebook’s lawyers to successfully argue Instagram and WhatsApp users would be harmed if the apps were cut free by a break-up order.

But now — with the clumsy ‘from Facebook’ construction — Facebook can at least try to make a case that users are in a knowing relationship with Facebook in which they willingly, even if not lovingly, place their eyeballs in Zuckerberg’s bucket.

In which case Facebook is not telling you the Instagram user that it owns Instagram for your benefit. Not even slightly.

Note, for example, the use of the comparative adjective “clearer” in Facebook’s statement to explain its intent for the rebranding — rather than a simple statement: ‘we want to be clear’.

It’s definitely not saying it’s going to individually broadcast its ownership of Instagram and WhatsApp to each and every user on those networks. More like it’s going to try to creep the Facebook brand in. Which is far more in corporate character.

At the time of writing a five day old update of of Instagram’s iOS app already features the new construction — although it looks far more dark pattern than splashy rebrand, with just the faintest whisker of grey text at the base of the screen to disclose that you’re about to be sucked into the Facebook empire (vs a giant big blue ‘Create new account’ button winking to be tapped up top… )

Here’s the landing screen — with the new branding. Blink and you’ll miss it…

So not full disclosure then. More like just an easily overlooked dab of the legal stuff — to try to manage antitrust risk vs the risk of Facebook brand toxicity poisoning the (cleaner) wells of Instagram and WhatsApp.

There are signs the company is experimenting in some extremely dilute cross-brand-washing too.

The iOS app description for Instagram includes the new branding — tagged to an ad style slogan that gushes: “Bringing you closer to the people and things you love.”  But, frankly, who reads app descriptions?

image1

Up until pretty recently, both Instagram and WhatsApp had a degree of independence from their rapacious corporate parent — granted brand and operational independence under the original acquisition terms and leadership of their original founders.

Not any more, though. Instagram’s founders cleared out last year. While WhatsApp’s jumped ship between 2017 and 2018.

Zuckerberg lieutenants and/or long time Facebookers are now running both app businesses. The takeover is complete.

Facebook is also busy working on entangling the backends of its three networks — under a claimed ‘pivot to privacy‘ which it announced earlier this year.

This also appears intended to try to put regulators off by making breaking up Facebook much harder than it would be if you could just split it along existing app lines. Theories of user harm potentially get more complicated if you can demonstrate cross-platform chatter.

The accompanying 3,000+ word screed from Zuckerberg introduced the singular notion of “the Facebook network”; aka one pool for users to splash in, three differently colored slides to funnel you in there.

“In a few years, I expect future versions of Messenger and WhatsApp to become the main ways people communicate on the Facebook network,” he wrote. “If this evolution is successful, interacting with your friends and family across the Facebook network will become a fundamentally more private experience.”

The ‘from Facebook’ rebranding thus looks like just a little light covering fire for the really grand dodge Facebook is hoping to pull off as the break-up bullet speeds down the pipe: Aka Entangling its core businesses at the infrastructure level.

From three networks to one massive Facebook-owned user data pool. 

One network to rule them all, one network to find them,
One network to bring them all, and in the regulatory darkness bind them


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Week in Review: Regulation boogaloo – gpgmail


Hello, weekenders. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on gpgmail this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about how services like Instagram had moved beyond letting their algorithms take over the curation process as they tested minimizing key user metrics such as “like” counts on the platform.


John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The big story

The big news stories this week intimately involved the government poking its head into the tech industry. What was clear between the two biggest stories, the DoJ approving the Sprint/T -Mobile merger and the FTC giving Facebook a $5 billion slap on the wrist, is that big tech has little to worry about its inertia being contained.

It seems the argument from Spring and T-Mobile that it was better to have three big telecom companies in the U.S. rather than two contenders and two pretenders, seems to have stuck. Similarly, Facebook seems to have done a worthy job of indicating that it will handle the complicated privacy stuff but that they’ll let the government orgs see what they’re up to.

Fundamentally, none of these orgs seem to want to harm the growth of these American tech companies and I have a tough time believing that perspective is going to magically get more toothy in some of these early antitrust investigations. The government might be making a more concerted effort to understand how these businesses are structured, but even focusing solely on something like the cloud businesses of Microsoft, Google and Amazon, I have little doubt that the government is going to spend an awfully long time in the observation phase.

The danger is erraticism and for that the worst government fear for tech isn’t a three-letter agency, it’s the Twitter ramblings of POTUS.

Onto the rest of the week’s news.

Intel and Apple logos

(Photo: ALASTAIR PIKE,THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • Apple dropping $1 billion on Intel’s modem business
    Apple is snapping up a missing link in its in-house component production with the $1B purchase of most of Intel’s modem business. This follows a dramatic saga between Intel, Qualcomm and Apple over the past year, but Apple will be making its own smartphone modems the question is when they actually end up in new iPhones. Read more here.
  • Microsoft dropping $1 billion on OpenAI
    Microsoft announced this week that it is dumping $1 billion into Sam Altman’s OpenAI research group. The partnership is pretty major, but it’s just one of the interesting avenues Microsoft is using to ensure its Azure services gain notable customers. Read more here.
  • Galaxy Fold is coming back!
    After a very embarrassing soft launch, Samsung which managed to make it a several devices beyond the Note 7 before another garbage fire is trying its hand at the Galaxy Fold again and will be releasing it sometime in September. It seems like the carriers are a little dubious of the prospect and T-Mobile has already opted out of carrying it. Read more here.

darkened facebook logo

GAFA Gaffes [Facebook Edition!!]

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. Facebook gets five:
    [Facebook settles with FTC: $5 billion and new privacy guarantees]
  2. FTC isn’t quite done with Facebook:
    [Facebook says it’s under antitrust investigation by the FTC]
  3. Facebook dismissed CA warnings:
    [Facebook ignored staff warnings about sketchy Cambridge Analytica in September 2015]
  4. Facebook left kids vulnerable:
    [Facebook fails to keep Messenger Kids safety promise]

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. This week, my colleague Danny spoke with some top VCs about why fintech startups have been raising massive amounts of cash and he seemed to walk away with some interesting impressions.

“…The biggest challenge that has faced fintech companies for years — really, the industry’s consistent Achilles’ heel — is the cost of acquiring a customer. Financial customer relationships are incredibly valuable, and the cost of acquiring a user for any product is among the most expensive in every major channel.

And those costs are going up…”

Here are some of our other top reads for premium subscribers.

We’re excited to announce The Station, a new gpgmail newsletter all about mobility. Each week, in addition to curating the biggest transportation news, Kirsten Korosec will provide analysis, original reporting and insider tips. Sign up here to get The Station in your inbox beginning in August.


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