Skimlinks, the platform which gives publishers greater control over affiliate links and content monetization, releases some major research today which could well concentrate the minds of online “publishers”, and that includes apps, startups and bloggers.
It’s white paper reveals that while editorial or social websites can point a user towards a product they might go on to buy, publishers rarely receive the financial reward for doing so because of problems with the “Last Click” attribution model used in affiliate marketing. Now, while the study is clearly a ploy to get apps and content publishers to run their affiliate programs through Skimlinks rather than through traditional affiliate platforms, the research itself does bear examination.
The study found that content sites were the first place users read about a product 27% of the time, and were in the first quarter of the user’s path to purchase 36% of the time. And when a user started their journey to a purchase with a content site, she or he was a new customer 55% of the time. However, content sites were the Last Click only 6% of the time and 94% of the time, the content affiliate was NOT awarded the sale. Plus, 65% of the time when a content site is the first click in a purchase journey, sparking purchase intent, another channel is the last click, taking all the credit for the sale.
They also found that content sites drove nearly 30% more new customers to brand sites than the average of all other channels. In addition, when consumers started reading about a product on a content site their desire to purchase grew over time: in this case, 9% of the sales would occur within one hour, 16% within 24 hours and 31% happened within 3 days.
In other words, if online marketers shifted their affiliate strategy away from the Last Click attribution model towards online publishers, apps and social sites, they’d basically get faster and more robust sales.
This would be music to the ears of many social and content sites.
Alicia Navarro, CEO and co-founder of Skimlinks says: “The general view is that better attribution is required – that distributes the cost-per-acquisition across multiple parties responsible for creating and driving purchase intent. By only remunerating the last-click publisher, you create the wrong incentives, and end up with a ton of low-value deal/coupon sites, rather than rich apps and content, who have less incentive to link out to merchants because they don’t get paid for top-of-funnel activity via affiliate marketing.”
Ryan Jones of Shop Direct, where the study was based, points out that it’s a two-way street: “Retailers are probably missing out on exposure as commercially savvy content sites tend to promote the brands they earn more from.”
For the research Skimlinks analyzed data provided by Shop Direct’s ecommerce site, Very.co.uk, which spanned all orders between July and November 2012 that included a click from a Skimlinks content site.
Skimlinks clients include Conde Nast, Gawker, AOL Europe, WordPress, Hearst Digital, Haymarket Consumer Media, Telegraph Media Group, among others.
Skimlinks’ main competitors are the Google-backed VigLink and the seed-backed startup Yieldkit. This year it completed an undisclosed growth financing round led by Greycroft Partners and others.
Berlin-based 6Wunderkinder is adding more features to its new Wunderlist Pro paid tier of service today, answering the number one request of its users with the addition of file upload and sharing. Users can add files to tasks and synchronize them across devices and team members for collaboration purposes. That, along with newly introduced pricing plans for Wunderlist Pro aimed at businesses, should help growth of the revenue-driving service skyrocket, says 6Wunderkinder founder and CEO Christian Reber.
“We had large corporations contacting us the first day we launched Wunderlist pro and ask us ‘Can we use this in our business, what can I do to sign up my entire team of 250 people?,’ etc.” he said in an interview. “That was exciting for us but unfortunately we didn’t have the business accounts yet, we didn’t have the dashboard to manage those people.” This change will help them sign on these new customers who have just been waiting for an opportunity to get on the platform.
The changes today aren’t only aimed at business customers big and small, however; Reber says that file sharing is something that should appeal across its user base, and drive up the value perception even for individual Wunderlist users who have been considering the paid option. “We think that files is a feature that everyone wants, and we think that we will see a very high conversion rate of free users to premium users also, because it’s a feature that everyone just asked us to build,” Reber explained.
Reber says they “quadrupled” their own internal expectations for new user growth with the introduction of Wunderlist Pro. The entire user base of nearly 5 million Wunderlist users (including free and paid) is around 29 percent U.S.-based, he said, but 40 percent of the paid customers come from the States. Over 40 percent of paying customers are businesses, too, which is why the business plan rollout is designed to unlock more of that potential market.
