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This Week in Apps: Apple scolds adtech, Facebook hit with antitrust suits, Twitter buys Squad – TechCrunch

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy. The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in global consumer spend in 2019. Not including third-party Chinese app stores, iOS and Android […]

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Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in global consumer spend in 2019. Not including third-party Chinese app stores, iOS and Android users downloaded 130 billion apps in 2020. Consumer spend also hit a record $112 billion across iOS and Android alone. In 2019, people spent three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Due to COVID-19, time spent in apps jumped 25% year-over-year on Android.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

Apple defends its consumer privacy moves

Image Credits: Apple

Apple SVP Craig Federighi took aim at the adtech industry in a speech to European lawmakers this week, where he downplayed and dismissed the industry backlash against the forthcoming app tracking changes as “outlandish” and even “false.” He said that online tracking is privacy’s biggest challenge and that Apple’s forthcoming App Tracking Transparency (ATT) is the front-line of defense.

“The mass centralization of data puts privacy at risk — no matter who’s collecting it and what their intentions might be,” Federighi said, reiterating that Apple aimed to have as little data on its customers as possible.

This has been the company’s line to date, and it’s not necessarily the whole truth. Apple has so far characterized its decision to allow consumers to opt-out of being tracked as one that’s solely focused on consumer privacy. It positions Apple as consumers’ savior and the only one fighting for our privacy. But the changes are also an example of Apple leveraging its platform power, potentially in an anticompetitive way, to give itself a seat at the table of a multi-billion-dollar market today dominated by its competitors Google and Facebook.

In this case, Apple is inserting itself in the world of mobile advertising by forcing a shift from IDFA to its own SKAdNetwork, which limits the individualized data advertisers can access. This is good for consumers who don’t want to be targeted and tracked just because they’re using an app. Publishers, however, have argued they won’t be able to charge as much for ads where users opted out of tracking. This could have a snowball effect of hurting ad-supported businesses beyond the tech giants like Facebook.

Meanwhile, Apple does get to collect a lot of consumer data which it uses to personalize ads. Its own App Store and Apple News apps personalize ads unless consumers opt out in their iPhone’s Settings (and not through a scary pop-up warning like third-party apps have to display). Apple says what it does in terms of personalization doesn’t count as “tracking” because it doesn’t share the data with others or follow customers around websites and apps.

But as Apple moves into its own services businesses, the amount of data that can be used to personalize its own ads grows. Today, Apple’s ad targeting system includes users in segments based on the music, books, TV shows and apps they download, as well as in-app purchases and subscriptions. It also tracks users as they search the app search with keywords and tap to read App Store stories, and tracks location if permission has been granted to Apple News or the App Store.

In related news, Facebook-owned WhatsApp criticized Apple’s forthcoming privacy label requirements this week, saying that the labels are anti-competitive because they won’t apply to first-party apps, like iMessage, that come pre-installed on iPhones. WhatsApp also argued that they don’t allow companies to share enough details about the measures they’re taking to protect consumer data.

Apple responded by saying labels for its own apps will be on its website for those apps not distributed through the App Store.

Facebook antitrust lawsuits

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Forty-eight attorneys general across 46 states, the territory of Guam and the District of Columbia have filed an antitrust lawsuit that accuses Facebook of suppressing its competition through monopolistic business practices. The states are asking the court to restrain Facebook from making further acquisitions in excess of $10 million without notifying the plaintiffs, and is asking for additional relief, including “the divestiture or restructuring of illegally acquired companies, or current Facebook assets or business lines.”

The FTC also voted to pursue its own antitrust suit against Facebook at the federal level.

While the lawsuits are much larger than an app story alone, they do have the potential to impact the app ecosystem if the plaintiffs prevail, as they ask for the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, and maybe others, to be retroactively judged to be illegal and divested. This would allow for increased competition among the social app market, where Facebook leverages its power to maintain its dominant position. For instance, Facebook just integrated its messaging platform with Instagram’s, meaning users can now message friends across two of the largest social platforms via just one app — either Messenger or Instagram. WhatsApp could be integrated in the future, as well.

Twitter buys Squad

Image Credits: Twitter

Twitter on Friday announced the acquisition of the screen-sharing social app Squad. The startup’s co-founders, CEO Esther Crawford and CTO Ethan Sutin, along with the rest of Squad’s team will be joining Twitter’s design, engineering and product departments. The Squad app, which had heavily relied on Snap’s Snap Kit developer tools, will shut down.

