Apple Maps privacy

TechCrunch reported that Apple is rebuilding Maps from the ground up.

“We specifically don’t collect data, even from point A to point B,” notes Cue. “We collect data — when we do it — in an anonymous fashion, in subsections of the whole, so we couldn’t even say that there is a person that went from point A to point B. We’re collecting the segments of it. As you can imagine, that’s always been a key part of doing this. Honestly, we don’t think it buys us anything [to collect more]. We’re not losing any features or capabilities by doing this.”

The segments that he is referring to are sliced out of any given person’s navigation session. Neither the beginning or the end of any trip is ever transmitted to Apple. Rotating identifiers, not personal information, are assigned to any data or requests sent to Apple and it augments the “ground truth” data provided by its own mapping vehicles with this “probe data” sent back from iPhones.

Because only random segments of any person’s drive is ever sent and that data is completely anonymized, there is never a way to tell if any trip was ever a single individual. The local system signs the IDs and only it knows to whom that ID refers. Apple is working very hard here to not know anything about its users. This kind of privacy can’t be added on at the end, it has to be woven in at the ground level.

Because Apple’s business model does not rely on it serving to you, say, an ad for a Chevron on your route, it doesn’t need to even tie advertising identifiers to users.

Apple uses the data to improve the service. It doesn’t sell you ads or sell your data. This is why they don’t need to identify users or even build a profile of each user. grossed RMB 160 billion in its mid-year sale with the help of physical stores

TechNode reported that grossed RMB 160 billion in its mid-year sale.

China’s e-commerce platform reached RMB 159.2 billion in sales during its annual 618 Shopping Festival, which occurred between June 1 and June 18.

The company said transactions were up 37% compared with the same period last year, and more than 90% of the orders from JD’s self-operated stores achieved same-day or next-day delivery, thanks to automated devices.

Good deals coupled with intensive marketing before 618. That’s what got me ready for a shopping spree on 618. Half price for many daily necessities and on top of that you get a 10% rebate for every RMB 200 or RMB 300 spent depending on the product category. No brainer to stock up on half a year’s supply to last me till Single’s Day.

Tmall and Taobao had promotions during this period too. It’ll be interesting to compare how Alibaba fared.

Jack Ma: It was Dr M’s MSC that inspired me to start Alibaba

The Star reported that it was Dr Mahathir’s MSC that inspired Jack Ma to start Alibaba.

The Alibaba founder and executive chairman said that he read about MSC in a newspaper 20 years ago and found the idea inspiring.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is a genius idea. If Malaysia can do this, why can’t China. Why can’t I do this myself?’

“So Malaysia inspired me to create Alibaba,” he said during the launch of an Alibaba Group office in Kuala Lumpur on Monday (June 18).

20 years later, the divide is stark. Malaysia has sadly lagged behind.

Why QR codes trump NFC in China

TechNode reported on Why QR codes trump NFC in China.

Barrier of entry is much higher for NFC compared to QR code payment. This applies both for consumers and vendors. Consumers need to have devices that come with NFC and vendors need equipment that can accept NFC payments.

QR code, on the other hand has minimal costs involved. Vendors just need to print out their QR code. Consumers only need a device that has a camera and can support the Alipay or WeChat apps.

QR code payments, on the other hand, demand no such extra hardware requirement. It is for sure that NFC chips come with an additional cost, and that is a luxury for many Chinese customers who have little incentive for paying an extra price to opt for NFC-based payments.


Many vendors, mostly local small businesses, are hesitant to support NFC contactless payments due to the underlying costs. While it is reasonable to expect McDonald’s to accept credit cards, a vendor at a local farmers’ market in a Chinese city is less likely to own a POS machine that supports contactless chip cards.

QR codes are seen as a more convenient alternative to costly POS terminals. If you are a small business owner, you would have to follow a much more sophisticated, and pricey procedure to obtain a POS terminal than printing a QR code to request funds on WeChat or Alipay.

Another major factor is how users can easily link their Alipay or WeChat Pay wallets to their bank accounts, instead of a credit card. Or if you have cash, you can pass cash to someone and have them transfer money into your Alipay or WeChat Pay wallets. Many convenience stores offer such service, often charging a minimal service fee for their troubles.

Consumers in many Western countries are incentivized by the benefits and promotions that credit card holders enjoy. Although credit cards are ubiquitous in major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai, they are not at all commonplace in rural parts of the country or even lower tier cities.

There are also roadblocks for college students, freelancers, retired citizens, and stay-home parents to apply for credit cards. According to a 2017 report from The People’s Bank of China, the average number of credit cards owned by each person in China is 0.39. In the US, the number is 2.6.

