Facebook lost users. For the first time! Of course, this isn’t the end of Meta’s business, but it will pause some companies publicity investments in the platform, which will impact even more the stock value. The Metaverse needs to happen, and Meta already has something better than Second Life but far from Meta’s five-year plan. The 2021 research and development bill setback the company account by 10 billion dollars. 10, freaking, billion, dollars. Where’s my Metaverse, Mr Mark?
A FloC did not survive
As I’ve covered here in a previous edition, the Federated Learning of Cohorts initiative, or just FLoC, was a highly anticipated technology to replace “Cookies”, the small files that can be used to track your web presence. Anticipated and hated. The specifications failed to impress the Browser community, and after some scrutiny, it was found out that FLoC could be even more intrusive into users activities. Google isn’t quitting since the dreaded cookies will eventually be phased out of every significant browser in the market, making online publicity back to the pre-2000 internet age. Their new approach, Topics, looks more like an educated guess for advertisement targetting and might be the best option available in the coming years. Techcrunch has a great piece explaining its details. Take a look!
GDPR Halloween story
General Data Protection Regulation, or just GDPR, is a European legislation bundle that brought us the ubiquitous website pop up to accept all cookies. Well, not actually, but it is how it feels until one reads what happened to an unfortunate owner of an unidentified site. A German court fined the owner setting him back by one hundred euro for using a Google font. Since the Google font isn’t self-hosted, the site shared users IP addresses just by requesting the font from Google servers without asking their permission. One must remember that an IP address is considered personal information under European Union law. So, take a quick look at requests coming out of your site, just in case.
The Sony Empire strikes back
No one has said it, but everyone felt that Sony needed to step up its game after the recent Activision Blizzard Microsoft acquisition. Sony did strike back buying Bungee, a game development studio that owns the Destiny franchise, and the original developers of now Microsoft held Halo franchise. The 3.6 billion dollar bill doesn’t compare well with the almost 70 billion dollars that Microsoft is ready to deliver for its new shiny game development shop. Bungie doesn’t have much, but it might consolidate Sony VR vertical. As a proud owner of a PS VR system, I can see the improvement space that VR has ahead. Not only regarding the system itself but the available games that don’t innovate so much, keeping the First Person Shooter and Driving categories locked with the same type of controls. Play one, and all look the same. Nevertheless, it is good to see Sony not falling behind and keeping the VR race alive. From Bungie side, it looks like a welcomed partnership, but this isn’t the first acquisition dance for the company. Microsoft already did it and left out with Halo in its hands, while Bungie became Bungie LLC with Destiny as their only intellectual property. Sony looks is promising a hands-off management style, leaving creativity unbound, but the first years of marriage are always rosy. Let us see how it pans out this time.
One small step for Meta, a steep drop in its stock price
230 billion dollars plus a few million. That was how much Meta’s stock dropped last Thursday after releasing the previous 2021 quarter results. If you’re a frequent MV Journal reader, you’ll notice that I’m a big fan of a Metaverse world, and I’m betting that my science fiction passion has something to do with it, so when I’m watching Meta going down, I’m also witnessing my Metaverse dreams coming to an end. Mr Mike Isaac is a technology reporter for the New York Times, and in his last piece, he sums up all the challenges that are threatening my AR/VR paradise. They are all too much real, making Meta’s future quite bleak. I couldn’t write it better, so I strongly recommend paying his article a visit. Unfortunately, Mr Mark Zuckerberg fail to impress with his last communication pushing Instagram Reels, a TikTok clone, to fight TikTok’s market dominance, and I’m just wondering where’s my Metaverse.
Open Source Sponsorship. This is one way.
In a previous “ramble”, I’ve mentioned that we need to do much more to drive companies to support the open-source community. Github Sponsors is almost what I would expect, although it isn’t anything new. Github launched this week Sponsors, and it is a clear response to the recent events around famous and widely adopted open-source libraries. Developers followed Twitch streamers and many other digital creators setting up accounts on multiple crowd donation platforms such as Patreon and GoFundMe. The new GitHub product just integrates the sponsorship system within GitHub while allowing prime time access for paying clien…sponsors. It doesn’t feel like open-source to me, but it is a step in the right direction. As I’ve mentioned in some private conversations, the sponsorship model should be tackled, keeping the open-source part while still motivating donors to chip in the development costs. A bounded donation target and a value band for each donation could get cheaper when new donors hit the donation target and start diluting costs for everyone. Primetime access could still be an option, and bounties could still speed up essential developments for the community at large. So, are you ready to take this up the ladder in your current employer? If you’re the owner, how about setting aside a few bucks for the libraries you use? Let us do our part, shall we?
Since we are part of a company with a significant footprint in the Telecom market, this piece caught my attention. Mr Anthony Levandowski was one of Waymo’s founders and got his name tainted after stealing intellectual property before moving on to another venture. After his release, he rejoined Pronto as his CEO. Pronto is an autonomous driving trucking company that made a splash in the news after completing the first United States cross-country trip with an autonomous vehicle. Mr Anthony is proposing a Cyberpunk move, creating a decentralized mobile telecommunications company that relies on user access points or femtocell towers to deliver signals to its users. Distributed and decentralized access isn’t new, and 5G already delivers something similar with user WiFi roaming. The business model is a different thing. Mr Anthony plans to pay users that run access points with a cryptocurrency. The venture called Pollen Mobile stems from a Pronto secure and anonymous communication system already in use by Pronto’s vehicles. Again, Techcrunch covers it well but the whole thing has some eery Jeff Noon’s Vurt vibes.
Winning Code Competitions but still far from programming
DeepMind shared their most recent Alpha package. AlphaCode threatens to put mid-level programmers out of a job in a few years. Mr Oriol Vinyals, the principal research scientist at DeepMind, shared with The Verge their most recent endeavour. I’ve already covered some AI-assisted Interface Development Environments or just IDEs, and their funny fumbles like complete code regurgitation from their training sets, but AlphaCode is a different beast. It reads the same input given to humans in coding challenges and returns a program that satisfies the expected output. While this is impressive, it is still far from professional coding work. I can safely state that we aren’t losing our jobs soon for one reason. The problem needs to be framed neatly. Bring me a client that can do it, and we might be in hot waters.
AI Overlord infancy
Again, Meta. Well before the 230 billion wipeout, Meta’s announced a shiny new supercomputer targetting AI development efforts. Like Tesla, which owns its own AI cluster to process telemetry from cars engaging with the real world, Meta’s also unveiled a centralized super AI cluster targetting image, voice and natural language processing. One of their uses cases is already clear for us all, but it’s stated explicitly at Meta’s AI page - content moderation. One of Meta’s problems and many other user-generated content distributors regards content moderation. Nowadays, thousands of humans comb through flagged content to understand if it should be extracted or fair game, which isn’t scalable or psychologically safe for workers. With so much being shared by users, it is only a matter of time until human moderation doesn’t have enough bandwidth for many bytes, and there is where our AI Overlords will start taking over control. Right now, the Meta’s AI cluster is still at a third of its planned capacity, and it will take a couple of years until the project can be considered finished. From my perspective, this is a reasonable timeline since we know that we can run Doom with it, but it isn’t clear if it can manage a mid-quality Crysis 4.