Apollo Federation brings GraphQL to microservices

The Apollo team wants to help developers adopt GraphQL within their microservice architectures with the announcement of its open-source project Apollo Federation.

According to Apollo’s engineering manager James Baxley III, developers want to be able to access data through a single GraphQL query even if that data lives in separate places. Before Apollo Federation, Baxley explained that type of action was only really possible in a monolithic architecture.

RELATED CONTENT: With microservices, more isn’t always better
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“Apollo Federation is inspired by years of conversations with teams that use GraphQL to power their most important projects. Time and time again, we’ve heard from developers that they need an efficient way to connect data across services,” Baxley wrote in a blog post.

He went on to explain that the project is ideal for implementing GraphQL in a microservice architecture because it brings together the best of both worlds: a complete scheme to connect data and a distributed architecture for specific teams to tailor to their portion of the graph.

“Ideally, we want to expose one graph for all of our organization’s data without experiencing the pitfalls of a monolith,” Baxley wrote. “It’s designed to replace schema stitching and solve pain points such as coordination, separation of concerns, and brittle gateway code.”

With Apollo Federation, users can declaratively reference types that live in different schemas and organize services by concern.

It also includes production-ready features such as multiple primary keys that can reference types, compound primary keys that can be any valid selection set, and shortcuts for faster data fetching.

Federation is built on four core principles:

  • Building a graph should be declarative. Composing graphs declaratively in a schema replaces the need to stitch code imperatively.
  • Code should be separated by concern, not by types. The definition of these types should be distributed across teams and codebases, rather than centralized.
  • The graph should be simple for clients to consume. Federated services offers a product-focused graph that accurately reflects how it’s being consumed on the client.
  • It’s just GraphQL, using only spec-compliant features of the language. Any language can implement federation.

The post Apollo Federation brings GraphQL to microservices appeared first on SD Times.

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Teams autonomously mapping the depths take home millions in Ocean Discovery Xprize

There’s a whole lot of ocean on this planet, and we don’t have much of an idea what’s at the bottom of most of it. That could change with the craft and techniques created during the Ocean Discovery Xprize, which had teams competing to map the sea floor quickly, precisely, and autonomously. The winner just took home $4 million.

A map of the ocean would be valuable in and of itself, of course, but any technology used to do so could be applied in many other ways, and who knows what potential biological or medical discoveries hide in some nook or cranny a few thousand fathoms below the surface?

The prize, sponsored by Shell, started back in 2015. The goal was, ultimately, to create a system that could map hundreds of square kilometers of the sea floor at a 5-meter resolution in under a day — oh, and everything has to fit in a shipping container. For reference, existing methods do nothing like this, and are tremendously costly.

But as is usually the case with this type of competition, the difficulty did not discourage the competitors — only spurred them on. Since 2015, then, the teams have been working on their systems and traveling all over the world to test them.

Originally the teams were to test in Puerto Rico, but after the devastating hurricane season of 2017, the whole operation was moved to the Greek coast. Ultimately after the finalists were selected, they deployed their craft in the waters off Kalamata and told them to get mapping.

Team GEBCO’s surface vehicle.

“It was a very arduous and audacious challenge,” said Jyotika Virmani, who led the program. “The test itself was 24 hours, so they had to stay up, then immediately following that was 48 hours of data processing after which they had to give us the data. It takes more trad companies about 2 weeks or so to process data for a map once they have the raw data — we’re pushing for real time.”

This wasn’t a test in a lab bath or pool. This was the ocean, and the ocean is a dangerous place. But amazingly there were no disasters.

“Nothing was damaged, nothing imploded,” she said. “We ran into weather issues, of course. And we did lose one piece of technology that was subsequently found by a Greek fisherman a few days later… but that’s another story.”

At the start of the competition, Virmani said, there was feedback from the entrants that the autonomous piece of the task was simply not going to be possible. But the last few years have proven it to be so, given that the winning team not only met but exceeded the requirements of the task.

“The winning team mapped more than 250 square kilometers in 24 hours, at the minimum of 5 meters resolution, but around 140 was more than 5 meters,” Virmani told me. “It was all unmanned: An unmanned surface vehicle that took the submersible out, then recovered it at sea, unmanned again, and brought it back to port. They had such great control over it — they were able to change its path and its programming throughout that 24 hours as they needed to.” (It should be noted that unmanned does not necessarily mean totally hands-off — the teams were permitted a certain amount of agency in adjusting or fixing the craft’s software or route.)

