The UpStream (Page 5)

YouTube is the latest service to test clipping published videos

posted Sunday Jan 31, 2021 by Scott Ertz

YouTube is the latest service to test clipping published videos

YouTube is currently testing a new feature inspired by Twitch - clips. This concept allows users to create small, sharable pieces of video from larger videos already available on the platform. Viewers will be able to hit a button and be presented with a sliding timeline editor. Users will be able to select up to 60 seconds, give the clip a name, and receive a unique URL to share wherever and however.

One of the big differences from the implementation on Twitch is that it will not create a new, unique video. Instead, it will function more like how sharing a video from a timestamp works. When someone follows the link, it will take you to the original video, with the timeline limited to the segment selected by the original sharer. The viewer will then have the option to view the entire video. Because they are already on the page, the player will just unlock the timeline and play from the beginning.

The nature of the implementation means that these clips are not listed anywhere. One of the aspects of clips that have made them a success on Twitch has been the popular clips section of a content creator's channel. Viewers can see the short segments of a streamer's longer videos that their fans have found the most interesting. Making the clips private on YouTube removes that engagement for fans.

For content creators, these clips could pose problems in regards to YouTube's recommendation engine. The algorithm takes views into account but also takes overall view time into account. So, if a content creator makes a perfect length video, and someone clips a 60-second segment, the channel will get the view, but will also show only 60-second retention. If Google doesn't take that into account, it will certainly harm the discoverability of new content.

In addition, it could harm income. Many content creators, including ourselves, include ad-reads in their videos. Clipping the video will remove that ad from the video, potentially leading to lower revenue for the creator. Google has said that ads will still be run on clips, so long as the original video is at least 30 seconds, though we suspect it will actually apply only to clips that are 30 seconds in the end. This means that creators will still have a way to monetize, but it will force them to rely even heavier on YouTube's own system, which can be revoked at a moment's notice without explanation.

What in the world actually happened with GameStop this week?

posted Saturday Jan 30, 2021 by Scott Ertz

What in the world actually happened with GameStop this week?

This week has been an absolutely fascinating one for the stock market, and everything that surrounds it. A stock that was significantly overpriced went through the roof instead of falling. A company called Robinhood, which bills itself as the democratization of investing, prevented people from investing. Reddit and Discord closed servers over racial discrimination. Google deleted thousands of app reviews. And, weirdest of all, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ted Cruz agreed on something. But, what exactly happened?

What is Short Selling?

This part has been one of the hardest to understand, so let's cover it quickly. Shorting a stock is a process in which an investor recognizes that a stock has been mispriced. This could be because of a misunderstanding of the business's dealings, an overreaction to an announcement, or simple market fluctuations. The investor will then borrow shares of a stock from another investor, traditionally large institutional investors, and sells them at the current price. The hope is that the price will correct itself in the short-term, lowering below the price they sold it at. The shorter will then repurchase the number of shares at the new price, and return them to the investor from which they borrowed them, with a small fee for the lend.

Shorting a stock does not mean that an investor is trying to destroy the price of a stock, but simply that they believe the stock is mispriced and is about to correct. For an investor to effectively destroy the stock itself, they would have to borrow and sell the shares to a market that doesn't want to purchase them, which would drive the price down. But, that would defeat the purpose of the entire process for the investor.

Why GameStop?

A group of amateur investors on Reddit board /r/WallStreetBets noticed that several hedge funds had short positions on GameStop. In an attempt to squeeze the hedge funds, the group all decided to make purchases of GameStop shares to try and drive the price up. Because of the size of the group, the price was driven up enough that the paradigm shifted, with WallStreetBets seeing a return and the hedge funds seeing a loss. Short squeeze is a fairly standard investment practice, so at this point, there was nothing particularly interesting about what was happening.

The big change happened when people who were not involved in the investment heard what was happening and decided they wanted to get involved. Some thought they saw the potential for financial gain, while others thought they were robbing the rich in order to feed the poor. Either way, it was a misunderstanding of what was actually going to happen next.

