- In January, Apple will launch its Small Business Program, which cuts its 30% App Store commission fee in half for developers with less than $1 million in annual net sales on its platform.
- The move comes as Apple faces growing scrutiny from lawmakers and businesses slamming it for what they call anti-competitive practices in its App Store.
- While some view the change as Apple extending an olive branch to developers, larger companies that have criticized its App Store policies, like Spotify and Epic Games, called the program a “‘window dressing” and a calculated move to preserve its monopoly.
- According to the analytics firm Sensor Tower, the top 1% of app publishers generate 93% of the revenue across the App Store and Google’s Play Store.
Apple’s Small Business Program
Apple said Wednesday that it will cut its App Store commission fee in half for developers with less than $1 million in annual net sales on its platform.
The move is part of its new Small Business Program and will go into effect on Jan. 1.
Since Apple currently takes a 30% commission from the total price of paid apps and in-app purchases, this change cuts the fee down to 15% for small and new developers.
This is a pretty major move coming from Apple, and many are describing it as the company’s attempt at extending an olive branch to developers because lawmakers and businesses around the world are focusing intensely on its App Store business practices. Many have already faulted Apple for anti-competitive and unfair behavior.
Big Companies React
At first glance, it actually does seem a little surprising that Apple would do this. In its annual filing with the SEC last month, Apple said reducing its App Store commission rate could hurt its financial results since it’s a major revenue point for its business.
However, Apple will continue to charge top-grossing apps its 30% fee, so it’s very likely that the financial impact of this change could be minimal.
In fact, several experts note that apps are typically a sort of “winner-takes-most” kind of business. According to a 2019 estimate from the app analytics firm Sensor Tower, the top 1% of app publishers generate 93% of the revenue across the App Store and Google’s Play Store.
The news is definitely good for small businesses, especially those hurting amid the pandemic. It also opens doors for those looking to add more virtual offerings under their businesses.
Still, the big companies who have been critical of Apple won’t see it as helpful. Epic Games, for instance, which is still in legal battles with Apple, released a statement criticizing the move.
“This would be something to celebrate were it not a calculated move by Apple to divide app creators and preserve their monopoly on stores and payments, again breaking the promise of treating all developers equally,” it said.
“By giving special 15 percent terms to select robber barons like Amazon, and now also to small indies, Apple is hoping to remove enough critics that they can get away with their blockade on competition and 30 percent tax on most in-app purchases. But consumers will still pay inflated prices marked up by the Apple tax.”
Spotify, which has also challenged Apple’s App Store fees before, also commented on the matter.
“Apple’s anti-competitive behavior threatens all developers on iOS, and this latest move further demonstrates that their App Store policies are arbitrary and capricious,” it said.
“While we find their fees to be excessive and discriminatory, Apple’s tying of its own payment system to the App Store and the communications restrictions it uses to punish developers who choose not to use it, put apps like Spotify at a significant disadvantage to their own competing service. Ensuring that the market remains competitive is a critical task.”
“We hope that regulators will ignore Apple’s ‘window dressing’ and act with urgency to protect consumer choice, ensure fair competition, and create a level playing field for all,” it concluded.
GameStop and AMC’s Unprecedented Stock Prices, Explained
- Shares of GameStop opened at $350 on Wednesday, a massive increase from $4 share prices last summer.
- Meanwhile, shares for the theater chain AMC opened at $20, up from a $2 price point it had averaged over the last month.
- These swings are a direct result of a rebellion by Reddit users against hedge fund companies like Melvin Capital, which has likely lost millions and has already seen a $2.8 billion bailout from this week’s moves in the stock market.
- The stock market’s current volatility has reignited fears that a bubble is forming. It has also stoked discussion around no-fee trading apps, which have radically changed the landscape of how people trade stocks in recent years.
GameStop and AMC Stocks Surge To Record Highs
Shares of GameStop opened at an unprecedented $350 Wednesday thanks to a coordinated online rebellion against hedge fund companies.
That’s a massive departure from GameStop’s share price of $4 in July.
While the stock had steadily increased in value over the last few months, it skyrocketed on Monday, spiking at $140. The same day, GameStop plummeted to around $70 a share, but by the end of Tuesday, shares had once again soared over the $140 mark.