A 5-meter resolution, if you can’t quite picture it, would produce a map of a city that showed buildings and streets clearly, but is too coarse to catch, say, cars or street signs. When you’re trying to map two thirds of the globe, though, this resolution is more than enough — and infinitely better than the nothing we currently have. (Unsurprisingly, it’s also certainly enough for an oil company like Shell to prospect new deep-sea resources.)

The winning team was GEBCO, composed of veteran hydrographers — ocean mapping experts, you know. In addition to the highly successful unmanned craft (Sea-Kit, already cruising the English Channel for other purposes), the team did a lot of work on the data processing side, creating a cloud-based solution that helped them turn the maps around quickly. (That may also prove to be a marketable service in the future.) They were awarded $4 million, in addition to their cash for being selected as a finalist.

The runner up was Kuroshio, which had great resolution but was unable to map the full 250 km2 due to weather problems. They snagged a million.

A bonus prize for having the submersible track a chemical signal to its source didn’t exactly have a winner, but the teams’ entries were so impressive that the judges decided to split the million between the Tampa Deep Sea Xplorers and Ocean Quest, which amazingly enough is made up mostly of middle-schoolers. The latter gets $800,000, which should help pay for a few new tools in the shop there.

Lastly, a $200K innovation prize was given to Team Tao out of the U.K., which had a very different style to its submersible that impressed the judges. While most of the competitors opted for a craft that went “lawnmower-style” above the sea floor at a given depth, Tao’s craft dropped down like a plumb bob, pinging the depths as it went down and back up before moving to a new spot. This provides a lot of other opportunities for important oceanographic testing, Virmani noted.

Having concluded the prize, the organization has just a couple more tricks up its sleeve. GEBCO, which stands for General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans, is partnering with The Nippon Foundation on Seabed 2030, an effort to map the entire sea floor over the next decade and provide that data to the world for free.

And the program is also — why not? — releasing an anthology of short sci-fi stories inspired by the idea of mapping the ocean. “W lot of our current technology is from the science fiction of the past,” said Virmani. “So we told the authors, imagine we now have a high resolution map of the sea floor, what are the next steps in ocean tech and where do we go?” The resulting 19 stories, written from all 7 continents (yes, one from Antarctica), are available for download here.

 

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Slack narrows losses, displays healthy revenue growth

Workplace messaging powerhouse Slack filed an amended S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday weeks ahead of a direct listing expected June 20.

In the document, Slack included an updated at look at its path to profitability, posting first-quarter revenues of $134.8 million on losses of $31.8 million. Slack’s Q1 revenues represent a 67% increase from the same period last year when Slack lost $24.8 million on $80.9 million in revenue.

For the fiscal year ending January 31, 2019, the company reported losses of $138.9 million on revenue of $400.6 million. That’s compared to a loss of $140.1 million on revenue of $220.5 million the year prior.

Slack is in the process of completing the final steps necessary for its direct listing on The New York Stock Exchange, where it will trade under the ticker symbol “WORK.” A direct listing is an alternative approach to the stock market that allows well-known businesses to sell existing shares held by insiders, employees and investors directly to the market, instead of issuing new shares. The method lets companies bypass the traditional roadshow process and avoid a good chunk of Wall Street’s IPO fees.

Spotify completed a direct listing in 2018; Airbnb, another highly-valued venture capital-backed business, is rumored to be considering a direct listing in 2020.

Slack is currently valued at $7 billion after raising $1.22 billion in VC funding from investors including Accel, which owns a 24% pre-IPO stake, Andreessen Horowitz (13.3%), Social Capital (10.2%), SoftBank, T. Rowe Price, IVP, Kleiner Perkins and many others.

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Facial recognition startup Kairos settles lawsuits with founder and former CEO Brian Brackeen

Facial recognition startup Kairos, founded by Brian Brackeen, has settled its lawsuit with Brackeen following his ouster from the company late last year. In addition to forcing him out of the company he founded, Kairos sued Brackeen alleging the misappropriation of corporate funds and misleading shareholders. In response, Brackeen countersued Kairos alleging the company and its CEO Melissa Doval intentionally destroyed his reputation through fraudulent conduct.

