The Slow Death of Facebook Page Organic Reach

The slow and steady decline(death) in organic Facebook reach began in 2014, when Brian Boland, Facebook’s VP of Advertising Technology (at the time), said Facebook is simply managing more ad content than it used to, and News Feed space is thus more competitive among marketers.

The Slow Death of Facebook Page Organic Reach
As a result, brands have to spend more on paid advertising to get the same reach they use to enjoy by posting on their Facebook Page. This trend started in 2014 and has steadily declined every year since then. At the time of this article, it would surprising if a business or brand could generate meaningful organic reach from posts on their Facebook page.

Facebook still has the largest user base among all the different social media channels. With over 2 billion users worldwide (and counting), marketers are hoping they’ll find their target audience here. Keep in mind that it is estimated that more than 50% of Facebook user accounts are fake.

However, it is increasingly difficult to reach a target audience on Facebook by just posting to a business’s Facebook Page. This benefits Facebook financially as marketers must turn to boosted posts and advertising which generate revenue for Facebook.

What is Facebook Organic Reach?

Organic Reach on Facebook is simply a measurement of how many people can find you on Facebook for free. It’s much like organic rankings on a search engine, although in the case of Facebook it’s based on aspects like popularity, post frequency, and other contributing factors. Organic reach is the number of users that see a post that has not been promoted or “boosted” using Facebook’s advertising solutions.

Why is Facebook Organic Reach Declining?

According to Mark Zuckerberg, there’s a good reason for the death of Facebook’s Organic Reach:

“Recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands, and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”

Specifically, Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be better geared to curate content that builds meaningful relationships. Despite the substantial drop in Organic Reach beginning in 2014, Facebook and Zuckerberg still think that there’s too much Organic Reach for a Page.

With Organic Reach now below 2% Facebook is nearing the end of the road in terms of being a viable option for marketing your brand or reaching your target market on social media.

With Organic Reach being almost non existent now, engagement on posts on Facebook Pages is also almost non existent.

Category : BriteWire Blog


The Decline of the Traditional Real Estate Brokerage

Real Estate Brokerages have been ripe for disruption for a long time. Until recently, traditional real estate brokerages have been spared some of the enormous disruptions that have redefined other industries, but they are under increasing margin pressure, losing top producing agents, and losing market share.

The Decline of the Traditional Real Estate BrokerageI have spent most of my career analyzing market disruption, disintermediation, network effects, and flywheel effects. I have studied several different markets as new entrants or technologies took on legacy business practices, and dramatically disrupted the traditional way of doing business.

A few examples of new companies disrupting entrenched legacy business models are:

  • E-Trade vs. Stockbrokerages
  • Expedia vs. Travel Agencies
  • Amazon vs. Retail Stores
  • UBER vs. Taxi’s
  • Netflix vs. Blockbuster & Cable Television
  • AirBNB vs. The Hotel Industry

I have also observed this when new technologies took on legacy technologies. Examples include:

  • Mobile Phones vs. Land Line Telephones
  • Open Source Software vs. Closed Source Proprietary Software
  • Digital Advertising vs. Print Advertising

When possible, I try to take a position in markets that are undergoing some sort of major disruption, as it represents a tremendous financial opportunity if you play it correctly. It should be pointed out that this is rarely a ZERO SUM GAME. Yes, many legacy approaches will go away, but some end up re-inventing themselves so that they can succeed in the new competitive landscape. For example, I know of several really good travel agencies that are thriving by developing deep offerings in specialized market segments like fly fishing trips and adventure travel.

In my local real estate market(Bozeman, Montana) the large national franchised real estate brokerages have been losing market share for several years. (see chart). The lack of consolodation among these national real estate brokerges is an indicator of a market undergoing not only a market transformation, but potentially a major disruption.

Real Estate Brokerage Market Share - Bozeman, Montana
Market share is in decline for the 6 leading national real estate brokerage franchises operating in Bozeman. The 6 brands represented in the chart are Berkshire Hathaway, Keller Williams, ERA, Christie’s International Real Estate, RE/MAX, and Sotheby’s International. The goal of the article isn’t to single out any specific real estate brand or business, but analyse the broader market trends.

The large real estate brokerage franchises are not only losing market share in my local market, they are facing increasing pressure on operating margins as their leverage against real estate agents declines. Residential Real Estate Brokerages are a narrow margin business with lots of competitiion for top talent. As the number of options available to top producing agents increases, these agents are successfully negotiating more favourable commission split arrangements with the brokerage and establishing commission caps that place a limit on the amount of commission they pay the brokerage.

In order to retain top producing agents(the lifeblood of revenue for a real estate brokerage), real estate brokerages are having to offer better commission splits, nicer offices, and invest in expensive Internet technology and marketing solutions. This is negatively impacting margins and profits… and many top producing agents are still leaving to join boutique brokerages or go out on their own as true independant agents.

Real Estate Brokerages are very aware of the problem, and the competitive threats. Gary Keller(founder of Keller Williams) said in 2018 that Real Estate Brokerages have to dramatically re-define themselves in order to survive… and he said they have less than 5 years to figure it out. Keller Williams and Coldwell Banker are both making massive investments in developing new proprietary technology in an attempt to compete effectively in the new landscape of residential real estate.

There are many new brokerage concepts popping up around the country competing for top producing real estate agents. 100% models, profit sharing models, hybrid models that are a mixture of both. There are real estate brokerages like Compass that deploy capital(from lead investor SoftBank) as a competitive strategy to acquire market share and try to position themselves as a technology company. There are also the “iBuyers” like OpenDoor and Offerpad that are attempting to take away many of the “pain points” associated with selling a home. Many top performing agents are leaving traditional real estate brokerages and going out on their own, or joining co-operative type arrangements with other top performing real estate agents. According to NAR only 42% of REALTORS® are affiliated with a brokerage franchise in 2019.

Looking at the stock prices for a couple publicly traded real estate brokerage franchisors reveals how investors feel about their financial viability.

Realogy Holdings Corp. is an American publicly owned real estate and relocation services company. Realogy is the leading global franchisor of some of the most recognized brands in real estate including Sotheby’s International Realty, Coldwell Banker, Corcoran, ERA Real Estate, Century 21, and Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate among others.

