Subscription fatigue hasn’t hit yet

U.S. consumers are still embracing subscriptions. More than a third (34%) of Americans say they believe they’ll increase the number of subscription services they use over the next two years, according to a new report from eMarketer. This is following an increase to 3 subscription services on average, up from 2.4 services five years ago.

The report cited data from subscription platform Zuora and The Harris Poll in making these determinations.

The study also debunks the idea that we’ve reached a point of subscription fatigue.

While only a third is planning to increase the number of subscriptions — a figure that’s in line with the worldwide average — the larger majority of U.S. internet users said they planned to use the same number of subscriptions services within two years as they do now.

In other words, they’re not paring down their subscriptions just yet — in fact, only 7 percent said they planned to subscribe to fewer services in the two years ahead.

However, that’s both good news and bad news for the overall subscription industry. On the one hand, it means there’s a healthy base of potential subscribers for new services. But it also means that many people may only adopt a new subscription by dropping another — perhaps to maintain their current budget.

Subscriptions, after all, may still feel like luxuries. No one needs Netflix, Spotify, groceries delivered to their home or curated clothing selections sent by mail, for example. There are non-subscription alternatives that are much more affordable. The question is which luxuries are worth the recurring bill?

The survey, however, did not define subscription services, which could include news and magazine subscriptions, digital streaming services, subscription box services, and more. But it did ask about consumers’ interest in the various categories.

Over half of U.S. consumers (57%) said they were interested in TV and video-on-demand services (like Netflix) and 38 percent were interested in music services.

Related to this, eMarketer forecasts U.S. over-the-top video viewers will top 193 million by 2021, or 57.3 percent of the population. Digital audio listeners will top 211 million by the same time, or 63.1 percent of the population.

The next most popular subscriptions in the survey were grocery delivery like AmazonFresh (32%) and meal delivery like Blue Apron (21%). Software and storage services like iCloud and subscription beauty services like Ipsy followed, each with 17 percent.

Consumers were less interested in subscription news and information and subscription boxes — the latter only saw 10 percent interest, in fact.

The figures should be taken with a grain of salt, of course. The meal kit market is actually struggling. The consulting firm NPD Group estimated that only 4 percent of U.S. consumers have even tried them. So there’s a big disconnect between what consumers say they’re interested in, and what they actually do.

Meanwhile, the supposedly less popular news and information services market is, in some cases, booming. The New York Times, for instance, just this month posted a higher profit and added 223,000 digital subscribers to reach 4.5 million paying customers. And Apple now has “hundreds of people” working on Apple News+, it said this week. 

Of course, consumers will at some point reach a limit on the number of services they’re willing to pay for, but for the time being, the subscription economy appears solid.

 

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These startups are locating in SF and Africa to win in global fintech

To become a global fintech player, locate your company in San Francisco and Africa.

That’s the approach of payments company Flutterwave, digital lending startup Mines, and mobile-money venture Chipper Cash—Africa-founded ventures that maintain headquarters in San Francisco and operations in Africa to tap the best of both worlds in VC, developers, clients, and the frontier of digital finance.

This arrangement wasn’t exactly coordinated across the ventures, but TechCrunch coverage picked up the trend and some common motives among these rising fintech firms.

Founded in 2016 by Nigerians Iyinoluwa Aboyeji and Olugbenga Agboola, Flutterwave has positioned itself as a global B2B payments solutions platform for companies in Africa to pay other companies on the continent and abroad.

Clients can tap its APIs and work with Flutterwave developers to customize payments applications. Existing customers include Uber,  Facebook,  Booking.com and African e-commerce unicorn Jumia.com.

The Y-Combinator backed company is headquartered in San Francisco, runs its operations center in Nigeria, and plans to add offices in South Africa and Cameroon.

Flutterwave opened an office in Uganda in June and raised a $10 million Series A round in October. The company also plugged into ledger activity in 2018, becoming a payment processing partner to the Ripple and Stellar blockchain networks.

