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July 21, 2018

Delhi flight attendant suicide case: Friend claims deceased was mulling divorce

Delhi/India/Politics by

Anissia Batra, who worked with a German airline, allegedly committed suicide in south Delhi’s Panchsheel Park on Friday.

Surprise! Top sites still fail at encouraging non-terrible passwords

You would think that Amazon, Reddit, Wikipedia and other highly popular websites would by now tell you that “password1” or “hunter2” is a terrible password — just terrible. But they don’t. A research project that has kept tabs on the top sites and their password habits for the last 11 years shows that most provide only rudimentary password restrictions and do little to help users.

Steven Furnell, of the University of Plymouth, first did a survey of websites’ password practices in 2007, repeating the process in 2011 and 2014 — and then once more this week. His conclusions?

It is somewhat disappointing to find that the overall story in 2018 remains largely similar to that of 2007. In the intervening years, much has been written about the failings of passwords and the ways in which we use them, yet little is done to encourage or oblige us to follow the right path.

Although the university writeup notes that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo had the best password practices and Amazon, Reddit and Wikipedia had the worst, it diplomatically declined to go into specifics. Fortunately, I acquired the paper for myself and am prepared to name and shame.

The top 10 unique sites in English (as measured by Alexa; the lineup has changed somewhat over the years) were evaluated: Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, Reddit, Yahoo, Amazon, Twitter, Instagram, Microsoft Live and Netflix.

The biggest failure is inarguably Amazon, which combines truly inadequate password controls with an incredibly valuable and personal service. Wikipedia and Reddit had fewer restrictions, but neither protects such important data; an Amazon account being accessed by malicious actors is a far greater danger.

Amazon accepted practically every password Furnell threw at it, including repeats of the username, the user’s own name and, of course, the all-time classic, “password.” (Netflix and Reddit also took “password,” though Wikipedia didn’t. Wikipedia, on the other hand, accepted single-character passwords like “b.”)

Even sites that do have restrictions, like requiring multiple character types or rejecting commonly used passwords, seldom explain themselves. Presented with no feedback at the start, users creating an account may enter a password, only to be told it must be longer… and then, again, that it can’t have a certain word (like the user’s last name)… and then, again, that it must include special characters. And some sites have different requirements when you sign up than when you set a new one!

Why not lay it all out at the start? And for that matter, why not explain the reasoning behind it? It’d be trivial to make a little info box saying “We require X because Y.” But hardly any of the top sites do.

The one bit of light in this dreary report is that two-factor authentication — arguably more important than a good password — is in fact making strides, and some of the worst offenders in password policy (looking at you, Amazon) allow it. Now they just have to move it off of SMS and onto a secure authenticator app.

The final word is pretty the same as it’s been for the last decade:

The basic argument here – as with the earlier versions of the study and the others referenced – is for provision of user-facing security to be matched with accompanying support. Passwords are a good example because we know that many people are poor at using them. And yet the lesson continues to go unheeded and we continue to criticise the method and blame the users instead.

Two-factor is a start, but:

Users arguably require more encouragement – or indeed obligation – to use them. Otherwise, like passwords themselves, they will offer the potential for protection, while falling short of doing so in practice.

In other words, quit talking about how bad passwords are and do something about it!

News Source = techcrunch.com

Walmart acquiring Shopify is no longer a laughable idea

As competition between Walmart and Amazon intensifies, the acquisition of Shopify’s merchant marketplace, may be the boost that the Walton family’s juggernaut needs to move ahead.

In May this year, Amazon published its small business impact report in which it disclosed that there are 20,000 small and medium sized businesses that make a million dollars or more in sales on its platform

Amazon boasts about 5 million third-party sellers on its marketplace today, with an estimated 100,000 sellers hopping onboard every month.

At 100,000 sellers a month over the next 5 years, there could be an estimated 11 Million sellers on Amazon’s marketplace by 2023.

E-commerce intelligence firm Marketplace Pulse estimates Amazon’s Gross Merchandise Volume or GMV for 2018 at $280B, set to triple over a 5-year period, concluding that the marketplace contribution to Amazon’s GMV would surpass 70% by 2023.