Realogy estimates that for all U.S. existing homesale transactions in which a broker was involved, Realogy had approximately 16% market share of transaction dollar volume and approximately 13.5% market share of transactions in 2017.

That is an impressive portfolio of real estate brands. However, investors have punished the stock. In 2013 Realogy(NYSE: RLGY) traded at a high of $53.53 per share valuing the company at over $6 Billion. In 2019 the stock was trading at $4.93 per share valuing the company at less than $600 Million… less than 1/10th its highest valuation.

Re/Max Holdings Inc is another American international real estate company that is publicly traded and operates through a franchise system. From 1999 until 2013 the company held the number one market share in the United States as measured by residential transaction sides.

Re/Max Holdings Inc (NYSE: RMAX) traded at a high of $67.20 per share in 2017 valuing the company at $1.19 Billion. In 2019 the stock traded for $25.67 valuing the company at $457 Million… less than 1/2 what it was at its high.

At the time of this article both of those stocks are trading up from the low prices they hit earlier in 2019. To be determined is if that is a “dead cat bounce.” In finance, a dead cat bounce is a small, brief recovery in the price of a declining stock

Looking at the 2019 Residential Real Estate Franchise Report reveals the Franchise Fees for these well known real estate brokerage franchises range from $25K to $35K with ongoing Royalty Fees of between 5% and 6% of gross commissions, and Monthly Marketing/Advertising Fees of 1%. If these real estate brokerage franchises were delivering tremendous value, they would be able to command higher franchise fees, and their stocks would be trading at much higher valuations.

Technology is currently empowering real estate agents at the expense of the brokerage, but it is also predicted to reduce the importance of both real estate agents and brokerages over time. According to researchers at Oxford University, the potential for artificial intelligence computer algorithms to replace real estate brokers is estimated at 97%. The future of the real estate brokerage is under immense pressure, and is changing fast!

Why Are Traditional Real Estate Brokerages In Decline?

Over the last 15+ years almost everything about residential real estate has gone online. This has changed the consumer buying and selling behavior. Previously a real estate brokerage controlled access to information about properties for sale. Consumers used to think the real estate brokerage with the most signs around town or the most advertisements in the local newspaper was the best option.

The brand of the real estate brokerage an agent was associated with used to matter to the consumer. As a result, the value the brokerage brought to the agent was significant.

Today, consumers do not make decisions based on the brand of the real estate brokerage, they choose the real estate agent they think will do the best job for them. The brand of the real estate brokerage increasingly has little to do with the transaction other than cash the check and keep a percentage of the commission. It is the interaction with the real estate agent and the agent’s expertise that creates consumer satisfaction, not the brand of the real estate brokerage.

The National Association Of REALTORS reported in 2016 that only 2% of consumers chose their agent based on the brokerage brand they are affiliated with.

In an effort to retain top producing agents, many brokerages are still trying to convince agents that the brand of the brokerage is important, and that their brand has significant value with consumers.

The reality is that consumers do not care about the brokerage brand an agent is associated with.

The brokerage used to be the consumer’s first stop. Now the consumer’s first step is to go online, and find an agent they want to work with.

Today, information on homes for sale can easily be accessed by looking at websites like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Realtor.com, and hundreds of other property search related websites. Consumers no longer consider a brokerage a significant component in the value chain associated with buying or selling a property.

When it comes to data, the largest and most valuable data or information in the real estate industry is basically off limits to brokerage firms. The most valuable data is client and customer data, and that is owned by the agents and is typically closely guarded by them. Brokerages have access to data about listings, sales, revenues and costs. That information is valuable, but the customer data owned by the agents is much more valuable.

I have spent the last 5 years looking at technology solutions for real estate agents. The best solutions tend to be marketed at individual agents, or teams of agents, not real estate brokerages. When agents purchase these marketing tools and take over their own technology stack, the grip that the brokerage has on the agent gets even weaker.

As a result real estate brokerages are not only increasingly losing their influence over consumers, they are also increasingly losing their leverage with real estate agents… especially top performing real estate agents.

What Does The Real Estate Brokerage Of The Future Look Like?

I try not to make public predictions… preferring to make private investments and get positioned to benefit financially for how I predict markets will evolve.

However, you can look at the way markets have behaved in the past to predict the future. One of the Immutable Laws Of Markets is that over the long term they seek efficiency. This usually leads to disintermediation(the removal of unnecessary intermediaries in the business process). Many of the top performing real estate agents in my local market are extremely successful without being associated with a traditional real estate brokerage. They have “disintermediated” the traditional brokerage… removing an extra layer in the transaction process.

Are national real estate brokerage franchises necessary in the real estate transaction process or are they a layer of overhead and expense that can be removed? 42% of agents already feel they are not worth the additional cost.

In 2014 my wife and I identified real estate as a market we felt would be disrupted by technology, and we started putting a strategy in place to capitalise on it. We visited with friends to understand their frustration with the existing real estate process, and we started developing a technology stack and a market strategy so that we could quickly grab market share as the industry transformed. We both became real agents, and then real estate brokers so that we could run our own brokerage if we choose to. In Q4 of 2019 we started our own brokerage so that we could be more agile and rapidly respond to the changes in the market we were seeing, and so that we could take complete control over the transaction process, and take over complete control of our market strategy and our marketing budget.

We feel we have created a more financially efficient and more market effective real estate company that delivers substantial value to our clients.

I can’t say with any degree of certainty how this will all play out, but looking at the market share data for real estate brokerages in my area of the world, it is clear that change is already occurring.

Having studied market disruption for over 25 years, I have noticed one thing all of the disruption cycles have had in common. First the disruption happens slowly, then it happens quickly as Network Effects and Flywheel Effects kick in.

Traditional Real Estate Brokerages are under extreme pressure. They are suffering from declining margins, losing top producing agents, and in my local area they are losing market share.

If real estate brokerages do not redefine themselves, start providing massive value to home buyers and sellers, and figure out how to bring substantial value to real estate agents they are at risk of having the same outcome as stock brokerages and travel agencies.