Ultimately, 6Wunderkind’s strategy is to become just as essential and widespread a productivity tool as a Dropbox or an Evernote, Reber tells me. Those have validated their business model, he says, though they target a completely different market. The aim is to grow from a simple to-do list to more full-featured collaboration software, while retaining focus on both individuals and business customers, instead of just one or the other.
Reber wasn’t ready to share specifics about conversion rates on Wunderlist Pro just yet, but he says that 6Wunderkinder does plan to be much more transparent about that kind of data with future releases, since it believes there’s value in showing other startups how it’s doing building a business, so expect to see more granular detail about how Wunderlist’s monetization strategy is working out in the near future.
According to an internal memo sent this morning to employees, top Skype exec Mark Gillett is leaving Microsoft. Sources said that Gillett – who is corporate VP for Skype, as well as its Lync communications product – has another job he is headed to, although the memo did not mention where he was going. Gillett, who is responsible for Skype’s product, engineering and operations worldwide, has been with the online telephony company for several years, including before Microsoft bought it. Previous to that, he worked at private equity giant Silver Lake in Europe.
Our major conference is coming to Europe. Disrupt Europe will be in late October, and will be held in Berlin. Therefore it’s only right that we include some of the biggest names in that startup scene, and we’ll be progressively announcing our speaker line-up over the next few weeks. We have already announced an amazing number already – some of the biggest names from the Valley and Europe – and today we’re adding to that with one of Europe’s hottest entrepreneurs, Alexander Ljung, co-founder of Soundcloud.
Alexander is co-founder and CEO of Soundcloud, the audio platform that enables anybody to upload, record, promote and share their sounds on the web. Since its launch in 2008, Alexander has been responsible for all aspects of the site’s strategic vision and business development. Under his leadership, Soundcloud has quickly gained a reputation for being the number one platform available for audio creators to share, broadcast, track and promote their sounds.
Ljung has also become a sometime investor, backing Loopcam and Tripbirds most recently as an Angel. He also picked up the award for Best International Startup this year at The Crunchies. Your can check out his personal Soundcloud channel here.
Meanwhile, let us remind you that we’ll also have a Startup Alley during Disrupt, where companies can show of there wares to potential investors and partners.
To get an idea of it check out these videos from one of the days at our most recent Disrupt event, in New York, or this video with clips from other Alleys past.
Disrupt Europe will take place from October 26-29 (Hackathon on 26-27; Main Event on 28-29) and there is lots more info here.
If you would like information on sponsorship opportunities, please contact our sponsorship team here email@example.com or get more info here.
The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset isn’t even available for consumers to buy yet but here comes the cut-price competition… While the Rift development kit will set you back $300 – and still requires a PC to do the gaming horse-work – vrAse, a soon-to-be-launched-on-Kickstarter project, is approaching virtual reality from another direction. It wants to turn your existing smartphone into a pair of wearable virtual reality/3D specs. And do so for as little as 48/$75.
Since high-end smartphones are powerful computers in their own right, and come furnished with cameras front and back, why not just stick your phone right on your face, right? Provided you don’t mind looking like Mr Phone Face, of course. vrAse is one part Oculus Rift, one part Google Glass, one part sci-fi ski goggles – with gaming, 3D movie-watching and augmented reality use-cases envisaged by its creators, assuming they can get developers to make the apps to go with their goggles.
At launch there’s clearly not going to be a lot of ready to rock apps but they say they will offer demo content to show off vrAse’s AR and 3D gaming capabilities. Plus, any movies already made for 3D can also be downloaded or streamed in Side by Side format (SBS) for viewing on vrAse. And films and games can also apparently be converted to SBS for viewing on the device.
vrAse is effectively a toughened smartphone case, attached to a pair of wearable goggles. Your existing smartphone slides inside the case so you’re looking directly at its screen through vrAse’s dual lenses – which generate the 3D/immersion effect. And that’s pretty much it. Compatible smartphones at launch are the iPhone 5, HTC One, Xperia Z, Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 2. In future the creators say they will make it compatible with any smartphone.