Now, both Kairos and Brackeen are ready to put this all behind them. Both parties have dropped their respective lawsuits and reached a settlement, which entails continuing to recognize Brackeen as the founder of Kairos.

“We are pleased to be putting this episode behind us, and the opportunity to keep the business focused on growth,” Doval said in a press release. “We thank Mr. Brackeen for working towards a resolution, and wish him the best for his future endeavors.”

Brackeen tells TechCrunch he’s excited about the settlement and can now move on to become an investor at Lightship Capital, a new fund where he serves as managing partner. The fund is geared toward supporting underrepresented founders and does not require board seats to invest.

“I have become the investor I didn’t have enough of…founder focused, principled, and growth minded,” Brackeen said in an email to TechCrunch. “Our firm puts founder support at the front of our thinking because we know what happens to shareholder value when you don’t. That’s the blessing that’s come from this chapter in my life. On to the next!”

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Only 72 hours left to save an extra €200 on Disrupt Berlin 2019

The shot clock on serious savings is running out. You have just 72 hours left to sign up for the mailing list to receive €200 off the super early-bird price on any pass to Disrupt Berlin 2019. The official registration opens in three days, and once that happens, the clock runs out. Sad!

Here’s how our pre-registration deal works. Simply sign up for the Disrupt Berlin mailing list before registration officially opens, and we’ll email you a discount code to use when it’s time to buy your passes. That translates into serious savings. You can buy an Innovator pass to Disrupt Berlin for as low as €245 + VAT. Are you a founder or co-founder of a company? Then you can score a Founder pass for as low as €145 + VAT.

We’re talking less than the price of a super-early-bird ticket, and it’s the easiest money you’ll ever save. It’s also the easiest way to increase the already awesome ROI that comes from attending Disrupt Berlin.

You’ll join a diverse tech startup community of more than 3,000 attendees from more than 50 countries — it’s a global showcase of ideas, innovation and opportunity. Startup Alley, the exhibition hall, hosts hundreds of creative early-stage startups hell-bent on pushing the boundaries of technology. It’s the perfect place to explore, connect and find a promising startup investment, co-founder, customer, angel investor or media coverage.

You’ll also find the TC Top Picks in Startup Alley. This curated cadre — chosen by TechCrunch editors — represent some of the most innovative companies in their respective tech categories. Be sure to check them out.

And be sure to bear witness to Startup Battlefield. Over the years, this epic pitch-off has launched more than 850 companies, and that alumni community has collectively raised more than $8 billion in funding and produced 109 exits. You might recognize a few — like Vurb, Dropbox, Mint and Yammer. This Startup Battlefield will feature a fresh cohort of outstanding early-stage startups — we can’t wait to find them! They’ll compete head-to-head for $50,000 cash, the Disrupt cup and life-changing media and investor exposure.

Do you want to compete in the Startup Battlefield or be considered for the TC Top Picks program? Applications open later this summer, but you can get a head start by starting your application at apply.techcrunch.com.

We haven’t even mentioned the speakers, panels, workshops, demos, Q&A Sessions and all the other quality programming you’ll experience at Disrupt Berlin. That’s another great reason to join the mailing list. You’ll get the latest news and announcements — that’s great intel for planning your Disrupt strategy!

Disrupt Berlin 2019 takes place on 11-12 December, and registration officially opens in just 72 short hours. The clock is running — don’t miss your shot to save €200 — sign up for our mailing list today.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt Berlin 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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Groupon cofounder Eric Lefkofsky just raised another $200 million for his newest company, Tempus

When serial entrepreneur Eric Lefkofsky grows a company, he puts the pedal to the metal. When in 2011 his last company, the Chicago-based coupons site Groupon, raised $950 million from investors, it was the largest amount raised by a start-up, ever. It was just over three years old at the time, and it went public later that same year.

Lefkofsky seems to be stealing a page from the same playbook for his newest company Tempus. The Chicago-based genomic testing and data analysis company was founded a little more than three years ago, yet it has already hired nearly 700 employees and raised more than $500 million — including through a new $ 200 million round that values the company at $3.1 billion.