Twitter may be shuttering Periscope as well, code reveals, which leaves some wondering what Twitter’s plans are in terms of streamlining its services. The company has more recently been experimenting with its own version of Stories, aka Fleets, and an audio-based networking product for group conversations.

Platforms: Apple

  • Reminder: Apple’s App Store Holiday shutdown is coming. The App Store will not accept new apps and app updates from December 23-27 (Pacific Time) for its annual holiday break.
  • Reminder: App privacy questions requirement starts December 8.
  • The iOS 14.3 Release Candidate arrives, adding support for the new ProRAW photo format on iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, a new Apple TV+ tab that makes it easier to find Apple’s Originals, readies the platform for Fitness+, and makes a change to bypass launching the Shortcuts app when using custom app icons, among other things.
  • Apple Watch Family Setup arrives in Canada on December 14.
  • Apple Fitness+ launches December 14.

Platforms: Google

Image Credits: Google

  • Google is working on an ambitious project to improve GPS accuracy in apps. In dense urban areas, it’s often hard to get an accurate GPS reading — leading to issues like wrong-side-of-the-street and even wrong-city-block errors, which greatly impact ridesharing and navigation apps. Google’s new solution uses 3D mapping-aided corrections, comprised of 3D building models, raw GPS measurements and machine learning. Its Pixel Feature Drop in December adds these corrections to Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a (5G), which Google says will reduce wrong-side-of-street occurrences by approximately 75%. Other Android phones (Android 8+) have version 1 implemented in the FLP (Fused Location Provider API), which reduces those occurrences by around 50%. Version 2 will be available to the entire Android ecosystem (Android 8 or later) in early 2021.
  • Google Play Pass arrives in 7 new countries, including key Latin American markets. The subscription-based apps and games service came to Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Russia and Saudi Arabia. This brings the total number of markets where the service is live to 42.
  • Google’s Pixel Feature Drop adds Adaptive Sound, Hold for Me (where Google Assistant waits on hold for you), Extreme Battery Saver Mode, screen sharing on Duo calls and more.

Gaming

Image Credits: Microsoft

  • Microsoft confirms its Xbox cloud gaming service will launch on iOS in 2021. However, the company will route around the App Store rules by bringing the service to the iPhone and iPad in a web browser. This cuts Apple out of any revenues the game service can generate. Amazon’s Luna and Google’s Stadia are also planning to use the web browser on iOS to avoid the App Store.
  • Google’s cloud gaming service Stadia is rolling out YouTube live streaming, allowing gamers to share their gameplay to YouTube.
  • Apple asks for Epic Games’ Fortnite lawsuit in Australia to be thrown out because Epic had promised to settle disputes and litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Government and policy

  • The U.S. National Weather Service just saw a record year of weather-related disasters like the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record and California’s wildfires. Now the agency says it’s running out of Internet bandwidth and will need to throttle the amount of data its clients and users can access. The move would impact weather consumers who get their weather from apps on their smartphones, as much of the forecasts and alerts they receive are based on Weather Service output and data.
  • California’s CA Notify contact-tracing app for COVID-19 now reaches the full state. The app uses Apple and Google’s exposure notification API.
  • Cydia files anti-competition lawsuit against Apple. Third-party App Store maker Cydia, home to jailbreak apps that often added functionality beyond what Apple permitted through its terms, is suing Apple for using anticompetitive means to destroy its rival app store. There are good examples of how denying third-party app stores a home on iOS may have been anticompetitive, but Cydia’s lawsuit may not be it. The store in its early days distributed pirated apps, not just those that fell outside Apple’s rules.

Augmented reality

Image Credits: Instagram

  • Instagram partnered with museums in the U.S. and France, including the Smithsonian, Palace of Versailles and Le Grand Palais, to bring AR versions of their exhibits to its camera’s AR effects lineup.
  • Snap partnered with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on a multi-year augmented reality project, “LACMA x Snapchat: Monumental Perspectives.” The initiative will pair local artists chosen by the museum to create site-specific monuments and murals that can be viewed in AR in the Snapchat app.