Facebook Continues To Lose Users In Key Markets in 2019

The drop-off in Facebook has been higher among younger users, but the decline is seen in every age and gender demographic as well. It’s not as if only young people, or older Americans, or women are using Facebook less. Every studied group is using Facebook less.

Facebook Decline In Usage 2019If you’ve found yourself spending less time on Facebook over the last year, you’re not alone. As the beleaguered company has battled scandal after scandal and tried to emphasize “meaningful” interactions over fake news and clickbait, users are spending less time on the service. The declining usage of Facebook explains the company’s recent decision to stop disclosing metrics for its main app and its shift toward private interactions.

It was assumed that Instagram was the bright spot for growth at Facebook, but a recent Bank of America report claims that mobile downloads of both Facebook and Instagram apps are declining.

The report, which cites data from research firm Sensor Tower, claims that combined downloads of Facebook and Instagram fell 13% year-over-year in the third quarter of 2019 so far. Facebook’s downloads declined 15%, while Instagram’s downloads dropped 9%.

Americans record lowest ‘satisfaction’ with Facebook since 2015, according to ASCI.

A steady stream of surveys and anecdotal evidence indicates Americans are less trusting and engaged with Facebook since the Cambridge Analytica data-privacy scandal broke in 2018. A report from ACSI explains Facebook trails all other social media sites in user satisfaction “by a wide gap.” This is not limited to privacy issues, according to the survey, it extends to site functionality, ads and content.

Users also find advertising on Facebook to be more intrusive than other sites. But the bad news doesn’t stop there. In two new ACSI measures for social media websites, Facebook falls dead last. Users feel that the ease of uploading photos and videos is subpar compared with other sites in the category. Moreover, users are frustrated with Facebook’s news feed as the site’s content rates worst in class for relevancy.

Engagement with Facebook is set to decline or remain flat for the foreseeable future, according to a new report from eMarketer.

Reasons for the decline in Facebook are:

1. Increased Distrust of Facebook

2019 has not been a great year for Facebook as a company. The media has consistently covered Facebook’s role in the propogation of “fake news.” When you combine their fake news problem with the company’s other problems with privacy and accountability you end up with an environment where the users of the platform may not fully trust the motives and judgment of the company that operate the platform.

Given that Facebook has access to many of its users’ most important personal data points, photos, and feelings a drop in trust is likely responsible for a drop in usage.

2. Increased Discord on Facebook

If you’re a Facebook user you have probably seen “friends” say they are logging off of Facebook for good because of the rampant negativity present on the platform.

In the shadow of the presidential election, there has been a continued polarization of thought in America, and an acceptance that the new normal is a climate of “us” vs. “them.” This is tiring. Each time you express an opinion on Facebook you must defend that opinion from segments of your “friends” who are now “the opposition.” This makes Facebook very unenjoyable to use.

3. Increased Disinterest in Facebook

I don’t know that it was ever “cool” to say you use Facebook… but now it feels increasingly not cool to admit you use it. Social Media platforms are a bit like fashion. One day you are hot, the next day you are not.

We’ve seen countless websites rise and fall in popularity, seemingly overnight, and a handful of sites that have stuck around for 20 years or even longer. I have grown increasingly used to the idea that most social platforms will eventually burn out or fade away. MySpace is a perfect example of this on the social media front. MySpace is still technically alive but it is nowhere close to the level of popularity it used to have.

Some of the decline in Facebook is probably due to a shift of users to other parts of the Facebook ecosystem. While Facebook’s usage declines, it will be important to see what what happens with Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

After all, one of Facebook’s most attractive elements is that you can do a LOT of different things on the platform. But that’s also one of its great weaknesses. Is Facebook the BEST place for video? Probably not. Is it the BEST place for photos? Probably not. Is it the BEST place for messaging? Maybe.

When additional surveys and data are available I predict they will reveal an even greater drop in daily usage Facebook. While there are some people who have signed off of the platform entirely, I believe the bigger change is people using Facebook a couple times a week instead of every day.

Stay tuned for more updates on this topic.

Category : BriteWire Blog


Facebook Busted Artificially Inflating Video Views

Facebook lied about views by 150% to 900%. They caused media companies to go bankrupt resulting in the loss of jobs. Facebook gets away with a tiny fine and no acknowledgement of how they faked these metrics.

Facebook Busted Artificially Inflating Video ViewsAnother day, another example of the cesspool that is Facebook. It isn’t simply a coincidence that every time Facebook gets caught faking a metric it was benefiting the company financially. Facebook paid a record-breaking $5 billion fine as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission investigation of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This time, Facebook only has to pay a paultry $40 million dollar fine. That isn’t even a slap on the wrist as it is only about 0.18% of their annual income. Facebook will pay the fine without acknowledging any responsibility or culpability, as is to be expected of Mark Zuckerberg.

Advertisers sued Facebook in 2016 over user metrics that supposedly measured the average length of time consumers spent viewing posted video ads. The lawsuit said that the time was inflated by up to 900 percent and that helped convince advertisers to buy Facebook’s video advertising services.

Faced with claims of violating unfair competition law, breaching contract and committing fraud, Facebook contested advertisers’ injuries, questioning whether they really relied on these metrics in deciding to purchase ad time. In early rounds in the litigation, Facebook was successful in getting the judge to pare the claims, though until a settlement was announced, several of the claims including fraud were still live. Even after agreeing to pay $40 million for settlement, Facebook maintains the suit is “without merit.”

In 2017, approximately 98% of Facebook’s revenue was generated by advertising, euqal to about $39.9 Billion US Dollars. It has been reported that more than 50% of Facebook users are fake. That means that not only did Facebook generate revenue from over inflated video views, they are generating substantial revenue from fake users.

Category : BriteWire Blog


Internet Content Marketing Strategy: Aligning Context & Intent

When defining a Content Strategy for Internet Marketing you need to align Context with User Intent.

A frequent problem I encounter when analyzing a website’s content marketing strategy is that the marketing team is creating content without fully thinking about Context and Intent.