While the majority of Chinese people don’t get cash back from credit card companies, they can from Alipay. As third-party services, both Alipay and WeChat Pay have frequently offered (link in Chinese) promotions, cashback rewards, and “red packets” to users, including those who have only added debit cards to their accounts.

Apple Pay would be able to pose a bigger challenge and gain a greater market share in the Chinese mobile payments market if they add a QR code function and make it easier for consumers to add money into their e-wallets.

Google to pour $550m into in a strategic partnership

Tech in Asia reported that Google is investing $550m into in a strategic partnership.

Most of Google’s services are still banned in China, but the US tech behemoth is trickling into that market in various other ways. Today, it announced that it’s pouring US$550 million into ecommerce powerhouse as part of a “strategic partnership” between the two.

Under the deal, Google and JD plan to jointly develop a range of online shopping solutions in regions outside China – specifically, Southeast Asia, the US, and Europe. JD will start selling products through the Google Shopping platform, an aggregator for ecommerce sites based on product search.

It is a tough battle against Alibaba for JD in both the domestic and international markets, that’s why it partners with Tencent in China to compete against Jack Ma’s ecommerce behemoth. Logical move to team up with Google in the international market. For Google, it’s a way to get a foot into the world’s largest market that it has no access to.

RSS curation and sharing

TechCrunch reported that RSS is undead.

Another enormous challenge is discovery and curation. How exactly do you find good RSS feeds? Once you have found them, how do you group and prune them over time to maximize signal? Curation is one of the biggest on-boarding challenges of social networks like Twitter and Reddit, which has prevented both from reaching the stratospheric numbers of Facebook. The cold start problem with RSS is perhaps its greatest failing today, although could potentially be solved by better RSS reader software without protocol changes.

Rather than letting platforms or reader apps handle the curation and feed discovery, I believe the feeds would do better with manual curation. Bloggers are most likely heavy consumers of RSS feeds. Have them share their a feed list for a particular topic, kind of like how Twitter lists are.

Their readers would then be able to see where they get their inspiration, information, and influencers. The list is kind of an evolution of the blog roll. It could be a list of links or a downloadable OPML file to easily help beginners populate their reader apps.

WeChat impresses with social impact

TechNode reported on WeChat’s impressive social impact.

  • WeChat-driven information consumption reached RMB 209. 7 billion
  • WeChat accounted for 34% of the total data traffic of users
  • WeChat drove RMB 333.9 billion traditional consumption, covering travel, food, shopping, tourism, etc.
  • WeChat contributed the employment of 20.3 million persons in 2017, more than twice the 2014 figure
  • The number of stores accepting WeChat Payment in Japan was multiplied by 35 in 2017

Of note are the following:

WeChat-driven consumption in traditional sectors of the economy has also been rising exponentially, rising 22.2% in 2017 to 333.9 billion RMB.

More importantly, it is so easy to set a regular donation through your WeChat Pay, as showed by 40.3% users who donate to charity via WeChat.

WeChat launches new JD shopping function

TechNode reported that WeChat launched new shopping function for shopping on with just a few clicks.

WeChat has launched a new shopping function that lets people shop on with just a few taps. Now simply by entering consumer product related keywords into the search box at the top of the WeChat homepage or the search function in the “Discover” tab, top search results popping up are product pages

Not surprising. JD is facing stiff competition from Tmall and Pinduoduo.

Great to be able to do this within the WeChat app. I enjoy using the Shenzhen Metro and Bus micro apps within WeChat because I don’t need to download an app for these services. And they seamlessly work with WeChat Pay. Very low friction and highly practical.

China’s tech firms are adapting to an increasingly IP sensitive environment

TechNode reported that China’s tech firms are adapting to an increasingly IP sensitive environment.

Data shows that these supporting policies have incentivized Chinese companies to create and file for IP. Chinese companies filed more than 1 million patent applications in 2015, more than one third of the total number of patents filed globally. Now China is the world’s #1 patent and trademark country, filing more than the US and Japan.


In addition to a complete legal system, several macro-level measures are boosting the change. The Chinese government has reshaped its judicial system to increase the damages awarded via Chinese courts, which in turn adds an incentive for companies to file lawsuits in China.

While it remains hard to enforce patents in China, it is still important to have because the patents can be used as proof of IP ownership. These can be used to block shipments of copies and to get patent infringers kicked out of trade shows.

3Clicks to solve the problems with freelancing platforms

e27 reported on freelance platform 3Clicks.

What caught my eye is the unfortunate name of the company. This is a textbook example of how not to name a company.

Notice that they are branding it as 3Clicks with a capital C. This makes it less obvious but they can’t hide the fact that the URL would mostly be typed in lowercase: