HN Gopher Feed (2017-09-03) - page 1 of 10
WhatsApp Cofounder on How It Reached 1.3B Users Without Losing Its
187 points by munchorhttps://www.fastcompany.com/40459142/whatsapps-cofounder-on-how-...
cerealbad - 4 hours ago
icq, aim, msn messenger, google talk (DOA), skype, wechat. besides
widespread business adoption, what's special about this one? it's
seamless to uninstall an app and get a new one. why would there be
customer loyalty to this business model?ot, i don't understand why
anyone would want to get anywhere near mobile. people are too
stupid to use these internet devices in moderation and it will
destroy all social cohesion. it's a cash grab to the bottom as it
devolves into radical groupthink, a breakdown of dialogue, and mass
segregation of populations.how is arguing about anything and
everything productive or useful without domain specific expertise?
how is mindlessly consuming hours and hours of infotainment
benefiting anyone?but i can instantly communicate to anyone around
the world in a matter of milliseconds! your life is not that
interesting, a letter sent by post every other month would probably
be more fruitful to developing ideas, advancing discourse and
carefully articulating thoughts. it's like correspondence chess vs
1 minute bullet matches. one is excited screaming and shouting, the
other is a measured conversation and exchange. pretty sure e-mail
hit that sweet spot decades ago, with bulletin boards and irc
filling the less personal and more immediate gaps.
benevol - 10 hours ago
Which is cool in itself.What is deeply regrettable is the fact that
they ended up selling to Facebook and thereby contributing to
Facebook's aggressive and relentless mass surveillance system.
inciampati - 9 hours ago
I wonder if they also cut themselves a raw deal in selling. They
could have built a whole platform on top of WhatsApp without any
innovation more subtle than copying WeChat.
charlesdm - 9 hours ago
Nobody is going to complain about selling for $19bn. Sometimes
you just need to take the money.
njarboe - 7 hours ago
And sometimes you don't. Zuckerburg famously had the chance
to sell out for billions quite a few times , and basically
said, "I'm doing what I want to be doing. If I sold out I
would just start another social network company and I already
own the best/biggest one." http://www.businessinsider.com
/all-the-companies-that-ever-t...edit: Closer and better
quote. Thiel's paraphrase of Zuckerburg, "I don't know what I
could do with the money. I'd just start another social
networking site. I kind of like the one I already have."
eecks - 7 hours ago
Did anyone offer him 19 billion?
Mahn - 6 hours ago
Are you suggesting they never had a chance to sell for 19
billion? Because I'm pretty sure all Zuckerberg had to do
was pick up the phone in 2009, or even earlier.
firefoxd - 4 hours ago
Here are some numbers i can't find. The number of users chatting on
yahoo, aim, facebook, msn messenger, and all the random others
combined when it was a thing not to care which people were using.At
my job in 2011, every single member of my team was on using a
different client, i was on ubuntu using Empathy.The point is, chat
was already resolved, and it didn't require some sort of "quiet
room or distraction free office" to get it where it was.Kudos to
the WhatsApp team for having this many users, but let's not forget
that we had no problem chatting until the facebook, yahoo, googles
broke the old protocol in favor of restricting users to their own
blowski - 4 hours ago
Talking with non-technical family members was hard in 2007.
Partly this was because the most portable solution was a big
chunky laptop and most people didn't even have that. But we
can't totally separate the mobile computing devices that have
appeared since then from the apps installed on them. I'd love a
world where open source protocols and clients dominated, but it
wasn't quite the utopia you remember.
frozenport - 3 hours ago
posguy - 38 minutes ago
Total PITA to use, didn't work well on even decently spec'ed
machines at the time, and required extra hardware that was of
enraged_camel - 2 hours ago
WhatsApp didn't replace internet chatting. It replaced (or maybe
I should say "disrupted") SMS, and perhaps more importantly, MMS.
There are two reasons: it's free, and the UX is far superior in
that it mimicks how humans, especially groups of humans,
lou1306 - 2 hours ago
Even though it was not free until some years ago, the price was
so ridicolous that people were happy to pay for the service.
fgonzag - 1 hours ago
They never actually charged it though, you didn't actually
have to pay it.
stephengillie - 29 minutes ago
> At my job in 2011, every single member of my team was on using
a different client...This persists today - every single person I
communicate with uses a completely different app, including SMS
and email. I only know one person who uses WhatsApp, but serval
have dumbphones.Coordinating with more than one person involves
at least 2 chat programs and a website. "Group chats" are
impossible because in 2017 we still can't group chat between 1
person on Skype, 1 SMS, and a Facebook.