To understand Content Context in its simplest form, let us take a basic one word search query like “apple.”

This search term can be used in two different contexts. 1) apple – the fruit 2) Apple – the company.

Internet Marketing - Context and IntentWe know that search engines like Google understand Content Context because they have Contextual Advertising Networks like Google AdSense that successfully place fruit advertisements on pages dealing with fruit, and laptop advertisements on pages dealing with computers.  It would not be effective to advertise Macintosh Laptop Peripherals on a page with an apple pie recipe. Context is important.

Contextual factors also strongly influence the interpretation of a search query and the results that are returned. Contextual search is a form of optimizing Internet search results based on context provided by the user(User Context). Contextual search attempts to increase the precision of search results based on how valuable they are to individual users. Contextualized search coincides with the increasing popularity of using mobile phones when searching, and a user’s search history. The easiest user context to understand is a user’s current location, and how that impacts search results. Think “Local Search.”

That is User Context. Context also includes Content Context. You can think of Content Context as a component of natural language understanding. Search queries like “movie times” and “movie reviews” can be related to a particular topic “movies”. These can be grouped into what are referred to as Context Clusters. This how search engines like Google can return web pages for a search result even though the exact search term does not appear on the page. They understand the context of what is being searched for.

Content Context Clusters can be explained by going back to the example of searching for the word “apple”. A page with words like apple macbook, apple watch, and apple airpods on it probably is not discussing apple the fruit and is more likely discussing Apple the company, and Apple’s products.

When a search engine like Google offers a user search suggestions as they begin typing a query, one or more context clusters may be presented to the user based on a context cluster probability. The context cluster probability is indicative of a probability that at least one query input that belongs to the context cluster will be selected by the user. A list of queries grouped into the context cluster may be presented as options for a query input selection.

As mentioned earlier, a user’s search history can also effect search context and that takes us into the topic of User Intent.

So far we have discussed Context(both User Context, and Content Context). Next, we need to take a look at Intent.

Search Intent seeks to understand the reason why people conduct a specific search. Why are they searching? Are they searching because they have a question and want an answer to that question? Are they searching for a specific website? Are they searching because they want to buy something or read reviews before buying it?

With the Google Hummingbird and Google RankBrain algorithms, the Google search engine can interpret search intent and display results that meet the user’s search intent.

3 Types Of Search Intent

User Search Intent can be categorized in 3 broad areas.

Informational Intent: To know something. The user wants to answer a specific question. These queries will include “how to”, “what is”, “where is”, and “why do”.  Content in this category includes tutorials, and introduction articles.

Navigational Intent: To find something. The user wants to find a specific website or location. Examples of these queries are “closest gas station”, or “facebook.”  Google Local Search is a great example of how Google is presenting content based on a user’s search intent.

Transactional Intent: To buy something. The user wants to purchase a product. Most keywords that have high commercial intent will fall into this category. Look for keywords like ‘buy’, ‘online store’, and ‘shipping’.

You could also have a 4th category called Commercial Investigation. This is the intent to research something prior to purchasing it. The user may want to purchase a product in the future, but wants to research the product first by reading product reviews or learn more about how a product works. I still lump this into Transactional Intent for content creation strategies as I view it as part of the Consumer Funnel. As users move closer to the actual act of buying, their searches become more precise(less ambiguous) and are easier to optimize content around.  These queries include queries with the words “best”, “review”, “top 10”, etc.

How to Optimize Content for Context and Intent

Knowing a bit about Context and Intent can help guide your Content Marketing Strategies. First, try to plan your content creation to satisfy specific user intentions driving their search queries. Understand related keywords and include them in the content so that search engines can determine the context of the content. If the content is on a narrow subject that could be ambiguous or may be searched for using ambiguous search terms, include a broader background of the subject within the article’s content that will help establish the context of the information and include meaningful related terms or phrases within the content that are less ambiguous.

Building upon the earlier example of “apple”, if you are creating an article on apple – the fruit you would include related terms like orchard, tree, and popular varities of apples like Cortland, Fuji, McIntosh. I realize this is an oversimplified example, but hopefully you get the point. I have found that including related words and terms not only helps with context, but helps with SEO.

Knowing about User Intent can further refine your content by dialing in the content to be about common search patterns like “How To Make Apple Pie”, “Where Is The Nearest Apple Store”, “How To Configure Apple TV”, and “Apple iPhone Review.”

When creating content for a “how to” query, structure the content so the H1 tag contains the query, and then put each step of the process in a H2 tag.

Aligning Content Context and Intent is part science, and part art. With time and practice you will get better at it, and naturally start thinking about content creation and content marketing strategies in a way that is optimized to perform better.

Category : BriteWire Blog


Cloud Computing: AWS vs. Google vs. Red Hat

A high level look at the cloud computing services and solutions offered by Amazon, Google, and Red Hat.

Cloud Computing: AWS vs. Google vs. Red HatFor the purposes of this article, I want to map out what I feel are the 3 best Cloud Computing providers: Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, and Red Hat.

Cloud Computing is a broad topic but can be categorized in to 3 main areas: Public Clouds, Private Clouds, and Hybrid Clouds.

Public Cloud computing gets most of the attention, and Amazon Web Services(AWS) has the most market share in this space. Amazon had first mover advantage and AWS has the lead both in terms of market share, but also in the number of Public Cloud services available.

In terms of reported market share based on revenue, Microsoft has the second most with their Azure cloud services, but many feel that is misleading since a large portion of what Microsoft includes in their “commercial cloud business” includes not only Azure, but also software-as-a-service(Saas) solutions like Office 365, Dynamics 365, and other segments of the Productivity and Business Processes Division.  If a company is a “Microsoft Shop” and has invested heavily in Microsoft’s technology then Microsoft Azure is the obvious choice… so I am not including it in this comparison.  They same can be said for cloud services from other companies like Oracle, and IBM. If you are invested heavily in their technology, then their cloud solutions may be the best fit for your organization.