E-commerce & food delivery

Image Credits: Instagram

  • Instagram launches shopping in Reels, its TikTok rival. The feature is now one of many ways users can shop via video, including through video in Feed, Stories, Live and IGTV. Facebook Pay powers checkout for many sellers, allowing Instagram to generate revenue through transaction fees.
  • WhatsApp adds carts to make shopping easier. Facebook-owned WhatsApp added a new shopping feature that lets consumers buy multiple items from a business, and makes it easier for sellers to track orders.
  • DoorDash shares popped 92% in their trading debut to reach as high as $195.50 after raising $3.37 billion during its IPO.
  • E-commerce app Wish to price IPO between $22-$24 per share at up to $14 billion valuation.

Fintech

  • Robinhood is losing thousands of day traders to China-owned Webull, reports Bloomberg. Founded by Alibaba alum Wang Anquan, Webull has increased brokerage clients by 10x in 2020 to reach more than 2 million by offering free stock trades. Robinhood has 13 million, for comparison. Webull is expected to raise a round from private U.S. investors and expand into roboadvisor services.

Travel

Image credits: Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for WIRED25

  • Vacation rental app Airbnb began trading this week on public markets. After raising its range, the company opened at $146 per share on Thursday, more than double its $68 IPO price and valuing the company at over $100 billion. The stock closed at nearly $145.
  • China’s Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) announced it was banning 105 mobile apps for violating Chinese regulations. The majority of the apps were made by Chinese developers but the U.S.-based travel booking and review site Tripadvisor was also on the ban list, causing its shares to drop. Tripadvisor works in partnership with Nasdaq-listed Chinese travel firm Trip.com (previously called Ctrip).

Social & Photos

Image Credits: Twitter

  • Snap and Twitter worked together to make it possible for users to post their tweets to Snapchat through a native integration instead of screenshots. When Twitter users who are logged into Snapchat now share a tweet using the Snapchat icon from the share sheet in Twitter, they’ll be able to share, react or comment on the post, then send it to a Snapchat friend or post to their Story. The feature is live on iOS with Android in the works.
  • Triller says it can reach 250 million users through partnerships with Samsung and others. The app, which hosted a Pay Per View boxing match between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. this year, is planning more events for 2021, including a concert with K-pop group Blackpink.
  • A second federal judge rules against the Trump administration’s TikTok ban, saying the government “likely exceeded IEEPA’s [the International Emergency Economic Powers Act] express limitations as part of an agency action that was arbitrary and capricious.”
  • Instagram partnered for the first time with lyrics site Genius on “Lyric Reels,” a sort of variation of Spotify’s “Behind the Lyrics” feature. The addition will see artists break down their songs’ lyrics and meanings. Participants include Megan Thee Stallion​, ​24kGoldn and ​Tate McRae.
  • Tinder makes it easier to report bad actors who use “unmatch” to hide from victims. Rival Bumble had just done the same. But in Tinder’s implementation, it’s only making it more obvious how to access its help documentation while Bumble had included a button for reporting users who had already unmatched you.
  • Google’s Photos can now sync your “Liked” images with Apple’s Photos service on iOS.

Streaming & entertainment

  • Netflix’s StreamFest, a free trial weekend in India, boosted installs by 200% week-over-week, reaching approximately 3.6 million global installs, reports Sensor Tower.
  • Stitcher, recently acquired by SiriusXM, revamped its app for the first time in years. The new version offers a dedicated “My Podcasts” tab, better search filters, result sorting, user-curated groups of shows and more.
  • HBO Max is fastest-growing SVOD in U.S. According to Apptopia, the app hit a lifetime high for daily downloads three days after its debut, at 225,000. Since its May launch, DAUs have grown 242%.
  • Spotify had to reset an undisclosed number of user passwords after a software vulnerability exposed private account information to its business partners, including things like “email address, your preferred display name, password, gender, and date of birth.”

Health & fitness

  • Nike Run Club app adds home screen widgets for iOS 14+. The widgets can show your Run Level, post-run progress and make it easier to start your next run.

Productivity

  • Google Drive users on iOS and Android will be able to see and re-run desktop and mobile searches; view and select intelligent selections as they type, including suggestions for people, past searches, keywords and recently accessed files.