avip - 2 hours ago
We hear this rant on every chat-related thread. WhatsApp brought
the amazing innovation of using your phone number for "login"
(and later on - your native contacts as its contacts list). This
enabled zero-BS onboarding, and that's why they have so many
users. Thanks WA for helping humanity deprecate that horrible
XMPP. I don't miss it.
posguy - 1 hours ago
WhatsApp mainly displaced SMS and MMS, some users of other chat
protocols slowly migrated, but by and large WhatsApp mainly ate
cellular carrier's lunch. Hence why most carriers offer
unlimited calling and texting, discouraging use is just pushing
their customers to these OTT apps.
mbesto - 10 hours ago
It's super easy to focus on a single metric (user growth) when you
have a seemingly unlimited amount of capital and have no immediate
pressure to turn _any_ revenue/profit. This article does a massive
disservice to those who are not as fortunate who will inevitably be
lead into failure.Note, this should not discredit the more
interesting and glorified aspects of WhatsApp (strong leadership,
technical aptitude, tech stack, etc).
zeroxfe - 9 hours ago
> It's super easy to focus on a single metric (user growth) when
you have a seemingly unlimited amount of capitalWhere are you
getting this from? Whatsapp was a very lean shop _because_ they
had very little capital to work with. Even after Sequoia came
along, they sailed a tight ship.
CyberDildonics - 10 hours ago
> seemingly unlimited amount of capitalDid they burn through lots
of money?> no immediate pressure to turn _any_
revenue/profitDidn't some people pay for it?
hobarrera - 48 minutes ago
There's not option to pay for anything, so I couldn't pay even
if I wanted to. IIRC, the registration screen even said it's be
free forever.Given that they have extremely little metadata
too, I actually wonder if they have any revenue stream.
numbsafari - 9 hours ago
They lost something close to $138MM the year before Facebook
senatorobama - 9 hours ago
I'm a philistine, can someone explain how they paid their
engineers when they lost SO much money?
gordon_freeman - 6 hours ago
I think if I remember correctly one of their main cost was
paying a service like twilio (or something like that) to
verify phone numbers of users when they registered to use
whatsapp. Anybody has an idea if they are still outsourcing
that verification part to a third party or doing in-house
tw04 - 9 hours ago
They didn't lose SO MUCH MONEY, that's the thing. The
article link points that out. They "lost" money on paper
by handing out stock/equity to attract talent. Their
actual financials, while underwhelming, looked solid.
1024core - 9 hours ago
WhatsApp was a very lean shop (and, btw, mostly (all?)
FreeBSD). At acquisition, IIRC, they had about 40 employees
total (or maybe it was 40 engineers).
tw04 - 9 hours ago
They didn't burn through lots of money at all based on facebook
financials. And they charge $1/month for the app (although I
don't think on all platforms). I don't recall if it was + or
-, but their "profitability" was less than $10 million in
either direction so they weren't making or losing a ton.
aetherson - 9 hours ago
I've used WhatsApp for years and have never been charged a
Xunxi - 9 hours ago
it doesn't rule out the fact that there was an annual
subscription fee at some point in
wpietri - 8 hours ago
It varied by country. Some places it was $1 for the app.
Other places, $1/year. Other places, free entirely. My
guess is their goal was to make enough money to keep in the
black, but to otherwise not worry too much about revenue.
That let them maximize growth while avoiding the headaches
and dilution of raising money.
tw04 - 8 hours ago
I'm not sure what to tell you, I'm not fabricating the fact
there was very much a yearly subscription fee associated
with the app (and prior to that a price to just download
the app). I'm aware it didn't apply universally which is
why I specifically said it varied depending on
signal11 - 7 hours ago
I have an iTunes receipt from 2013 for 69p paid for a
year's worth of Whatsapp service. Their message then was
"we charge because we don't want to show you ads".IIRC
they were always free in emerging markets like India
aetherson - 8 hours ago
Well, you claimed in the post I responded to a monthly
subscription, not an annual one. What's a factor of
twelve between friends?My understanding is that the
annual fee was essentially nonexistent, honored far more
on the breach than in the observance, though all I know
for sure is that they never charged me.
coldtea - 7 hours ago
Or one might have not even noticed it. Just a click
somewhere in a dialog, end of story. Among 10,000 other
events we go through everyday...
tw04 - 4 hours ago
Not sure why I typed /month, it was always a yearly fee
or a flat fee to buy the app. Can't edit it at this
wpietri - 8 hours ago
Did you read the article? They're explicitly not focusing on user
growth:"But while Facebook has long prided itself on the way its
growth team has turned attracting new members into a science,
Koum is equally proud of the fact that WhatsApp has not done so.