According to the State of the Cloud report by Rightscale, Private Cloud and Hybrid Cloud strategies continue to grow. According to the report enterprises that combine public and private clouds grew to 58 percent in 2019 from 51 percent in 2018. Companies run a majority of workloads in cloud, according to Rightscale. Respondents overall run 38 percent of workloads in Public Cloud and 41 percent in Private Cloud. Respondents to the survey are already running applications in a combination of 3.4 public and private clouds and experimenting with 1.5 more for a total of 4.9 clouds. Among those using any public cloud, respondents are currently using 2.0 public clouds and experimenting with 1.8 more. Among those using any private cloud, respondents are currently using 2.7 private clouds and experimenting with 2.0 more.

In my opinion, Red Hat has the most viable solutions for Private Cloud, and Hybrid Cloud and so I am including Red Hat in this comparison.

AWS vs. Google vs. Red Hat Cloud Services Map

A quick way to understand what the various cloud services providers offer is to map similar functionality in a table. The following table provides a high-level mapping of the services provided by AWS, Google, and Red Hat platforms.

 

 

SERVICE AMAZON GOOGLE RED HAT
Cloud Platform AWS Google Cloud Platform OpenStack
IaaS Elastic Cloud Compute Compute Engine Cloud Infrastructure
PaaS Elastic Beanstalk App Engine OpenShift
FaaS(Serverless) AWS Lambda Cloud Functions OpenWhisk
Hybrid/Private Outposts Anthos OpenStack

Hybrid Cloud & Private Cloud Computing

In cloud computing, hybrid cloud refers to the use of both on-premises resources in addition to public cloud resources. A hybrid cloud enables an organization to migrate applications and data to the cloud, extend their datacenter capacity, utilize new cloud-native capabilities, move applications closer to customers, and create a backup and disaster recovery solution with cost-effective high availability.

Private cloud refers to a model of cloud computing where IT services are provisioned over private IT infrastructure for the dedicated use of a single organization. A private cloud is usually managed via internal resources. Private Cloud and Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) are often used interchangeably. Technically speaking, a VPC is a private cloud using a third-party cloud provider’s infrastructure, while a private cloud is implemented over internal infrastructure.

Amazon and Google are now both investing heavily in Hybrid and Private Cloud solutions, but these solutions are afterthoughts and are not elegantly architected into their core platform. Amazon Outposts is a fully managed service from AWS where customers get AWS configured hardware and software delivered to their on-premise data center or co-location space to run applications in a cloud-native manner without having to run it at AWS data centers. Google Anthos lets you build and manage modern hybrid applications on existing on-premises investments or in the public cloud. Built on open source technologies pioneered by Google—including Kubernetes, Istio, and Knative—Anthos enables consistency between on-premises and cloud environments, but not nearly as consistent as Red Hat’s solutions.

Red Hat has the broadest supported solution with the OpenStack Platform. OpenStack is a set of free and open source software tools for building and managing cloud computing platforms for public and private clouds. Backed by some of the biggest companies in software development and hosting, as well as thousands of individual community members, many think that OpenStack is the future of cloud computing. OpenStack is managed by the OpenStack Foundation, a non-profit that oversees both development and community-building around the project.  OpenStack allows companies to utilize their existing investment in hardware to provision hybrid or private cloud solutions.  With AWS and Google, users are locked into those company’s ecosystem. Unlike AWS or Google’s solutions, OpenStack allows companies numerous options for which Cloud Provider to use.

And The Winner Is…

Like most things with technology, there is not a clear winner with Cloud Computing. It all depends on what problem you are trying to solve, and what your strategy is.

I am an advocate of Open Source solutions, and try to avoid vendor lock-in and proprietary solutions when possible.  The battle for Cloud Computing is actually more about API’s… and using those API’s ultimately means utilizing proprietary interfaces and microservices… which leads to some degree of vendor lock-in.  I will most likely write more about that in the future.

Google Data CentersThat being said, I think there are some clear leaders in various segments. For Infrastructure as a Service(IaaS) Google and Amazon have the largest most robust global assets and network. Amazon has the most global data centers but I lean toward Google’s data centers and their private global fiber network. Both Amazon and Google are best in class for infrastructure if you are just looking to spin up virtual machines and run servers in the cloud.

Moving up a level of abstraction gets us into the Platform as a Service(PaaS) space.  The goal of these solutions is to lower the barrier of entry and make developing applications possible to the the largest possible community of developers, researchers, and businesses.  The focus is on the developer for these solutions, reducing the need for skills in system administrators, ops, and security. These solutions scale your application by automatically starting new machine instances and deploying your application to the new instance. All your instances are automatically running behind a load balancer.

The PaaS solutions provide excellent integration with other services using simple API calls. It can be argued that the race for market dominance among cloud providers is actually all about which vendor has the best and broadest API’s.  Google has an advantage in this space with simple API’s to services including Google Accounts for login, Gmail, Google Maps, and more. Additionally, Google also has a broad array of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning services although AI as a service is available from many cloud providers now.

Moving up yet another layer of abstraction takes us to the Functions as a Service(FaaS) or serverless space. FaaS is the concept of serverless computing via serverless architectures. Software developers can leverage this to deploy an individual “function”, action, or piece of business logic. They are expected to start within milliseconds and process individual requests and then the process ends.

Just like PaaS, FaaS provides the ability to easily deploy an application and scale it, without having to provision or configure servers.  Function based apps can be used to replace microservice style architectures and background type services.  Serverless computing allows businesses to run compute-intensive functions on-demand with the near-unlimited scale of the cloud providers, and pay only for the time that code is actually running.

A lot of innovation is still going on in serverless computing and things are rapidly improving and changing.  Amazon uses AWS Lambda, Google uses Cloud Functions, and RedHat appears to be coalescing around Apache OpenWhisk.  A dominate solution or platform has not emerged yet.

Not every language is available on every platform for writing functions. JavaScript (Node.js) is really the only universally supported language and is the most commonly used in examples within documentation across all providers.

LANGUAGE AWS Lambda GCP Functions Apache OpenWhisk
JavaScript(node.js) Yes Yes Yes
Java Yes No Yes (Partial)
C# Yes No No
Python Yes No Yes
PHP No No Yes
Go Yes (Partial) No No
F# No No No
Swift No No Yes

In terms of maturity, efficiency, language support, and ecosystem integration, AWS Lambda has the lead. However, if a Private or Hybrid Cloud and you desire Open Source solutions, then Apache OpenWhisk is the leader.

