Bits: Farhad’s and Mike’s Week in Tech: Is Juice the Next Tech Platform?



But it turns out the story gets even better. In one of those journalistic efforts so obvious I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it, Bloomberg got a Juicero (whose price has since dropped to $400) and some juice packs, and its reporters tried to squeeze the packs by hand rather than with the machine. Guess what! It worked! Who knew you could have fancy digital juice just with your bare hands?

Mike: To be fair to Juicero, they consider themselves a “juice platform,” not just a hardware maker. Don’t you want to be a part of a future in which juice-related apps can be a part of your complete breakfast?

Farhad: My favorite part about this story was the response from investors and the company itself. This line in the Bloomberg story quietly says a whole lot about tech VCs’ priorities: “One of the investors said they were frustrated with how the company didn’t deliver on the original pitch and that their venture firm wouldn’t have met with Evans if he were hawking bags of juice that didn’t require high-priced hardware.” Look, we weren’t interested in funding cheap juice that just anyone could buy!

The Juicero C.E.O. also had a really funny response: He compared squeezing the juice packs with your hands to “hacking” some kind of actual tech product. The funny part is that he seems to be serious.

Mike: This whole story is pure poetry, and has every perfect component: Clueless investors, a serial failed entrepreneur and, most important, juice. I wish we had written it.

Farhad: O.K., Facebook also had some news this week. At the company’s annual developer conference it unveiled a new system for adding digital objects on top of your pictures and videos — what’s known as augmented reality. Lots of companies are doing A.R., but Facebook says its innovation is that it has created a “platform.” Facebook’s system lets outside developers add A.R. objects to the Facebook camera, potentially making it more powerful than Snapchat’s system.

Lots of people — me included — saw this is Facebook turning the final knife in Snapchat’s back. What was your take?

Mike: Ah, yes. Another platform, just like Juicero.

I kid, but not really. My read was this: Facebook missed the opportunity to create a smartphone and subsequently control its software application platform. So now, building what he believes will be the next big “platform” — the real, augmented world — is Facebook C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg’s chance to do what he failed to do 10 years ago. It’s smart to try, though who knows if it will actually take off?

After all, we all saw what happened with Oculus, the virtual reality goggles maker that Facebook bought a few years ago.

Farhad: Finally, ads. There were several reports this week that Google, Microsoft and several ad companies and brands are working on a way to kill off the web’s worst ads. According to AdAge, they’re creating “technology” to be installed in Google’s and Microsoft’s web browsers that will prevent sites from autoplaying ads with sound, ads that flash or change colors or that are in other ways annoying. I put “technology” in quotes because that’s really what they’re calling it — they don’t want people to call it an “ad blocker,” because advertisers don’t like that term.

Mike: Cue the “dun dun dunnnnnn” evil piano music.

Farhad: My take: This is a fantastic idea, and the only thing wrong with it is that they’re doing it in 2017 rather than 2010. Yes, I know ads pay part of my salary (not yours, since I think you’ve elected to get paid in burritos, right?). But ads on the web have been getting worse and worse forever. They’re so bad that lots of people have installed ad blockers to get rid of them entirely, which is obviously bad for the media industry.

Mike: Wait, you don’t get paid in burritos?

Farhad: Mike, no.

Anyway, a while ago, I argued that the web’s ad kings should band together to collectively kill the most annoying ads. That way, people would get less annoyed by ads and would have less reason to block them. They’re finally doing so now. Hallelujah!

Mike: This is sort of frightening for me. The platforms that control distribution of content on the internet — and are gobbling digital advertising from traditional publications more than ever — are suddenly becoming the arbiters of what are good and bad ads? That’s a superscary thought, especially if it spurs ad buyers to start spending their dollars on Google and Facebook even more than they were on, say, The New York Times.

That said, ad tech today is unbelievably scummy. There are all sorts of cookies and tracking mechanisms and auto-playing videos that just mess up your computer, intrude on your sense of privacy and are otherwise just plain bad, all so that publishers can make pennies on the dollars that they used to make on TV and print ads. That’s also bad, but there isn’t really any incentive to clean up the state of advertising without, say, these big tech companies making consequences a part of it.

Anyway, all this talk of advertising and burritos has made me hungry. I’m going to go get some juice. Till next week.

Farhad: See you!

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