How immersive will vrAse be? That’s the key question. And the answer will depend (in part) on the smartphone screen you’re pairing it with. The higher the screen res, the better looking the picture will presumably be. Beyond that, vrAse’s creators aren’t going into detail about what sort of field of vision to expect from vrAse so it’s hard to say how it will stack up against the likes of Oculus Rift. It is looking considerably cheaper to buy, however, so set your expectations accordingly. Update: vrAse says the range of vision is configurable but currently the device offers more than 105 degrees of binocular vision field.
vrAse’s makers are hoping to raise 55,000 via Kickstarter. If they hit their target they’re aiming to ship to backers in February. Their crowdfunding campaign kicks off on Saturday.
In preparation for TechCrunch Disrupt Europe I’ve been running around the Continent for more than a month, hitting the Balkans for a huge tour and Warsaw for an amazing meet-up. Now I’m back for a meet up+pitch-off with our own Mike Butcher and the rest of the UK team. Tickets are free so grab yours now.
There will be great networking opportunities, and a battle to the death to see which entrepreneurs can dazzle and excite in under 60 seconds.
LONDON INFO HERE
- Participants interested in competing in the pitch-off will have 60 seconds to explain why their startup is awesome. These products must currently be in stealth or private beta.Application form for London is here or simply enter below.
ONLY FILL OUT **ONE** APPLICATION.
Office hours details
- Office Hours are for companies selected for the Pitch-off, these 15 minute 1 on 1 talks will be held on the day of the event. We’ll hear about your company, give feedback, and talk about the best pitch strategy for the 60-second rapid-fire competition. More information on Office Hours will follow in a post on TechCrunch.
- We will have 3 judges who will decide on the winners of the PitchOff. First place will receive a table in Startup Alley at the upcoming TechCrunch Disrupt Europe in Berlin. Second Place will receive 2 tickets to the upcoming TechCrunch Disrupt. Third Place will receive 1 ticket to the upcoming TechCrunch Disrupt.
Venue in London
- Ground Floor – CAMPUS LONDON, 4-5 Bonhill Street, London EC2A 4BX
- Event runs from 3 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. on Monday July 29th, 2013
- We will de-camp to a local bar afterwards, sponsors welcome to support (email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Remember we are holding our Berlin meetup later this week so if you don’t want to wing your way North we’ll come to you. Application form for Berlin is here.
Questions about the events? Please contact: email@example.com.
How To Become A Sponsor
- For more information on sponsorship packages and to discuss becoming a sponsor, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
And whether you’re an investor, entrepreneur, dreamer or tech enthusiast, we want to see you at the event, so we can give you free beer and hear your thoughts. Come one, come all.
Today Publicis and Omnicom, two of the “big five” global advertising and marketing agencies, announced a “merger of equals”, in which the two will combine to create the world’s biggest agency, with some $22.7 billion in annual revenues and a market capitalization of $35.1 billion. The pair say that the new Publicis Omnicom Group initially will be jointly run by the two existing CEOs, John Wren from Omnicom and Maurice Levy from Publicis, and headquartered both in New York and Paris, with a holding company HQ in the Netherlands.
The companies will trade publicly as ONC (currently Omnicom’s symbol) on both the NYSE and Euronext.
The confirmation – after reports of the deal swirled earlier this week – was delivered today in a press conference on a hot Sunday summer afternoon in Paris – a slightly oxymoronic setting for a megadeal.
“For many years, we have had great respect for one another as well as for the companies we each lead. This respect has grown in the past few months as we have worked to make this combination a reality. We look forward to co-leading the combined company and are excited about what our people can achieve together for our clients and our shareholders,” the co-CEOs said together.
If Google is the world’s biggest digital advertising network, the merger of these two will create an advertising megacorp that will be the world’s biggest provider of advertising to feed that machine. It will be twice the size of its nearest rival, WPP. While there are two other agencies in addition to these, Interpublic and Havas, they are significantly smaller. This will lead, inevitably, to antitrust scrutinty from regulators. Today, the companies, both already global operators, noted that they will need regulatory approval in 41-46 countries.