Instead, all of its attention has gone into making the app as
simple as possible to get started with?it doesn?t even require
you to create a user name or password?and so useful that you?ll
tell friends and family about it."And that's consistent with what
I've read of their pre-FB approach. During that period, they
definitely didn't have an unlimited amount of capital. They got
to 250m users (as of June 2013)  on only $8.3 million .So
no, I don't think this does a disservice. Especially when you
compare it with things like Juicero, which rode a wave of hype
into a $120m failure (14.5x what WhatsApp spent). Hype can get
you money, but unless you focus intensely on user experience and
user value you won't build the audience you need to succeed.
dingaling - 8 hours ago
You are quite correct, and indeed they surrendered a
considerable number of potential users by refusing to make
their app easily usable on a tablet or other SIM-less
device.Which is a very interesting and rare example of
prioritising one aspect of UX by completely sacrificing
mbesto - 6 hours ago
> Did you read the article?I did.> as simple as possible to get
started withHow is that not applying a focus on "user growth"?
Just because you're not "growth hacking" or "using a a growth
team" doesn't mean you are not implementing a strategy of
growth of a user base. Adding a paywall or an advertisement
would actively thwart the "simplicity of getting started", and
thus halt user growth. My point still stands - most businesses
who didn't have the type of capital backing that WhatsApp has
would be insolvent or have to actively cause friction in their
sign-up process to remain solvent (and hence halt user
growth).> Especially when you compare it with things like
Juicero, which rode a wave of hype into a $120m failureNo one
was comparing it to Juicero...I have no idea how that's in any
ramses0 - 5 hours ago
Please understand some of the details about _HOW_ WhatsApp
did what they did.Focusing on reach (ubiquity is an
innovation). Focusing on operational efficiency (a low-cost
tech company is an innovation).The apocryphal stories about
WhatsApp in support of the two above points are:1) Supporting
J2ME clients (ie: dumb-phones) ... connecting "poor people"
in dumb-phone countries w/ "rich people" in smart-phone
countries (for $0.99 app).$0.99 / user * 25% of your userbase
isn't enough revenue for most companies to be successful.2)
Be operationally efficient, reliable, and lean. How? By
running like 10 erlang servers (targeting peak message
transmission RATES, not all-time storage of messages or
number of users)This allowed them to _SCALE_ revenue because
they're basically dividing by zero (Income v. Expenses) if
they're extremely lean on number of employees, maintenance,
and operations costs.Therefore: it compares extremely well to
Juicero as a counter-example.
CharlesW - 6 hours ago
> Did you read the article? They're explicitly not* focusing on
user growth:*I also RTFA, and it's hard to understand how
someone could think user growth wasn't the focus.? "?all of its
attention has gone into making the app as simple as possible to
get started with?" [Hint: They did this to improve virality.]?
"All along, he adds, the company's goal has been 'getting every
single smartphone user on our network and getting them to use
WhatsApp.'"Plus, they'd said as much elsewhere as well. From
nearing-a-billion-...:? "Continued growth, it turns out, was
one of the main reasons Koum agreed to the Facebook
acquisition. The deal allowed WhatsApp to concentrate on growth
without worrying too much about revenue."
wpietri - 2 hours ago
To me there's a giant difference between people focused on
growth for the sake of growth and people trying to make a
valuable product that is then rewarded with growth.As an
example, look at Google in the early days. They were mainly
focused on making a great, valuable product. Growth was a
consequence of that. In contrast, look at all the people that
glued gamification, growth hacking, etc, onto mediocre
mediocre products. As with things like MLMs, a growth-first
focus can get business results, but I think it's a very
different mindset than, "Let's make a product people
love."Growth is surely a useful metric for them, and from
that quote, it looks like it's a goal. But a goal is
different, broader thing than what one focuses on. Compare
people who want to be, say, great athletes (and therefore
famous) with people who just want to be famous. The former
will focus on doing the hard work; the latter will be more
inclined to chase self-promotion and attention directly.
maqbool - 9 hours ago
tech stack : Erlang
rdtsc - 7 hours ago
Here is the description of their stack and how Erlang helped
them by Rick Reed at Erlang
Jamshid Mahdavi talking about their stack as well but focusing
on development, testing and shipping code. Some of the stuff
they do will surprise you if you've been at a shop with a large
QA team and deployment pipelines with many
zerr - 4 hours ago
Modified Erlang, as described in one of their talks.
philliphaydon - 10 hours ago
The messaging app no one uses in Asia?