According to the Chicago Tribune, that new valuation makes it — as Groupon once was — one of Chicago’s most highly valued privately held companies.

So why all the fuss? As the Tribune explains it, Tempus has built a platform to collect, structure and analyze the clinical data that’s often unorganized in electronic medical record systems. The company also generates genomic data by sequencing patient DNA and other information in its lab.

The goal is to help doctors create customized treatments for each individual patient, Lefkofsky tells the paper.

So far, it has partnered with numerous cancer treatment centers that are apparently giving Tempus human data from which to learn. Tempus is also generating data “in vitro,” as is another company we featured recently called Insitro, a drug development startup founded by famed AI researcher Daphne Koller. With Insitro, it is working on a liver disease treatment owing to a tie-up with Gilead, which has amassed related human data over the years that Insitro can use to learn from. As a complementary data source, it’s trying to learn what the disease does in a “dish,” so it can then use what it sees in the dish, using machine learning to predict what it will see in a person.

Tempus hasn’t come up with any cures yet, but Lefkofsky says that Tempus wants to expand into diabetes and depression, too.

In the meantime, he tells Crain’s Chicago Business that Tempus is already generating “significant” revenue. “Our oldest partners, have, in most cases, now expanded to different subgroups (of cancer). What we’re doing is working.”

Investors in the latest round include Baillie Gifford; Revolution Growth; New Enterprise Associates; funds and accounts managed by T. Rowe Price; Novo Holdings; and the investment management company Franklin Templeton.

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Daily Crunch: Leap Motion waves goodbye

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Once poised to kill the mouse and keyboard, Leap Motion plays its final hand

Leap Motion raised nearly $94 million for its mind-bending demos of hand-tracking technology, but the company was ultimately unable to find a sizable customer base. Even as it pivoted into the niche VR industry, the startup remained a problem in search of a solution.

Now the nine-year-old company is being absorbed into the younger, enterprise-focused UltraHaptics.

2. Foursquare buys Placed from Snap Inc. on the heels of $150M in new funding

Foursquare just made its very first acquisition, with Placed founder and CEO David Shim becoming president of the location data company.

3. What to expect from Apple’s WWDC 2019

The leaks of new iOS features have already started, and the big news so far is system-wide Dark Mode, following in the footsteps of MacOS.

The Lion King

4. ‘Lion King’ director Jon Favreau explains why he’s remaking an animated classic

After sitting on it for 18 months, I can finally share an interview with the director of the new “Lion King” about how he used game engines and VR to visualize his film.

5. Uber Eats, micromobility services are growing faster than Uber’s core ride-hailing business

In Uber’s Q1 2019 earnings, the company reported gross bookings growth of 230% for its other bets, while ridesharing grew just 22% year-over-year.

6. If you use women as decorative objects, then I will assume your tech is from the 1950s, too

Just a reminder that “booth babes” are a toxic and outdated marketing gimmick.

7. The Slack origin story

Find out how a whimsical online game became an enterprise software giant. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

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Targeted ads offer little extra value for online publishers, study suggests

How much value do online publishers derive from behaviorally targeted advertising that uses privacy-hostile tracking technologies to determine which advert to show a website user?

A new piece of research suggests publishers make just 4% more vs if they were to serve a non-targeted ad.

It’s a finding that sheds suggestive light on why so many newsroom budgets are shrinking and journalists finding themselves out of work — even as adtech giants continue stuffing their coffers with massive profits.

Visit the average news website lousy with third party cookies (yes, we know, it’s true of TC too) and you’d be forgiven for thinking the publisher is also getting fat profits from the data creamed off their users as they plug into programmatic ad systems that trade info on Internet users’ browsing habits to determine the ad which gets displayed.

Yet while the online ad market is massive and growing — $88BN in revenues in the US in 2017, per IAB data, a 21% year-on-year increase — publishers are not the entities getting filthy rich off of their own content.

On the contrary, research in recent years has suggested that a large proportion of publishers are being squeezed by digital display advertising economics, with some 40% reporting either stagnant or shrinking ad revenue, per a 2015 Econsultancy study. (Hence, we can posit, the rise in publishers branching into subscriptions — TC’s own offering can be found here: Extra Crunch).