“We are not expecting anything that would prevent us from going forward,” Wren said at the press conference (according to Reuters). “We are confident that we will get regulatory approvals,” Levy also noted.
It may also spur more merger activities among other players.
Without a doubt, the history of the ad industry has been one of ongoing consolidation, and in that regard this seems like a logical and inevitable step. Some of the agencies that were once rivals and will now coexist under one owner will include BBDO, Saatchi & Saatchi, DDB, Leo Burnett, Razorfish, Publicis Worldwide, Fleishman-Hillard, DigitasLBi, Ketchum, StarcomMediaVest, OMD, BBH, Interbrand and ZenithOptimedia, with clients covering some of the world’s biggest buyers of advertising, including mobile carriers like Verizon and AT&T, drinks companies like Coca-Cola, financial services companies like Visa, and many more. The companies say they will have “efficiences” of $500 million as a result of the deal; whether that will lead to layoffs or closures has yet to be announced.
But while this plays to type in some regards, the world of advertising and marketing is also up against growth of other disruptive forces, for example the change in consumer habits brought about by the internet. That has taken the rug out from some of the more traditional formats for advertising, such as print media, and pushed more spend towards digital formats like the internet and mobile advertising.
These are still relatively smaller players in the wider advertising ecosystem: worldwide there will be about $519 billion spent in marketing and advertising this year across all mediums. But if you break out a newer area like mobile advertising, it’s expected to be just under $9 billion this year globally, according to the IAB.
Still, the smart money sees the writing on the wall. TV advertising dominates today, Nielsen noted earlier this week, but it has grown by just 3.5% so far this year while Internet has gone up by 26.3%. The IAB estimated that mobile will go up by 83% this year.
Publicis and Omnicom’s rival WPP projects that by 2018, 40% of ad spend that it oversees will come from digital. That is driving a number of acquisitions and investments, but it is also fuelling the rise of a new kind of advertising company focused around advertising technology (ad tech) to better measure, leverage and distribute ads in these new mediums. The rise of digital media is also dovetailing with the growth of advertising and digital opportunities in emerging markets like China, South America, India and so on.
All of this plays strongly into the technology and startup ecosystem, both in terms of the companies that are growing up around these innovations, but also because such a large part of the tech world is built around the consumer internet, and much of the consumer internet is built on free, ad-based models. Consolidation of players like Omnicom and Publicis speaks to a growing desire to better scale and consolidate on the kinds of returns at can be made from newer platforms like the internet.
Mozilla, The Late-To-The-Mobile-Party Lumbering Dinosaur Of Open, Is Playing Carriers’ Pet To Make Firefox OS Fly
The first mobile devices running Firefox OS are out in the market. It’s too early to say how well Mozilla’s fledgling open web HTML5 mobile platform is doing in its bid to steer budget buyers away from Android gateway devices. Which is, make no mistake, exactly the hope of the carriers throwing their weight and influence behind this alternative open platform.
A raft of carriers signed up to support Firefox OS at its launch announcement back in February. According to Mozilla 17 carriers are currently committed to distributing devices (namely: Am rica M vil, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Three Group, KDDI, KT, MegaFon, Qtel, SingTel, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia Group, Telef nica, Telenor, TMN and VimpelCom). So far only a handful of devices have gone on sale, including the ZTE Open and Alcatel One Touch. More are apparently due to be announced this year.
It is, to reiterate, the very beginning of the Firefox OS project. Telef nica started selling the first consumer handset running FFOS in Spain at the start of this month – the $90 ZTE Open. It says it won’t be breaking out sales for individual models but asked about early sales indications, a spokesman said: “The team is very happy with how it’s going in Spain.”
But it’s not just carriers putting FFOS phones in the market. Being an open platform there is scope for smaller players to get involved, such as hardware startup Geeksphone, which put out two Firefox developer preview devices (called Keon and Peak) back in April, selling out within hours. Geeksphone has now followed those up by announcing its first consumer-focused device, called the Peak+.