Combined with Prime and FBA, this high-level picture sounds like Amazon can afford to not worry about its marketplace. But an uneasy trend seems to simmer within its 5 million cohort. Looking at Feedvisor’s survey of Amazon marketplace merchants from 2017 and 2018 and some interesting trends surface. 

Marketplace merchants are looking to keep their advertising costs low and are worried about rising fees one the Seattle-based company’s e-commerce platform. They’re also concerned about competition coming from Amazon as it continues to launch its own brands. Indeed, 60% of merchants told Feedvisor in 2017 that they planned to diversify to other channels. Walmart emerged as the most preferred channel, followed very closely by Shopify and eBay. 

About 10% of those surveyed in 2017 was making a million dollars or more in annual sales. A year on, this figure is up by 90% to 19%. One can tell where these first-time millionaires are heading when we see that Walmart today supports 9% more Amazon merchants than it did in 2017.

In its pursuit for parity with Amazon, Walmart has clearly overtaken eBay in merchant preference. The latter supports 12% fewer Amazon merchants today than it did in 2017 and is closely trailed by Shopify and Jet.com.

Shopify is one of Canada’s biggest tech success stories.

Can Walmart afford to be conservative?

Walmart’s marketplace has 18,000 sellers, 36% of whom make at least $2 Million in sales – all of whom sell on Amazon!

With its e-commerce business struggling to see gains since 2016 when it acquired Jet.com, Walmart has recently been making the waves with its string of partnerships and acquisitions. In May, it announced that it was partnering with Postmates and Doordash for expanding its last mile delivery of online grocery.

In what seemed to be a rebuttal to Amazon’s private label push, Walmart acquired Bonobos, Shoebuy, Modcloth, and Moosejaw. It also announced in May that it was adding 4 fashion brands to its kitty.

While it continues to be hard-fisted about who sells on its marketplace, a trend seems to be emerging wherein Walmart is not just competing with Amazon but is also striving to bring reputed retail brands under its banner and attempting to re-shape consumer perception of it being low-price and inexpensive.

Walmart may be second in line to Amazon but it has its cons. Its process to qualify a third-party seller is more stringent. Sellers need to request an invitation to join and must fulfill certain quality requirements pertaining to product mix, price point, and fulfillment.

Unable to differentiate among millions of sellers on Amazon and faced with rigorous screening from Walmart, the best bet for Amazon’s third-party sellers to diversify seems to be to set up their own store.

They can either create their own website or set up a store on an e-commerce platform like Magento or Shopify .

Shopify – The network is bigger than the software

Shopify, the e-commerce platform for small and medium-sized businesses isn’t too far behind eBay and Walmart in merchant preference.

A seller can set up her own store on Shopify’s basic version for as little as $29 a month. It also has a premium version for a $2000 monthly fee called Shopify Plus aimed at Enterprise-level sellers and wholesalers. An estimated 3600 merchants have already bought into Shopify Plus and among them are popular logos such as Tesla, Kylie Cosmetics, and Budweiser.

Shopify has an estimated 600,000 merchants on its e-commerce platform and has seen its merchant base grow annually in excess of 100% since 2014.

What particularly makes Shopify attractive – and gives it an upper hand over marketplaces like Walmart – is its third-party network of developers, photographers, digital marketers and designers that merchants can leverage for their business. Shopify today is a more turnkey platform than Walmart! Of all digital commerce revenues in 2017 – totaling $2.3 trillion, Shopify sellers’ GMV was 1% worth $26 billion, which shows just how important Shopify is next to Walmart.

Analysts are betting big for the next 10 years despite its recent volatility in stock price.

Around the same time when Amazon published its small business impact report, Shopify announced that it would open a brick-and-mortar store in the US by the end of summer this year to provide in-person advice and consulting services to its customers.

Such a showroom would also provide Shopify the opportunity to cross-sell its hardware products to merchants who are looking to go brick-and-mortar.

For these reasons, Shopify will continue to attract more merchants and will become more important in the days to come and as it does, it will get noticed by the big players – Amazon & Walmart.

Shopify and Amazon share history

Shopify partnered with Amazon in 2015 as its preferred migration partner for webstore merchants. Many Shopify merchants already sell on Amazon; they have the option to use Amazon’s FBA and Payment gateway. And more than 50% of Shopify’s 3600 odd ‘Plus’ merchants sell on Amazon as opposed to less than 1% who sell on Walmart.