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Google’s lead EU regulator opens formal privacy probe of its adtech

Google’s lead data regulator in Europe has opened a formal investigation into its processing of personal data in the context of its online Ad Exchange, TechCrunch has learnt.

This follows a privacy complaint pertaining to adtech’s real-timing bidding (RTB) system filed under Europe’s GDPR framework last year.

The statutory inquiry into Google’s adtech that’s being opened by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), cites section 110 of Ireland’s Data Protection Act 2018, which means that the watchdog suspects infringement — and will now investigate its suspicions.

The DPC writes that the inquiry is “to establish whether processing of personal data carried out at each stage of an advertising transaction is in compliance with the relevant provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation, including the lawful basis for processing, the principles of transparency and data minimisation, as well as Google’s retention practices”.

We’ve reached out to Google for comment.

As we reported earlier this week complaints about the RTB system used by online advertisers have been stacking up across Europe.

The relevant complaint in this instance was lodged last fall by Dr Johnny Ryan of private browser Brave, and alleges “wide-scale and systemic breaches of the data protection regime” by Google and others in the behavioral advertising industry.

Where Google is concerned the complaint focuses on its DoubleClick/Authorized Buyers ad system.

In a nutshell, the RTB complaints argue the system is inherently insecure — and that’s incompatible with GDPR’s requirement that personal data is processed “in a manner that ensures appropriate security”.

Commenting on the Irish DPC opening an inquiry in a statement, Ryan said: “Surveillance capitalism is about to become obsolete. The Irish Data Protection Commission’s action signals that now — nearly one year after the GDPR was introduced — a change is coming that goes beyond just Google. We need to reform online advertising to protect privacy, and to protect advertisers and publishers from legal risk under the GDPR”.

Similar complaints against RTB have been filed in the UK, Poland, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Ireland is leading the investigation of Google’s adtech as the company designates Google Ireland as the data controller for EU users.

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Daily Crunch: New MacBook Pros have a keyboard fix

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. Apple announces new MacBook Pros with a keyboard fix, oh, and more powerful processors

Apple says it’s taking three steps to remedy the keyboard situation: It will be making a materials change to the MacBook Pro keyboard mechanism, it’s covering all butterfly keyboards across its notebook line in its Keyboard Service program and it’s improving the repair process in Apple Stores to make things faster.

The new laptops have more to offer than improved keyboards: Apple says the 15-inch MacBook Pro will run at double the speed of the previous quad-core models.

2. TransferWise now valued at $3.5B following a new $292M secondary round

While this is a secondary round (so no new cash is entering the TransferWise balance sheet), previous investors aren’t exiting — in fact, Andreessen Horowitz and Baillie Gifford are actually doubling down.

3. ARM halts Huawei relationship following US ban

The dominoes continue to fall for Huawei in the wake of a Trump-led U.S. trade ban.

4. Google says some G Suite user passwords were stored in plaintext since 2005

The search giant disclosed the exposure Tuesday but declined to say exactly how many enterprise customers were affected.

5. London’s Tube network to switch on Wi-Fi tracking by default in July

Transport for London writes that “secure, privacy-protected data collection will begin on July 8” — while touting additional services, such as improved alerts about delays and congestion, which it frames as “customer benefits,” as expected to launch “later in the year.”

6. Apple has a plan to make online ads more private

By taking the identifiable person out of the equation, Apple says its new technology can help preserve user privacy without reducing the effectiveness on ad campaigns.

7. The Exit: Getaround’s $300M roadtrip

Last month, Getaround acquired Parisian peer-to-peer car rental service Drivy. For more details about what lies ahead for Drivy and the Paris startup scene, we spoke to Alven Capital partner Jeremy Uzan, who first invested in Drivy’s seed round in 2013. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

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Amazon shareholders reject facial recognition sale ban to governments

Amazon shareholders have rejected two proposals that would have requested the company not to sell its facial recognition technology to government customers.

The breakdown of the votes is not immediately known. A filing with the vote tally is expected later this week.