Image Credits: Calm

  • Meditation app Calm raises $75 million more at $2 billion valuation, in a round led by prior investor Lightspeed Venture Partners.
  • Twitter buys video app Squad. (see above)
  • AI financial assistant Cleo raises $44 million Series B, led by EQT Ventures. The app and chatbot aimed at Gen Z connects to bank accounts to give proactive advice and timely nudges.
  • Mexican challenger banking app albo raises $45 million to expand into lending and insurance products.
  • Sweden’s MTG acquires mobile racing game studio Hutch Games, based in London, for up to $375 million. The studio produces titles like Rebel Racing, F1 Manager and Top Drives.
  • Seattle’s Freespira raises $10 million for its therapeutic device for panic attacks PTSD that worked with a connected app and proprietary software.
  • Banking app for teens GoHenry raises $40 million to build out its business in the U.S. and U.K.
  • Retail loyalty app Fetch Rewards raises $80 million Series C led by Iconiq Growth. The app offers rewards to users who scan their receipts after shopping.
  • Pear Therapeutics raises $80 million in a round led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2. The company makes prescription apps aimed at treating substance use disorders, schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. The FDA has already approved its treatments for substance abuse, opioid use and insomnia.
  • Reface raises $5.5 million in seed funding led by a16z for its viral face-swapping video app.

Google Health Studies

Image Credits: Google

Google takes on Apple’s Research app with an alternative for Android users. The new Google Health Studies app will work in partnership with leading research institutions, which will connect with study participants through the app. The first study is timely, as it focuses on respiratory illnesses, including the flu and COVID-19. The study will use federated learning and analytics — a privacy technology that keeps a person’s data stored on the device.

Google Look to Speak

Google launched an accessibility-focused app, Look to Speak, that lets people use their eyes to choose pre-written phrases for their phone to say out loud. To use the app, people have to look left, right or up to select what they want to say from the phrase list and navigate the app. Look to Speak can also be personalized by letting users edit the words and phrases they want to say and adjust the gaze settings to their needs.

Retro Widget

Image Credits: Retro Widget 2

Gaming via a home screen widget? The fun Retro Widget 2 ($1.99) has been updated to bring the classic Snake II game from old Nokia handsets to the iPhone’s home screen. The app includes five mazes and nine levels and lets you play Snake II using the 1, 3, 7 and 9 keys.

Barter

Barter is an app designed for app developers alone. From the maker of the HomePass and HomeCam apps, Barter offers a way for app developers to view their app sales in a widget on iOS 14+ devices. The app includes no analytics or tracking beyond what Apple builds in to protect developer data. In the future, Pearce says he’ll expand the app to be able to show things like downloaded units, by product and more. The current version was an MVP to see if Apple would allow the app to pass App Review. Since it passed, it will soon be upgraded.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/12/12/this-week-in-apps-apple-scolds-adtech-facebook-hit-with-antitrust-suits-twitter-buys-squad/

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Resistant AI scores $16.6M for its anti-fraud fintech tools – TechCrunch

Resistant AI, which uses artificial intelligence to help financial services companies combat fraud and financial crime — selling tools to protect credit risk scoring models, payment systems, customer onboarding and more — has closed $16.6 million in Series A funding. GV (formerly Google Ventures) led the round, with participation from existing investors Index Ventures (led […]

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Resistant AI, which uses artificial intelligence to help financial services companies combat fraud and financial crime — selling tools to protect credit risk scoring models, payment systems, customer onboarding and more — has closed $16.6 million in Series A funding.

GV (formerly Google Ventures) led the round, with participation from existing investors Index Ventures (led by partner Jan Hammer), Credo Ventures (led by Ondrej Bartos and Vladislav Jez) and Seedcamp, plus several unnamed angel investors specializing in financial technology and security.

The 2019-founded, Prague-based startup says the funding will be used to meet rising demand from global financial institutions, including by building out its product, engineering, and sales operations teams beyond its existing footprint — which also includes offices in London and New York.

The startup tells TechCrunch it has 30 customers signed up at this stage to use its dedicated anti-fraud security products — which include machine learning detection of fraudulent documents and AI for spotting problematic patterns of transactions.

Collectively its customers, which include banks, insurance companies and fintechs — it can’t name the biggest but names the likes of KBC, Payoneer, Habito and Twisto — are processing tens of millions of transactions per month, it also said, adding that in its home market of the Czech Republic it’s now working with banks that have a combined 50% marketshare.