GameStop isn’t the only company seeing exceptional gains. Shares of AMC opened at $20 on Wednesday, which is pretty notable considering shares had been at around $2 for the past month.
Similar spikes have now even bled over into some European stocks.
In fact, trading was so volatile on Wednesday that stocks for companies like GameStop, AMC, and KOSS Corporation were all temporarily suspended multiple times.
What’s Driving These Huge Upticks?
Two processes are primarily driving GameStop’s stock right now: short-selling and short-squeezing.
Short-selling occurs when an investor borrows shares of a stock and then immediately sells those shares. This is actually the opposite of how most people invest in the stock market. Usually, a person buys a share hoping that its value will go up; however, with short-selling, investors are betting that the share price will go down.
For example, say a person borrowed a share that’s $10 and then immediately sold at that price. In essence, they just made $10.
But it’s not quite that simple: since the share was borrowed, it will need to be paid off at some point. Continuing the example, say the borrower decided to wait until the share price dropped down to $7. In that example, the borrower would make $3 once all was said and done.
Keep in mind that this is just a simplified way of explaining short-selling because, on top of this, short-sellers also have to pay fees until they actually buy their borrowed stock.
Main point: Short-sellers tend to put in a lot more than just $10, meaning it can be a risky investing method, especially if they get short-squeezed.
Short-squeezes occur when a specific stock begins to gain money. Using that last example, say the stock price jumped up to $13 instead of down to $7. Also, for the sake of this example, say the stock price is expected to continue rising.
A short-seller might then decide to go ahead and buy that stock at $13. Notably, that’s a loss of $3 per share (plus fees), but if the stock continues to climb higher, it keeps them having to shell out — and thus lose — even more.
Reddit Revolts Against Hedge Fund Short-Sellers
A multitude of short-sellers, including the likes of the hedge fund Melvin Capital, have been betting that stock prices like GameStop and AMC will decrease.
That’s for a number of reasons: the pandemic generally hurting businesses, movie theaters remaining closed, a shift away from hard copies to digital versions of games, etc.
In spite of that, a group of Redditers from the subreddit r/WallStreetBets is now largely driving this unprecedented short-squeeze by buying more and more stocks, forcing short-sellers like Melvin Capital to buy their shares at a loss.
Reuters projects that Melvin Capital has likely lost millions because of this. On Monday, the company also received a $2.75 billion bailout from two billionaire investors in the face of its losses.
As far as why these Redditers are trying to pile on the pressure, there are a few reasons. Superficially, there is a pretty heavy meme component to GameStop and AMC’s volatility. Others simply want to get rich quick.
More notably, however, is the fact that many of them genuinely love GameStop. They want to see it succeed and get back at those betting on its failure.
Connected to that are also arguments like those made by internet entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian, who said, “the public [is] doing what they feel has been done to them by institutions. This is an echo of what we’ve seen social media enable the public to challenge institutions for the last decade.”
“And it’s a perfect storm at a time when lots of people are hurting, interest rates are so low, inescapable student loan debts loom, and every major institution has caught Ls during a /global pandemic/ over the last year. This is something to believe in.”
That said, this opinion has not been shared by everyone.
“Seeing a lot of people laughing about the game stop reddit stock thing and yeah i understand why you might think that’s funny that a hedge fund goes under but what if it was YOUR hedge fund that they were doing it to? not so funny then huh?” reporter Jordan Uhl said on Twitter.
The recent events in the stock market have reignited fears that a bubble (essentially, driving up the value of a stock above its expected value) may be forming. It has also stoked discussion around no-fee trading apps like WeBull and Robinhood, which have radically changed the landscape of how people trade stocks in recent years.
See what others are saying: (Reuters) (CNBC) (The Wall Street Journal)
Twitter Launches Birdwatch, A Crowdsourced Effort To Combat Misinformation
- Twitter is launching Birdwatch, a tool where users can write informative notes to fact check tweets.
- The program is only in a pilot phase with select users right now but Twitter plans to eventually make it widely available on the site.
- In addition to writing fact checks, users will also be able to rate how helpful those notes are.
- The company believes this will allow misinformation to be quickly corrected in a trustworthy way.
Twitter Launches Birdwatch
Twitter is continuing its battle against misinformation by launching Birdwatch, a new tool where users can fact check tweets themselves.