Clearly, the preference for Walmart.com is abysmal among Shopify merchants.

At a market cap of $17B, Shopify can be acquired by Amazon without much hassle. While this may not be on Amazon’s cards considering the call it took 4 years ago to shut its webstore business and the ease with which it gets inbound interest from the long tail e-commerce companies (which forms 90% of the independent e-commerce companies base), Walmart should start figuring in Shopify into its strategic plans.

When your competition is Amazon, nothing is enough

In its SEC filings for the fiscal year ended January 2018, Walmart said that it is looking to increase investments in grocery and technology. Much of Walmart’s moves in these spaces continue to come across as reactive responses to Amazon.

  • Recently, in its overseas battle against Amazon, Walmart acquired a 77% stake in India’s ‘Flipkart’ for $16B.
  • In what could be seen as a long overdue answer to AWS, it revealed its own cloud network
  • It has also kickstarted efforts to take on Amazon Go. With FBA and Prime seeming invincible, Walmart will never be able to catch up to the giant. But, it can prove to be a serious rival if it decides to acquire Shopify.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Why Shopify?

The non-Amazon destination

Today, eBay has more Amazon merchants on its platform than Walmart does. However, Walmart is picking up pace and is evidently becoming more attractive.

Between 2017 and 2018, the percentage of Amazon sellers on eBay reduced from 65% to 52%. At the same time, Walmart and Jet.com combined saw an increase from 17% to 25%.

Given 2018’s stats, if Shopify were to become Walmart-owned, about 42% of Amazon’s sellers today, would be selling via either Walmart, Jet or Shopify. This would bring the difference between eBay and Walmart (Jet & Shopify included) down to 10%, in turn narrowing the competition gap between Walmart and Amazon.

Interestingly, there were rumors in 2017 that eBay was planning to acquire Shopify. The stocks reacted positively but there were no signs that eBay was interested in such an acquisition.

The perfect complement

The fundamental difference between Walmart and Shopify is that the former is a marketplace while the latter is an e-commerce platform.

It is hard for a seller with no distinct brand identity to differentiate herself on a marketplace unlike on a platform. As revenue channels, they are both necessary for a merchant’s omnichannel strategy.

While Amazon will rule the roost in the marketplace arena for a long time to come, merchants should start betting on Shopify. This acquisition will be an opportunity for Walmart to write its story in a market that Amazon tried and quit.

Shopify does not get you shoppers and Walmart does not get you the support services. As a combined entity, their value proposition becomes very compelling.

The apparent weakness is an actual strength

Shopify is not without faults. As with all e-commerce platforms, the majority of their e-commerce merchants are long-tail with little to no revenue. But critics including Andrew Left of Citron Research fail to understand that long-tail is sort of a deal pipeline to identify sellers who are likely to grow and contribute significantly to the revenue.

A study of Shopify’s marketplace will validate their claim that the merchants are there for the value of a ‘one-stop platform and extended services’ and not just for Facebook data of their shoppers.

As Brian Stoffel put it in his article, “The moat is strong and growing, even as recent protests have tested the company”.

Shopify’s long-tail merchant base isn’t a weakness. It’s the pipeline that Walmart should value. It could be Walmart’s answer to Amazon’s merchant acquisition spree.

The neighborhood store is actually a Shopify Store

Shopify is an e-commerce platform provider but that’s no reason to dismiss it as a competitive threat to Walmart. Both target merchants and both are focused on making them sell online albeit differently.

Walmart handpicks merchants. Shopify doesn’t.

Walmart is a legacy brand and has a perception problem in the market. Shopify is a born millennial, like Jet.

Walmart is competing with Amazon on multiple fronts. Amazon closed its webstore business and switched to an integration with Shopify!

Walmart has no equivalent to FBA. Shopify’s merchants can opt to have their merchandise fulfilled by Amazon.

Brett Andress of KeyBanc Capital Markets drives home the importance of Shopify – “Emerging brands on Shopify are getting larger, and more established brands are gravitating to Shopify to be more nimble”.

