Archive for August 21, 2021

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Reddit Raises Even More

Mike Isaac (via Hacker News):

Reddit, the virtual town square of the consumer internet, has raised a fresh $410 million in funding, valuing it at more than $10 billion, the company said on Thursday.

The financing, which was led by Fidelity Investments, increases Reddit’s valuation from the $6 billion it achieved six months ago, when it raised $250 million. Reddit said it expected existing investors to participate in the latest financing as well, so the round is likely to grow and close out at around $700 million.


Reddit surpassed $100 million in quarterly revenue for the first time in the second quarter this year, up 192 percent from the same period in 2020.

More than 50 million people now visit Reddit daily, and the site has more than 100,000 active subreddits.


On a visitor perspective, this seems undervalued. This is a 50% or more discount to the market-cap/unique visitor ratio of Twitter, Snap, and Facebook. And all the stats I’ve seen indicate much higher user engagement and time on site for Reddit compared to the other social platforms.

The biggest issue is of course that their monetization is horrible. Like 95% lower per user than the other socials.


Court Documents About Epic v. Google and App Store

Sean Hollister:

There was never any question what Epic Games wanted when it took Apple to court: the 48-second “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite” made it clear App Store hypocrisy was the agenda. But the justification for a parallel case against Google wasn’t as clear-cut until today — it’s only now we’re learning about the most damning accusations against the Android giant.

On Thursday, Judge James Donato unsealed a fully unredacted version of Epic’s original complaint against Google (via Leah Nylen), and it alleges the company was so worried about Epic setting a precedent by abandoning the Play Store that it unleashed a broad effort to keep developers from following the company’s lead. That included straight-up paying top game developers, including Activision Blizzard to stick around, and sharing additional chunks of its revenue with phone makers if they agreed not to preinstall any other app stores.


And that’s on top of the dealings Google had with Epic directly in July 2018, when Alphabet’s CFO and other senior Google executives reportedly offered up to $208 million in “special benefits” over three years to bring Fortnite to Google Play — in what would effectively be Google taking 25 percent of the game’s revenue instead of the standard 30 percent. Google allegedly tried to convince Epic to take the deal by pointing out the “frankly abysmal” 15+ step process gamers would have to endure to sideload Fortnite on Android.

Nick Statt (tweet):

Google executives discussed approaching Chinese gaming giant Tencent about purchasing shares in Epic Games or potentially orchestrating a hostile takeover of the company, according to court documents in the ongoing Epic v. Google antitrust case that are no longer redacted as per a court order issued on Wednesday.


Other unredacted sections of Epic’s complaint reveal more new details, including those from a meeting between Apple and Google that took place in 2018 to discuss increasing search revenue growth; Google pays Apple large sums of money to make Google Search the default search engine on the mobile Safari for the iPhone. Following the meeting, an Apple representative suggested to a Google senior member that the two companies team up and “work as if we are one company” to combat efforts like Epic’s to undermine mobile app store commission rates and restrictions against alternative app stores.


Other now-unsealed portions of the complaint deal with new information surrounding Google’s so-called “Project Hug,” an initiative designed to sway top Android app makers and game developers not to leave the Play Store using kickbacks, commission reductions and other financial incentives.

Thomas Claburn:

The unredacted details, highlighted in a separate redlined filing [PDF] and incorporated into an amended complaint filed on Friday [PDF], suggest Google has gone to great lengths to discourage competing app stores and to keep developers from making waves.


These agreements allegedly included the Premiere Device Program, launched in 2019, to give OEMs financial incentives like 4 per cent, or more, of Google Search revenues and 3-6 per cent of Google Play spending on their devices in return for ensuring Google exclusivity and the lack of apps with APK install rights.


The unidentified senior Google executive is quoted as acknowledging that such a move would be “difficult move in the face of the EC [European Commission] decision but we have good privacy/security arguments about why sideloading is dangerous to the user).”

When Epic refused the deal, the complaint contends that Google did indeed try to generate fear of sideloading by releasing data about insecure sideloaded Android apps during Fornite’s Android debut.

Hartley Charlton:

In October 2010, Jobs declared at a corporate strategy presentation that a key company aim would be to use the cloud to “tie all of our products together, so we further lock customers into our ecosystem.”

In 2013, Apple’s senior vice president of software and services, Eddy Cue, lauded the potential of bundling iTunes gift cards with new Apple devices instead of putting them on sale to lock customers further into the company’s ecosystem and dissuade them from switching to a different brand. He also raged at the Apple Retail team for its disinterest in selling iTunes Store gift cards.