The lion’s share of value being created by digital advertising ends up in the coffers of adtech giants, Google and Facebook . Aka the adtech duopoly. In the US, the pair account for around 60% of digital ad market spending, per eMarketer — or circa $76.57BN.

Their annual revenues have mirrored overall growth in digital ad spend — rising from $74.9BN to $136.8BN, between 2015 and 2018, in the case of Google’s parent Alphabet; and $17.9BN to $55.8BN for Facebook. (While US online ad spend stepped up from $59.6BN to $88BN between 2015 and 2017.)

eMarketer projects 2019 will mark the first decline in the duopoly’s collective share. But not because publishers’ fortunes are suddenly set for a bonanza turnaround. Rather another tech giant — Amazon — has been growing its share of the digital ad market, and is expected to make what eMarketer dubs the start of “a small dent in the duopoly”.

Behavioral advertising — aka targeted ads — has come to dominate the online ad market, fuelled by platform dynamics encouraging a proliferation of tracking technologies and techniques in the unregulated background. And by, it seems, greater effectiveness from the perspective of online advertisers, as the paper notes. (“Despite measurement and attribution challenges… many studies seem to concur that targeted advertising is beneficial and effective for advertising firms.”

This has had the effect of squeezing out non-targeted display ads, such as those that rely on contextual factors to select the ad — e.g. the content being viewed, device type or location.

The latter are now the exception; a fall-back such as for when cookies have been blocked. (Albeit, one that veteran pro-privacy search engine, DuckDuckGo, has nonetheless turned into a profitable contextual ad business).

One 2017 study by IHS Markit, suggested that 86% of programmatic advertising in Europe was using behavioural data. While even a quarter (24%) of non-programmatic advertising was found to be using behavioural data, per its model. 

“In 2016, 90% of the digital display advertising market growth came from formats and processes that use behavioural data,” it observed, projecting growth of 106% for behaviourally targeted advertising between 2016 and 2020, and a decline of 63.6% for forms of digital advertising that don’t use such data.

The economic incentives to push behavioral advertising vs non-targeted ads look clear for dominant platforms that rely on amassing scale — across advertisers, other people’s eyeballs, content and behavioral data — to extract value from the Internet’s dispersed and diverse audience.

But the incentives for content producers to subject themselves — and their engaged communities of users — to these privacy-hostile economies of scale look a whole lot more fuzzy.

Concern about potential imbalances in the online ad market is also leading policymakers and regulators on both sides of the Atlantic to question the opacity of the market — and call for greater transparency.

A price on people tracking’s head

The new research, which will be presented at the Workshop on the Economics of Information Security conference in Boston next week, aims to contribute a new piece to this digital ad revenue puzzle by trying to quantify the value to a single publisher of choosing ads that are behaviorally targeted vs those that aren’t.

We’ve flagged the research before — when the findings were cited by one of the academics involved in the study at an FTC hearing — but the full paper has now been published.

It’s called Online Tracking and Publishers’ Revenues: An Empirical Analysis, and is co-authored by three academics: Veronica Marotta, an assistant professor in information and decision sciences at the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota; Vibhanshu Abhishek, associate professor of information systems at the Paul Merage School of Business, University California Irvine; and Alessandro Acquisti, professor of IT and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

“While the impact of targeted advertising on advertisers’ campaign effectiveness has been vastly documented, much less is known about the value generated by online tracking and targeting technologies for publishers – the websites that sell ad spaces,” the researchers write. “In fact, the conventional wisdom that publishers benefit too from behaviorally targeted advertising has rarely been scrutinized in academic studies.”

“As we briefly mention in the paper, notwithstanding claims about the shared benefits of online tracking and behaviorally targeting for multiple stakeholders (merchants, publishers, consumers, intermediaries…), there is a surprising paucity of empirical estimates of economic outcomes from independent researchers,”  Acquisti also tells us.

In fact, most of the estimates focus on the advertisers’ side of the market (for instance, there have been quite a few studies estimating the increase in click-through or conversion rates associated with targeted ads); much less is known about the publishers’ side of the market. So, going into the study, we were genuinely curious about what we may find, as there was little in terms of data that could anchor our predictions.