The Peak+ is $196 (excluding taxes) on pre-order, with a slightly higher price tag planned when it goes on sale in September. “Firefox developer preview is no longer where we want to be. We are evolving towards a consumer market,” Geeksphone CEO Javier Ag era tells TechCrunch. “Geeksphone has always been selling to any customers and users since its foundation four years and a half ago… [Initially] we went for the developer preview branding because we wanted to target those early adopters, those early users who were building up the ecosystem, and we felt that was a natural thing to do.
“Now we’re evolving to a more consumer-oriented perspective – back to our origins. We will keep of course a developer-friendly brand, with some unique characteristics, but target everybody.”
So far, so good – for Firefox OS and for the diversity of the mobile ecosystem. Even Android fans can probably get behind the idea that another open mobile platform offering choice is A Good Thing. Some may even concede that challenging Google’s ability to dominate and control the mobile ecosystem may be ultimately beneficial, too (assuming Firefox OS can build momentum, of course). Diversity can foster innovation, after all.
But it’s not all good. Mozilla is not universally liked in the open-source space. Quite the opposite. The organisation has a reputation for “viciously defending its brand,” as MeeGo startup Jolla’s Marc Dillon put it in thinly veiled comments earlier this year at the Mobile World Congress tradeshow – where Firefox OS was being very publicly endorsed by carrier club, the GSMA. Dillon shared the stage with Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker and Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth in a panel discussion about open platforms, and the underlying tensions between the smaller players and the grand old dinosaur of open were palpable.
Mozilla has a reputation for being slow, lumbering and having teeth. Much like its dinosaur logo. You could describe it as the Microsoft of the open-source movement. Which doesn’t sound like the kind of Android-challenging champion the mobile world needs right now. And yet Mozilla’s corporate attitude and approach have clearly made a lot of (equally conservative) carriers comfortable about working with it – which is perhaps the only way Android can be challenged at this point, being as it owns circa 70 percent of the global smartphone market.
Here’s the latest example of Mozilla’s corporate ethos in action. Last week the organisation contacted publications (including TechCrunch) that had reported on Geeksphone’s new “Firefox OS” Peak+ device to request a “correction.” Mozilla’s email said the Peak+ is not “Firefox OS certified” so cannot be described as a Firefox OS phone. Rather it should be described as being “based on Boot to Gecko” technology – the initial moniker of Mozilla’s Firefox OS project.
Here’s the full statement Mozilla requested accompany the Peak+ news:
Today, Geeksphone announced the pre-sale of a new device based on Boot to Gecko technology. We want to clarify that this new phone that was announced is based on Boot to Gecko technology with pre-release software, but is not a certified or supported Firefox OS device.
As I noted in an update to the TechCrunch story, this is an issue of brand control. Technically speaking, Geeksphone has not yet jumped through the certification hoops to achieve FFOS certification. But it’s highly likely that that’s because it’s not possible for Geeksphone to do that yet. The startup declined to comment about the certification issue when contacted by TechCrunch, noting that they are partners with Mozilla and have been working closely with the organisation to build the Peak+.
From the outside looking in, it’s hard not to conclude that, despite this apparent partnership, Geeksphone is being treated as a second-class citizen vs. the carriers backing FFOS. After all, Telef nica’s first FFOS device (the ZTE Open) does carry the Firefox OS brand. So it is possible to gain certification at this early stage – at least, if you are involved with one of the carriers backing Mozilla’s open-platform play.
It’s possible that Geeksphone, with its more limited and therefore targeted resources, hasn’t been able to divert the required effort to gaining certification yet. But Mozilla’s response, when I asked for clarification about its Firefox certification guidelines, suggests otherwise – since they revealed they are still finalising their processes. Which in turn suggests the Peak+ branding bottleneck is being caused by the lumbering dinosaur, not the nimble startup. (Case in point: it took Mozilla’s PR one whole day to obtain these very partial answers to my certification questions.)