The first proposal would have requested Amazon to limit the sale of its Rekognition technology to police, law enforcement and federal agencies. A second resolution would have demanded an independent human and civil rights review into the use of the technology.

It followed accusations that the technology has bias and inaccuracies, which critics say can be used to racially discriminate against minorities.

The votes were non-binding, allowing the company to reject the outcome of the vote.

But the vote was almost inevitably set to fail. Following his divorce, Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos retains 12 percent of the company’s stock as well as the voting rights in his ex-wife’s remaining stake. The company’s top four institutional shareholders, including The Vanguard Group, Blackrock, FMR and State Street, collectively hold about the same amount of voting rights as Bezos.

The resolutions failed despite an effort by the ACLU to back the measures, which the civil liberties group accused the tech giant of being “non-responsive” to privacy concerns.

In remarks, Shankar Narayan, ACLU of Washington, said: “The fact that there needed to be a vote on this is an embarrassment for Amazon’s leadership team. It demonstrates shareholders do not have confidence that company executives are properly understanding or addressing the civil and human rights impacts of its role in facilitating pervasive government surveillance.”

“While we have yet to see the exact breakdown of the vote, this shareholder intervention should serve as a wake-up call for the company to reckon with the real harms of face surveillance and to change course,” he said.

The civil liberties group rallied investors ahead of the Wednesday annual meeting in Seattle, where the tech giant has its headquarters. In a letter, the group said the sale of Amazon’s facial recognition tech to government agencies “fundamentally alters the balance of power between government and individuals, arming governments with unprecedented power to track, control, and harm people.”

“As shown by a long history of other surveillance technologies, face surveillance is certain to be disproportionately aimed at immigrants, religious minorities, people of color, activists, and other vulnerable communities,” the letter added.

The ACLU said investors and shareholders had the power “to protect Amazon from its own failed judgment.”

Amazon pushed back against claims that the technology is inaccurate, and called on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to block the shareholder proposal prior to its annual shareholder meeting. The government agency blocked Amazon’s efforts to stop the vote, amid growing scrutiny of its product.

Amazon spokesperson Lauren Lynch said on Tuesday, prior to the meeting, that the company operates “in line with our code of conduct which governs how we run our business and the use of our products.”

An email to the company following Wednesday’s meeting was unreturned at the time of writing.

Read more:

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DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg is coming to Disrupt

2019 is the year Facebook announced a ‘pivot to privacy’. At the same time, Google is trying to claim that privacy means letting it exclusively store and data-mine everything you do online. So what better time to sit down at Disrupt for a chat about what privacy really means with DuckDuckGo founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg?

We’re delighted to announce that Weinberg is joining us at Disrupt SF (October 2-4).

The pro-privacy search engine he founded has been on a mission to shrink the shoulder-surfing creepiness of Internet searching for more than a decade, serving contextual keyword-based ads, rather than pervasively tracking users to maintain privacy-hostile profiles. (If you can’t quite believe the decade bit; here’s DDG’s startup Elevator Pitch — which we featured on TC all the way back in 2008.)

It’s a position that looks increasingly smart as big tech comes under sharper political and regulatory scrutiny on account of the volume of information it’s amassing. (Not to mention what it’s doing with people’s data.)

Despite competing as a self-funded underdog against the biggest tech giants around, DuckDuckGo has been profitable and gaining users at a steady clip for years. It also recently took in a chunk of VC to capitalize on what its investors see as a growing international opportunity to help Internet users go about their business without being intrusively snooped on. Which makes a compelling counter narrative to the tech giants.

In more recent developments it has added a tracker blocker to its product mix — and been dabbling in policy advocacy — calling for a revival of a Do Not Track browser standard, after earlier attempts floundered with the industry, failing to reach accord.

The political climate around privacy and data protection does look to be pivoting in such a way that Do Not Track could possibly swing back into play. But if — and, yes it’s a big one — privacy ends up being a baked in Internet norm how might a pioneer like DuckDuckGo maintain its differentiating edge?

While, on the flip side, what if tech giants end up moving in on its territory by redefining privacy in their own self-serving image? We have questions and will be searching Weinberg for answers.