If your organization needs a Private Cloud, or a Hybrid Cloud and wants to avoid vendor locking I think their is a very clear winner. Red Hat uses Open Stack as their native platform for cloud services, and also uses it for their hybrid and private cloud solutions. Additionally, because OpenStack is open source software, you can run it on Amazon AWS and on Google Cloud.  The same applies for OpenShift, and OpenWhisk. The ability to choose from numerous cloud vendors along with having the same solution for private and hybrid cloud scenarios makes OpenStack, OpenShift, and OpenWhisk the ideal technologies to build your cloud computing solutions on if you are considering a Hybrid Cloud or Private Cloud.

Category : BriteWire Blog


More than 50 percent of Facebook users are fake according to a report

“Facebook has been lying to the public about the scale of its problem with fake accounts, which likely exceed 50% of its network. Its official metrics—many of which it has stopped reporting quarterly—are self-contradictory and even farcical. The company has lost control of its own product.”

50 Percent Of Facebook Users Are FakeIt is widely accepted that a large portion of accounts on Facebook are fake, and our position is that a large potion of advertisement budget spent on Facebook is worthless because it gets consumed by click-fraud farms. But the problem may be bigger than we thought. Following Facebook’s horrible 2018 year, a report released on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 suggests as many as half of Facebook’s two billion accounts are fake or duplicates.

According to Aaron Greenspan, the platform’s measurement of its user base isn’t—and will never be—precise enough. Therefore, the metrics they report are overestimated.

The report also comes with a disclosure that reads: “Aaron Greenspan owns FB put options in his personal capacity. He entered into a confidential settlement with Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, Inc. in 2009.”

The fake accounts are particularly dangerous because they “often defraud other users on Facebook, through scams, fake news, extortion, and other forms of deception” and often “involve governments,” he writes.

He further accused the company of “selling” ads to “hundreds of millions of phantom buyers – users who do not actually exist.”

How can any social media company verify a “real identity” from a fake identity? The only way to do so is to institute a process much like opening an online bank account, a process that requires some form of deeper identification.

If you use Facebook at all, you have most likely received a friend request from someone you don’t know. If you research that user account, chances are you will find it is an account that has few if any photos posted, few posts, and very little engagement on any content on that user’s wall. It is a fake account. Fake accounts are big business, and Facebook is not doing enough to stop the proliferation of fake accounts on its platform.

In future blog posts I will dive into specific examples of why advertising on Facebook can be a complete waste of money, including an example of promoting a video on Facebook that generated over 40,000 views but did not result in a single phone call. This led to a very interesting discovery of how Facebook counts “views”, resulting in view counts that are exponentially inflated.

Click Farm for Advertisement Fraud
Click Farm for Advertisement Fraud

I believe Facebook can not be fixed, at least not without new senior management in place. A new social media platform is needed that demands arduous verification and constantly monitors its user base to eliminate cloned and fake accounts. The number of “real” accounts in such a network would be a fraction of what Facebook reports its user base is, but users could actually trust that new platform. Advertisers would be able to trust that a large percentage of their advertising dollars are being consumed by click-fraud farms.

Category : BriteWire Blog


The Rise Of Online Privacy

The Rise Of Online PrivacyAfter a never-ending erosion of online privacy via companies tracking everything users do online, the trend seems to be reversing direction and users are being given the tools they need to take back some control over how their online activities are tracked.

If you hate searching for a product on one site and then seeing ads for that product on every other site you visit, you are not alone. A few leading technology companies have learned that protecting their customers is good for business, and help is on the way. Web browsers like Safari, Firefox, and Brave are now blocking this type of tracking by default.

Companies that profit by harvesting user’s online profiles are upset about these changes, claiming it’s “bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love.” These companies are also upset at the rapid rise of Ad Blockers in web browsers. On several websites I operate, over 50% of users are visiting the website with browsers that use Ad Blockers.

Two ways companies are giving control of privacy back to users is through blocking cross-site tracking, and fighting browser fingerprinting.

What Is Cross-Site Tracking?

Cross-site tracking refers to companies collecting a user’s browsing data across multiple websites. When you browse from site to site, you’re often followed by tracking mechanisms that collect data on what websites you have visited, what pages you visited, what searches you performed, etc.

What Is Browser Fingerprinting?

Browser Fingerprinting is an incredibly accurate method of identifying unique browsers and tracking their online activity even when cookies are disabled. Browser Fingerprinting works by building a unique “signature” of your device based on identification points like IP Adress, Web Browser, Screen Resolution, Plugins enabled, etc. This type of fingerprinting works even if you clear your cookies.

Behind the scene, the companies that are tracking your online activity are building in-depth profiles of who you are, and what your interests are… including some very private information. On the surface this may seem benign or beneficial to users. However, Facebook’s repeated privacy scandals have revealed how companies can exploit this user information.

How Users Can Take Back Some Control?

Apple has taken a leadership position in protecting user privacy. Apple has implemented new features in Safari called “Intelligent Tracking Prevention”.

Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention works to prevent cross-site tracking. Safari will prevent tracking mechanisms from companies like Facebook, Google, and advertising networks from loading on websites until you explicitly click them. If you want to use Facebook features on a website, you’ll get a prompt asking if you want Facebook.com to access your cookies and website data. If you don’t allow that access, Facebook won’t be able to track your browsing activities online, even if you’re signed into Facebook while browsing.

Safari’s new restrictions will make it much more difficult for websites to uniquely identify you using Browser Fingerprinting.

Starting with version 65 of Firefox blocking Cross-Site Tracking and Browser Fingerprinting is enabled by default.

And of course there is my favorite web browser Brave. Brave is an open source web browser that blocks advertisements, tracking pixels, and tracking cookies by default.

It is good that a cross-platform browsers like Firefox and Brave implement these features, because it is unlikely that Google Chrome is going to do anything that potentially hurts ad revenue any time soon. However, even Google Chrome has the ability to send a “Do Not Track” request if you go into its Advanced Privacy & Security Settings and you can install ad-blocking plugins for Google Chrome.