Jagat - 10 hours ago
Are you serious? Everyone and their grandma in India uses
WhatsApp. It's so pervasive that it's almost like the only means
of communication for people with smartphone and internet access.
holydude - 9 hours ago
I guess he meant wechat/qq,kakao and line that are dominant in
other countries. Whatsapp is impressive though.
bernadus_edwin - 9 hours ago
Whatsapp is no 1 market share in every country. If not no 1,
only lost from wechat
freddie_mercury - 9 hours ago
WhatsApp is #1 in 55% of countries. It loses out to Zalo,
Line, imo, Facebook Messenger and Blackberry Messenger in
various countries.I'm pretty sure you made up every claim you
just wrote. Why would you bother doing that?
kinkrtyavimoodh - 7 hours ago
Think he meant within Asia
freddie_mercury - 7 hours ago
It's not true within Asia, either. Japan, Vietnam, Korea,
Malaysia...WhatsApp isn't #1 is any of those places and
neither is WeChat.
ddeck - 9 hours ago
While I agree that Whatsapp is the dominant chat app in Asia,
it's not number 1 everywhere.Notably - as you mentioned -
Wechat in China, but also Kakao in Korea, Zalo in Vietnam and
Line in Japan and Taiwan, where very few people use Whatsapp.
robjan - 8 hours ago
In my experience, most people in Taiwan use both Whatsapp
skinnymuch - 9 hours ago
WhatsApp user base is insanely impressive but it isn't even
no 1 in the country Ycombinator is based in. FBM is. Then it
also isn't no 1 in obvious countries like Korea Japan China
coldtea - 7 hours ago
First of all, hundreds of millions of people use it IN Asia
too.Second, even if they didn't, with 1.3B users it's as large or
larger than any other competitor app globally.Third, they got 16B
for it, while spending like $10 million to make it.So I don't get
where the sneer comes from.Even if the statement wasn't false,
it's not as if use in Asia is the be all end all of success?
robjan - 8 hours ago
I live in Hong Kong and close enough to 100% of people use
WhatsApp. Most businesses display their WhatApp numbers in their
flyers/billboards. Also; every company, sports club, social group
has a massive WhatsApp group which they use to keep people
updated. It can be quite annoying, to be honest, because everyone
is always constantly WhatsApping these groups at every social
rvr_ - 3 hours ago
WhatsApp's success here in Brazil can be attributed to very few
reasons: 1) Worked in every single smartphone (I started using it
on a very resource constrained 2010's Nokia running s60) 2) SMS was
and still is very expensive here. 3) Zero friction to use: it uses
your phone number as your ID and your catalog list as its own.It
was a killer combination, almost everybody here in Brazil uses it,
no matter how young or how old, no matter if it is a rich kid with
the latest IPhone or the poor with the cheapest phone. Even the
telcos had to bend to WhatsApp strength by offering "unlimited
WhatsApp usage" on very limited data plans.
smeroth - 2 hours ago
Regarding its availability, I think it's sad that they dropped
support for Symbian OS. I wonder what made them drop an existing
platform - I would've understood not bothering to develop for a
new one, but not drop an existing.
mattbettinson - 26 minutes ago
I was in Brazil during the WhatsApp ban last summer. It crippled
communication, it was fascinating to see.
std_throwaway - 2 hours ago
Did many switch to Telegram in the last year?
fwdpropaganda - 6 hours ago
I think they're losing focus.I've started seeing cracks in
WhatsApp's UI:- Some times when inserting a single emoji on a
single line, in between pressing send and the message being sent,
the keyboard flickers.- There seems to be a mysterious space
between the Euro symbol and the next character...? That space isn't
displayed on the webapp.- I had a third one that I forgot.Also bad
decisions:- Logs shouldn't be backed-up to Google Drive.- Bloat.
"Status"? No one cares. Why does swiping left allows me to take
pictures? I have a camera app that I like using.- Sharing metadata
with Facebook will be WhatsApp's undoing, mark my words.Signal on
the other hand is being developed by 1 guy and has 5M installs.
drawnwren - 4 hours ago
The social aspects are huge in Asia. How important is it that you
can send an audio message instead of text to you? Again, probably
not at all. In China, it was the single differentiating feature
that led to Wechat's rise. My preferences does not integrate into
482794793792894 - 4 hours ago
WhatsApp's UI is a complete mess. Trying to explain it to my mum
has been near-impossible.Starting a new conversation is done with
an unlabeled FAB on the main-screen. She had no idea that that
was even a button.Then there's four tabs across the top. One for
taking pictures, because the Camera-App and the camera-shortcut
in the conversation view apparently weren't enough, one for
actual chats, one for setting your status, because that's clearly
a similar action to chatting and should therefore be placed in a
tab next to it, and one for calls, no idea why that's not just a
button in the contacts list.Then when you go into the
conversation view, at the bottom you have a generic attach media
icon, a take-picture-and-send-it-shortcut and then separate from
that the send-voice-message button, sharing its place with the
actual send-message button. That might've been clever design at
some point in the past, but now you have those other buttons
right next to the send-voice-message button, so it should share
the look with those as it does a very similar thing.Also, the
unlabeled movie-camera-icon at the top does not mean sending a
video, it means starting a video call. You could sort of guess
that by the location of that button, but that's still not just
obvious, especially not for my mum.Where you can however now send
videos from, is the Emoji-selector. Or well, it's rather GIFs.