To give a taster of the problem it’s tackling, the startup says that assessment of customer data it’s acquired and reviewed indicates: 17% of bank statement that are used for lending applications, ‘Know Your Customer’ regulations and other purposes are tampered with; 11% of UK payslips submitted as part of digital loan applications are altered or forged; 15% of company registration certificates submitted worldwide when opening a bank account are fakes; and 9% of utility bills submitted as a proof of address worldwide are forged.

“Our mission is to create an intelligent shield for autonomous financial systems, to protect them against these ever-evolving, ever-smarter attacks,” adds CEO Martin Rehak in a statement. “That’s the only way we can avoid epidemic fraud, mountains of manual reviews and four-factor authentication on every single online service.”

In another supporting statement, Tom Hulme, general partner at GV, said: “Resistant AI’s founding team has unique expertise in applying AI and machine learning to detect complex and evasive behavior. Early customer traction demonstrates an ability to uncover unknown threats, and reliably categorize and reduce false alerts with transparent, explainable and verifiable detection models.”

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/10/20/resistant-ai-scores-16-6m-for-its-anti-fraud-fintech-tools/

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Facebook reportedly plans to change its name to focus on the metaverse – TechCrunch

Facebook is planning to rebrand the company with a new name to focus on building the metaverse, according to a report by The Verge.  CEO Mark Zuckerberg will unveil its new name at the annual Connect conference on October 28, but it could announce the new name earlier, as reported by The Verge. Facebook, which […]

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Facebook is planning to rebrand the company with a new name to focus on building the metaverse, according to a report by The Verge.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg will unveil its new name at the annual Connect conference on October 28, but it could announce the new name earlier, as reported by The Verge.

Facebook, which has the ambition to be known for more than social media, announced Sunday that it plans to recruit 10,000 jobs in Europe for the next five years to help build the metaverse the company sees as a key component of its future.

The company also announced a month ago that Andre Bosworth, the head of AR and VR, will be promoted to chief technology officer. Facebook already has more than 10,000 employees who build consumer hardware like AR glasses that Zuckerberg believes will be as ubiquitous as smartphones.

In July, Zuckerberg said that Facebook’s future lies in the virtual metaverse, in which users will live, work and play inside.

The rebranding comes at a time when Facebook is facing criticism over a range of scandals, including a series of internal documents leaked by a whistleblower, Frances Haugen, who testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Facebook is still under antitrust scrutiny by the U.S. government.

“We don’t comment on rumor or speculation,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/10/19/facebook-reportedly-plans-to-change-its-name-to-focus-on-the-metaverse/

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Does the NFT craze actually matter? – TechCrunch

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review! Last week, we talked about Apple’s subscription addiction. This week, I’m diving deep into whether there’s actually any meaning to pull out of the NFT mania of 2021. If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter […]

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Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review!

Last week, we talked about Apple’s subscription addiction. This week, I’m diving deep into whether there’s actually any meaning to pull out of the NFT mania of 2021.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny

Image via OpenSea

the big thing

The NFT market is still defying reason, but then again that’s kind of its thing. But one thing I’m especially unsure about lately as I see JPGs continue to sell for millions of dollars is… does any of this actually matter?

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year grappling with the NFT market, at times I’ve lost sleep over it. As a reporter frequently covering this market, I don’t own or trade the little images myself, but that hasn’t stopped me from obsessing over the fluctuations in their prices and scouring Discords trying to follow the trends. I’ve tuned into countless Twitter Spaces and lurked subreddits trying to understand it all. I’ve also done my best to keep most of that out of this newsletter — it’s a weird niche interest that’s especially niche at the moment — but as Bitcoin flirts with a new all-time-high and the NFT mania persists, just consider this a timely update.

So, in the past month, investors have continued dropping billions upon billions of dollars on NFTs. OpenSea has seen more than $3 billion in transaction volume in the past 30 days, and that number is actually way down quite a bit from August, showcasing just how much off-peak money continues to flow into NFTs.

All of that money has gone to some colorful places. One of the bigger success stories of the past month has been the platform CrypToadz which investors dumped $100 million into. They look like this. In the past couple weeks, a brand new project called MekaVerse saw $130 million in transaction volume. They’re a bit prettier, but would you spend more than $8,000 on one? The platform Cryptoslam (where I pulled most of the data I reference here) is tracking 163 platforms which did more than $1 million in volume in the past 30 days, a number which doesn’t even account for individual artists selling their work on platforms like OpenSea.

