Top of Mind. Happy Sunday! This week was a slow news week for tech. Still, the stories I wrote about are fascinating on many levels and present an interesting future for cryptocurrencies, social networks, and Apple’s policies.
3 big things:
- Ethiopia bets on itself
- Apple settles with developers
- Cuba backs cryptocurrency
Ethiopia has had enough
The Short: The Director of Ethiopia’s Information Network Security Agency (INSA), Shumete Gizaw, announced Ethiopia would launch national social media networks to rival WhatsApp, Zoom and Facebook.
What this means: Ethiopia’s government claims to be victims of content takedowns by social networks and plan to build platforms, by and for Ethiopians, as a last-ditch effort to be arbiters on what content should remain on social media.
However, unlike China, Ethiopians can still freely use foreign social networks.
Dig deeper: Before the June elections, Facebook took down a network of fake accounts linked to INSA for violating rules against “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. The fake accounts posted negative comments about opposition leaders and intended to skew the elections in favour of the incumbent.
By the numbers: The fake account network spent $6,200 in ads on Facebook, with nearly 2 million users in Ethiopia interacting with the content.
Final thoughts: Building domestic social media platforms is a great way for countries to support the local ecosystem – not as a means of control but to drive innovation.
Ethiopia’s proactiveness in getting ahead of big tech might not be its most altruistic venture. Still, it provides an opportunity for local developers to build exciting technology to connect Ethiopia’s 115 million population.
Apple is paying $100 million to developers
The Short: Apple agreed to settle a class-action suit brought by US developers for $100 million, in addition to major changes to App Store policies.
What this means: This settlement comes at the same time Tim Cook made $355 million from selling 2.6 million worth of Apple shares. The settlement is the first step in addressing lawsuits and public criticism from companies like Epic, Spotify and Facebook over Apple’s app store policies.
Right now, developers are subjected to:
- “Profit killing” 30% cut of all revenue
- Unfair rankings on App Store search
- Singular App Store payment method
- $99 annual fee
- No recourse for app rejections
- Mandatory .99 pricing for users
The new policy covers:
- Flexibility to reach customers through email to offer alternative payment methods
- Expansion of price points – pricing doesn’t need to end at .99
- Access to a developer fund for small US developers
- Appeal app rejections
- App search now based on downloads and star ratings
Final thoughts: Apple would have been forced to make these changes at some point. The company has been at the end of numerous complaints, with lawmakers like Elizabeth Warren clamouring for breaking them apart.
The shift in Apple’s App Store policies is a major change in its business model and could affect in-app revenue in the future.
Cuba gives a stamp of approval on cryptocurrencies
The Short: In a new resolution titled Resolution 215, Cuba’s Central Bank is legitimizing cryptocurrencies.
What it means: Resolution 215 is a major development for Cuba’s conservative government. The move to set new cryptocurrency rules is a play to boost an economy decimated by US sanctions, food and power shortages.
Big picture: Cuba’s Central Bank intends to be a sovereign regulator of digital currencies to ensure proper oversight over volatility and criminal activities. This move would boost the influx of diasporan funds, leading to a significant source of revenue for the government.
Final thoughts: In an era where countries like Nigeria stifle cryptocurrency innovation, the announcement by Cuba’s government establishes cryptocurrency as a government-backed legal tender and signals to similarly conservative countries that if Che Guevara’s Central Bank can approve digital currencies, so can they.
Market Watch: Here’s how the stocks of companies, which dominated the news this week performed as of market close:
- Apple’s stock demonstrated a mixed performance compared to its competitors this week, with a 0.13% decline after hours. Its $100 million settlement was a slap on the wrist, but its stocks will not suffer the long-term consequences of its new policy.
- Bitcoin did better than the US dollar this week despite a 0.40% decline. It was up by 2.7% as at last check, but this week’s numbers are consistent with the volatility of digital currencies.
New product spotlight!
New product on the block: Kanye West launched a $200 music device called the Donda Stem Player, which lets you customize any song off his latest album Donda.
West Sub Ever on Twitter: “News* A new video has emerged of the Yeezy Tech x Kano Stem Player. We promise it’s real this time 👍. What do you think of the device🔥🔥❓… https://t.co/D5Wb1G0izW”
A new video has emerged of the Yeezy Tech x Kano Stem Player. We promise it’s real this time 👍.
What do you think of the device🔥🔥❓ https://t.co/jbIUkQN79R”
First Impressions: I know, I know, we’ve heard the word “genius” and Kanye used in the same sentence many times, but no artist has drummed up this level of anticipation for an album as Kanye has done with Donda.
He did 3 sold-out listening sessions, netted $7 million in merch sales and released a music player to allow listeners experience the Donda album their own way. Sheesh 🔥
Product features: The Donda Music Player was designed in partnership with electronics company Kano and lets you:
- Control bass, drums, vocals and samples
- Add sound effects
- Isolate parts of a song
Plus, it has the latest lossless technology, with speed-control capability.
Verdict: I can’t put a stamp on this right now as I haven’t tested out the music player. The Donda album came out today, and I’m still soaking it in, but Kanye has created an immersive musical experience specific to each listener.
I think it opens up a new world for how artists create experiences for fans. However, I’m still mulling over buying the device for one album. I love Kanye, but this purchase, I have to think about.
That’s it for the week. See you next Sunday!
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