Meta Status

AI economy history internet technology

What does Meta do? It turns people into money. Those that are on the Internet, that is—not in a Soylent Green kind of way.

At least, that was the mantra up until 2018. Then Cambridge Analytica broke. And the Q2 2018 earnings gave an inkling of the possibility that not a fixed—and also rather large—ratio of people entering the Internet would become, just like magic, Facebook users.

Later, people seemed to forget about the fact that they get algorithmically nudged in Zuck’s wonderland every step of the way. Wall Street itself realized that revenues at 1 Hacker Way actually kept on rising—until they jumped in 2021. COVID, remember?

The Metaverse, however, wasn’t really that great of a hit, and after the virus bonus revenue fell back in line the following year, FB lost a staggering two-thirds of its value. A trillion-dollar meme stock.

An attribute that it then turned into current heights via hitching itself to the AI bandwagon.

Releasing the LLaMA weights is undoubtedly a commendable move. It sounds utterly impressive when you can claim, “While we’re working on today’s products and models, we’re also working on the research we need to advance for LLaMA 5, 6, and 7 in the coming years and beyond to develop full general intelligence,” in an earnings call. Pretty much like that strange man proclaimed five years ago: “I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible.” Numbers: They go up, up, and up.

Hype aside, I am not really aware of any practical applications for LLaMA 3. Zuck bought lots of GPUs. Both Jensen and I are happy about that. Maybe they thought they had all this data that people have entered in their apps. Maybe they could train a LLM on it. With GPT-3, there was this notion that the size of the training corpus was all that mattered. After all, OpenAI’s chatbot was such a wonder, and it jumped into existence just via the increase of its training data. I speculate that a trillion training tokens derived from FB discussions yield surprisingly little meaningful reasoning power. Especially compared to actual content like, for instance, Wikipedia.

The pressure to come up with something must have weighed heavily on 1 Hacker Way. As those two transformer-based applications (LLMs and Image Diffusers) broke into public view and kicked the world into a frenzy that seemingly became the new normal, Meta itself had just spent around $50 billion on developing, well, the Metaverse. Which received rather little positive reaction, to put it mildly.

The total and utter failure of Zuck’s idea to come up with a whole new thing left Meta with no choice but to jump on the AI hype PR scheme. And up to this day, it has worked rather well. While revenue is ticking along as expected, the stock is kissing new heights. For now.

So, what’s next?
Nobody knows.

What will happen is that Internet population growth will end. There are simply no more people left that could join. Pretty much everybody who could go online already has done so. While 25% of the world’s population are younger than 15, many of them live in underdeveloped parts of Africa. Furthermore, young people hardly flock eagerly into the Meta family of products once they get their first Internet device.

Meta’s revenue growth would therefore stall together with the plateau in its user count. While they continue to make a lot of money, a PE ratio of currently around 30 is expecting something else: More money. You need to grow profits to justify such a valuation.
A quick way to bump revenues would be to reduce costs. Twitter is still up and running, despite Mr. Musk letting go of most of its workforce. A tempting move that could save the numbers for a quarter or two at Menlo Park as well. The problem is that this approach works only briefly: Costs go down to zero. But not more.

Which means that Meta needs to increase revenues while user numbers can no longer grow.

Can Zuck’s companies accomplish that? They might, but it would not be pretty: Billions of people have delegated a great part of their social existence into the “Meta Family of Products”. (What’s in a name?) A sticky situation in itself. Add to that the addictive aspects that rival nicotine, and you realize that half the planet as a user base won’t go anywhere fast.

Wealth as well as the inflexibility to change app use or social topology both tend to grow with increasing age. Meta owns people’s time and attention in staggering amounts.


Here comes the part that isn’t pretty: it is rather easy to manipulate people online. Tech is able to do it. And will increasingly be. There is a threshold after which you no longer realize that you got nudged.

