Digital Dribs & DApps!

We have barely scratched the surface with the Internet (introduced in the early eighties) and it is already seemingly being threatened with competition. A possible replacement by a new phenomenon.

Well, for lack of a better word, “replaced” has connotations of a dying Internet. This is far from accurate.

This new phenomenon – fostered by blockchain technology, will change the way you use and consume the Internet as a service.

So, what is this new Internet-like system creating waves online and making online marketers quiver at the prospect of them losing out on the exponential revenues they have previously enjoyed?

Well, without hyping it up any further, it is called Distributed Applications or ‘DApps’ for short.

A brief history of Apps

Before we delve further into its meaning and use in the cyber world, perhaps some background context is required.

The use of online or mobile applications software or “Apps” has boosted the way you consume products and services online. Companies jumped onto the bandwagon when they discovered that we mostly use Smartphones for the Internet – a lot more than on desktops.

App developers were then subsequently sought after to create mobile Apps for practically anything.  What started as something mainly for gamers moved quickly onto Apps for any commercial activity.

We now use Apps (the Internet) for shopping; fitness; travelling; online bookings and banking. Developers now create customised software to help with anything.

There is now an App store for every significant tech provider – Microsoft, Google and Apple to mention a few. This has naturally fattened their pockets and created an additional stream of income from an eager market.

The ‘catch’ for using mobile apps is that though it costs you nothing to download, using them still require some form of ‘registration’. You can do this by providing personal data or linking to an existing account such as your Facebook or Google account.

The benefit to App providers

The Apps, which are also embedded in social media, create a data goldmine for marketers to study and track your browsing habits. Through them marketers can gain valuable insights into your interests and then customise their products/services to sell to you.

Data mining has become more lucrative and more accessible with the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Ever notice how after browsing online or having a conversation or a chat application like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, you go online afterwards, and you see Ads displaying the items you discussed?

Creepy isn’t it? Well, that is the future of Web 4.0 for you!

Staying ‘woke’

Luckily for us, there is a school of knowledgeable and security conscious programmers who are not ‘giving in’ to the way the Internet has become a centralised cesspool for marketers to harvest data from.

Social media platforms, search engine providers and mobile application providers facilitate them immensely with this.

Watch a video explaining the mechanics of DApps

The impetus behind a distributed application system is that it serves to distribute plough some of wealth garnered from your data via application providers back to you – the end user.

Imagine getting paid to surf the web for hours. The way you get paid for taking on a survey, partaking in a social experiment, donating an organ or sperm?

This is the way distributed apps are touted to work: by rewarding you for the use of specific applications (in a peer-to-peer review like setting) with cashable tokens. Seems only fair right?

Now you can imagine how companies like Cambridge Analytica would react to having to pay you for their use of your data. There will be reluctance and resistance but if they could pay companies like Facebook for the use of data, why not pay us directly?

Early adoption

Joining the DApps revolution is a no-brainer. Companies at the forefront of building and supporting DApps will end up getting a more substantial chunk of the market.

DApps will primarily provide you with the use of payment (remuneration) systems. These are specifically known as Smart Contracts and Proof or Work systems.

There are currently also web-browsers (built as DApps on blockchain platforms such as Ethereum or EOS) that will reward you for merely using their DApps.

For instance, you are rewarded in cashable tokens to surf the net over applications like Google Chrome, Opera, Microsoft Edge or Mozilla Firefox.

It is therefore, only a matter of time that this form of Internet-browsing and use of applications becomes the norm.

The Internet revolutionised the way you communicate, socialise, learn, shop and do business online.

DApps however, will determine the way you get compensated for doing the very same things you love to indulge online while making it worth your while.
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Digital Fundraising

The latest abbreviation in finance and crypto-world is ‘ICO’. A word that gives both local and global financial authorities like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nightmares for several reasons.

Not to be confused with Initial Public Offering (IPO) which is used by firms to raise cash through the issuing of shares to the public. An ICO (Initial Coin Offering) serves the same function and works like crowdfunding , but for digital currency and tokens only.

We recently covered a feature on raising funds and capital for a business but missed out on one relatively new method. More and more companies are using ICOs to raise capital for their businesses.250x250

The concept of an ICO works similarly to how a company raises capital through shares in that it is all based on contrived value.

Funding raising in effect boils down to sales! If your actual product or service has nothing substantial or intrinsic to offer a client base, then it is nothing more than a scam.

Launching an ICO is quite easy, and to an extent, many tech companies are now catching onto it.

An ICO is the cryptocurrency space’s rough equivalent to an IPO in the investment world. ICOs act as fundraisers of sorts; a company looking to create a new coin, app, or service launches an ICO — Investopedia.

If you still do not believe it is possible, just listen to this testament from someone who did it after unsuccessfully knocking on doors of conventional funders – the angel investors, venture capitalists and banks.