While Walmart continues to shop for private label brands in a bid to throw a new spin on its brand identity, it needs to look a few yards away. There are 600,000 of them. Either Walmart could hope for them to come list on its marketplace someday or make itself the very technology that powers their business.

Shopify is known for its ability to attract e-commerce merchants. Its tools – like the name generator, domain name generator, to name a few – are subtle retention hacks to get intending sellers hooked onto its platform. Should a seller decide to sell her business, Shopify has an exchange on which she can list her store for sale. On the partner front, developers, marketers, designers have helped create many success stories, while writing their own. Overall, it seems like the stickiness is here to stay.

With e-Commerce still 12% of global retail trade and with an expected growth rate of 47% over the next 3 years, Shopify is well positioned to capture a lot of the e-commerce upside. The neighborhood grocer is now more likely to open on Shopify or sell on Amazon than at the neighborhood. This is also why it makes sense for Walmart to acquire one of the two default portals of entry into e-commerce.

To compete with Amazon, it needs to make moves that shift the ground beneath the foot and Shopify acquisition could be one of those bets still open.

Can Walmart afford it?

The retail analysts’ consensus is that Walmart needs to expand its e-commerce base, as the default for the younger demographic shopper is still Amazon. Walmart’s marketplace strategy, so far, hasn’t been about becoming that default.

Shopify is a credible option to expand its e-commerce base. Shopify was recently chided by activist investors like Andrew Left for being over-reliant on the top 10% of the merchant base.

There are about 4500 e-commerce companies with 100M+ revenue out there and Shopify’s entry into the enterprise commerce market is a reactionary response to the inherent weakness in its own business model (of over-reliance on mid-market and longtail e-commerce companies). The problem for Shopify and to an equal extent Magento, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and PrestaShop is that the enterprise e-commerce is the territory of Hybris, Demandware, NetSuite etc.

The tough phase for Shopify would be when its mid-market cash cow customers migrate to Hybris or WebSphere or Demandware. It has to backfill from its growing long tail unless it competes head-on with IBM, Adobe, Oracle NetSuite, Demandware or Hybris. This is one of the reasons Magento aligned with Adobe.

The problem for Walmart in making this acquisition though is Wall Street’s view that it’s a mature business with steady returns. Amazon, on the other hand, continues to treat e-commerce as a business which is in its Day 1.

You could observe the pressures Walmart has had in the past. It took Walmart over 2 years to finally pull the lever on the Flipkart deal, which is going to drain billions from its cash reserves (notwithstanding the revolving credit of $5B it has raised to fund the deal).

With the current market cap of $17B, Shopify isn’t pocket change. But for reasons mentioned above, Shopify’s growth will be tested. Expanding GMV of existing merchants is easier than conquering the enterprise market, especially if it aligns with Walmart.

Walmart’s cash reserves are under $10B making it a relatively expensive pursuit likely needing a leveraged buyout and the market isn’t new to such deals. Amazon, on the other hand, has $265B to deploy, but it’s a buy that it doesn’t need. And that sums up Walmart’s predicament as a challenger to Amazon.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Microsoft caps off a fine fiscal year seemingly without any major missteps in its last quarter

Microsoft is capping off a rather impressive year without any major missteps in its final report for its performance in its 2018 fiscal year, posting a quarter that seems to have been largely non-offensive to Wall Street.

In the past year, Microsoft’s stock has gone up more than 40%. In the past two years, it’s nearly doubled. All of this came after something around a decade of that price not really doing anything as Microsoft initially missed major trends like the shift to mobile and the cloud. But since then, new CEO Satya Nadella has turned that around and increased the company’s focused on both, and Azure is now one of the company’s biggest highlights. Microsoft is now an $800 billion company, which while still considerably behind Apple, Amazon and Google, is a considerable high considering the past decade.

In addition, Microsoft passed $100 billion in revenue for a fiscal year. So, as you might expect, the stock didn’t really do anything, given that nothing seemed to be too wrong with what was going on. For a company that’s at around $800 billion, that it’s not doing anything bad at this point is likely a good thing. That Microsoft is even in the discussion of being one of the companies chasing a $1 trillion market cap is likely something we wouldn’t have been talking about just three or four years ago.