The program allows users to write notes that provide factual context to a Tweet they know contains false or misleading statements. As of now, the program is in pilot mode and is only available to a select few users who apply to it. The application is open to all Twitter users who have a verified phone and e-mail, two-factor authentication, a trusted U.S. phone provider, and have not recently broken the site’s rules. Fact checks can only be seen on the Birdwatch site, though Twitter’s eventual goal is for all Twitter users to see it on the platform directly.
“People come to Twitter to stay informed, and they want credible information to help them do so,” the company said in a statement announcing the news Monday. “This isn’t always easy with the spread of misleading information online. Birdwatch is a community-driven approach to addressing this problem, seeking to create a better-informed world.”
Twitter users will also be able to rate the helpfulness of the notes provided, which will hopefully prevent the feature from being misused. The company says it spoke to 100 people from across the political spectrum who believe this tool could be effective. Many were apparently particularly supportive of fact checks coming from a community voice rather than Twitter or another authority.
“We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable,” Keith Coleman, the Vice President of Product at Twitter wrote.
Misinformation on Twitter
Like most social media platforms, Twitter had been trying to combat the growing spread of misinformation for years. This problem surged with the pandemic and the 2020 U.S. election. The company started adding fact-checking labels to tweets in the spring. After misinformation about election results contributed to an attack at the U.S. Capitol, the company removed President Donald Trump from its platform. Many other social media companies did the same.
Twitter’s battle with misinformation is nowhere near over. Still, the company hopes a community-centered tool like Birdwatch will be beneficial to the site.
In its announcement, Twitter acknowledged the potential problems a tool like this could pose but maintained that it is still a “model worth trying.”
“We know there are a number of challenges toward building a community-driven system like this — from making it resistant to manipulation attempts to ensuring it isn’t dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors,” Coleman wrote. “We’ll be focused on these things throughout the pilot.”
In an effort to prioritize transparency with Birdwatch, all data contributed to the program will be publicly available and downloadable. Twitter also plans on publishing the code that powers it.
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (NBC News) (Washington Post)
SpaceX Boosts a Record 143 Satellites Into Orbit With Rideshare Launch
- SpaceX sent 143 satellites into orbit Sunday, breaking the record for most satellites lofted into space on a single launch.
- It marked the first of SpaceX’s dedicated rideshare program, “SmallSat Rideshare,” which splits up the payload of the rocket launch among multiple customers who want to send satellites of their own.
- However, the new launch has also triggered conversations about the increasing number of satellites congesting low-earth orbit.
- Experts fear that overcrowding there could create a rise in potentially catastrophic orbital collisions and dangerous levels of space debris. Now, many are calling for regulations to be put in place.
SpaceX Breaks Record
SpaceX launched 143 satellites into orbit Sunday, setting a new world record for most satellites sent into space on a single rocket.
The mission, dubbed Transporter-1, surpassed the previous 104-satellite mark set in February 2017 by India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.
The launch was the first of SpaceX’s dedicated rideshare program, “SmallSat Rideshare,” which is essentially a carpool for satellites.
Ridesharing efforts are a recent innovation that came in response to growing demands for low-cost access to space by smaller companies and institutions. The idea is to split up the payload of the rocket launch among multiple customers who want to send satellites of their own.
It could prove to be a profitable new venture for SpaceX, which charges a relatively low $1 million to launch a 440-pound satellite and $5,000 for every 2.2 pounds above that base level.
On this latest mission, SpaceX launched 133 satellites for a broad variety of government and private customers, as well as 10 of its own Starlink satellites.
Concerns of Overcrowding and Need for Regulation
While widely celebrated by smaller institutions and companies focused on space, the launch has also triggered conversations about the increasing number of satellites congesting low-earth orbit.
Experts fear that overcrowding in that area could create a rise in potentially catastrophic orbital collisions and dangerous levels of space debris. Now, many are calling for regulations to be put in place.
“Given the recent increase in non-traditional commercial space operations, including satellite servicing, space tourism and the deployment of large numbers of satellites to provide worldwide internet access, updates to the existing roles and responsibilities may be appropriate,” NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel wrote in its 2020 annual report.
“As things stand today, there are no clear lines of authority for directing coherence among the many entities that operate in space.”