When the magician manages to direct your attention successfully, all sorts of things are possible. With a serious difference: Magic lives from the effect, that the outcome shows you, that you must have missed something. You are supposed to notice that it is impossible what just happened.

Manipulation to gain, aka advertisement, has a different aim: You should be made to act in certain ways, all the while thinking that you want to do that.

The total spending of Meta family users is responsible for a mind-boggling share of GDP. And, as discussed, most of the users will not go anywhere. If Meta does not f*ck up royally, pretty much half of the global adults will continue to point their noses, eyes, minds, and wallets its way.

Turning on the manipulation engine will not be one deliberate conscious act or one magnificent large piece of software. Lots of little changes will yield lots of little benefits. With billions of people, you can do a whole lot of A/B testing. Nobody will notice. Everybody’s feed is different and the fact that you see wording that is ever so slightly different will not trigger any of the societal mechanisms that will raise a reaction.

Jacob Riis used flash photography at the end of the 19th century to show the world how poor people lived in NYC, and he changed the world for the better. I cannot imagine how we can illuminate the modern plight of getting nudged into an ultimately unhappy existence that looms on the horizon.

Navigating LLMs: Benefits and Drawbacks in June 2024

AI google history internet

LLMs have their limits, and where they excel makes a difference. As of June 2024, they continue to evolve. Anthrop\c Claude 3.5 works well for coding simple things with Python. It feels like the LLM has been heavily trained on existing code. Actually, it might be just as good in other applications as well. I wouldn’t know since I only use it for coding right now. Even on the paid plan, it has a message limit, which feels very 2023. So, I use the limited interaction where I get the highest benefit, which is coding. The artifact window is a great idea, and the speed of generation is appreciated. With gpt4o, I had to interleave work: make a request, switch to a different task while gpt4o sputtered out characters at Morse code speed. It probably runs on a colony of squids at the bottom of the Mariana Trench that OpenAI taught how to use Morse code with each arm.

And yes, an image like this I create with gpt4o. I don’t even know if Claude can do that. I don’t mind having multiple LLMs. I am gladly paying for both of them, as I do for search. Right now, I am very happy that there is more than one solution. I tried to use Google AI, but it was too complicated to figure out. To find the offering that fit mit my needs. And I am not aware of a key feature that I could only do with them. They already have all my email, read the entire Internet. If I can avoid it, I would not like to help them any further. Sure, if they were as good at coding as Claude, I would use them in a second. I have morals, but I cannot save the world single-handedly either.

One of the bigger fears I have is that LLMs might take the same turn that Google Search did. It was a great idea. It worked great, allowing for a phase of the Internet in the early 2000s that was very promising. Then it became what we suffer from today—a swamp. Barely functional. Generating around $150 profit for Google per user annually. Which means companies make more. Which means that I loose even more than that. The costs of using Google Search by being manipulated are much higher now than its benefits. The SEO world that Google Search presents is not a nice one. I happily give Kagi money to have some distance from that swamp.

random weblog

internet weblog

I didn’t find that mythical UrBlog of mine that I mentioned in the first post of the recently recovered one. The loss of something digital is weird. Since it lacks the inevitability of entropy that all other things have, it is especially infuriating. It could have been prevented.

Oh well.

During the search, I came across some other things from the past. I had written a ‘meme tracker’ in the early 2000s called BlogsNow. It would reliably detect which links gained popularity. Back then, the so-called “Blogosphere” was a crazy mix of all sorts of things.

Finding the data for it got me thinking about the status of those 7 million weblogs. How many would still be updated after two decades? I had just seen myself that it is not easy.

There are around 3500 site left that still get updated regularly. I didn’t spend too much time on the parser. There is a margin of error. But one in two thousand is a pretty strong filter.