Reaction-GIFs, even. Which is why I'm not completely opposed to
them having placed it there instead of in the attach-media-
dialog, but now you have 9 tabs at the top of the Emoji-selector
and three tabs at the bottom (also including the search), as well
as a delete-key, which does not behave like a tab. And two of
these tabs even share the same icon.Moving on, when you mark a
message for selection, you get 5 icons at the top. Two of those
are the exact same arrow-icon just mirrored. One means "Reply",
the other means "Forward". Even knowing that there's a
difference, I couldn't tell you which one means which without
first long-pressing on them, which my mum won't know to do.Also,
one of those 5 icons is a star and when you long-press on it, it
literally says "Star". Not "Favourite", not "Remind me", not
"Mark as Important". I don't even know what it does myself, so I
can't tell you what it should say there.Some of these problems
are hard to avoid or hard to get right, but many of these are
there, because they absolutely did not focus on being a chat
application and instead had to turn the whole thing into
everything and the kitchen sink, and then they're even making the
individual features compete for a spot in the directly visible
GUI, no matter how much it clutters things up, just because they
want people to use them.
helloindia - 6 hours ago
And Stories, what was he thinking?
LambdaComplex - 3 minutes ago
Oh, that's an easy one. They want to get some of Snapchat's
hiq - 5 hours ago
> Sharing metadata with Facebook will be WhatsApp's undoing, mark
my words.It pains me to say this, but almost nobody cares. Many
people don't even know that Facebook owns WhatsApp. Most people
don't care about how privacy-intrusive Messenger (or whatever
Facebook's chat app is called nowadays) is, and WhatsApp is less
intrusive than that (at least the data is e2e encrypted). I don't
see any undoing in sight, unless the competition steps its game
up a whole lot.
newscracker - 4 hours ago
> I don't see any undoing in sight, unless the competition
steps its game up a whole lot.Due to network effects,
competitors can't really have a big impact on reducing WhatsApp
usage unless something scandalous and hugely worrisome (to the
general public) happens with WhatsApp, which then causes many
people to ditch it.I don't use WhatsApp because it's owned by
Facebook. So my following comments here should be taken with a
pinch of salt. Telegram, which I do use, has been on a rapid
pace of development for at least a few years now. If I had to
guess, I'd say that Telegram likely provides a much faster,
better and richer experience compared to WhatsApp. Just a few
features that come to my mind on Telegram that I like and value
- username (no need to reveal one's phone number to others),
@replies to tag users, cross platform/OS and cross device sync,
great search (global as well as within a conversation), and
message editing and deletion after sending. Telegram also has
bots, money transfer and other features. I'm aware of the
comparative security related weaknesses in Telegram, but other
ones (like Signal and Wire, more so Signal) that are better on
the security front have a long way to go to catch up with
Telegram on reliability, features and UX.
skore - 5 hours ago
> "Status"? No one cares.I really didn't care either. Then we
went on a family vacation and instead of sending pictures to
everybody all the time, I put a couple on my status every other
day and told people if they're interested, they can look there.I
must admit it was a fun experience watching people check them out
(you can see who looks at your status) and a few fun
conversations started through it. Definitely a better option than
firehose blasting everybody with your vacation pictures directly.
(Hardly anybody in even my extended family uses facebook, btw.)As
for swiping left: That's just the alternative mode for tab
switching, swiping right gets you to "status". I agree that it
doesn't need a camera tab, though.
ramses0 - 4 hours ago
Stories + Camera + Pictures is all Zuck. (Global Facebook theme:
"Take pictures, tell stories, connect with real
people.")Otherwise the comm's platform will just degenerate into
shitposting, memes, and politics. Make it easier / more natural
to share "real" pictures, not meme-y text.You'll see it
"universally" in all their apps... each done slightly differently
to account for differing user-base habits, but the core idea is
the same... suck oxygen from competitors, and push forward with
tools for OC and not reposts (original content, aka: real-user-
leog7 - 4 hours ago
How much profit increase does a new user bring can i see that?
ikeyany - 10 hours ago
Why do we adhere to the assumption that number of users is the
ultimate metric of software success?I would like to hear from devs
who aren't interested in expanding for the sake of expanding, who
still consider their apps to be very successful.