While Duck Duck Go’s Traffic Growth (an online search alternative that respects a users right to privacy) probably doesn’t concern Google much at this point, if they start losing web browser market share they may be forced to address user’s concerns over the data they are collecting and how they are using it.

Category : BriteWire Blog


Facebook 2018 Year in Review

Facebook 2018 Year In ReviewFacebook 2018 Year in Review highlights the top ways people are being exploited on Facebook and its subsidiaries like Instagram. Unsurprisingly, most of them are pretty depressing, confirming what we all already knew from previous years – Facebook can’t be fixed.

Reddit user fantastic_comment compiled this information and the post was originally published on Reddit – original link: https://np.reddit.com/r/StallmanWasRight/comments/acuct5/facebook_2018_year_in_review/

Ironic that it was posted on Reddit, since Reddit also had numerous missteps in 2018. Reddit just isn’t nearly as bad as Facebook.

Enjoy!

January

Date Article
2018-01-30 More than 110 child-health advocates have called on Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to pull the firm’s Messenger Kids app aimed at under 13s, warning of the dangers of social media for children
2018-01-24 Facebook should be regulated like a cigarette company, because of the addictive and harmful properties of social media, according to Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff
2018-01-23 Facebook enables ‘fake news’ by reliance on digital advertising
2018-01-11 Facebook patents tracking method using dust on camera lenses

February

Date Article
2018-02-16 Facebook ordered to stop collecting user data by Belgian court
2018-02-12 Facebook personal data use and privacy settings ruled illegal by German court
2018-02-08 Brazil’s biggest newspaper, Folha de S Paulo, has announced that it will no longer publish content on its Facebook page, accusing the social media giant of encouraging fake news and become ‘inhospitable terrain for … quality content’

March

Date Article
2018-03-29 Facebook scraped call, text message data for years from Android phones without explicitly notifying users
2018-03-29 Growth At Any Cost: Top Facebook Executive Defended Data Collection In 2016 Memo — And Warned That Facebook Could Get People Killed
2018-03-28 Facebook increases lobbying presence on Capitol Hill before Zuckerberg testimony
2018-03-26 Facebook tracking is present in 41% of the most popular Android apps
2018-03-20 WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton tell us “It is time delete facebook”
2018-03-17 87 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach
2018-03-16 Facebook has been forced to apologise after it spent hours suggesting sexual videos and child abuse content
2018-03-14 The UK’s data protection watchdog has concluded that WhatsApp’s sharing of user data with its parent company Facebook would have been illegal
2018-03-13 ‘Facebook has now turned into a beast’, says United Nations investigator, calling network a vehicle for ‘acrimony, dissension and conflict’
2018-03-09 Facebook Launches Another Deceptive ‘Security’ App Designed to Siphon Your Data. Updated: Facebook Deletes App
2018-03-05 Facebook asks users: should we allow men to ask children for sexual images?

April

Date Article
2018-04-30 WhatsApp founder Jan Koum announced he was leaving Facebook amid user data disputes
2018-04-19 Facebook moves 1.5bn users out of reach of new European privacy law
2018-04-18 Facebook to start asking permission for facial recognition in GDPR push
2018-04-17 Facebook admits tracking users and non-users off-site
2018-04-16 Facebook ad feature claims to predict user’s future behaviour
2018-04-11 Zuckerberg being grilled on Capitol Hill – Day 2
2018-04-10 Zuckerberg being grilled on Capitol Hill – Day 1
2018-04-05 Facebook secretly deleted messages Mark Zuckerberg sent on Messenger
2018-04-05 Facebook investigated by Australian privacy watchdog over suspected data-sharing
2018-04-05 Facebook admits it discussed sharing user data for medical research project
2018-04-04 Facebook refuses to promise GDPR-style privacy protection for US users
2018-04-03 Revealed: Facebook hate speech exploded in Myanmar during Rohingya crisis
2018-04-03 Facebook apologises for storing draft videos users thought they had deleted

May

Date Article
2018-05-25 Max Schrems NGO NOYB launches first legal cases under GDPR. Complaints have been filed against Facebook, Google, Instagram and WhatsApp within hours of the new GDPR data protection law taking effect
2018-05-24 Facebook accused of conducting mass surveillance through its apps. Company gathered data from texts and photos of users and their friends, court case claims
2018-05-22 Mark Zuckerberg dodges question from European Parliament on Facebook ‘shadow profiles’
2018-05-22 Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg meets with the European Parliament
2018-05-11 Facebook hit with class action lawsuit over collection of texts and call logs
2018-05-03 Facebook harvested 3.5 billion Instagram images without warning their owners until today

June

Date Article
2018-06-27 Facebook Patent Imagines Triggering Your Phone’s Mic When a Hidden Signal Plays on TV
2018-06-27 Facebook, Google and Microsoft push users away from privacy-friendly options on their services in an “unethical” way, according to a report by the Norwegian Consumer Council
2018-06-21 7 Creepy Patents Reveal About Facebook
2018-06-12 Facebook admitted that it collects information from and about computers, phones, and connected devices, including mouse
2018-06-07 Facebook apologizes for privacy glitch that affected up to 14 million users
2018-06-05 Facebook Gave Data Access to Chinese Firm Flagged by U.S. Intelligence
2018-06-03 Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep Access to Data on Users and Friends

July

Date Article
2018-07-23 Rubens nudes fall foul of Facebook censors (VIDEO)
2018-07-05 Facebook labels declaration of independence as ‘hate speech’
2018-07-02 Facebook gave 61 businesses including Nike, Spotify, UPS and dating app Hinge special rights to access user data after blocking such access more broadly

August

Date Article
2018-08-27 A report from the United Nations called Facebook a “useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate” in the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and that the company’s response to the crisis was “slow and ineffective.”
2018-08-23 Facebook violates Apple’s data-gathering rules, pulls Onavo VPN from App Store
2018-08-17 Justice Dept. Backs Suit Accusing Facebook of Violating Fair Housing Act
2018-08-06 Facebook has asked large U.S. banks to share detailed financial information about customers as it seeks to boost user engagement
2018-08-02 ‘It’s ridiculous. It’s Picasso’: Facebook reviewing anti-nudity policy after blocking Montreal museum ad

