DuckDuckGo Moves Beyond Search

Our portfolio company DuckDuckGo which offers a search engine that doesn’t store your search history or track you announced some new offerings this week.
Here’s a quote from the announcement:

Over the years, DuckDuckGo has offered millions of people a private alternative to Google, serving over 16 billion anonymous searches. Today we’re excited to launch fully revamped versions of our browser extension and mobile app, extending DuckDuckGo’s protection beyond the search box to wherever the Internet takes you.

As I understand it, you can get this browsing protection via the DuckDuckGo mobile app and from their browser extensions.
You can get them here:
Firefox, Safari, Chrome, iOS, and Android

DuckDuckGo is moving beyond search into a broader suite of privacy offerings. They have built up the trust of users over the years and can now apply that to a wider set of problems.

Along the

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Owning Yourself

I saw the news today that HuffPo is shutting down their “contributor network.”

we are ending the HuffPost contributor platform. The platform, which launched in May 2005, was a revolutionary idea at the time: give a megaphone to lots of people ― some famous, some completely unknown ― to tell their stories. At that time, social networks barely existed. Facebook was a nascent dating site for college students. Twitter had not been invented. The platforms where so many people now share their views, like LinkedIn, Medium and others, were far in the future.

While that is sad news, it is not the least bit surprising.

I said this on Twitter about this news:

I’m Having A Meltdown

So the chips we use in our personal computers and cloud computers have some newly discovered security holes. One is called Meltdown. The other is called Spectre.

My first reaction upon hearing the news yesterday was “so what do we do about this?”

The answer is you can’t do much on your own.

For Meltdown, we need the operating system and hardware manufacturers to issue patches and firmware upgrades. I am sure they are furiously working on them.

The Verge has a good piece on what we can and should be doing about this.

Here’s the key part of that post:

  • Update to the latest version of Chrome (on January 23rd) or Firefox 57 if you use either browser
  • Check Windows Update and ensure KB4056892 is installed for Windows 10
  • Check your PC OEM website for support information and firmware updates and apply any immediately

I expect Apple will

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What Happened In 2017

As has become my practice, I celebrate the end of a year and the start of a new one here at AVC with back to back posts focusing on what happened and then thinking about what might happen.

Today, we focus on what happened in 2017.

Crypto:

I went back and looked at my predictions for 2017 and I completely whiffed on the breakout year for crypto. I did not even mention it in my post on New Year’s Day 2017.

Maybe I got tired of predicting a breakout year for crypto as I had mentioned it in my 2015 and 2016 predictions, but whatever the cause, I completely missed the biggest story of the year in tech.

If you look at the Carlota Perez technology surge cycle chart, which is a framework I like to use when thinking about new technologies, you will see that a frenzy develops when

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Feature Friday: Quote Retweet

One of my favorite features on Twitter is the ability to retweet something with added context.

Like this:

I do this a lot:

You get my point.

There are a lot things Twitter can do to make Twitter better but getting rid of the Quote Retweet is not one of them.



USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — December 21, 2017
Uber’s Greatest Trick Caught

Albert Wenger — December 20, 2017
Uncertainty Wednesday: Suppressed Volatility (Cont'd)

Bethany Marz Crystal — December

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Toxic Comments

We are fortunate here at AVC. We have mostly civil and respectful conversations. People behave themselves here. That is sadly not the case everywhere.

I don’t know what the people who post comments like this are feeling and thinking. It is horrible. Awful. Hateful. Hurtful. Painful. Disgusting. Disturbing. And a lot more.

If you operate a large social media service like Twitter, Facebook, or Disqus, you get to see stuff like this every day, hundreds of times a day. It is a view of humanity that is deeply upsetting.

Disqus, which is a USV portfolio company, where I serve on the Board, and which operates the comment service here at AVC and at millions of other websites around the globe, has been working on scaleable solutions to this problem.

They posted an update yesterday on what they are doing to combat this problem.

Here are some excerpts from that

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Proxy Servers

In reaction to the Trump Administration selling us all out to the big telcos, I am dedicating this blog post to proxy services, which we should all start using.

A proxy server is a computer (in the cloud) that redirects your Internet browsing and other traffic away from your ISP to a specialized service that can do a lot of things for you.

Here is how you configure Chrome to proxy your traffic to something other than your ISP.

Here is how you configure OSX to proxy your traffic.

And you will need to select a proxy service. There are plenty of free ones out there. But you get what you pay for. If you want to have a proxy that is reliable and won’t sell your data, you should consider paying for a proxy service.

Here is a good roundup of some popular proxy services.

I am sure

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Video Of The Week: Mark Cuban At Upfront Summit

I posted the discussion my partner Andy and I did at the Upfront Summit last week. There were other great conversations at the Upfront Summit. This discussion with Mark Cuban was great. I totally agree with Mark that we need more tech companies to go public and have been saying that publicly for several years.

Fun Friday: How To Align A Business Model With A Market Position?

This was a fun twitter exchange yesterday: I can’t help but think that competing with Facebook and Google in the online advertising market is an uphill battle for Twitter. They have done a great job at building a $2bn annual advertising business that pays the bills and generates positive cash flow. I know the people who have built this ad business and they are world class. But given that Twitter’s strength is influence and impact, not page views and clicks, is there a business model that compliments the ad business that Twitter should be leaning into? As always on fun fridays, the action will be in the comments. So let’s get this discussion going.

