Start up: app retention rates, the real FBI-Apple court problem, Samsung closing Milk Music?, and more

Steve Jobs’s desire to push books on the iPad led to an antitrust finding against Apple. Screenshot by tuaulamac on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Aren’t they? I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Apple, FBI, and the burden of forensic methodology » Zdziarski’s Blog of Things

Jonathan Zdziarski is a forensics expert who has testified in court cases and designed his own computer forensics tools. He says that even if Apple is forced to write the software to crack the iPhone PIN, it will need to be examinable in court:

»Full documentation must be written that explains the methods and techniques used to disable Apple’s own security features. The tool cannot simply be some throw-together to break a PIN; it must be designed in a manner in which its function can be explained, and its methodology could be reproduced by independent third parties. Since FBI is supposedly the ones to provide the PIN codes to try, Apple must also design and develop an interface / harness to communicate PINs into the tool, which means added engineering for input validation, protocol design, more logging, error handling, and so on. FBI has asked to do this wirelessly (possibly remotely), which also means transit encryption, validation, certificate revocation, and so on.

Once the tool itself is designed, it must be tested internally on a number of devices with exactly matching versions of hardware and operating system, and peer reviewed internally to establish a pool of peer-review experts that can vouch for the technology. In my case, it was a bunch of scientists from various government agencies doing the peer-review for me. The test devices will be imaged before and after, and their disk images compared to ensure that no bits were changed; changes that do occur from the operating system unlocking, logging, etc., will need to be documented so they can be explained to the courts. Bugs must be addressed. The user interface must be simplified and robust in its error handling so that it can be used by third parties.

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Trivial, huh?
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April 2015: Meerkat & Periscope: features, not products » Tech-Thoughts

Sameer Singh, writing almost a year ago when the two streaming apps were just taking off:

»Both Meerkat and Periscope leverage smartphone cameras to broadcast live video. However, the apps themselves don’t play a major role in the discovery of these broadcasts. This may be because they are too specialized to generate sustained engagement, at least enough to be a discovery platform (most app users are likely to be broadcasters). Also, it is relatively easy to replicate the feature set and user experience of a Meerkat or a Periscope, but it is very difficult to enable discovery. Therefore, these apps are not products in their own right, but just features built on top of broadcast-oriented social platforms, i.e. those that facilitate one-to-many communication (e.g. Twitter).

On a standalone basis, these apps have a limited shelf life — they could either be acquired by social platforms that fit the description above or be killed by them. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that Meerkat found viral success by leveraging Twitter’s social graph. Any incumbent’s response in this situation would be to build or acquire a similar feature set. Twitter chose to acquire.

«

And this month: Meerkat announces that it’s going to pivot to being a “video social network” instead.

Not just a feature, but a very niche feature.
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Driverless lorry convoys to be trialled in the UK » Ars Technica UK

Sebastian Anthony:

»Convoys of automated lorries will be trialled on UK motorways, chancellor George Osborne is expected to announce in his 2016 Budget speech later this month.

The Times reports that the trials will take place on a northerly stretch of the M6, which runs from Birmingham all the way up to the border of Scotland, near Carlisle. The Department for Transport confirms that planning for “HGV platoons” is under way, though it did not comment on whether the trials will receive funding in the Budget, nor give any kind of timeline for the fleet’s deployment.

A DfT spokesman said: “We are planning trials of HGV platoons—which enable vehicles to move in a group so they use less fuel—and will be in a position to say more in due course.” The Times reports that these platoons could consist of up to 10 driverless lorries, each just a few metres away from each other.

The DfT’s “less fuel” claim refers to “drafting,” where the first lorry in the platoon creates a slipstream, significantly reducing drag and fuel consumption for the other lorries behind it. In a semi-automated lorry demo a couple of years ago, the fuel economy for a platoon of lorries improved by about 15%. Expand that out to the thousands of trucks that are on UK roads at any one time and you’re looking at potentially huge cost reductions.

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Supreme Court rejects Apple e-books price-fixing appeal » Reuters

Lawrence Hurley:

»The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear Apple Inc’s challenge to an appellate court decision that it conspired with five publishers to increase e-book prices, meaning it will have to pay $450m as part of a settlement.

The court’s decision not to hear the case leaves in place a June 2015 ruling by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that favored the U.S. Department of Justice and found Apple liable for engaging in a conspiracy that violated federal antitrust laws.

Apple, in its petition asking the high court to hear the case, said the June decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upholding a judge’s ruling that Apple had conspired with the publishers contradicted Supreme Court precedent and would “chill innovation and risk-taking.”

«

One of those instances where Steve Jobs (who created the antitrust situation while trying to kickstart iPad sales by getting iBooks competitive with Amazon, but without the pain of competing on price) really overreached. And the irony? It turns out retail e-books aren’t a particularly strong driver of iPad sales.
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Facebook pulls plug on ad software » The Information

Cory Weiberg:

»Last year, Facebook tested software that would represent a bold expansion of its display ads business beyond its own inventory, a move potentially worth billions in revenue. Using a demand-side platform, or a DSP, marketers would be able to use Facebook users’ identity data to bid on ad slots across the mobile and desktop Internet in real time.

But Facebook recently yanked the bidding software from service because the tests showed that banner ads that were served attracted too many fraudulent impressions by bots trawling the Web, the company confirmed to The Information on Friday.

