The news in digital and technology from September

Digital360 on 4 October 2017

There was lots of digital and technology news in September. Facebook and Google are flexing their political muscle, with Google on the offensive in the EU and Facebook in the defensive in the US. This comes at a time of continued growth in mobile advertising revenue, fuelling the bottom line of both companies.

Apple, meanwhile, released the latest additions to the iPhone line, taking bets on next-generation technology in the form of augmented reality and facial recognition. Cryptocurrencies continue their unprecedented rise, with record-breaking developments in the sale of digital tokens. Let's dive into it.

Google appeals EU decision

Back in June, the EU Commission handed Google a record 2.4 billion Euro antitrust fine and instructions to alter specific search engine practices by the end of September. This month, Google appealed the decision, which alleged Google conducted anti-competitive behaviour in its control of the search market.

Specifically, the penalty relates to Google's shopping platform. The Commission argued that Google used its monopoly power to prioritise its services above other comparison websites. The case was a long-standing one, with origins dating back ten years.

Google has denied the company inappropriately used its market power, and its decision to appeal was a widely anticipated move. The challenge could make the case significantly draw out as the general court may not issue a ruling on the appeal for a number of years.

Facebook troubles

Mark Zuckerberg discusses fake news

Source: Recode

For the past ten months, Facebook has been publicly accused of enabling misinformation to spread, which, it has been argued, had a measurable effect on the results of the 2016 American Presidential Election. At the time, Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg played-down the issue of so-called 'fake news' but soon changed his position.

Since then, the company has been actively combating misinformation spread on the site. However, a year on, the issue isn't blowing over for the company. In fact, new revelations about the influence of Facebook during the election, along with other recent scandals, forced the company into a PR lockdown this month.

It shows the challenges of moderating content on massive digital platforms. While the benefits of precision targeting, audience reach and distribution have fuelled a digital marketing boom, there are a number of challenges for companies such as Facebook and Google to ensure that the platforms can be moderated at such scale.

Apple releases new iPhones

Apple releases new iPhone with multiple new features

Source: Asian Review

As expected, Apple released a range of new products during its September event. The most talked about device is the iPhone X – a high-end smartphone that marks the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone. There was also the release of a standard iteration of the iPhone, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, as well as the new Watch and Apple TV.

The release of the iPhone X has been delayed until November and is rumoured to be in relatively short supply, while the 8 is now available around the globe. None-the-less, the high-end X has overshadowed the launch of the 8, with Apple fans not turning out in their usual droves to the welcome release of the new phone.

The new range brings in new features which are yet to be tested on an Apple device, such as facial recognition technology and edge-to-edge displays. The latest iOS also includes native support for Apple's augmented reality developer toolkit, ARKit. Historically, Apple has a reputation for using available technology to successfully develop applications to mainstream markets.

Record ICO raises $250 million

Chart displaying record ICO funding

New records were broken in the unregulated space of cryptographic token sales, also known as initial coin offerings, or ICOs. Filecoin, a token used for storage services on a decentralised blockchain protocol, raised $200 million (US dollars) in a sale to select investors. This is in addition to a 54 million USD raised in round of venture capital funding.

While ICOs have been closely watched by regulators, including the SEC in the United States, a committee led by China's central bank put a freeze on ICOs in China earlier in the month. The committee reports that it will be inspecting and issuing a report on a number of exchanges which trade cryptographic tokens.

The number of ICOs this year has risen massively, with the market capitalisation of some tokens reaching $1 billion – 'unicorn' status in Silicon Valley parlance. By the end of the year, it is estimated that there will have been over $2 billion raised in capital through ICOs.

Mobile is driving ad spending

Graph of mobile versus desktop advertising

Source: Recore

According to research conducted by media measurement company Senith, most of the growth in ad spending is attributed to mobile advertising. The segment is expected to grow 34 percent in 2017. This trend follows the general consumer trend towards mobile technology, where research by Adobe Analytics shows that mobile is the source of almost all the growth in internet traffic in the US.

On mobile, 61 percent of websites’ referred traffic came from Google Search while another 16 percent came from Facebook. That means that most mobile traffic doesn't land directly on a page – they come largely from services such as Google and Facebook.

It should come as no surprise that Facebook and Google are taking the lion's share of ad dollars. In 2016, global ad spending shows that Google earned $79.38 billion (US dollars) in ad revenue while Facebook earned $26.89 billion, cementing themselves as the top ad revenue recipients globally.

Keep a look out for...

Google will have the launch of its second-generation Pixel, its large smartphone offering. Like the premium Apple iPhone X, the new version comes with an increase in price. With more competition in the market for new phones and fewer leaps in innovation, there are plenty of signs of a mature consumer smartphone market.

While the addition of premium phones are unlikely to have a dramatic effect on the digital landscape, companies are preparing for the transformative consumer technology of tomorrow. Both Apple and Google are making bets this technology will be augmented reality (AR). With these devices, a range of new AR apps may see this space finally take hold.

For more digital analysis, speak with a digital specialist in Melbourne.