There’s also the fact that many a founder would have cut and run just half a decade into pushing against the prevailing industry grain. So we’re also keen to mine his views on entrepreneurial patience, and get a better handle on what makes him tick as a person — to learn how he’s turned a passion for building people-centric, principled products into a profitable business.

Disrupt SF runs October 2 – October 4 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Tickets are available here.


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Invites are out for Apple’s June 3 WWDC keynote — there will be unicorns

Apple’s WWDC keynote invites just went out, with only a couple of weeks to spare. The company’s graphic designers appear to be having some fun this time out, with a mind-blown rainbow unicorn, losing the Apple, Swift and App Store icons among others.

iOS 13, watchOS 6 and macOS 10.15 are no doubt on the books for this year’s event. I’d anticipate a lot more from the Apple TV side of things as well, in the wake of the big event earlier in the year.

Last year’s big show was completely devoid of hardware, though that could certainly change. Apple’s interestingly been in the habit of announcing small releases just ahead of its big shows this year, and that continues with this week’s announcement of new MacBook Pros with faster processors and, more importantly, updated keyboards.

The big show starts at 10AM PT on June 3. We’ll be there — though I’m still trying to get my colleagues to bring their unicorn onesies. I’ll keep you posted.

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Tech companies team up on service mesh interoperability

The adoption of service meshes are giving developers new and smarter ways to connect, secure and control what is going on inside their applications and services. But it is also causing a lot of pain points and lock ins for developers. To address the problems a group of technology companies are coming together to launch the Service Mesh Interface (SMI), an open project designed to give developers a set of common and portable APIs capable of interoperability across service mesh technologies such as Istio, Linkerd and Consul Connect.

The initial members of the SMI include Microsoft, Linkerd, HashiCorp, Solo.io, Kinvolk and Weaveworks as well as support for Aspen Mesh, Canonical, Docker, Pivotal, Rancher, Red Hat and VMware.

“We see a proliferation of service mesh technologies with many vendors providing new and exciting options for application developers. The problem is developers who turn to mesh technologies must choose a provider and write directly to those APIs. They become locked into a service mesh implementation. Without generic interfaces, developers lose portability, flexibility, and limit the ability to benefit from innovation across the broad ecosystem,” Gabe Monroy, lead program manager of containers for Microsoft, wrote in a post.

Service meshes were created to address the rise of microservices, containers and Kubernetes and provide an infrastructure layer with the ability for developers to better understand their services. The SMI aims to provide: a standard interface for service meshes; a basic feature set for common use cases; support for new capabilities over time; and space for the service mesh ecosystem to innovate.

“The interest and momentum around service meshes has reached a point where the industry needs to collaborate on a set of standards that can help assure their success,” said Sushil Singh, chief architect for VMware NSX Service Mesh at VMware. “Service Meshes provide rich set of foundational capabilities for the future of applications. It’s the right time to work towards defining standard APIs that simplify the consumption and capabilities of service mesh technology to enable a healthy ecosystem.”

The project is being launched with three initial service mesh features:

  1. Traffic policy for applying identity and transport encryption policies
  2. Traffic telemetry for capturing key metrics
  3. Traffic management for shifting and weighing traffic between services

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Reserve your demo table for TC Sessions: Mobility 2019

Early-stage startup ingenuity is one of the driving forces shaping the rapid, radical changes taking place in mobility and transportation. Come July 10, TechCrunch will host more than 1,000 movers, shakers and makers in San Jose for TC Sessions: Mobility 2019 for a day-long exploration of the technologies and challenges upending both industries.

Talk about a targeted audience. It’s the perfect place and opportunity to strut your startup stuff. Simply book a demo table to position your company in front of some of the most influential founders, investors, technologists and media. Networking made simple. You’re welcome.

TC Sessions: Mobility is jam-packed with speakers, workshops and demos that showcase an astounding range of topics, technologies, products and insight. We’ll dig deep into the future of transportation and mobility — including new and once-unimaginable technologies that lie ahead. We’ll cover the promises, the problems and the potential. And don’t worry, we’ll cover early-stage startup investing, too.

