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Category: Tech (Page 2 of 17)

Think American Elections Are Bad? Indian Voters Get 1,000 Texts a Day

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That’s the headline of my most recent story, out yesterday, which I wrote with a few colleagues. It begins:

For Gurupad Kolli, a 40-year-old lawyer who lives in a remote Indian village, the torrent of WhatsApp messages surging to his phone a few weeks ago meant one thing: election day was near.

They’re at turns strident, angry, buoyant, informative, misleading, gripping and confusing, he says. Some days he received as many as 1,000 of them through the popular messaging service. Pleased to no longer “depend on the mass media like newspapers,” the resident of Ramapur village in the southern state of Karnataka nonetheless also conceded “there’s so much false and fake news going around.”

He isn’t alone in his bewilderment. The rapidly falling cost of smartphones and mobile data in the world’s second-most-populous nation has turbocharged the spread of WhatsApp, where it is growing far faster than other social media and messaging platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

India is home to more WhatsApp users than any other country, accounting for more than 200 million of the 1.5 billion monthly active global users. That rivals the popularity in India of Facebook Inc., which owns WhatsApp. Tens of millions of Indians of all ages have made the messaging service, which is simple to join and use, their entry point to the world of digital communication, especially in poor, remote areas where users are flocking to the internet for the first time.

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Walmart Bets $15 Billion on an E-Commerce Passage to India

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That’s the headline of a story just out today with my colleagues Eric Bellman and Corinne Abrams: It begins:

NEW DELHI—The famously frugal and focused Walmart Inc. is betting $15 billion on a much different kind of company: a sprawling Indian e-commerce startup that has burned through mountains of cash to try to conquer the country’s online shopping market.

The deal for a roughly 75% stake in Flipkart Group is set to be announced as early as this week.

If the union works, it could provide India’s leading online seller needed funds and traditional retailing expertise, while Walmart would be well-positioned for e-commerce in the world’s second-most-populous nation.

“I would not have bet on a deal converging between Walmart and Flipkart, primarily because of the culture difference,” said Kashyap Deorah, a veteran internet entrepreneur and author of “The Golden Tap,” a 2015 book detailing the history of Indian tech startups.

“Walmart is an extensively positive margin driven culture, and Flipkart has consistently been a gross margin negative business,” he said. The deal shows “Walmart considers India as a long-term strategic market,” he said.

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Walmart Looks to Scale Back in U.K. and Brazil, With an Eye on India

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That’s the headline of a story just out with my colleagues Sarah Nassauer and Luciana Magalhães: It begins:

The world’s biggest retailer has concluded it can’t take on the whole world by itself.

Walmart Inc. is in discussions to give up control over hundreds of stores in the U.K. and Brazil, two big markets where it has struggled for years, according to people familiar with the talks. At the same time, it is preparing to pour billions of dollars into an Indian e-commerce startup to crack a promising market that has long eluded the U.S. giant.

After spending decades building stores around the globe and taking on local players, Walmart is forming joint ventures in competitive markets and focusing investments in areas executives think will provide growth to a company with $500 billion in annual sales. The strategy shift comes as Walmart works to fend off Amazon.com Inc. and a growing crop of discount grocers in the U.S. and abroad.

And more on India:

At the same time, Walmart in advanced discussions to buy a majority stake in Flipkart Group, a homegrown startup that has become India’s largest e-commerce company. The deal isn’t yet complete and could fall apart, said a person familiar with the Flipkart discussions. Flipkart said it was valued at $11.6 billion in a funding round last year.

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Cryptocurrency Mania Comes to the Premier League?

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File under: Life in 2018, cryptocurrency edition:

My favorite Premier League team, Arsenal, now shows ads at its grounds for Cashbet Coin, which bills itself as the club’s “official cryptocurrency partner.”

I did a little digging.

Apparently I missed this Reuters story from January:

English soccer team Arsenal is entering the cryptocurrency world by signing a deal to promote new digital tokens being sold by an American gaming software company.