The company said it generated $30.1 billion in revenue, up 17% year-over-year, and adjusted earnings of $1.13 per share. Analysts were looking for earnings of $1.08 per share on revenue of $29.23 billion.

So, under Nadella, this is more or less a tale of two Microsofts — one squarely pointed at a future of productivity software with an affinity toward cloud and mobile tools (though Windows is obviously still a part of this), and one that was centered around the home PC. Here are a couple highlights from the report:

  • LinkedIn: Microsoft said revenue for LinkedIn increased 37%, with LinkedIn sessions growth of 41%. Microsoft’s professional network was also listed in a bucket of other segments that it attributed to an increased operating expenditures, which also included cloud engineering, and commercial sales capacity. It was also bucketed into a 12% increase in research and development with cloud engineering, as well as a bump in sales and marketing expenses. This all seems pretty normal for a network Microsoft hopes to continue to grow.
  • Azure: Microsoft’s cloud platform continued to drive its server products and cloud services revenue, which increased 26%. The company said Azure’s revenue was up 89% “due to growth from consumed and SaaS revenue.” Once again, Microsoft didn’t break out specifics on its Azure products, though it seems pretty clear that this is one of their primary growth drivers.
  • Office 365: Office 365 saw commercial revenue growth of 38%, and consumer subscribers increased to 31.4 million. Alongside LinkedIn, Microsoft seems to be assembling a substantial number of subscription SaaS products that offset a shift in its model away from personal computing and into a more cloud-oriented company.
  • GitHub: Nada here in the report. Microsoft earlier this year said it acquired it for a very large sum of money (in stock), but it isn’t talking about it. But bucket it alongside Office 365 and LinkedIn as part of that increasingly large stable of productivity tools for businesses, as Github is one of the most widely-adopted developer tools available.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Instagram adds a status indicator dot so people know when you’re ignoring them

In a blog post today, Instagram announced a new feature: a green status dot that indicates when a user is active on the app. If you’re cruising around Instagram, you can expect to see a green dot next to the profile pics of friends who are also Instagramming right then and there.

The dot will show up in the direct messaging part of the app but also on your friends list when you go to share a post with someone. Instagram clarifies that “You will only see status for friends who follow you or people who you have talked to in Direct” so it’s meant to get you talking more to the people you’re already talking to. You can disable the status info in the “Activity Status” bit of the app’s settings menu, where it’s set to on by default.

Prior to the advent of the green dot, Instagram already displayed how long ago someone was active by including information like “Active 23m ago” or “Active Now” in grey text next to their account info where your direct messages live. For those of us who prefer a calm, less realtime experience, the fact that features like these come on by default is a bummer.

Given the grey activity status text, the status dot may not seem like that much of a change. Still, it’s one opt-out design choice closer to making Instagram a compulsive realtime social media nightmare like Facebook or Facebook Messenger. The quiet, incremental rollout of features like the grey status text is often so subtle that users don’t notice it — as a daily Instagram user, I barely did.

Making major shifts very gradually is the same game Facebook always plays with its products, layering slight design changes that alter user behavior until one day you wake up and aren’t using the same app you used to love, but somehow you can’t seem to stop using it. Instagram is working on a feature for in-app time management, but stuff like this negates Facebook’s broader supposed efforts to make our relationship with its attention-hungry platforms less of a compulsive tic.

It’s not like users will be relieved that they can now see who is “online” in the app. The last time Instagram users passionately requested a feature it was to demand a return to the chronological feed and we all know how that went. Over the years, Instagram users have mostly begged that the app’s parent company not mess it up and yet here we are. The Facebookification of Instagram marches on.

It’s a shame to see that happening with Instagram, which used to feel like one of the only peaceful places online, a serene space where you weren’t thrown into fits of realtime FOMO because usually your friends were #latergramming static images from good times previously had, not broadcasting the fun stuff you’re missing out on right now. It’s hard to see how features like this square with Facebook’s ostensible mission to move away from its relentless pursuit of engagement in favor of deepening the quality of user experiences with a mantra of “time well spent.” As users start to resent the steep attentional toll that makes Facebook “free”, it’s a shame to see Instagram follow Facebook down the same dark path.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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