This lineup strikes a balance between industry powerhouses and smaller, but no less innovative teams working on the forefront. Here’s just a sample of what you can expect to enjoy:

  • Will Venture Capital Drive the Future of Mobility? Michael Granoff (Maniv Mobility), Ted Serbinski (Techstars) and Sarah Smith (Bain Capital) will debate the uncertain future of mobility tech and whether VC dollars are enough to push the industry forward.
  • Delivering the Future with Dave Ferguson. We’ll talk with Nuro co-founder Dave Ferguson to hear all about the strengths and challenges of building a self-driving vehicle with a focus on local deliveries like groceries, food and retail goods.
  • Demo with Jay Giraud. Damon Motorcycles CEO and founder Jay Giraud will bring a motorcycle onstage to demonstrate the company’s rider protection system that combines radar, camera and other sensors to track the speed, direction and velocity of up to 64 objects at a time.

That’s just a taste, but you can see even more at the TC Sessions: Mobility agenda. Keep in mind there are still a few surprise guests to be announced in the next month, so be sure to check back.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2019 takes place July 10 in San Jose, Calif. Don’t miss a prime opportunity to place your early-stage startup in front of influential change agents. Book a demo table today, while you still can. Can’t wait to see what you bring to San Jose!

Looking for sponsorship opportunities? Contact the TechCrunch team to learn about the benefits associated with sponsoring TC Sessions: Mobility 2019.

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SD Times news digest: Optimizely Rollouts, Parasoft’s Jtest and dotTest, and DataStax announces cloud-native data platform

Digital experience optimization provider Optimizely has announced Optimizely Rollouts, a free tool that lets developers adopt feature flags.

By using these feature flags, teams can “target key audiences, update features on the fly and easily roll back poorly performing features ensuring a better product and customer experience,” the company explained.

Optimizely Rollouts includes unlimited feature flags, REST API, unlimited collaborators, staged rollouts, a cloud dashboard, unlimited environments, audience targeting and can now integrate with Jira. It works with most web, mobile and server-side languages, according to the company.

Parasoft releases Jtest and dotTest
Parasoft, an automated software testing provider,  is focusing on DevSecOps in the latest 10.4.2 releases of  Jtest and dotTEST, the company’s Java and .NET development testing solutions.

Developers can execute real-time security and compliance scans directly within their development workflows in an IDE. Parasoft’s solutions contain preconfigured and fully customizable testing configurations that meet security standards, according to the company.

Kapil Bhandari, a product manager at Parasoft, explained that the new solutions prioritize shifting left so that “vulnerabilities can be caught and addressed at a lower cost, and security and compliance metrics can be collected and leveraged at various times throughout development.”

DataStax announces new cloud-native data platform
DataStax announced Constellation, a cloud data platform that will launch with the cloud services Apache Cassandra as a Service and DataStax Insights.

DataStax Apache Cassandra as a Service will offer scale-up and scale-down Cassandra clusters on consumption-based pricing, which is backed by the stability and performance enhancements of DataStax Enterprise, according to the company.

“Because Constellation is cloud native and fully compatible with DataStax Enterprise and Apache Cassandra, application architectures can easily span on-prem, hybrid, or multi-cloud. This frees businesses to choose whatever infrastructure is right for them,” said Billy Bosworth, CEO of DataStax.

Microsoft announces first Edge preview builds for macOS
Microsoft Edge is making its way to macOS for the first time with the availability of the Microsoft Edge Canary channel. This follows the preview builds of Microsoft Edge for Windows 10, announced last month.

The preview is available on macOS 10.12 or newer and the Dev Channel will be released soon.

The company aims to align the Microsoft design language with the aspects that make it feel natural to macOS and encourages user feedback. Also, certain UX features are exclusive to macOS such as providing useful and contextual actions through the Touch Bar like website shortcuts, tab switching and video controls, as well as enabling familiar navigation with trackpad gestures, Microsoft said.

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