California-based CashBet said on Wednesday that the Premier League club had agreed to become its “exclusive and official Blockchain Partner” ahead of the upcoming “initial coin offering” (ICO) of its new cryptocurrency, “CashBet Coin”.

The partnership makes Arsenal “the first major team in world football to officially partner with a cryptocurrency”, CashBet said in a statement.

Who knew?

Alibaba Bets Another $2 Billion on Southeast Asia

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That’s the headline of a story I wrote with my colleague Liza Liz, which ran on Monday. It begins:

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Executive Chairman Jack Ma is doubling down on Southeast Asia, investing another $2 billion in e-commerce subsidiary Lazada Group and naming trusted confidante Lucy Peng as its chief executive.

The investment announced Monday comes on top of the $2 billion the Chinese e-commerce giant has poured into Lazada since buying a majority stake in 2016.

Singapore-based Lazada operates online marketplaces in six Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia, selling everything from lipstick and car wax to instant coffee and smartphones.

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The Emails and Texts That Show How Badly Instagram Wants me Back

 

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Around February 15 – about month ago – I decided I would delete the Facebook and Instagram apps from my iPhone.

I haven’t quit these services entirely, and at this point don’t immediately intend to (I can still view both via a browser).

But I wanted to take a break given all I’ve been reading lately about how social media apps are engineered to hijack our attention in order to keep serving us ads.  (What about Twitter? I have no plans to abandon the app for now, as its enormously helpful for following the news.)

I’d heard about people receiving plaintive emails and even text messages from these platforms attempting to get them to re-engage. So I figured I’d document my experience here.

While I’ve received some emails from Facebook, Instagram, especially, really seems to want me back. And I’m not even a power user, much less an “influencer.” I have several hundred followers, but less than a thousand.

Anyway, above are the five emails I’ve received from the service since I last opened the app. I also received two text messages, spaced just a few days apart, roughly two weeks into my hiatus:

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Stay tuned. I may update this post as I receive more messages. Assuming Instagram hasn’t given up on me yet…

Uber Battles Ride-Sharing Startups in SoftBank ‘Family’

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That’s the headline of my newest story, which I wrote with my colleage Mayumi Negishi, out today. It begins:

SoftBank Group Corp., the world’s biggest technology investor, has poured some $20 billion into ride-sharing companies around the globe, including Uber Technologies Inc.

Now, those companies are spending at least some of SoftBank’s money to battle each other.

In Japan, Uber is gearing up to fight China’s Didi Chuxing Technology Co., which is planning to enter the market after an investment by SoftBank of around $10 billion.

In India, Uber is facing off with local champion ANI Technologies Inc.’s Ola, in which SoftBank has about a 30% stake and a board seat. SoftBank invested $7.7 billion in Uber for a 15% stake this year.

Uber and Ola are also grappling in Australia, where Ola started operations in February. Uber in Southeast Asia is trailing Singapore’s Grab Inc., whose president joined from SoftBank in 2016 following its $750 million investment in the company.

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The Internet Is Filling Up Because Indians Are Sending Millions of ‘Good Morning!’ Texts

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That’s the headline of my newest story, an A-hed out yesterday.

It begins:

Google researchers in Silicon Valley were trying to figure out why so many smartphones were freezing up half a world away. One in three smartphone users in India run out of space on their phones daily.

The answer? Two words. “Good Morning!”

The glitch, Google discovered, was an overabundance of sun-dappled flowers, adorable toddlers, birds and sunsets sent along with a cheery message.

Millions of Indians are getting online for the first time—and they are filling up the internet. Many like nothing better than to begin the day by sending greetings from their phones. Starting before sunrise and reaching a crescendo before 8 a.m., internet newbies post millions of good-morning images to friends, family and strangers.