Now, there are two incredibly different segments of NFT communities out there, larger-scale NFT projects like Axie Infinity and NBA Top Shot with tens and hundreds of thousands of users and smaller-scale NFT projects like CryptoPunks and Art Blocks with just a few hundred or thousand owners. Larger-scale projects can represent more traditional gaming titles with more complex in-game economies while smaller-scale projects simply look more like fine art markets teamed with exclusive social clubs. Some smaller-scale projects have the ambition to eventually become larger-scale ones, but many have capped the number of NFTs in their projects and are designed to be exclusive.

In the past 30 days, Axie Infinity did more than $500 million in sales spread across nearly 2 million transactions and over 350,000 buyers. On the flip side, CryptoPunks did $200 million in sales during that same time frame across 484 transactions and 309 buyers.

Generally, when I’m talking about some of these big sales from smaller-scale projects with friends of mine, the first thing they mention is how this is probably all just money laundering. While I’d certainly imagine some of that is happening, that’s ultimately a much more boring explanation than my best guess of what’s really going on, which is that a group of several thousand investors have separately rationalized irrational investing. They just happen to have chosen to do so through buying pixel art and drawings of animals.

While some investors might suggest that a handful of the earliest NFTs hold intrinsic value as historic objects, there are plenty of brand new NFT projects earning ten-million dollar valuations on day one with low amounts of effort and imagination.

It’s seemingly the result of momentum from awe-struck retail investors entering a market filled with massive amounts of wealth being generated and re-invested by Ethereum millionaires who can massively overpay for deals while pushing the implied value of the objects, the projects, the entire NFT market and the price of Ethereum up concurrently. Most of these investors are also people who have held onto Ethereum through its waves and have grown fundamentally averse to cashing out, meaning they’re less likely to sell the NFTs they buy unless they’re just trying to buy another more expensive NFT or have been made an offer too good to refuse. As a result, many high-value smaller-scale projects stay liquid on the low-end while fewer sales of the rarer items underpin the massive valuations of the projects and those occasional big buys keep pushing prices higher.

All of this babbling of mine is to say, what’s happening here is strange. It’s also an incredibly large amount of noise mostly coming from a few thousand buyers.

But when most investors talk about mainstream adoption and future use cases, they’re looking at the creation of more larger-scale projects like Axie and Top Shot which embody many of the technical bells and whistles of crypto economics in more user-friendly packages that can reach the mainstream. NFTs as a concept for driving more complex virtual economies is, indeed, really fascinating, but I don’t think there are as many takeaways to draw from billions of dollars flowing into digital art and these smaller-scale projects like CrypToadz as many crypto investors and venture capitalists are trying to convince themselves.

Only three NFT platforms out there had more than 10,000 active unique buyers in their community in the past 30 days, and while the successes of platforms like Axie Infinity are definitely worth dissecting, it also seems clear we’re in the midst of a speculative frenzy and it’s not a very easy time to draw sober conclusions about what all this madness means for the future of the web.

Ali Balikci / Anadolu Agency

other things

Here are a few stories this week that I think you should take a closer look at:

Apple probably won’t be supporting alternate App Store payments anytime soon
Apple did their best to convince the press and public that the court’s decision in its legal fight with Epic Games was an outright win for Apple, but over the weekend they quietly announced that weeks later they’re appealing the decision and asking the courts to put the ordered changes to allow alternative payments inside iOS apps on hold.

Apple put on a cool demeanor after this ruling, but it’s apparent that there are billions on the line for Apple if this order stands. Therefore delaying its rollout means billions of dollars that aren’t going to other payment providers or staying in developer coffers. Epic had already appealed the decision as well, hoping to try for a more favorable ruling, but it’s clear that anyone hoping for a speedy resolution will be disappointed — as is often the case in corporate law.

Nintendo reshapes its SaaS ambitions
Nintendo has been and probably always will be a bit of an odd big company. They’ve been resistant to new trends in gaming and when they embrace them, they don’t necessarily do a great job capitalizing on them, and yet their mountain of beloved IP allows them chance after chance to get things right. This week, they announced more details on their new annual membership called Nintendo Switch Online+ which, for $50 per year will give gamers a deeper array of content. That’s a good deal more than the standard $20 per year for the regular Nintendo Switch Online subscription, but beyond expanded virtual console support for an unannounced array of N64 games, it’s not clear what exactly the sell is for consumers.