“We did have theoretical bases to make possible predictions, but those predictions could be quite antithetical. Under one story, targeting increases the value of the audience, which increases advertisers’ bids, which increases publishers’ revenues; under a different story, targeting decreases the ‘pool’ of audience interested in an ad, which decreases competition to display ads, which reduces advertisers’ bids, eventually reducing publishers’ revenues.”

For the study the researchers were provided with a data-set comprising “millions” of display ad transactions completed in a week across multiple online outlets owned by a single (unidentified) large publisher which operates websites in a range of verticals such as news, entertainment and fashion.

The data-set also included whether or not the site visitor’s cookie ID is available — enabling analysis of the price difference between behaviorally targeted and non-targeted ads. (The researchers used a statistical mechanism to control for systematic differences between users who impede cookies.)

As noted above, the top-line finding is only a very small gain for the publisher whose data they were analyzing — of around 4%. Or an average increase of $0.00008 per advertisement. 

It’s a finding that contrasts wildly with some of the loud yet unsubstantiated opinions which can be found being promulgated online — claiming the ‘vital necessity’ of behavorial ads to support publishers/journalism.

(For example, this article, published earlier this month by a freelance journalist writing for The American Prospect, includes the claim that: “An online advertisement without a third-party cookie sells for just 2 percent of the cost of the same ad with the cookie.” Yet does not specify a source for the statistic it cites. We’ve asked the author for the reference she was using and will update if we get a response.)

At the same time policymakers in the US now appear painfully aware how far behind Europe they are lagging where privacy regulation is concerned — and are fast dialling up their scrutiny of and verbal horror over how Internet users are tracked and profiled by adtech giants.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month — convened with the aim of “understanding the digital ad ecosystem and the impact of data privacy and competition policy” — the talk was not if to regulate big tech but how hard they must crack down on monopolistic ad giants.

“That’s what brings us here today. The lack of choice [for consumers to preserve their privacy online],” said senator Richard Blumenthal. “The excessive and extraordinary power of Google and Facebook and others who dominate the market is a fact of life. And so privacy protection is absolutely vital in the short run.”

The kind of “invasive surveillance” that the adtech industry systematically deploys is “something we would never tolerate from a government but Facebook and Google have the power of government never envisaged by our founders,” Blumenthal went on, before a few of the types of personal data that are sucked up and exploited by the adtech industrial surveillance complex: “Health, dating, location, finance, extremely personal details — offered to anyone with almost no restraint.”

Bearing that “invasive surveillance” in mind, a 4% publisher ‘premium’ for privacy-hostile ads vs adverts that are merely contextually served (and so don’t require pervasive tracking of web users) starts to look like a massive rip off — of both publisher brand and audience value, as well as Internet users’ rights and privacy.

Yes, targeted ads do appear to generate a small revenue increase, per the study. But as the researchers also point out that needs to be offset against the cost to publishers of complying with privacy regulations.

“If setting tracking cookies on visitors was cost free, the website would definitely be losing money. However, the widespread use of tracking cookies – and, more broadly, the practice of tracking users online – has been raising privacy concerns that have led to the adoption of stringent regulations, in particular in the European Union,” they write — going on to cite an estimate by the International Association of Privacy Professionals that Fortune’s Global 500 companies will spend around $7.8BN on compliant costs to meet the requirements of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

Wider costs to systematically eroding online privacy are harder to put a value on for publishers. But should also be considered — whether it’s the costs to a brand reputation and user loyalty as a result of a publisher larding their sites with unwanted trackers; to wider societal costs — linked to the risks of data-fuelled manipulation and exploitation of vulnerable groups. Simply put, it’s not a good look.

Publishers may appear complicit in the asset stripping of their own content and audiences for what — per this study — seems only marginal gain, but the opacity of the adtech industry implies that most likely don’t realize exactly what kind of ‘deal’ they’re getting at the hands of the ad giants who grip them.

Which makes this research paper a very compelling read for the online publishing industry… and, well, a pretty awkward newsflash for anyone working in adtech.

 

While the study only provides a snapshot of ad market economics, as experienced by a single publisher, the glimpse it presents is distinctly different from the picture the adtech lobby has sought to paint, as it has ploughed money into arguing against privacy legislation — on the claimed grounds that ‘killing behavioural advertising would kill free online content’. 