QML - 1 hours ago
Anytime you have a network, the value is said to be proportional
to the square of the number of connected users. This is known as
Metcalfe's Law. Is it just another vanity measure? I have no
uselessbro - 3 hours ago
Software success is different for the medium you are in B2B or
B2C and then also the market. Chat market is pretty crowded so
you're going for quantity.If I have a B2B tool and it's fairly
niche I might only need 100-200 clients but I charge them more :)
majani - 3 hours ago
Go to Indie Hackers or Basecamp SVN for such material.
bsbechtel - 9 hours ago
You should read Basecamp's material then.
kemiller - 9 hours ago
For a messenging app, with classic network effects, it?s a very
ikeyany - 9 hours ago
That is true. Even outside of messaging apps, I very frequently
see maximum growth as an inherently optimal metric to shoot
amelius - 3 hours ago
With the network effect, if you are above a certain threshold
then suddenly everybody will use your app. So the number of
users is either low, or it is near the maximum number of users.
This means that there is little information in the actual
number of users.
rasz - 8 hours ago
Because users are the product you sell.
pmontra - 8 hours ago
> all of its attention has gone into making the app as simple as
possible to get started withAnd they succeeded. I've been using it
for years and the only new feature I remember is end to end
encryption, despite they probably added new features. I don't care
about status and stories, if they're still there they managed not
to make them in the way of people that only want a SMS alternative.
This is great design.My only wish is that they stay using the very
same chatbot backend of Messenger. WhatsApp is the only major chart
platform without chatbots and given it's the number one in many
countries, included mine, I'm a little tired to tell customers, yes
but your customers will have to use Messenger or Telegram (which
many people don't even know to exist.)
krrrh - 1 hours ago
The other significant feature added was voice chats. The fact
that it's easy to forget or not notice is a strong indicator of
how much humanity has adopted text chatting as the primary mode
of remote communication.
jacalata - 1 hours ago
"Humanity" may be overstating it. In Brazil people very
commonly use WhatsApp to send short spoken messages, for
gumby - 6 hours ago
> ?Images tell a much better story than text,? he says. ?And videos
tell a much better story than images.Seems like the evidence of
WhatsApp itself, not to mention my own experience, is directly
contradictory to this.A video is rarely preferable to an image, and
an image is rarely preferable to a bit of text.
ransom1538 - 9 hours ago
I think i see a pattern:WhatsApp: circumvent cellphone texting
chargesAirbnb: circumvent hotel lawsUber: circumvent taxi
lawsAmazon: circumvent state taxesFacebook: circumvent people's
anonymity onlineGoogle: circumvent copyrights (take people's
content slap on ads)
pjc50 - 8 hours ago
Of those description, whatsapp is the one that's actually the
classic "how capitalism is supposed to work": provide a
comparable or better service for a lower price.Amazon's era of
sales tax evasion is mostly over. And if anyone is monetising
copyright infringement it's not Google (who are somewhat
conscientious about this after some lawsuits) but Tumblr
(literally made of copyright infringing photos)
kevin_thibedeau - 7 hours ago
You mean the Sears-Roebuck era of tax evasion.
pjc50 - 6 hours ago
I meant something very specific:
amazon-w...(The era of Amazon posting things from Jersey to
UK and other destinations for similar reasons ended ages
ago)I was also restricting myself to the question of sales
taxes; tax evasion/avoidance among the internet tech
monoliths is a wider question.
bwb - 9 hours ago
I do not see it, i just see huge value to society with each.
wpietri - 8 hours ago
As an aside, "I don't see X, therefore X is
irrelevant/meaningless" is an argument whose relevance hinges
on the speaker being all-seeing, all-knowing. That's always
seemed an odd take to me. When somebody sees something that I
don't, my goal is to see it.
tedunangst - 9 hours ago
One of those is not like the others.
zeroxfe - 9 hours ago
Or less cynically:WhatsApp: cheap plentiful messagingAirbnb:
cheap plentiful vacation rentalsUber: cheap plentiful
taxisAmazon: cheap plentiful stuffFacebook: ... umm i'm sure
there's something here ...Google: cheap plentiful access to
informationAll of these disrupt the slow-moving complacent
dinosaurs of the past.