When clicking around, I was surprised that some of the pages are rather interesting and surprising. So I added a random blog link on my main page.

will it end in tears as expected?

economy internet technology

There are layers to what happens now with stocks and stories around it. I think it will end in tears. Trading options on the phone is a reality. And weird. Other, by now established, retail traders like TD or Schwab have you go through some lengthy process before you can dabble in options. It feels like Robinhood let you do it without much fuzz. Fun game. As long as it lasts. RH is said to have $20B AUM. Almost as big as Citadel with its $35B AUM. Citadel is also a “Market Maker”. An entity that connects buyers and sellers of stocks. Something Bernie Madoff did before he went off the deep end. Bernie also invented “Payment for oder flow“. A scheme were the market maker pays for a third party to bring clients in. Robinhood makes most of its money from these kind of deals. It routes many of the trades that its 12 million customers make via Citadel. Bernie is busy right now, he can not do it, even if it he wanted to.

The plot thickens when we look at Citadell backing Melvin with $2.75B earlier this week. Melvin had shorted, among other actors, ailing games retailer chain GME. A short is a promise to provide a given stock at a given date for a given price. A great contract if you can get the stock cheaper than that. A really shitty contract if you can not. While the money you can make is limited by the price will be. The money you can loose has no such limit. If I would have shorted Tesla when I though their pricing was just outrageous, I would have lost 4 dollars for each dollar that I would have made that bet (short trade) with. I did not. Melvin did short GME though. And the price for GMA has gone up. Like allot.

What happened next? Robinhood, that company that makes most of its money with Citadel, stopped allowing people to buy GME stock on their platform. Basically manipulating the market. Preventing that the people that congregate on CondeNasts reddit in the WallStreetBets section from keeping the price up, or raising it even further.

It is pretty naive that people raise their pitch forks when in fact they only hold life sized paper cut outs of said farming devices in their angrily shaking fists. They seem to ignore the fact, that it is the people on the other side of the moat that gave them to them as a trade for the real thing and some confetti animation.

So, yes, it will end in tears. The wsb / GME story. As well as Robinhood, as well as the concept that all that money from your bail out check and that you saved by not going to Bali and that you put ‘into the market’ will get you instant riches.

In the end of every bubble the audience needs to get broadened. One needs more people to join the party. To keep the thing going for just one more round. In that it is not unlike the phase of a loosing war: All sorts of people get recruited to ‘turn things around’. The DJIA touched 31K. Where do you think would it go from here? The concept of asset price inflation can only carry you so far.

But I have been betting on a falling market since it was overpriced at 11,500. The first time. More than 20 years ago.

wait …

internet technology

… there is was a message that one is all caught up in Instagram? Can not remember that I ever saw it.

byzantine

internet media technology

byzantine

Sunday morning, and Breakfast will only be served in 15 minutes.

Not feeling to open a book I visit:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random

A song comes up. Turns out I don’t have it, but I like it.

The iTunes music gave me grief before. So I use Amazon.
Or, let’s say I try to.

A song with a wikipedia page is obviously easy to find.
I can preview it. Yes, it is what I thought it would be.

No surprise that the purchase button is easy to.

They have a new player / app they like to push.
The old amazon downloader did not cause any troubles,
so I choose that one.
The file downloads in no time. That USED to be the problem:
Getting those large files to your computer.
Clicking on it, the mac tells me that this app is from an unidentified
developer.
In system preferences I tell it to open it anyway.
It does, but shows an empty screen.
In my downloads is still the amazon file. I click on that one.
Nothing happens. Well, not really nothing: The downloaded file
vanished.
Then I go in Amazon to my purchases music. The song is not there
either. The 0.89 USD I spent will probably the only memory of those
3:18 (the length of the song) that I spent to get this song.

Buying music should be easy in 2014. It turns out in my specific
way of trying this it totally is not. I don’t buy music often. So I don’t feel
like researching all that might be involved.

I rather ramble here about it. Also since it is quiet symptomatic:

The actual act of copying a couple of bits to my computer is such a
small part of the overal action. It used to be that DRM was part of
the problem. It no longer is. Still have I have to deal with interfaces
and software that changes / breaks every time I like to use it.

