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The GDPR Mess

by @ 4:35 pm
Filed under: business,internet,law,web — Tags: ,

With GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) being in full force since May 25, 2018, one must assume that the privacy and security of users are now fully protected. I think it’s an understatement to call that claim an over-exaggeration.

GDPR is a European regulation designed to protect the privacy of European citizens, giving them full control over their personal information. For most website operators it translates to getting users’ permission before doing anything with their data and deleting that data upon request.

While on the surface it is a well-intentioned law, little doubt remains that it has morphed into a giant confusion. Fact is no one really knows all the subtleties of this law and no one knows how to correctly implement it.

First there was a barrage of emails from companies proclaiming that they had new privacy laws, except that who has the time to click on every email and read reams of legalese nonsense.

Now we have the omnipresent ridiculous popup/slider on sites declaring some inane cookie policy for the site with a button to accept the terms. This site is guilty of that too, you might have noticed a cookie disclaimer sliding up from the bottom of the screen. The popup is just a utility script hosted on some site and I have no idea how it helps with your privacy and security while you are on this site.

Ironically, your privacy and security was just fine on this site prior to showing you the GDPR cookie notice. No data was being collected on you, no cookies were being stored on your browser, and no tracking was being done. Of course the Google services used on this site do some of those things and those are separately covered by Google’s privacy policies.

Now with the introduction of the cookie popup, this site has to use cookies to keep track of the fact that the user has been to the site and accepted the terms. In other words this site has to tell users that is uses cookie because it uses cookies to tell users that it uses cookies. And now the site hosting the popup code knows about the user too. Moreover the user that has just arrived to the site is not going to take the time to read all the cryptic nonsense in the privacy policy. Instead s/he is going to accept everything and continue. Now the site can do whatever it wants with the user’s data and it has explicit permission from the user. That provides a pretty strong incentive to abuse the data without any fear of legal consequences.

Finally, how does the European law expect a small time blogger provide the same level of privacy provisions of Amazon or Facebook to its users? Those are companies with billions of dollars at their disposal and an army of developers, attorneys and consultants.

Now comes GDPR with its esoteric rules to confound the small sites or even worse shut them down because they didn’t ask a silly question with a checkbox next to it. So much for democratizing the Internet where the small guys should have a shot at having their voice heard too.

But for now GDPR is here so by all means, read the disclaimer, visit the privacy page and click the stupid button. Don’t worry, your private data is safe with this site, especially since it doesn’t even ask for it.

Yahoo Mail Down Again

by @ 10:09 am
Filed under: business,email,web — Tags:

It is hard to say anything positive about Yahoo since Marissa Mayer took over the helm.

Useful services (e.g. Pipes) have either been eliminated or are just languishing (e.g. Mail).  Today Yahoo Mail is down again. Alibaba's stake hasn't turned out to be the savior it was once deemed.

At this point the stakeholders are surely kicking themselves for not taking Microsoft's buyout offer back in 2008.

The future isn't looking too bright for this once thriving vanguard of the Web. Perhaps it is time for new leadership.

Can Jet Beat Amazon?

by @ 4:18 pm
Filed under: business,web — Tags: ,

jet amazonThe idea behind Jet, a new online marketplace site, is simple. Borrowing from Costco's concept, Jet charges its clients an annual fee and in return ships products to customers with no mark-ups and in many cases with substantial savings over other shops, including Amazon.

Being a Costco fan, I like Jet's model. Add to that a good dash of dislike for Amazon and I may actually try Jet at some point. Seems like Jet is having some success getting its name out.

Jet's founder, Marc Lore, was the man behind diapers.com, a once successful ecommerce company who got crushed under the weight of Amazon and finally what was left of it was assimilated by Amazon. Now Lore is back to take on Amazon again, only this time he's going after the entire retail side of the company. Amazon's CEO, Bezos, can't be too happy about this, but is he worried?

I doubt Bezos is losing much sleep and here's why. Amazon may be known for perfecting the online marketplace and for being uber-competitive but Amazon has become adept at thriving while swimming in failure. Which company can lose money for over 20 years and be handsomely rewarded for it? For the last quarter it reported a measly $90 million in profit and saw its market cap rocket up by $50 billion when stocks opened last Friday.

The point is that competing with Amazon is like competing with a bottom-less pit for the bottom. Amazon crushes its competition by spending nearly infinite amount of money knowing that the stake holders expect nothing but losses every year. When you are rewarded for losing money, it's not difficult to spend all the money in the world, and that's what Amazon does to stifle competition.

Of course Jet realizes this fact and it has dug in, preparing itself and its investors for years of losses as its competition with Amazon heats up. Will it find the same love and admiration from its backers and future shareholders? Doubtful, but I actually hope so. Not just because I dislike Amazon, but also because some day I'd like to start my own thriving business that is successful at losing money forever.

Amazon Diapers To The Rescue

by @ 7:55 pm
Filed under: business,internet — Tags: ,

amazon diaperWhen I opened my inbox last friday, an email from Amazon greeted me with the title: "Announcing Price Reductions for AWS Data Transfer and Amazon CloudFront"

I wondered how Amazon was going to make up the difference in the face of stiff competition from other cloud vendors. Then I saw Amazon diapers in the news and all my concerns were laid to rest, genius.

Could this have been the starter line for the executive meeting at the Amazon's headquarters? "We have a revolutionary idea to counter the AWS shrinking margins and the Fire phone losses. Please bring your attention to the baby on the PowerPoint slide ..."

Revolutionary indeed 🙂

 

Amazon, The Emperor

by @ 4:20 pm
Filed under: business — Tags:

amazonTake the usual quarterly loss, the upcoming Prime price-hike, and the UBS downgrade and you have the catalyst for a drop in amazon.com's shares in the past couple of days.