hobarrera - 45 minutes ago
It's funny that facebook is amongst the biggest on that list,
when they don't actually seem to provide anything of use to the
wpietri - 8 hours ago
And one of the interesting questions for me is "where does
'cheap' come from"?In the case of WhatsApp, it came from telco
monopolies overcharging for a particular use of data. I'm
certainly ok with that.And I was initially excited about
Airbnb, rideshare, etc, because some of the cheap comes from
finding underutilized resources (an apartment that happened to
be empty for a few weeks, people who were going somewhere
anyhow) and putting them to work.But I find the second-order
effects fascinating. Certainly some of Airbnb and Uber's
cheapness comes from dodging regulation and shifting costs onto
other people."Privatize the gains, socialize the losses" is
undeniably a lucrative business strategy, but it's not one I
particularly want to celebrate.
wyager - 8 hours ago
> "Privatize the gains, socialize the losses" is undeniably a
lucrative business strategy, but it's not one I particularly
want to celebrate.This doesn't describe anything that AirBnB
or Uber are doing.Taxis were expensive and horrible because
governments created artificial scarcity via taxi medallion
systems. They were "socializing the gains", to build off your
aphorism.Uber re-privatized the gains by circumventing this
ridiculous system, and we're all much better for
it."Socializing the losses" refers to groups getting bailed
out on taxpayer dime when they fail, and nothing even
resembling that has happened with AirBnB or Uber.
quadrige - 8 hours ago
Airbnb socializes the costs by transfering them to the flat
owners (cleaning etc.), and Uber to the drivers (fuel,
wyager - 43 minutes ago
That's not what socializing means. Socializing means
using government to redistribute costs to the population
at large via taxes. Entering a voluntary private
agreement where you have some obligations is not
krrrh - 1 hours ago
In terms of Airbnb socializing costs, it's not the flat
owner who is taking on some costs and some profit, but
their neighbours, who bear the costs of noise and reduced
security and community.
coldtea - 7 hours ago
>Uber re-privatized the gains by circumventing this
ridiculous system, and we're all much better for it.Who are
those all? Taxi drivers or the general public? I'd rather
have professional, decently paid, taxi drivers instead of
amateur hour weekend drivers making minimum wage at the
expense of yet another working class job.
chrisco255 - 6 hours ago
Yeah same in the US. Honestly there was an under supply
of cabs. The cars themselves were all uniform and weren't
very clean. Cabbie drivers weren't very well paid ever.
It was often difficult to pay with a credit or debit
card...Uber and Lyft put so much competitive pressure on
the system that cabs are nicer now.
iamd3vil - 7 hours ago
Actually in India, I am really grateful for Uber.
Previously talking to an auto rikshaw or taxi is pretty
painful. They are rude, not reliable, charge a lot if you
don't know the city or area. Also atleast from my talking
to lot of Uber/Ola drivers is that they are earning a lot
compared to their previous taxi service. So to answer
your question, both drivers and public.
devdas - 4 hours ago
Earning more isn't very true now though.
wyager - 6 hours ago
Did you ever use a taxi before uber? Nothing you said is
grounded in reality. Taxi drivers are usually extremely
unprofessional, underpaid, and horrific drivers. It's
actually gotten much better since Uber came around.
coldtea - 5 hours ago
>Did you ever use a taxi before uber?Almost every day.
pjc50 - 5 hours ago
People really need to specify a geographical context for
discussions of Uber; I've no doubt that wyager and
coldtea are both reporting their experiences, but taxis
are necessarily a very local service. Clearly some cities
just have really bad taxis.
twic - 4 hours ago
Finally, sense!In London, Uber is a taxi service. The
people driving for Uber are taxi drivers, with taxi
driver licenses , and the vehicles they drive are
taxis, with taxi licenses . The experience is
therefore much the same. The difference arises from three
things: Uber has a nice app, whereas legacy taxi offices
are a shambles; Uber drivers are desperate to keep their
star rating up, and so might be nicer; Uber subsidises
the whole operation to win market share. The app is the
only significant difference, in my experience.
wpietri - 8 hours ago
Taxis were mostly horrible because of pre-mobile-phone
dispatch systems and expectations. That would have gotten
fixed with or without Uber, although Uber certainly did
push it along.But taxi medallion systems served a number of
purposes. One of the big ones is reasonable regulation of
taxi and driver quality. Another was keeping supply and
demand balanced at a level where people didn't have to cut
corners on things like taxi maintenance just to survive,
which helped keep taxi fleets safe. A third was setting up
a reasonably livable wage for career taxi drivers. A
fourth, at least in some cities, was creating a de-facto
retirement system: since drivers had dibs on medallions,
they could invest and create an asset that would fund their
retirement. A fifth was creating a revenue stream for
cities to that helps pay for regulatory and road costs.