The End Of The Level Playing Field

I am old enough to remember the gogo days of cable TV when entrepreneurs who wanted to launch a new cable channel would go, hat in hand and cap table in tow, to the big cable companies and beg to get distribution on their networks.  When the Internet came along in the early 90s, we saw something completely different. Here was a level playing field where anyone could launch a business without permission from anyone.  We had a great run over the last 25 years but I fear it’s coming to an end, brought on by the growing consolidation of market power in the big consumer facing tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, etc, by the constricted distribution mechanisms on mobile devices, and by new leadership at the FCC that is going to tear down the notion that ISPs can’t play the same game cable companies played.
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What If The Narrative Is Wrong?

I always like to look for where conventional thinking might be wrong. I think you can find interesting investments that way. I was exchanging emails with a colleague yesterday about Twitter’s decision to get out of the developer tools business and I asked her if it was possible that the conventional wisdom about Twitter (it is in decline and needs to be turned around) is wrong. I shared these two Google Trends charts with her. Facebook “interest” over the past two years: Twitter “interest” over the past two years: What if Twitter is not actually in decline but has seen the bottom and is growing again? What if Facebook is in decline but nobody has realized it yet? I am not saying either of those things is true. I am just asking the questions. Disclosure: My wife and I are long Twitter and have never owned Facebook stock.

Protecting The Right To Speak And Write And Blog

I stayed out of the public debate and discussion of the Gawker lawsuit because while I privately came down on the side of Gawker, the specifics of the case made me uncomfortable and I don’t think it was an ideal case to determine what is free speech and what is not. However, the same lawyer, Charles Harder, who argued the case against Gawker, is back with another libel suit, this time against Techdirt and its founder and lead writer Mike Masnick. Regular and longtime readers of this blog will know that I am friends with Mike and have supported his efforts to speak out on Techdirt about all sorts of tech policy issues over the years. The specifics of the Techdirt case are easier for me to get excited about. Mike has consistently and rigorously debunked the claims of Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai that he (Dr Ayyadurai) “invented” e-mail. Dr. Ayyadurai is upset
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Fixing The Internet

Walter Isaacson wrote a blog post last week suggesting that the Internet is broken and outlining how he would fix it. I think that most of his suggestions are currently being built using blockchain technologies. Here is his list (in italics) and my reactions to it.
1) Create a system that enables content producers to negotiate with aggregators and search engines to get a royalty whenever their content is used, like ASCAP has negotiated for public performances and radio airings of its members’ works. While not “a system to negotiate”, services like our portfolio company Mediachain‘s platform will provide much of the underlying infrastructure for this to happen. 2) Embed a simple digital wallet and currency for quick and easy small payments for songs, blogs, articles, and whatever other digital content is for sale. Bitcoin. 3) Encode emails with an authenticated return or originating address. While not blockchain based,
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Help Brands Blacklist Sites That Don’t Fit With Their Brand

One of the issues with the emergence of programmatic and re-targeted advertising is that brands target people not publications with their ad spend. And the result is a brand’s ads end up on sites that they don’t really want them on. Brands can blacklist publishers they don’t want to do business with but they have to choose to opt out. And they need to be notified when this happens. I saw a cool approach to dealing with this yesterday. Craig Shapiro blogged about a Twitter account called Sleeping Giants. Here is how it works:
People take a screenshot of an ad running on a site that is likely not appropriate for that brand, they tweet that screenshot to the ad’s parent company to notify them of the placement, and tag Sleeping Giants in the tweet. Then the word spreads. Sleeping Giants promotes each tweet to it’s 11,000 followers. It also
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It Is All Spam

My friends Jeff Jarvis and John Borthwick wrote a thoughtful post about the fake news issue and put forward fifteen suggestions for the platforms and news organizations that are struggling with it. This suggestion got my attention: Create a system for media to send metadata about their fact-checking, debunking, confirmation, and reporting on stories and memes to the platforms. It reminds me of the efforts in the email sector to create metadata around email messages to help the mail platforms identify what is spam and what is not. Examples of such efforts are DKIM and SPF. If you think about the guts of the Internet, you have these simple protocols like TCP/IP, HTTP, SMTP, etc that allow information to flow from one computer to another. These systems are inherently open, often radically open. Anyone can publish anything to anyone. That has largely been a good thing because it has allowed
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The Little Search Engine That Could

Our portfolio company DuckDuckGo continues to impress me. By offering one thing that other search engines don’t offer, a promise not to store your search history, DuckDuckGo has grown impressively, year after year, with no signs of that abating. ddg It may turn out that in an era of growing mistrust of companies and institutions, DuckDuckGo has a very attractive proposition for the market. I’ve used DuckDuckGo as my default search engine for years now and though I will occasionally use Google for certain queries, DuckDuckGo gets it done for me the vast majority of the time. If you want to change your default search engine to DuckDuckGo and see what it’s like to use a search engine that doesn’t track you, go to DuckDuckGo and click the “Install” button on the upper right. ddg-install