Here’s your daily tech digest, by way of the DGiT Daily newsletter, for Tuesday, June 18, 2019!
1. Facebook announces Calibra (≋)
Facebook has finally confirmed it will launch a cryptocurrency called Libra, with a crypto wallet for the currency known as Calibra. There’s an ASCII symbol for it: ≋ – or a triple tilde.
What we now know:
- Calibra via calibra.com will house the Facebook-subsidiary wallet, and provide financial services on the Libra network.
- It’s powered by blockchain, and will be available on iOS and Android in Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and as a standalone app, with Facebook aiming for a 2020 launch.
- The idea is to initially send money to people directly, with low or zero fees (just ‘gas’ costs, as per ethereum’s model).
- Example: Convert your US Dollars to Libra, send Libra to your parents in Canada, they convert that to Canadian dollars without losing percentage slices to bank fees, or PayPal fees. Or, pay Spotify in Libra for your premium subscription.
- Facebook says your Libra transaction data will be private, and won’t be shared with Facebook or partners, and won’t be used for ad targeting.
- You also don’t need a Facebook account to use the service.
- To meet regulations, there is a Know Your Customer (KYC) anti-fraud process for every user to go through.
- There’s a rather elite group of partners: Mastercard, Visa, eBay, PayPal, Stripe, Spotify, Coinbase, Uber, Lyft, and Vodafone are all on board, which is understood to have meant at least a $10 million upfront payment to be part of the network (Engadget).
- Owning Libra currency doesn’t sound like it will be an investment/gamble like owning Bitcoin might be today. It’s maintained at a one-one basis, so not pegged or traded against a currency beyond an expected small range
- The Libra Blockchain will be open-sourced, which lets people build apps onto it, using the Move coding language.
- That’s all complex stuff, but the reality will be consumer-level fast-sending of cryptocash.
What we don’t know:
- There’s still a lot of detail to parse out, but the real question is: how consequential will this be?
- The problem is Facebook’s involvement.
- After the past years of deep strife it has created, who’d want to give their real money to Mark Zuckerberg to get ZuckBucks?
- But while that might bother people and readers like you, will the wider general public just get it, and will expected low-low fees just be too convenient?
- All the ideals of blockchain are about to be born out by a massive enterprise approach, but run by a not-for-profit Foundation.
- A number of publications have clearly been pre-briefed, and there’s much to read on building the new PayPal, the Libra Association foundation, blockchain-basis.
- If you read just one article, check the deep dive from TechCrunch: Facebook announces Libra cryptocurrency: All you need to know (TechCrunch).
2. Android’s own iMessage-clone is coming: ‘Chat’
Chances are if you use an iPhone, you use iMessage to chat with friends and family, especially if you’re in North America. Apple did iMessage well when first replacing SMS, with the blue/green bubbles still largely unchanged as a differentiator between iPhone-iPhone and iPhone-and-the-rest communications.
Android has never quite had the same one-app for all. Chances are if you use a Samsung, Huawei, OnePlus, and so on, you use some combination of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Signal, Snapchat, depending on what’s in use by your friends and family. (For example, Whatsapp had a 98% install rate on phones in Spain back in 2015.)
Now Google has taken control of its upcoming Android-specific messaging system, a replacement for SMS texting, called Rich Communication Services or RCS. It’s called Chat, and the promise is that as long as you and the person you’re communicating with are using Messages on smartphones, regardless of make, model, or carrier, you can exchange messages on a default app.
‘Chat’ is coming:
- This change by Google, first reported by The Verge, will upset carriers which cede further ground on SMS messaging, and to Google as well.
- But it seems Google has had enough of carriers agreeing to implement RCS without, er, actually doing so, and has pushed for implementation right now.
- The new app will be called ‘Chat’ and trials start in the UK and France this month.
- Carriers have long agreed to implement RCS, but with dragging heels and a lack of cohesive effort from Google on its other chat apps, Google has now taken control.
There are two catches, though:
- The service won’t offer end-to-end encryption, at least at first, which should just be a standard in this era of better understanding of privacy.
- And, as The Verge writes: “If you’re an Android user, this RCS news is cause for celebration. If you’re worried about Google’s market power, it’s cause for concern.”
- As C. Scott Brown wrote on Android Authority: “There are two billion Android devices around the world, most of which are smartphones. With this new RCS system, Google could control how around 75 percent of the total global devices communicate.”
- Google did want to avoid this by asking carriers to implement RCS, which didn’t happen on time.
- Now we’re here. Android’s iMessage equivalent is rolling out. Can Google claw back what’s already been ceded to Facebook/WhatsApp, and others?
3. The 15 best premium apps for Android (the pay once, not-a-subscription apps) (Android Authority).
4. Nintendo’s Dr. Mario World on iOS and Android gets a launch date: July 10 (drmario-world.com).
5. The 5G iPhone is coming in 2020 (The Verge).
6. Meanwhile – 6G research is underway! “Samsung, SK Telecom join hands for 6G R&D” (Korea Times).
7. Report: Hospitals and patients are being plagued by robocalls – 4,500 in two hours (Washington Post).
8. Did you know there’s a safer version of YouTube for kids? It’s called YouTube Kids and barely any kids (or their parents) use it (Bloomberg).
10. This is a very cool (and NSFW!) interactive music video, which shows data of every viewer’s mouse location: donottouch.org.
11. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx sends photo of Asteroid Bennu from just 0.4 miles away (NASA).
12. The best travel photographs of 2019 (National Geographic).
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