Those are off the top of my head; I'm sure there were
more.Now instead a lot of those costs are borne by other
people. Uber has shifted capital and maintenance costs
entirely away from cab companies and on to random people
desperate enough to drive for Uber. Losses are no longer
the problem of the cab company, but individuals. When those
drivers go bankrupt, society bears the costs. When those
drives use public assistance , society bears the costs.
When they retire and we make up for their lost retirement
savings, society bears the costs. And that's to say nothing
of the direct and indirect societal costs that come from
more traffic.Similar issues come up with Airbnb. E.g., if
you thought you were living next to a neighbor and now are
dealing with an illegal one-unit hotel in your building,
you are experiencing a loss. If the apartment you rent out
is trashed because somebody is running an illegal business
out of it , you experience significant loss. When rent
goes up because people are illegally converting housing to
de-facto hotel stock, that is a socialized loss with
privatized gains.I'm not even saying this is necessarily
worse. As with the bankruptcy system as a whole, it can
sometimes be overall better for society to pay for
something. But we shouldn't sweep this stuff under the
rug. E.g., https://uberpeople.net/threads/you-may-
wyager - 6 hours ago
> One of the big ones is reasonable regulation of taxi
and driver quality.I can only imagine that someone who
rarely or never travels would say something like this.
The main reason I switched to uber is that taxis are
universally horrible, both in terms of drivers and
vehicles. It's gotten much better since uber forced them
to compete, but they still generally suck.So maybe you're
right, and that was the reason for taxi medallions; but
guess what? It didn't work.> Uber has shifted capital and
maintenance costs entirely away from cab companies and on
to random people desperate enough to drive for
Uber.Again, this is something that I can't imagine
hearing from someone who actually uses Ubers on a regular
basis. Most Uber drivers I've talked to love the
platform, and a good portion of them are e.g. students
working a side job, none of them "desperate" people.
wpietri - 3 hours ago
It is frustrating that you ignore the meat of what I
wrote, pick on a couple of things you can object to, and
carry on carping. I'll try one more reply and see how it
goes.> I can only imagine that someone who rarely or
never travels would say something like this.Your
imagination is poor. I've lived on 4 continents and am on
an extended trip even as I write this.We're talking about
different kinds of regulation. You apparently care about
things being shiny; most regulation, though, is about
setting a minimum bar.In the early, high-growth days of
something, regulation is rarely useful because
everybody's on their best behavior. It becomes more
important when things settle down into a relatively
steady state. Then, the incentive to shave nickels and
dimes can come out elsewhere. E.g., taxis face
significant safety inspections and maintenance
requirements because when you use a car as a commercial
vehicle, you put a lot more miles on it and you are more
likely face safety issues.We don't yet see these problems
with UberX because it has only been going for a few
years, and because Uber has a strong incentive to keep
from becoming an obvious disaster until growth slows and
revenue gains come more from exploiting their market
position.> Most Uber drivers I've talked to love the
platformGosh, might they have some incentive to only say
happy things to you? Gosh, might there be some selection
bias in your sample? Gosh, might people not talk about
their pain and fears to random strangers?
hn_throwaway_99 - 8 hours ago
Your list is preposterous. Even if you take all your other items
at face value, you make it sound like "circumventing cellphone
texting charges" is breaking the law or something, as if
ridiculous texting charges are set up for the good of anyone
besides big telcos.
fwdpropaganda - 6 hours ago
It's not preposterous, it's exactly right. SMS text messages
were a something like $15bn industry before whatsapp got
between them and the customers, and that has value.
hammock - 6 hours ago
What about imessage?
helloindia - 5 hours ago
Only on iOS. Doesn't have the same impact as WhatsApp.
wyager - 8 hours ago
You can't just slap the word "circumvent" onto a bunch of vastly
different concepts and expect us to believe they are all similar.
7ewis - 6 hours ago
Sorry but I don't agree with the statistic of the Status feature.>
the company announced that 250 million people?a quarter of all
members?were using it dailyJust had a quick look, and I have around
150 contacts on WhatsApp (mainly the Snapchat/Instagram users age
group) and not a single person has set one of these photo statuses
right now. I only ever recall seeing one once, since the feature
launched.If I open up Snapchat/Instagram I will literally see
hundreds. Unless it's become very popular within a certain country,
or another age group I find it hard to believe that it's reached
anywhere near the size of Snapchat's user base.
fat-chunk - 6 hours ago
Are you in the States? I have heard that Whatsapp is much more
popular outside the US.I live in the UK and everyone I know uses
Whatsapp as their main method of communication while Snapchat
activity seems to have dropped very quickly, perhaps in favour of
Instagram, in my experience anyway.