What's the Next Step for Investors?

As part of a short squeeze, once the investors with the short positions sell, it's a mad dash to get out. The sale of the short shares will signal the height of the price, so those invested in the squeeze will need to sell quickly, before the stock price inevitably crashes. The people who hold the stocks the longest are going to get the lowest price, and are therefore most likely to get harmed by the process.

The Reaction Is Way Worse

There is nothing illegal or immoral about short selling. There is nothing illegal or immoral about short squeezing. However, what happened after the initial squeeze has caused some issues. Because WallStreetBets never claimed that the price of the stock was going to go up, the actions do not constitute a "pump and dump" fraud. The actions could potentially be considered a Ponzi scheme under the right light, but will likely not be charged as such.

The real problem has been the overreaction from investment platforms, in particularly Robinhood. Despite the platform not being a true and proper investment or trading floor, it acts close enough. The big difference behind the scenes is how shares are purchased and distributed. Because of the behind the scenes concerns, the company decided to stop the ability to purchase shares of GameStop. Some saw this as a reaction to threats from institutional investors, while others saw it as a reaction to government interference. In reality, it was likely a reaction to protect itself from its own purchase and sale system.

No matter the reasoning, the perception of the action was a huge problem. Customer felt like they were being harmed by the establishment they thought they were trying to harm. That perception led to literally thousands of app users posting 1-star reviews for Robinhood on the app stores. The influx was so severe that Google felt the need to intervene. The company has confirmed that they deleted "at least" 100,000 negative reviews of the app from the Play Store. They claim that the review system was being misused, and therefore the reviews themselves were invalid.

So, What is the Problem?

The real problem that occurred here was the odd misunderstanding of what was happening, that will inevitably lead to the opposite of what people thought was the goal. The amateur investors that got into the practice late in the process, particularly those who bought in after the short squeeze forced the institutional investors to sell their positions, are going to lose their shirts.

Before the process started, the stock price was already inflated above its proper value. It was going to drop, if not for the intervention from Reddit. But, because the stock skyrocketed, the amount of loss that is coming is going to be significant. But, the hedge funds and other institutional investors are already out. Yes, some have filed bankruptcy and taken out new lines of credit under other corporate entities, but they will survive, because they are setup to handle loss.

Regular people, who invested their savings into a stock that is 10 times its proper price, are going to see that money thrown away, likely to institutional investors who will respond to the overcorrection, will get the stock back for a deal, far below where they had their short positions a week ago. The ones who will win the biggest are those who organized the scheme and likely got out before they got harmed, and instead made a ton of money in the process. Institutional investors will win, but in the long game - not this week or month. Wall Street did not get robbed in favor of the little buy - the little guy is the one who will end up losing in this scheme.

GeForce Now comes to Google Chrome following Safari in November

posted Saturday Jan 30, 2021 by Scott Ertz

GeForce Now comes to Google Chrome following Safari in November

Videogame streaming services have become the gaming industry's version of video streaming subscriptions. There are a lot of companies getting involved, and not everyone is having a good go of it. While Microsoft and Google's services have been met with mostly positive responses, other companies have not been quite as lucky. Every service has to go out of its way to separate itself from the pack. Microsoft has its Xbox game catalog and Xbox Game Pass to draw gamers in. Google has a strong ecosystem, and the ability to create bundles. Nvidia's GeForce Now service set itself apart by allowing you to play any PC game you already own through the service.

Like all of the other streaming services, GeForce Now has fought the ability to reach gamers where they want to play. One of the challenges, of course, has been Apple. The company has worked hard to ensure game streaming platforms have a hard time on their devices. Microsoft has fought the policies publicly, with slight success.

In an attempt to get around this, services, including GeForce Now, have resorted to building web versions of their interfaces. In November 2020, the service released a Safari-compatible version of their software, and this week, the service is officially available in Chrome as well. It can be used on Windows and Mac and allows for some app-style features. The most interesting is the ability to add a desktop shortcut for games from the app. The service is currently in beta but seems to be fully functional.