Q. What do device makers have to do to achieve certification as a Firefox OS device?
A. Because each device maker is a separate entity, the details of Firefox OS certification vary slightly from one to another. We will be publishing more details about how future partners can become Firefox OS certified soon.
Q. Do Firefox OS certified devices have access to specific apps that non-certified devices don’t? Such as the Firefox Marketplace?
A. As conversations with interested parties continue, we are finalizing our guidelines for device makers.
- Mozilla (apparently) hasn’t decided what FFOS certification entails – therefore it’s being slow
- But Mozilla is also being inconsistent because carrier supported devices have been able to obtain the Firefox OS brand stamp
- Ergo, Mozilla is playing favourites – specifically favouring its carrier supporters
Really, those conclusions should not surprise, given Mozilla’s late-to-the-mobile-market position and reputation for cumbersome development. It’s trying to turn those weaknesses into strengths by cosying up to the only folk likely to laud them. No wonder so many carriers are so keen to work with this open-source alternative. Mozilla’s branding strictures and usage enforcement are corporate modus operandi that will reassure the conservative telcos they are treading familiar ground with Firefox OS; that this open ecosystem is nonetheless policed to order, not encouraged towards anything-goes chaos.
Mozilla is demonstrating its willingness to back carriers’ desire to control and to own in order to differentiate itself from Android’s free-for-all which has ended up undermining telcos’ control of users and accelerating the decline of their traditional revenue streams. Fast-tracking carrier-backed devices to the front of the FFOS branding certification queue is just symptomatic of that underlying pro-telco strategy.
Mozilla has made something of a Faustian pact to try to establish an alternative open mobile ecosystem. And with Android so rampantly dominant, that may have been a necessary trade-off to give FFOS a fleeting chance. But it still leaves something of a bitter taste to anyone who roots for David over Goliath.
As the reality of the extent and invasiveness of the security services’ dragnet surveillance programs hits home, the pro-privacy movement has been cranking up its own ideas to counter spy-tech with pro-privacy tech. The Lavabit founder’s recent Kickstarter for a secure end-to-end open source encrypted email project called Dark Mail is one example.
Today, here’s another: meet Blackphone, a smartphone that’s been designed to enable secure, encrypted communications, private browsing and secure file-sharing.
The project is a joint venture between Silent Circle – which shuttered its own encrypted email service last summer in order to preemptively avoid having to comply with government requests to provide data – and Spanish smartphone startup Geeksphone, which has previously made more standard Android handsets, and more recently has been building phone hardware for Mozilla’s open web standards HTML5-based Firefox OS.
The pair said today they have established a new Switzerland-based joint venture to collaborate on technology projects, with Blackphone set to be the inaugural product. They describe the phone as “the world’s first smartphone placing privacy and control directly in the hands of its users”.
Despite that grand claim, Blackphone is by no means the first encrypted smartphone. For example, back in September TC’s John Biggs and I paid a visit to a German based secure phone maker, GSMK Cryptophone, which has been in the encrypted telephony business for 10 years.
Another recent project to build a phone designed with security, encryption and identity protection in mind is the Quasar IV, which is using a hybrid Android/Linux and Quatrix mobile OS called QuaOS as the foundation for secure telephony.
But while Blackphone is not the only secure phone game in town, there’s no doubt that last year’s revelations about security agencies’ consumer electronics and services powered data-harvesting habits – revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – have accelerated interest in security and privacy. The fallout from Snowden’s big reveal is clearly attracting new players to what could potentially become a much more mainstream space.
Hence, presumably, the Blackphone makers’ reasoning about now being the right time to build a pro-privacy phone that doesn’t carry the stench of security geek. The tone and nomenclature of their announcement very much feels targeted at a mainstream smartphone user, not a security specialist.
Their press release includes a statement from Phil Zimmermann, the creator of PGP, who is also involved in the project, which sets this tone.
“I have spent my whole career working towards the launch of secure telephony products,” he says. “Blackphone provides users with everything they need to ensure privacy and control of their communications, along with all the other high-end smartphone features they have come to expect.”