Interestingly, they’re launching the service with free access to a major update for Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It’s a play that only works when you’re Nintendo and the penetration of your first-party titles is so incredibly high among device-owners (and especially likely subscribers). Nintendo has sold more than 3.4 million copies of the new Animal Crossing title globally.

Microsoft pulls LinkedIn from China
It’s been a particularly turbulent time for tech companies across China as government regulators crack down and the outlook clouds for big platforms there. This week, Microsoft announced that it’s pulling LinkedIn out of China, detailing that LinkedIn was now “facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.” LinkedIn didn’t have a huge presence in China so this won’t make major waves, but as other American tech giants are forced to make major adjustments to their China strategy, this marks yet another datapoint in the cooling of relations between China and the West.

The LinkedIn’s of the world don’t hold much sway in China, the most curious bit of this is how this regulatory upswing eventually affects Apple which does hold plenty of influence. While officials probably aren’t keen to jam them up, the past year has shown that China’s regulators have plenty of surprises up their sleeves.

Stack of woolen checked blankets

Image Credits: Manuta / Getty Images

added things

Some of my favorite reads from our newly-renamed TechCrunch+ subscription service this week:

Inside Plaid
“…Visa and Plaid might have chosen to go their own ways in the end, but the year wasn’t a total loss for the data connectivity startup: Plaid claims its customer count grew 60% in 2020, and company execs say it has had similar growth so far this year….”

Founders should use predictive modeling to fundraise smarter
“More capital is flooding into growth equity at earlier stages, and it’s happening faster than ever before. But even with the rampant enthusiasm for pouring bigger equity checks into startups, founders are now in a unique place in time where they can think differently about how to capitalize their companies….“

How one startup boosted productivity with ‘get s*** done’ day
“…To improve our productivity, we introduced a Getting Shit Done Day (GSDD): Our employees define clear-cut goals and receive specific, usually non-trivial, tasks with little to no communication involved (we encourage our employees to avoid social media on this day, but we are not looking over their shoulder). The goal of GSDD is to increase the amount of time we spend in deep work by minimizing distractions for one day every other week…”

Thanks for reading, and again, if you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny

Lucas Matney

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/10/16/does-the-nft-craze-actually-matter/

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Reuters18 hours ago

Eco-friendly sneaker maker Allbirds aims for $2 bln valuation in U.S. IPO

Eco-friendly sneaker maker Allbirds Inc said on Monday it aims to be valued at over $2 billion in its New...

ZDNET2 days ago

Comcast gave me good, precise news. The truth was precisely the opposite

Many companies believe that technology is perfect for customer service communication. Often, though, it just isn't.

Bioengineer5 days ago

Sex differences in COVID-19 outcomes

Credit: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers In a study of more than 10,600 adult patients hospitalized with COVID-19, women had

Techcrunch6 days ago

Resistant AI scores $16.6M for its anti-fraud fintech tools – TechCrunch

Resistant AI, which uses artificial intelligence to help financial services companies combat fraud and financial crime — selling tools to...

Techcrunch6 days ago

Facebook reportedly plans to change its name to focus on the metaverse – TechCrunch

Facebook is planning to rebrand the company with a new name to focus on building the metaverse, according to a...

Bioengineer1 week ago

UTHSC awarded $1.5 million HRSA grant for sexual assault nurse examiner training

Credit: UTHSC Memphis, Tenn. (June 16, 2021) - The University of Tennessee Health Science Center's College of Nursing has received

Techcrunch1 week ago

Does the NFT craze actually matter? – TechCrunch

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review! Last week, we talked about Apple’s subscription addiction. This week, I’m...

CNBC2 weeks ago

Earnings

Corporate Company Earnings, Find Earnings Per Share and Earnings History Online

ZDNET2 weeks ago

Even computer experts think ending human oversight of AI is a very bad idea

The UK government is thinking of scrapping the right to ask for a human to review decisions made entirely by...

Crunchbase2 weeks ago

The Briefing: Hailo Lands $136M Series C

Crunchbase News' top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

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