While Facebook’s current advertising business centers mostly on its own mobile inventory and apps plugged into its ad network, many in the industry have been awaiting its plunge into the mobile web’s programmatic ad marketplace. Its ad server, Atlas, which on Monday added capabilities to serve video ads and track offline purchases, can measure whether users saw ads across digital devices. But because of the pulled DSP tests, the ad server doesn’t yet have a bidding platform that would expand its pool of marketing clients wanting to tap this programmatic marketplace.

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Google dominates the banner ad space via DoubleClick, but one has to wonder whether it sees the same level of bot trawling; if it does, how does it stop it better than Facebook? Is it just about having more experience?
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“Google Posts” embeds a one-way social network directly into search results » Ars Technica

Ron Amadeo:

»There’s a weird new feature popping up in Google search results called “Google Posts.” It seems to be a place for Google to directly host content in a post-Google+ world and to embed this content directly into search results. Imagine orphaned Google+ posts with the Google+ branding stripped out, and you’re most of the way there.

Over at Google.com/posts, Google has a landing page for this feature, calling it “an experimental new podium on Google” that allows you to “hear directly from the US presidential candidates in real time on Google.” It’s a believable explanation until you see this Google Posts profile from “Andrew Jewelers” in Buffalo, New York, (spotted by Mike Blumenthal), which is definitely not a presidential candidate.

The landing page says the “experimental” feature is “only available to the 2016 US presidential candidates” (Andrew Jewelers for president!), but those of us not running for office can join a waitlist as Google plans to “make it available to other prominent figures and organizations.”

It really seems like this is a Google+ reboot just for brands. The design definitely seems like Google+ with the Google+ branding stripped out, but this “social network” explicitly dodges being “social” AND any kind of “networking.”

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Sort-of sponsored content in search results?
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Expect lots more publishers to start asking people to turn off their ad blockers » Business Insider

Lara O’Reilly:

»The US digital advertising trade body, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB,) has released advice to publishers on how they should deal with the growing number of ad blocker users visiting their sites.

The IAB wants publishers to “DEAL” with it, by taking these four steps:

• D: detect ad blocking, in order to initiate a conversation (The IAB also released an ad blocking detection script for its members to add to their websites on Monday.)

• E: explain the value exchange that advertising enables.

• A: ask for changed behavior in order to maintain an equitable exchange.

• L: lift restrictions or Limit access in response to consumer choice.

In other words, it looks like far more websites are going to start asking users to turn off their ad blocker or pay some sort of subscription or make a micropayment in order to access their content.

«

M-i-c k-e-y m-o-u-s-e acronyms are nice, but it’s a big risk to take that people actually do love your content so very much that they’ll take all those ads once more, having stopped. Or will publishers and advertisers just dial back on the ads only for adblocking users? Or for everyone? The inconsistencies multiply.
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Milk Music may shut down as Samsung eyes Tidal [update: doesn’t eye Tidal] » Variety

Janko Roettgers:

»Samsung is likely going to shutter its Milk Music streaming service in the near future as part of a bigger revamp of its music strategy, Variety has learned from multiple sources. However, Samsung denied rumors that it was going to buy Jay Z’s Tidal service in a statement sent to Variety Friday hours after the original publication of this story.

The shut-down would come two years after Samsung unveiled Milk Music with big fanfare as a competitor to Pandora. The service, which offers consumers personalized radio stations, had initially been exclusive to owners of select mobile devices made by the company. Samsung later opened up Milk Music on the Web, and brought it to its smart TVs as well, but never released apps for phones from other manufacturers.

Milk Music was initially meant to be part of a bigger move toward a new generation of media services that would add value to Samsung devices while also adding incremental advertising and subscription revenue to Samsung’s bottom line. As part of that strategy, Samsung launched Milk Video as a platform for short-form video content in late 2014. There had been plans to branch out with the Milk brand into sports and other forms of entertainment as well.

But late last year, Samsung shuttered Milk Video after it failed to gain traction with consumers. Now, it looks like Milk Music may be heading for a similar shut-down.

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Roettgers was first with the story about Milk Video shutting down. Samsung Milk Music has over 10m downloads on Google Play and a high rating (4.3).

But again, Samsung just can’t seem to make up its mind what it wants to do beyond hardware. Chat service? It closed Chaton. Video service? Closed Milk Video. Music service? … Oh well.
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New data shows losing 80% of mobile users is normal, and why the best apps do better » andrewchen

Andrew Chen and Ankit Jain:

»The first graph shows a retention curve: The number of days that have passed since the initial install, and what % of those users are active on that particular day. As my readers know, this is often used in a sentence like “the D7 retention is 40%” meaning that seven days after the initial install, 40% of those users was active on that specific day.

The graph is pretty amazing to see:

Based on Quettra’s data, we can see that the average app loses 77% of its DAUs [daily active users] within the first 3 days after the install. Within 30 days, it’s lost 90% of DAUs. Within 90 days, it’s over 95%. Stunning. The other way to say this is that the average app mostly loses its entire userbase within a few months, which is why of the >1.5 million apps in the Google Play store, only a few thousand sustain meaningful traffic. (*Tabular data in the footnotes if you’re interested)

Ankit Jain, who collaborated with me on this essay, commented on this trend: “Users try out a lot of apps but decide which ones they want to ‘stop using’ within the first 3-7 days. For ‘decent’ apps, the majority of users retained for 7 days stick around much longer. The key to success is to get the users hooked during that critical first 3-7 day period.”

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The graph for top 10 apps, by contrast, shows them at over 50% retention even after 90 days. Data via 125m Android devices worldwide, and excluding Google’s own apps.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

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