The alarming spurt rate of ICOs often brings with it a scourge of potential scammers. The SEC and other institutions have to step in to monitor and regulate them.

Social media Platforms like Facebook and Google – which house a bounty of users (potential investors) have banned ICOs ads due to possible prey on unsuspecting investors; exposing them to con artists.

Basically, the scammers use fancy websites, laden with impressive figures and terminology to con users into buying into their coins or tokens.

Though the tokens barely even cost a cent, it adds up if they have millions of people buying in.  Once they have reached a certain amount in funding – they close shop and disappear!

Hypothetically speaking if one wanted to create a new coin called ‘DebunqedCoin’, these are the steps:
  • Create a product concept or Business Plan for the coin or what is called a Whitepaper. This describes in great detail what the coin or token aims to do; the core technologies behind it; the team and their qualifications; the product’s lifecycle/growth path etc.

  • Once completed and water-tight, the whitepaper would be submitted along with an application to one of the best Cryptocurrency Exchanges for review.
  • Naturally, the business would need some initial working capital for liquidity. Some of this is raised by the owners and other institutions (through loans) etc. These will serve as collateral/insurance that there is indeed genuineness in the venture for all stakeholders.
  • You must then assure your investors of a solid return on investment (ROI) and deliver – which goes back to sales and growth. Unless your offering is a scam you actually need to do some work! This comes with regular updates (marketing campaigns can have a tremendous or adverse impact on the uptake and price) on milestones reached.
  • The above is necessary to keep the investors abreast with progress and in the process, getting them to possibly increase funding. Growing interest and addition of more funds creates demand for the coin/ token which, in turn, drives up the price and market capitalization.
  • Voila! you would then be in business!

Here are some of the most successful ICOs of all time

NEO:

Known as “China’s Ethereum”, and backed by Microsoft, Alibaba and the Chinese government, NEO uses smart contract applications. It does so, however, with the addition of decentralized commerce, digitized assets and identification.

It enjoyed a considerable hike in token value from $0.03 to $88.20, NEO has big things coming with a 294,000% ROI.

Ethereum:

Unlike Bitcoin, the second-most valuable cryptocurrency in the world has more functionality than just being a coin. Its ledger technology is used to build and deploy decentralized applications a.k.a. “smart contract” technology.

Ethereum’s ROI has been nothing short of jaw-dropping at 230,000%. Having sold its tokens at $0.31, an Ether token now sits at a whopping $713, second in value only to Bitcoin.

Spectrecoin:

The “premier privacy-focused cryptocurrency” enables users to send and receive currency worldwide with total anonymity. It is currencies like SpectreCoin that have most government tax offices quaking in their boots.

If you had repurchased a token in November 2016, that puny $0.001 would be worth $0.64 today, or an ROI of 64,000%.

Stratis:

This UK-based start-up has craftily created a platform that is compatible with .NET and C#. As a result, the product appeals to veteran users of Microsoft products.

Raising 915 BTC in 5 weeks, those who cashed in on the low investment of $0.01 per token have seen a titanic ROI of 56,000%.

Ark:

With Ark, collaboration is the name of the game. The platform’s SmartBridge is a lightning-fast ecosystem designed to integrate other cryptocurrencies into its blockchain.

Investors were eager as any to buy in, and they have made a 35,400% gain given today’s token price of $3.54.

DigixDAO:

DGD, which stands for Digix Decentralized Autonomous Organization, is a self-governing community. It gives out grants to different projects which will promote the growth of the DGX network.

At a current value of $346.88 per token, this gives them a return of 10,722%.

Quantum (QTUM):

QTUM is an open-source value transfer platform which focuses on mobile decentralized apps or Dapps. QTUM is the world’s first proof-of-stake smart contracts platform.

They hosted a highly successful ICO in March 2017, and since that time has seen an ROI of 6,400%.

Source: investinblockchain.com

The prospect can be daunting for a cryptocurrency investor looking to make money off new investment opportunities, while remaining cushioned from fraudulent ICOs and dodgy coins and tokens.

As there is no guarantee that any cryptocurrency or blockchain-related start-up will be genuine or successful. One simply needs to be vigilant and take steps such as getting to know the core team, poring over the whitepaper with a big magnifying glass. Naturally you should be monitoring progress of the token sales.

Most importantly, one must  just using common sense to gauge just how feasible the project is to ensure that you’re not falling for a scam.

Remember, if it’s too good to be true, then it isn’t true!

Data (Gold) Mining

Let’s face it, if you really were going to quit Facebook, you would have a few years ago. Fact is, you should have asked the serious questions when the ‘free’ social media platform started turning over billions of dollars.

No free service can generate that amount money out of goodwill and thin air. So much that they could list on the stock exchange. So, we are not quite sure why everyone is acting amazed or why the knee-jerk #DeleteFacebook campaign is only now coming to light.