The service, which was in beta for a long time, finally released to the public in early 2020. But, the service hit speed bumps quickly, as publishers contested the service's tenant of streaming their games without their knowledge. Nvidia believed that by essentially providing a remote desktop interface that they would be able to do this without a contract, but after a few days publishers pulled access to their games. They have since managed to stabilize the catalog and win back the support of gamers.

Facebook makes one final appeal to Apple to allow secret tracking

posted Saturday Jan 30, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Facebook makes one final appeal to Apple to allow secret tracking

A lot of attention has been put on Big Tech lately. In some cases, it seems the entire industry agrees, whether correctly or incorrectly. But, in other instances, the industry is entirely split. One of the best examples has been privacy. Some companies have taken a neutral stance, some have taken a public stance in favor of user privacy, and some have built their business around violating that privacy. In this week's battle over privacy, Apple has taken the pro-user stance while Facebook and Google have taken a stance against it.

With the announcement of iOS and iPad OS 14, Apple announced that it would roll out a collection of new privacy policies for any apps in the App Store. The first new feature features a detailed list of data collection policies within each app. You can see if the app uses the IDFA (ID for Advertisers), UUID, phone number, etc. Some of these have long had dialogs for permission on first use, but the IDFA has not. That was the second new feature - a user prompt to allow or block app access to the IDFA, called App Tracking Transparency. Apple describes it saying,

App Tracking Transparency will require apps to get the user's permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies. Under settings, users will be able to see which apps have requested permission to track so they can make changes as they see fit.

While both of these announcements brought controversy from companies who rely on this data, those who use the IDFA to connect your activities on and off-platform were the loudest. The remodeled App Store listing has already been released, but Apple delayed the dialog. With the announcement that the dialog had officially launched in the developer beta of iOS 14, Facebook went on the offensive, trying to change Apple's mind. In particular, they have tried to sway the public against this feature designed to protect them.

Facebook has claimed that, by limiting the company's ability to track you across all sites and apps they own, plus all sites that implement the company's tracking pixel, you will be harmed. If you manage a business page on Facebook, and you have accessed it through the app on an Apple device, you have likely seen the notification at the to trying to convince you this is bad.

Facebook has correctly pointed out that this policy shift would inhibit its ability to collect information to create more accurate and targeted ads. They even took an opportunity through its earnings report to attack Apple's decision, claiming to be on the side of small businesses. While the information presented is correct, it's not the whole story. Users will have the ability to decide if they want their ads to be more accurately targeted to them, or if they would prefer Facebook, a company not known for treating user data with respect, can know what they're doing. In addition, a lot of people will not read or understand what the dialog says, and will just accept it to get back to using the Facebook app.

Facebook has obviously been ignored by Apple, but the company may not be able to entirely ignore them for long. According to a report, the company is considering a lawsuit. The suit would allege that Apple has used its position to actively inhibit the business development of competitors and those it disagrees with. If the report is correct, it would add to Apple's anti-competitive woes, as there are organizations and lawsuits in place from others.

This case differs from the others in that it affects Apple's users differently. The Epic suit alleges that what Apple is doing is harming the users themselves by limiting the choice for users, while Facebook's potential suit would allege that Apple's actions are harming the company by giving choice to users.

Google has also fought the idea, but has decided that a legal challenge is not going to be a success. Instead, they have accepted the loss of access to the IDFA and have chosen a different technology to allow them to get around the limitation. In a blog post, the company said,

When Apple's policy goes into effect, we will no longer use information (such as IDFA) that falls under ATT for the handful of our iOS apps that currently use it for advertising purposes. As such, we will not show the ATT prompt on those apps, in line with Apple's guidance. We are working hard to understand and comply with Apple's guidelines for all of our apps in the App Store.

Google will switch to another Apple tool, SKAdNetwork, which allows for similar but significantly more limited tracking of users. Google is going to push Apple to enhance this SDK, hoping they will get all of the capabilities of IDFA, though it is unlikely that Apple will follow.

