State-of-the-Cloud

Hello and welcome to a new State of the Cloud, Cloudwards.net’s monthly column where we review the 31 days that have been and take a quick look into a cloudy crystal ball to see what the 31 ahead will bring. 

In this edition, we’ll partially pick up where we left off in July, finishing a few threads concerning Facebook’s frightening Libra currency (we’re dispensing with the “crypto-” prefix because there’s nothing cryptographic about it) and other Big Tech shenanigans.

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That said, we’ll start with news from the fronts of the streaming wars, which we haven’t reported from since April. Online entertainment is big business, and as usual, consumers are paying the price.

Streaming Wars: Return of The Pirates

streaming wars

If you’re a cord cutter it can’t have escaped your notice that the streaming market is fragmenting. Whereas before you had Netflix, HBO and, well, those two, now every channel and its granny seems to have an exclusive streaming website that you can only access by paying a monthly fee or suffering through ads. Sometimes, it’s even both (we’re looking at you, Hulu).

Consumers have a choice between roughly 15 websites, and that’s only if you limit your count to legal options and leave out the sports websites, such as DAZN. There’s more on the way, too, with the BBC and iTV allying to create BritBox, which will exist alongside the BBC’s iPlayer, and Disney launching Disney+ later this year in the U.S. and in the rest of the world sometime during 2020.

The thing is, there are only so many people who can watch all those channels, and the scattering of content is hurting plenty of companies’ bottom lines. Netflix posted its first serious loss in subscribers and suffered a dip in stock price as a result. It’s also losing content because competitors are calling in their copyright markers to air shows on their own channels.

Meanwhile, Downstream

That said, the streaming companies’ greed is leading them to shoot themselves in the foot. Nobody in their right mind is going to sign up for all those websites, as it would run them into the hundreds of dollars each month. We predict that we’ll soon see a reemergence of torrenting as the primary way in which people get their entertainment fix. 

Though it’s hard to quantify, the amount of illegal piracy going on was being brought down by having just a few streaming websites around, simply because streaming was easier than navigating through The Pirate Bay or alternative torrent websites

Now that it’s becoming hard to watch content again, you can expect people to flock back to illegal means of watching the shows they love. Though the proliferation of streaming platforms may seem like a good thing at first glance, it’s going to hurt the people making the content and likely narrow consumers’ options in the long run.

Cryptic Payments

From our streaming soapbox we’ll step fluidly onto our next one, namely Facebook. That said, we won’t be banging our privacy drum for once, though Zuckerberg’s little dragon gave us plenty of cause to this month. Instead, we’ll focus our fire on its planned Libra currency. 

Despite misgivings about the Zuck Buck from, well, everybody, Facebook is going ahead with it, even if it’s nixed by regulators. That’d create a dangerous precedent in which a large corporation can flout the law of one of the biggest, most powerful countries in the world, and we’re not talking jaywalking. The regulations Facebook is threatening to ignore are the bedrock of our financial system.

No wonder lawmakers everywhere are scrambling to respond to Facebook going rogue. While one executive from the European Central Bank urged speed in coming up with new rules, Washington Democrats proposed a bill that’d curtail tech companies’ ability to offer financial services and fine them $1 million for each day they’re in violation.

Even U.S. President Donald Trump has tweeted his concern about Libra — and cryptocurrency in general — which is the new standard for deciding how important an issue is to the White House. Plus, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a massive antitrust probe into the dealings of Big Tech, but it has yet to bear fruit.

That said, the questions are will Zuckerberg and his coterie care enough to heed what lawmakers say and what will the ensuing battle for control over our financial system look like if they don’t. If the Libra is launched as outlined, it’ll be a test of the strength of governments in regards to big business. We may not like the result. 

Smaller Stories

The Huawei blacklist may be lifted sooner than we thought, most likely as a bargaining chip in the ongoing U.S.-China negotiations over the trade war. We talked about it in detail in our June edition, but it looks like tensions are easing, though concerns over Huawei sharing data with Chinese authorities remain.

In news that should make you reconsider having Siri installed (or any voice-activated service, such as Alexa), it turns out that the people listening for quality assurance reasons hear all kinds of private details of people’s lives, up to and including what they’re up to in the bedroom. We’ll admit these apps are convenient, but some dude listening to you have sex is just creepy.

Were you one of the people duped by the Equifax breach? If you’re in the U.S., you can likely answer “yes” to that question, and you should file for damages. Because this is one of the few examples in which a company pays the piper for its terrible security practices, we should all jump on the bandwagon.

If you’ve ever wondered what you’d look like as you grow older, you may have installed FaceApp on your phone. That harmless fun was a textbook case of being led on by a whim, though, because it turns out the Russian company behind the app was storing and possibly selling your face and working with Russian security services. Brave new world, eh?

We’ll finish this State of the Cloud with the news that John McAfee, fugitive entrepreneur of questionable sanity, has set out to revitalize Cuba with cryptocurrency. Though the communists in charge of the Caribbean island have yet to respond to his offer of help, he seems confident it’ll work out. We’re less so because McAfee has a… checkered past.

Final Thoughts

On that note, we’ll leave you to the summer heat and your own private musings. We hope August will provide us with hot weather, a cooling down of political tensions and a solution to the Libra situation. 

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Do you have thoughts or opinions about the matters discussed? Did we miss any crucial stories that happened in July? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading. Have a good month, and catch you in 31 days.

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