The background is that the people running and maintaining these
systems do not care for the “Alpha to Omega – Experience” enough.

The late Mr Jobs was really good at making sure that things ran
as smooth as possible for certain flows from start to finish. If you don’t
then with computers and systems lots of ‘stuff’ will creep into the flow.
And the system will start depending on this extra stuff of other parts of
the system.

If you think that Byzantine bureaucracy was horrible then you have
no idea how our digital future will be.

Good Bye Firefox

internet misc

OK – I really am a laggard. Using Firefox in 2014 was not really the best thing to do. But it got me where I needed to be. Other browsers are of course always part of the mix of things to use. Comes with the job.

But with Firefox 29 today they finally pushed me over. As usually it is a minute detail: I like to have around 20 things 1 click away. Firefox used to be able to ONLY display those bookmarks without the favicon.

Since I identify those things by 1 or 2 letters it makes a big difference if I have the favicons visible or not. With Chrome I never found a way to get rid of them. Now with Firefox they just poppped in.

So I might as well use Chrome, and maybe look for a way to get rid of them there. There is no way that I will invest any of that into a browser that it is declining. These days Internet Explorer actually causes less troubles than Firefox.

Turns out there is a solution for Chrome:

Remove Chrome Bookmark Favicons

It is not ideal since it leaves the space AND the site itself looses the favicon as well, but it is never the less better than Firefox.

I doubt I will ever look back …

Internet Security Companies

internet

Between January 2012 and March 2014 more than 160 giga dollars were spent for Internet security. You would think that much of it would care about Encryption. One would further think that some of this money would go into evaluation of the actual code of library mostly in use: OpenSSL. Apparently not enough.

There are between 3 and 10 contributors to OpenSSL, which provide a total of around 50 code commits a month.

If the security Industry would spend only 0.01% of their earnings on these code commits, then each one would have a review budget of 10 kilo dollars.

network solutions – how to ruin a company

internet

Since I have been on the Internet for a while I unfortunately have domains registered with Network Solutions.

They were the first company that one could register domains with.

They are so bad, it is not even funny.

With having your domains there you can also have DNS service with them. However: Their DNS servers go away. That is really really really bad.
That’s like your car stalling at random times. And doing so repeatedly.

The example with a car is not the right one, since most DNS providers are simply never down. They just work work work. While Network Solutions Servers don’t.

But that is -unfortunately- not the end of what is wrong with them:

Their web interface sucks. Much like with Godaddy its main purpose is to sell you more crap. Not to let you do what you want to do. That is really hard.
Imagine the DMV but having hundreds of beggars, peddlers and the like trying to push something on you while you wait.

Their phone system is just as awful as most phone systems are.

How rotten Networksolutions is I learned today:

I happen to have a .com domain with them that will expire (thank god!) in 2 months. Today I got 2 mails: They thanked more for my order of the corresponding
.info domain. They didn’t want any money for it. But it is ridiculous since I had to cancel this domain that I didn’t want.

What are they thinking???

Domain registration is EXTREMELY lucrative. For a couple of bytes one pays good money.

Network Solutions had more money than god. They had lots clients. Serving them just average could have kept them
in business for a long time.
Instead they tried to make even more money.
And all they accomplish is to royally fuck this up.

Register anywhere you like. Hell, if you don’t mind being exposed to half of the rant-points here, then even use the dreadful Godaddy. But Never Ever use Network Solutions. Really.
You will regret it. They gotten so continuously worse during the 15 years that I tolerated them in my life, I can only envision in horror what they future will bring …

jetset without overplay is dull

internet media technology

Finally followed advice from a good friend and got overplay. Was super easy. Support was stellar. Netflix releasing House of Cards while I am on the wrong contintent?
Who cares …

Nice planet. But parts of it are a bit boring without any access to netflix etc.