In 2016, Apple’s Elizabeth Lee said that “Although they may be our best and the brightest apps, Matt feels extremely strong about not featuring our competitors on the App Store ,” when asked why the company does not want to highlight apps from Google and Amazon. The email thread suggested that this was standard App Store practice, with some competing apps being seen “through a slightly different lens than most.”


Apple’s Tom Reyburn seemingly admitted that “LinkedIn has been rejected for using the same language on their subscription call to action button that Apple uses in our own apps.”


Apple also realized that it had erroneously allowed two separate games that featured school shootings on the App Store , seven months after they were approved. Discussions put the error down to the fact that “it took a total of 32 seconds to review both apps.”


Update (2021-09-08): See also: Hacker News.

Nick Heer:

White claims that “most Android devices ship with two or more app stores preloaded”, and cites Samsung’s Galaxy Store as an example. But Epic’s lawyers claim, beginning on page 45, that Google pressured Samsung into only allowing the Google Play and Samsung Galaxy Store on its phones, thereby scuttling a distribution deal with Epic for its own app store. This was a shift away from what the suit describes as Google’s intent since 2011 to altogether prevent Samsung from running its own app marketplace.

The results of Google’s deals with Samsung allegedly became part of “Project Agave”, thus forming the basis for the suit filed by the attorneys general this year.

App Store Fee Reductions and Apple Strategy Tax

Harley Finkelstein:

To our partners: on Aug 1st we are removing all revenue share on your first $1M. That means you will keep 100% of your first $1M when you sell on @Shopify’s app store.

The best part? At the end of every year, the numbers reset. Every single year, your 1st million is all yours.

Nilay Patel:

After the antitrust bills and the Epic case:

  • Microsoft has reworked Windows store terms to take 0
  • Facebook announced 0 percent on creator payments
  • Twitter announced lower rate for Super Follows
  • Shopify lowering rates

Kind of amazing to see

Abner Li (via James O’Leary):

In exchange for building apps on all those Google platforms and integrating with specific features/APIs, these media companies see Google’s cut on user purchases drop from 30% to 15%. This is independent of the upcoming change where Google is reducing its commission to 15% on the first $1 million in revenue for all – but primarily to the benefit of small/medium – Android developers. Apps in the Play Media Experience Program have to continue using the Play Store’s in-app billing system.

Michael Love:

Honestly this $1M business feels like it’s almost turning into a subsidy for cross platform development; you want to do exactly $1M in revenue (taking care not to go even $1 over that on iOS) on as many platforms as possible rather than focusing on just one.

Seriously, if you’re an iOS developer with a successful app, Apple is effectively threatening you with financial penalties if you reinvest your profits in growing that business instead of investing them in an Android port.

Thomas Tempelmann:

So, a “small” app maker is planning to go out of business. He has plenty of app that others could adopt and continue to develop. However, any established small dev would be punished by doing that because (s)he’d lose the 15% Apple commission and go back to 30% :(

So, any product that is not highly profitable will thereby die out, even if it were to be offered for free, just because of how Apple treats us small businesses. So wrong.

Sean Hollister (via Damien Petrilli):

If Apple pursued its original idea, the App Store Small Business Program might have only given developers credit to spend on Apple’s own App Store search ads — not 15 percent back in their pockets.

Jeff Johnson:

Plus there are no search ads in the Mac App Store.


Apple Engraving Censorship

Jeffrey Knockel and Lotus Ruan (tweet, Hacker News):

We analyzed Apple’s filtering of product engravings in six regions, discovering 1,105 keyword filtering rules used to moderate their content.

Across all six regions we analyzed, we found that Apple’s content moderation practices pertaining to derogatory, racist, or sexual content are inconsistently applied and that Apple’s public-facing documents failed to explain how it derives their keyword lists.

Within mainland China, we found that Apple censors political content including broad references to Chinese leadership and China’s political system, names of dissidents and independent news organizations, and general terms relating to religions, democracy, and human rights.

We found that part of Apple’s mainland China political censorship bleeds into both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Much of this censorship exceeds Apple’s legal obligations in Hong Kong, and we are aware of no legal justification for the political censorship of content in Taiwan.

We present evidence that Apple does not fully understand what content they censor and that, rather than each censored keyword being born of careful consideration, many seem to have been thoughtlessly reappropriated from other sources.

Drew Harwell:

Apple, which says it will refuse government demands to expand its on-device image scanning, currently blocks people from getting the phrase “Human Rights” or “Freedom of the Press” engraved on their iPhone because China doesn’t like it