There really is no such thing as a free lunch. If you believe that all these online social platforms would keep it that way, then you are as naive as they are hoping you to be.

Think about it, the companies behind the platforms, actively recruit in pretty much tens and hundreds of cities globally.

And the simple fact of the matter is that in order for them to pay all their (global) staff of programmers, developers, executives, lawyers and other stakeholders. They need revenue.

What your data means

Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snapchat and pretty much any social media platform that has over 100 million users, therefore, sit on a goldmine for advertisers.

The commodity, however, is not just what their users wish to own in the short term, or their purchasing power directly for that matter.

The commodity is simply you, the user. So, your preferences, habits and views along with their personal data are analysed via machine-learning systems to study behaviours and habits.

The data in turn, is used for constant revenue maximization or in some extreme cases: political, psychological and social manipulation!

“Your ‘payment’ on a social media platform is your consent to have your information used for marketing purposes – opting out of marketing would give you true free use of the service. But no profiteering company offers that privilege today – the best you can get is a month’s free trial.”

Knowing your likes, spending habits, music preferences, political views, personal information including location and working habits is enough for any company or institution to cater their goods and services.

They can position their offerings (sometimes subliminally) into spaces where you are likely to indulge in them.

Social media platforms, in this case, become the marketplace for them to ‘mine’ data to use.

Most famous social network sites worldwide as of January 2018, ranked by number of active users (in millions).

Most famous social network sites worldwide

Source: © Statista 2018

How the mining actually works

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Data mining is not a new idea and completely legal if presented transparently in the terms and conditions of any service. The terms get longer by the day (and smaller in print) that we don’t bother to read them.

Microsoft envisioned this a decade ago and changed the way its operating systems work (beginning with its Windows 8 series). It’s operating systems are now more of a social, interactive and information gathering system. Allegedly designed to “help you” organize things better.

This is fostered by a voice-activated app called Cortana – all under one Microsoft account.

Amazon has its own ways of data mining via your shopping habits and Alexa – is own voice-activated search and information-providing device.

Google (owned by a group called the Alphabet company) has the biggest stranglehold of the lot and must, therefore, be the most cautious when it comes to data privacy and security.

This applies especially with its partnership with Android, which makes it a requirement for you to use for all their devices (phones and tablets) to link up all your data.

This includes phone contacts, emails via Gmail, pictures via GoogleDrive, apps (music, movies and games) orders via the Google (Play)Store and social media via Google+.

You can even have your search fields stored and synced onto your devices – from your laptop to phone and tablet via Google.

You are now having to (almost mandatorily) give up your telephone number, location, and other preferences indirectly to unknown affiliated marketers and partners of the tech giants. They get first dibs on this data – and paying good money for it.

Read more about Affiliate Marketing here

What is required by regulation

The main violation by Facebook, therefore, might not even be non-consensus selling of data to marketers. Such things could be countered with a clause.

They may have strategically stuck one in while you were busy posting selfies and liking random videos of cats.

The real issue is the potential use of the data for political or advanced manipulation of data for fraudulent purpose. This can be facilitated by the use of artificial intelligence to influence you without your knowledge.

Read more about the uses of Artificial Intelligence here

Full data privacy, though not conceivable, and absolute freedom from advertising on social platforms is possible – but at a cost.

This was reiterated recently by the COO of Facebook who admittedly confirmed that opting out of having your data sold or used would mean you will have to pay to use Facebook in future.

They had just not put this in place but will now forcibly have to make it a clearly visible option.

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The fact of the matter is we are in an era of Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT) and AI – all which require data to analyse.

These platforms are, therefore, here to stay and still serve their specific functions well. More importantly, they’re also the livelihood for many small-to-medium-sized businesses.

Data mining is here to stay

Though many were reluctant at first, pretty much every company now has a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page to showcase and communicate with their clients via the newly termed phrase ‘social engagement’. This has turned out to become a strong branding and marketing tool for them.

And if you think you are out of it by leaving one platform, just remember this: Facebook owns WhatsApp & Instagram; Google owns YouTube; Microsoft owns LinkedIn and so on.

There is nowhere to hide if complete online privacy is important to you.

And let’s not forget your web-browser. Not many of us actively use ad-blockers unaware that even your browsing data is being scanned and processed always by external third-parties companies.

If you aren’t using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), you should seriously consider it! Along with some good plug-ins to help secure your online browsing from all types of behind the scenes snooping and ransomware.

It will be interesting to see the outcome and verdict of the probe into the Facebook case.

Rest assured, many other heavily used platforms will be deleting and removing ties with data mining marketers. Especially ones that have had a similar agenda to what Cambridge Analytica was accused of conducting.

A change in verification of marketers, data storage and data security laws (such as the new GDPR law) were long overdue. Facebook will now be the scapegoat to enforce data security laws on social media.