AT&T finally shutters disastrous DirecTV Now, AT&T TV Now service

posted Sunday Jan 24, 2021 by Scott Ertz

AT&T finally shutters disastrous DirecTV Now, AT&T TV Now service

Since AT&T purchased DirecTV, they have made a lot of questionable decisions. The struggles have been so severe that AT&T is already considering selling the brand. However, one of the more disastrous decisions for the DirecTV brand has got to be the streaming cable service, DirecTV Now. Now, the company is shuttering the service and moving customers to its own competitor, AT&T TV.

When the DirecTV Now service was first released, it had a ton of customers sign up. This was in large part to massive promotional plans, including being offered for free to AT&T Mobility customers on certain plans. As these promotions expired, customers fled the service almost as quickly as they had joined. Because of the huge failure, the company went so far as to lie about the subscriber-base, leading to a lawsuit from investors. For those who stuck it out after promotions ended, they were rewarded with continued and massive price hikes, leading to another couple rounds of customers leaving.

In a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding, the company renamed the service to AT&T TV Now, but this name didn't help, because pricing was still not competitive with cable. In fact, in most cases, the service was more expensive than cable and offered less channels for that higher price. In addition, the name itself wasn't great, as the company also has a competing service called AT&T TV. Which one is which? It often seemed like even AT&T didn't know.

How, DirecTV Now and AT&T TV Now are things of the past, with new customers not being able to sign up for service. The AT&T TV Now website now says that the service is unavailable for new customers and advertises the AT&T TV plans instead. There is a note stating that existing customers will still be able to access the service.

Google's competing policies on paying for access to news content

posted Sunday Jan 24, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Google's competing policies on paying for access to news content

For many years, Google has had a complicated relationship with data access. The company generally believes that all data should be available to them in order to present the most complete search results. However, they have also gotten directly involved in the content aggregation and display space, often taking content from other companies and displaying it without ever requiring the user to visit the site from which the data came. Without that visit to the site, the companies cannot generate revenue, meaning creating the content is less valuable.

While the most public disagreement came from Yelp, the biggest disagreement has certainly been over news. In the EU, a number of fees have been created specifically targeting Google, commonly known as a Google Tax. One was created by Spain, which wanted Google to pay to index each news article in its systems from publishers in the country. As a result, Google shut down news in Spain. While the service has since been returned, the battle over the way news and Google work together has never stopped.

Two major legal challenges have been going on recently across the globe - one in Australia and one in France. While both are surrounding Google paying for access to news content, the company's response has been different to each.

In Australia, regulators are considering forcing Google to pay news sites for the privilege to link to their content. Obviously, this is fundamentally against the concept of the web, as expressed by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee. He said of the move,

To my knowledge, there is no current example of legally requiring payments for links to other content. The ability to link freely - meaning without limitations regarding the content of the linked site and without monetary fees - is fundamental to how the Web operates.

The idea of forcing a company to pay to link to a page is patently insane. Google agrees with the assessment, announcing that, if the law is passed, the company would shut its search engine down entirely within the country. This seems like a reasonable response to Australia trying to break the basic framework of the web. Their stance could be challenged, however, because the company has also announced that it has agreed to a framework within France to pay for access to news content within the country.

The big difference here is that, rather than paying for the ability to even link to an article, France wants Google to pay for the ability to index the content. While this is not necessarily a much better scenario, it is very different. The company could, potentially, still offer links to the content without indexing or displaying any of the article itself. In Google's defense, they did shut down the news snippets on its site for French publishers until an agreement was reached.

All of this comes back down to a topic that Avram Piltch, host of Piltch Point and Editor-in-Chief of Tom's Hardware, has raised repeatedly - the majority of news site traffic comes from Google. By punishing Google for indexing or linking to news content, publishers are only punishing themselves. Discoverability is harder today than ever due to increased competition, and Google is still the best way to raise that discoverability.

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