Tech Narratives is a subscription website, which offers expert commentary on the day's top tech news from Jan Dawson, along with various other features, for $10/month. If you are not a subscriber (or are not signed in), some of the content below will be unavailable. If you would like to learn more or subscribe, you can do so on this page. Older comments are available for free.
Trump claims Google and Facebook are suppressing Clinton email news – Business Insider (Oct 30, 2016)
Having already taken aim at both Apple and Amazon during the campaign, Trump began attacking Google and Facebook over perceived suppression of news about Hillary Clinton’s email servers and the various on-again, off-again investigations into them by the FBI.
via Business Insider
Facebook’s new camera app (currently in testing) clones several Snapchat features, including filters/lenses, and ephemeral messages. The filter/lens technology is built on the acquisition of MSQRD.
via The Verge
FAA Bans Note7 From All Flights (Oct 14, 2016)
The FAA finally banned all Note7 devices in any state from flights, following earlier partial bans, and mandated safety warnings on all US flights which lasted into January 2017.
Facebook has repeatedly trended fake news since firing its human editors – The Washington Post (Oct 12, 2016)
This whole incident has been embarrassing for Facebook on a number of levels, reflecting its schizoid approach to its editorial role – on the one hand, it wants to disclaim responsibility for editing or filtering what its users see, and on the other it clearly can’t just leave these tasks to machines. Fake news would end up being an important factor in the presidential election, and it’s a conversation that’s still ongoing.
Samsung Cuts Q3 Guidance Over Note7 (Oct 12, 2016)
The financial impact of the Note7 debacle began to become clear, as Samsung formally reduced its revenue and profit guidance by several billion dollars (its final results for Q3 would be broadly in line with this guidance).
Samsung Ends Note7 Sales Worldwide (Oct 10, 2016)
Samsung finally announced that it would stop selling the Note7 in all countries.
First Report of Replacement Samsung Note7 Fire (Oct 5, 2016)
The first report came in of a replacement Note7 – theoretically the safe version – also catching fire, prompting calls for a complete recall.
Yet another experimental attempt by Facebook to recreate a Snapchat feature, this time within Messenger, and only in Poland. Following two early attempts to recreate Snapchat in totality in its own new apps, much of Facebook’s Snacphat cloning in 2016 has come through both features within other apps and more experimental approaches, launching new features or apps in single countries, rather than making a big global announcement. This seems smart, given Facebook’s history in this space, many of its attempts having fallen flat.
via The Verge
Following Facebook’s first metrics mishap in September, the Association of National Advertisers issued the first call in what’s since become a steady drumbeat of requests for Facebook to open itself up to outside auditing of its metrics for advertisers and publishers.
This data – from a survey by BloomReach – shows just how powerful Amazon has become as a shopping destination: over half of online shoppers start with this single destination, versus just 28% at a search engine like Google, which would give them multiple destination options. Other retailers combined accounted for just 16% of the total, so Amazon is totally in a class of its own here.
Facebook Overestimated Key Video Metric for Two Years – WSJ (Sep 22, 2016)
This was the first of a number of stories in late 2016 relating to Facebook’s metrics for advertisers and publishers. At the time, it looked like an isolated incident, but it was bad enough to attract attention even so – Facebook vastly overestimated average viewing time for videos for two full years, and only disclosed this fact through an article on its Advertiser Help Center. Once the story broke, Facebook publicly apologized.
Bloomberg Reports Samsung Rushed Note7 Development (Sep 19, 2016)
Bloomberg reported that a rush to beat the iPhone 7 to market had caused Samsung to shortcut its development process for the Note7, possibly leading to the faults that triggered the fires.
The Third Transportation Revolution – Lyft CEO (Sep 18, 2016)
Lyft CEO John Zimmer makes two strong claims in this piece: autonomous vehicles will account for the majority of Lyft rides within 5 years (i.e. by 2021), and private car ownership will all but end in major US cities by 2025. Both of these claims are directionally correct – autonomous cars are absolutely coming, and thanks to ride sharing, many city dwellers will eventually abandon car ownership. But the timelines for both are likely dramatically over-optimistic. Most major car manufacturers aren’t talking about having production autonomous cars on the road until the early 2020s, and car ownership trends will shift much more slowly too. We therefore have to ask to what extent Lyft’s business plans are based on these over-optimistic goals.
Samsung Issues Partial Formal US Note7 Recall (Sep 15, 2016)
Samsung issued a partial formal recall through the US CPSC which lacked the force of a full recall, and focused only on the first-generation devices with the supposedly faulty battery.
Samsung Note7 Sales Suspended + Informal Recall (Sep 2, 2016)
Samsung suspended sales of first-generation Note devices and issued an informal recall, while promising that replacement devices with different batteries would be available very soon.
An investigation which began in 2014 concluded in August 2016 with the EU finding that Apple’s tax arrangement with the Irish government contravened EU tax policy, and requiring that Ireland recoup $14.5 billion in back taxes. The EU had also made similar moves with regard to Starbucks and Fiat as a result of similar investigations, but the numbers involved in the Apple case are far larger. Apple argues that it creates essentially all the value in its products in the US – iPhones and other products are famously “Designed by Apple in California” – and that therefore it repatriates all its profits to the US to be taxed there. The Irish arrangement recognized this argument and the Irish government has been happy to have Apple build a big base in Ireland on this basis, but the EU feels that Ireland’s treatment of Apple is an example of unequal treatment. Part of the reason for all this is that Apple has been keeping huge amounts of cash overseas for years in anticipation of an eventual tax holiday in the US, and so this isn’t just about Apple and the EU but also about a larger battle between US and European tax authorities.
via New York Times
Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook in general have long strenuously resisted the media company label, not least because media companies are valued much lower than tech companies. And yet Facebook has become arguably the most influential media company in the world over the past few years, a fact that’s only become clearer as 2016 has gone on. This identity crisis also makes it harder for Facebook to make smart decisions about how to manage problems like fake news on the site – the sooner it reaches some conclusions, the better.
First Reports of Samsung Galaxy Note7 Fires (Aug 24, 2016)
Reports began to trickle in about fires caused by the Galaxy Note7, and eventually the trickle turned into a steady stream, with dozens of cases reported in the US alone over the space of a couple of weeks.
Samsung Galaxy Note7 Goes on Sale (Aug 19, 2016)
The Note7 went on sale on August 19th in the US with all the major carriers, off the back of mostly very good reviews from major tech publications.
Samsung Unveils the Galaxy Note7 (Aug 2, 2016)
On August 2, 2016, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note7 at an event in New York City. It skipped from 5 to 7 in the numbering system to align naming with its Galaxy S line, a decision that would later prove unfortunate.