Blackphone’s website is also light on deep-dive security terminology which could alienate an average phone buyer. Instead there’s a slick marketing video and explainer text that takes a broad-brushstrokes approach to fleshing out the device.
Using the Blackphone is described as “the trustworthy precaution any connected worker should take, whether you’re talking to your family or exchanging notes on your latest merger & acquisition”.
The site goes on to add:
Blackphone is unlocked and works with any GSM carrier. Performance benchmarks put it among the top performers from any manufacturer.
It has the features necessary to do all the things you need, as well as all the things you want, while maintaining your privacy and security and giving you the freedom to choose your carrier, your apps, and your location.
The tools installed on Blackphone give you everything you need to take ownership of your mobile presence and digital footprints, and ensure nobody else can watch you without your knowledge.
You can make and receive secure phone calls; exchange secure texts; exchange and store secure files; have secure video chat; browse privately; and anonymize your activity through a VPN.
Details of Blackphone’s pro-privacy feature-set are relatively scant at this point, perhaps because they want to avoid it feeling too complex, but they do say it is being built atop a “security-oriented” Android build called PrivatOS.
Blackphone is due to be previewed at the Mobile World Congress tradeshow in Barcelona next month where the JV will also be taking pre-orders. There’s no word on exactly when the phone will ship to buyers, as yet.
It’s worth noting that making an encrypted phone call – or sending an encrypted email – requires the use of two encrypted devices/clients: both your own phone/email client and the phone/email client of the person you’re talking to. So the Blackphone’s security credentials will inevitably depend on how you use the device – who you place calls to and which device they use; who you email and which email client they use; and so on.
However, as with the Dark Mail initiative, the more encrypted products that are out in the market, the greater the number of secure channels that can be used for communications.
So the more mainstream security technology can become, and the more average Joes who can be encouraged to use locked-down products, the greater the chance for everyone’s privacy to survive the onslaught from overreaching governments.
[Introduction to Blackphone from BLACKPHONE on Vimeo.]
The European Commission has accepted book publisher Penguin’s proposals to scrap all of its existing ebook agency agreements – including its deal with Apple, most importantly – and refrain from adopting any similar partnerships for the next five years.
Penguin, along with competitors Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hachette, Holtzbrinck, were all criticized for working with Apple and damaging the European ebook market by switching to an agency model.
This allowed the publisher, rather than the retailer, to set the sticker price seen by consumers in digital storefronts. Given that Apple takes a 30 percent cut of each sale regardless, this suited both the publishers and iBookstore vendor just fine. It also prevented other retailers, such as Amazon or Google, from undercutting these prices.
It differs from the wholesale model, whereby retailers are able to negotiate with publishers for the general rights to an ebook and then sell it at whatever price they like. The European Commission has concluded that Apple may have been trying to control ebook prices – a breach of antitrust rules in the European Union.
Under the new agreement, a two year “cooling-off” period will be instigated, by which all retailers will be able to discount Penguin ebook titles as they see fit.
The book publisher is also banned from using the so-called Most Favored Nation (MFN) clause – which meant publishers had to price ebooks on Apple’s services at least as low as the cheapest price offered by any other retailer – in all necessary renegotiations.
Joaqu n Almunia, Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy, said: “After our decision of December 2012, the commitments are now legally binding on Apple and all five publishers including Penguin, restoring a competitive environment in the market for ebooks”.
A similar antitrust case in the United States came to a close in May this year when Pearson, Penguin’s parent publisher, confirmed it would pay $75 million in consumer damages. A US federal judge has since ruled that Apple truly did conspire to raise the price of ebooks across the market.
Apple has since confirmed that it plans to appeal the decision. “Apple did not conspire to fix ebook pricing and we will continue to fight against these false accusations,” company spokesman Tom Neumayr said. “When we introduced the iBookstore in 2010, we gave customers more choice, injecting much needed innovation and competition into the market, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry.
“We’ve done nothing wrong and we will appeal the judge’s decision.”
Image Credit: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images