September

Date Article
2018-09-28 Facebook blocked users from posting some stories about its security breach
2018-09-28 Facebook Security Breach Exposes Accounts of 50 Million Users
2018-09-26 Facebook Is Giving Advertisers Access to Your Shadow Contact Information
2018-09-25 Facebook failing to protect moderators from mental trauma, lawsuit claims
2018-09-24 Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger announced that they were leaving the company they had sold to Facebook – “no one ever leaves a job because everything’s awesome.”
2018-09-21 Instagram’s new TV service recommended videos of potential child abuse

October

Date Article
2018-10-30 We posed as 100 Senators to run ads on Facebook. Facebook approved all of them
2018-10-25 Facebook has been fined £500,000 by the UK’s data protection watchdog for its role in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal
2018-10-19 Facebook inflated ad metrics up to 900 percent. Facebook was aware of inaccuracies in the way it measured how many people viewed video on its site for a year longer than it has previously admitted, court documents have claimed
2018-10-12 Facebook says 14m accounts had personal data stolen in recent breach
2018-10-10 Facebook Is Still Thirsty for Your Health Data
2018-10-05 Facebook to release first-party cookie option for ads, pull web analytics from Firefox and Safari
2018-10-04 Instagram prototypes handing your location history to Facebook

November

Date Article
2018-11-24 Parliament has used its legal powers to seize internal Facebook documents in an extraordinary attempt to hold the US social media giant to account after chief executive Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly refused to answer MPs’ questions
2018-11-21 Facebook criticised for post promoting child bride auction. Company failed to remove post that informed users of auction of 17-year-old girl for several days
2018-11-17 Instagram bug inadvertently exposed some users’ passwords
2018-11-14 Facebook policy chief admits hiring PR firm to attack George Soros
2018-11-13 Facebook bug let websites read ‘likes’ and interests from a user’s profile
2018-11-12 WhatsApp struggling to control fake news in India, researchers say
2018-11-12 Facebook Failed to Police How Its Partners Handled User Data
2018-11-06 Facebook admits failings over incitement to violence in Myanmar
2018-11-02 Facebook Allowed Advertisers to Target Users Interested in “White Genocide” — Even in Wake of Pittsburgh Massacre
2018-11-02 Private messages from 81,000 hacked Facebook accounts for sale

December

Date Article
2018-12-29 How Apps on Android Share Data with Facebook – Report by Privacy International
2018-12-20 WhatsApp has an encrypted child porn problem
2018-12-19 The attorney general for the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against Facebook for its role in allowing Cambridge Analytica to harvest the personal information of millions of people without their consent
2018-12-19 Facebook users cannot avoid location-based ads, investigation finds
2018-12-18 Internal documents show that the social network gave Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify and others far greater access to people’s data than it has disclosed
2018-12-15 Facebook is being used to silence bloggers critical of Vietnam’s government, according to Reporters Without Borders
2018-12-14 Facebook disclosed that a bug may have exposed the photos of up to 6.8 million users people had uploaded but chosen not to post
2018-12-10 Facebook Filed A Patent To Calculate Your Future Location based on your historical location data and other parameters
2018-12-07 Italian regulator fines Facebook £8.9m for misleading users
2018-12-06 Facebook emails reveal discussions over call log consent. Employees discussed how to minimise amount of consent they would need to ask for
2018-12-05 Facebook discussed cashing in on user data, emails suggest. Social network staff apparently conversed about removing data restrictions for big ad spenders

 

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Category : BriteWire Blog


Using Data Analysis To Design Better Photos

Better cameras don’t necessarily take photos that people think are better.

The visual image criteria that customers respond favorably to is an ongoing area of interest to me. I routinely use knowledge gained through A/B testing of images to achieve competitive advantage by producing images specifically designed to appeal to specific users.

In a previous article I discussed how Netflix uses image analysis to create visual content.

This data analysis reveals trends in color preferences and style for images used at Netflix.

Cameras get better each year with sensors capable of capturing more pixels, and more dynamic range. The result are images that are sharp, and have more details in shadows and highlights than ever before.

Advances in Computational Photography allow cell phone cameras to automatically take “better photos” without extra effort and knowledge of photography. Throwing processing power at raw images lets smartphones and cameras do some amazing things. Computational Photography tweaks settings between each shot ensuring that people and scenes always “look their best”.

At least that is the claim.

The problem is that better cameras don’t necessarily take photos that the majority of people prefer because they don’t take trends in color preference and style into consideration.

Marques Brownlee has a popular channel on Youtube where he reviews tech products. He created a video called “The Blind Smartphone Camera Test 2018!” which revealed that “better cameras” are not capturing and processing photos that the vast majority of people prefer to the images captured by less capable cameras.

Using Data Analysis To Design Better Photos
O = iPhone X
P = Xiaomi Pocophone F1
Image Credit: Marques Brownlee
To get as large of an audience as possible, the blind tests Marques used were performed on images posted and viewed on Twitter and Instagram and resulted in over 6 million votes in the polls for best images.

He used 16 of the most popular mobile phones in a winner takes all bracket style competition. He included powerful phones like the Pixel 3, Hydrogen, and the iPhone X, and iPhone XS along with less capable cameras used by the Blackberry and Xiaomi Pocophone.

Most images are viewed on social media platforms now, and it is well known that Twitter and Instagram have horrible image compression, but it makes sense to use these platforms to test trends and image preferences.

The results revealed an obvious trend. People do not like the perfectly exposed high dynamic range photos that the “best cameras” captured.

There’s obviously a massive subjective component: people like brighter, warmer, punchy photos.

Computation photography and large image sensors capable of capturing copious amounts of detail and high dynamic range are still not a substitute for good glass, and an artistic understanding of photographic principals and composition.

In the end, you have to understand what your customers prefer, and craft visual strategies designed to appeal to those preferences.

Category : BriteWire Blog