Saying no more creepy ads might only marginally reduce publishers’ revenue doesn’t have quite the same doom-laden ring, clearly.

“In a nutshell, this study provides an initial data point on a portion of the advertising ecosystem over which claims had been made but little empirical verification was completed. The results highlight the need for more transparency over how the value generated by flows of data gets allocated to different stakeholders,” says Acquisti, summing up how the study should be read against the ad market as a whole.

Contacted for a response to the research, Randall Rothenberg, CEO of advertising business organization, the IAB, agreed that the digital supply chain is “too complex and too opaque” — and also expressed concern about how relatively little value generated by targeted ads is trickling down to publishers.

“One week’s worth of data from one unidentified publisher does not make for a projectible (sic) piece of research. Still, the study shows that targeted advertising creates immense value for brands — more than 90% of the unnamed publisher’s auctioned ads were sold with targeting attached, and advertisers were willing to pay a 60% premium for those ads. Yet very little of that value flowed to the publisher,” he told TechCrunch. “As IAB has been saying for a decade, the digital supply chain is too complex and too opaque, and this diversion of value is more proof that transparency is required so that publishers can benefit from the value they create.”

The research paper includes discussion of the limitations to the approach, as well as ideas for additional research work — such as looking at how the value of cookies changes depending on how much information they contain (on that they write of their initial findings: “Information seem to be very valuable (from the publisher’s perspective) when we compare cookies with very little information to cookies with some information; after a certain point, adding more information to a cookie does not seem to create additional value for the publisher”); and investigating how “the (un)availability of a cookie changes the competition in the auction” — to try to understand ad auction competition dynamics and the potential mechanisms at play.

“This is one new and hopefully useful data point, to which others must be added,” Acquisti also told us in concluding remarks. “The key to research work is incremental progress, with more studies progressively adding a clearer understanding of an issue, and we look forward to more research in this area.”

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Diving deep into Africa’s blossoming tech scene

Jumia may be the first startup you’ve heard of from Africa. But the e-commerce venture that recently listed on the NYSE is definitely not the first or last word in African tech.

The continent has an expansive digital innovation scene, the components of which are intersecting rapidly across Africa’s 54 countries and 1.2 billion people.

When measured by monetary values, Africa’s tech ecosystem is tiny by Shenzen or Silicon Valley standards.

But when you look at volumes and year over year expansion in VC, startup formation, and tech hubs, it’s one of the fastest growing tech markets in the world. In 2017, the continent also saw the largest global increase in internet users—20 percent.

If you’re a VC or founder in London, Bangalore, or San Francisco, you’ll likely interact with some part of Africa’s tech landscape for the first time—or more—in the near future.

That’s why TechCrunch put together this Extra-Crunch deep-dive on Africa’s technology sector.

Tech Hubs

A foundation for African tech is the continent’s 442 active hubs, accelerators, and incubators (as tallied by GSMA). These spaces have become focal points for startup formation, digital skills building, events, and IT activity on the continent.

Prominent tech hubs in Africa include CcHub in Nigeria, Pan-African incubator MEST, and Kenya’s iHub, with over 200 resident members. More of these organizations are receiving funds from DFIs, such as the World Bank, and aid agencies, including France’s $76 million African tech fund.

Blue-chip companies such as Google and Microsoft are also providing money and support. In 2018 Facebook opened its own Hub_NG in Lagos with partner CcHub, to foster startups using AI and machine learning.

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An insider’s look into venture with Andreessen Horowitz’ Scott Kupor

After a decade in the peculiar world of venture capital, Andreessen Horowitz managing director Scott Kupor has seen it all when it comes to the do’s and dont’s for dealing with Valley VCs and company building. In his new book Secrets of Sand Hill Road (available on June 3rd), Scott offers up an updated guide on what VCs actually do, how they think and how founders should engage with them.

TechCrunch’s Silicon Valley editor Connie Loizos will be sitting down with Scott for an exclusive conversation on Tuesday, June 4th at 11:00 am PT. Scott, Connie and Extra Crunch members will be digging into the key takeaways from Scott’s book, his experience in the Valley, and the opportunities that excite him most today.

Tune in to join the conversation and for the opportunity to ask Scott and Connie any and all things venture.

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