All that good cheer is driving a 10-fold increase in the number of Google searches for “Good Morning images” over the past five years. Pinterest, the San Francisco visual-search platform, added a new section to display images with quotes. It saw a ninefold increase over the past year in the number of people in India downloading such pictures.

Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp messaging service—which has 200 million monthly active users in India, making the country its biggest market—added a status message last year so users could say good morning to all of their contacts at once.

The story, which is on the front page of Tuesdays print WSJ, seems to have touched a nerve. It’s been widely shared online, and has been among the most popular stories on WSJ.com since it was published.

My Favorite Email Newsletters of 2017

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In an age of information overload, email newsletters remain an excellent way to keep abreast of topics you’re interested in without having to try to monitor the daily output of traditional media outlets, tweets from every corner of the world, various cable news shows, streaming content, Facebook posts, blogs and more.

After all, email simply comes to you, and you can benefit from experts’ curation of the most important, timely, informative, entertaining material.

Here are some of my faves:

General news and politics

  • Axios AM, by beltway insider Mike Allen. Ten things you need to know for the day. (It’s delivered in the mornings, U.S. time, so arrives in the early evening here, but is still great.)
  • Today’s Paper, from The Wall Street Journal. All the day’s most important stories, arranged by section. Yes, just like an actual newspaper!
  • Sunday New New York Times Digest, by Matt Thomas. A weekly rundown of highlights from the famously large edition.

  • The New Yorker Minute. A weekly scan of must-reads and okay-to-skips from the print magazine. Tagline: “Your secret weapon against the Three-Foot-Tall Stack Of Unread New Yorkers Sitting In Your Apartment.”

Media:

  • Reliable Sources. The day’s top media news, by CNN’s Brian Stelter. Especially helpful in these fraught times, when it can be hard to stay on top of things.

  • Morning Media. Politico’s daily “guide to the media circus.” A bit more inside baseball, with industry news like comings and goings of journalists from one outlet to another.

Tech

  • Briefing, from The Information. A daily, subscriber-only dispatch with commentary from the site’s journalists on the biggest tech news, as it happens. Highly informative.

  • Exponential View, by Azeem Azhar. A weekly, in-depth review of recent tech news, with an emphasis on artificial intelligence.

  • Asia Tech Review, by Tech Crunch’s Bangkok-based Jon Russell. A weekly round-up of what’s happening in this part of the world, broken down by country and region. If it’s big tech news in the region, you can trust Jon will be on it.

  • Login, another from Axios. This one’s penned by Ina Fried. The top tech news, every day, with a healthy sense of humor.

  • Recode Daily. Stories from the well-known tech site and other sources.

  • Mine! To get Newley’s Notes – my recent writings and five interesting tech-related stories every week – just click here and enter your address in the box.

Others

  • Longform. The week’s best deep dives.

  • Noticing. A newsletter just launched by Jason Kottke, whose blog I’ve been reading for more than 15 years. I’m confident it’s gonna be great.

Related post from 2013: Some of My Favorite Email Newsletters.

A Browser You’ve Never Heard of Is Dethroning Google in Asia

Uc browser

That’s the headline of my newest story, out today. It begins:

JAKARTA, Indonesia—A mobile browser rarely used in the West has outflanked Google’s Chrome in some of Asia’s fastest-growing markets, giving owner Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. an advantage in the race among technology giants to capture the next generation of internet users.

Hundreds of millions of people in India, Indonesia and other emerging markets getting online for the first time are picking UC Browser, owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, over ones made by U.S. rivals. Users say UC Browser works better in countries dominated by low-end smartphones and spotty mobile service.

“It’s faster, it takes up less memory, and it looks better” than Chrome, said Rizky Ari Prasetya, a 20-year-old Jakarta resident who recently ditched Chrome for UC Browser.

India and Indonesia are among the last, great untapped markets for internet users. Just 30% of India’s 1.3 billion people are online, and only 25% of Indonesia’s 260 million use the web, according to the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations body.

Click through to read the rest.

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