Today however the stock is up over 2% and chances are it'll be back where it started and then some. Amazon is just one of those stocks. Much like bitcoin, it has little intrinsic value but it's kept front and center so everyone's too afraid not to buy in, lest they miss the party.

What exactly does amazon do again? Sells discounted stuff online like a thousand other websites, takes its excess network capacity, repackages it as dozens of different services under the cloud umbrella and leases them to users (like thousands of other hosting companies), and oh yes, they are working on the drone express.

When you have a winning formula why mess with it? For two decades Amazon has been pushing the investing-for-future angle. Meanwhile there are no earnings, no dividends, and no share buybacks. Just a bunch of vapor and promises. The good thing about the future is that it's always in the future. We may wait until there's a red giant where the Sun used to be, but the future will still be in the offing.

The amazon emperor has no clothes on, but no worries, he'll get his clothes in the future.

AdSense, 10 Years Old and My 72-Hour Warning

by @ 3:04 pm
Filed under: business,google,web — Tags:

AdSense, Google's affiliate advertising product for publishers is 10 years old and I just received a warning from them that one of my sites, padfly.com, does not conform to their policies and I have 3 "working" days to clean it up or else they would block their ads on that site forever. Should I cheer or jeer?

For some time AdSense has stated that web pages on sex, violence, gambling, racial matters and other such topics are off limits for their product. padfly.com is not inherently notorious, but because people can create public pages and save any text data to them, some of the pages will inevitably have objectionable content. Policing that site is just not practical.

I have been with Adsense almost since its inception and would certainly not want to raise the ire of Google. It pays enough to cover the cost of running this site. I can also understand why Google would not want to taint its product with pages and sites that are not family friendly. At least they gave a warning instead of abruptly killing my account.

So dear AdSense folks, happy 10th and to comply with your rules I pulled Adsense from padfly.com completely. Fair enough?

Amazon's Miss, Does it Matter?

by @ 1:03 pm
Filed under: business,financial,web — Tags:

Last week Amazon reported an $0.18/share earnings on a lower than expected revenues for its past quarter. The shares seesawed after hours and finally ended down some $20 on Friday. The earnings were almost twice what the street had expected, but think about this, The street was expecting this company to earn a measly $40 million. This is a 17 year-old established company with a market capitalization of $130 billion, it should be expected to do much better.

The thing with Amazon is that investors seem to be so emotionally entangled with company that they have no logic when it comes to its share price. Since its inception, Amazon has played the "long-term" card and it continues today, as in the earnings don't matter because the company is investing in the future.

When this glorified future will materialize for Amazon is anyone's guess. Perhaps in another 17 years or more? Whatever the case, for those who may believe that the latest pullback may signal a return to sanity for this stock, don't believe it. Going by history, it won't be long before Amazon's shares will wipe out all losses and march on to set new 52-week records. It's just that kind of a company.

Apple Hitting Lows

by @ 12:36 pm
Filed under: business,computers,technology — Tags:

Apple shares hit a 52-week nearing $400/share today, even below some of the price points from when Steve Jobs was alive. The news surrounding Apple isn't very rosy. iPhone continues to lose market share to Google's Android, iTunes is losing market share to Amazon, and the PC/laptop markets are shrinking in general dragging Apple down along the way. Analysts aren't predicting a good quarterly report next week.

Now I admit to not being an Apple fan but the one force that was keeping the company firing on all cylinders was Steve Jobs and that is undeniable. When he was there the first time, the company was doing exceptionally well, when he was forced out Apple became a dud, then he returned and Apple came roaring back.

Now Jobs is gone once again and Apple continues on the momentum that he brought with him but that momentum is naturally wearing off. Jobs was a genius and a visionary and it is because of him that Apple has continued to do well much longer than I had anticipated. But eventually the vacuum of vision and innovation must show its effects.

I do wish the company well, but companies don't thrive on well wishes. Jobs was the secret sauce behind the resurgence of Apple and without him the inevitable must now happen. Apple will no doubt survive, but thriving doesn't seem to be the cards.

Amazon Paying for Positive Coverage on Business Insider?

by @ 2:53 pm
Filed under: business,web — Tags:

It was barely 10 days ago when the news broke of Amazon's Bezos investing $5 million is Blodget's web site, Business Insider. Most saw it as Bezos' genius investing in the up and coming web site. I just saw it as one pal taking care of another, as Blodget has been a vociferous support for Amazon almost from its inception.

Now Blodget has returned the favor by publishing an article lauding Amazon effusively as an example for other companies to follow.

Is this what has happened to journalism? It has become so contaminated by conflict of interest that people no longer even hide their incestuous relationships. Can anyone honestly read this so-called article and believe it's even close to being impartial?

Bezos is indeed a genius by the way he has pumped up Amazon's shares and by fooling a flock of sheep to believe his company is special and deserves its outrageous valuation. As for the rest of us, there's no need to read the Business Insider article. Surely it is filled with much praise and positivity for a company whose greatest asset is its gullible investors.

Amazon's Gross Margin

by @ 4:05 pm
Filed under: business,financial,web — Tags: , ,

Much has been said about how Amazon's high stock price is unjustified. This morning my boss sent me a link that reminded me again how ridiculous Amazon's share price has gotten as of late. The article summed it up well by noting that if Apple were to have the same PE ratio as Amazon, its share price would be $145,000.

I suppose another way to even better demonstrate this insanity is to use the same equation on Berkshire Hathaway class A shares, which would send them to an astronomical $31 million/share.

My boss tried to justify Amazon's stock price by mentioning their high profit margins. So I decided to take a look at what Amazon's gross margins are and how they compare with some other companies. Here's a short list:

  • Amazon: 25%
  • Apple: 39%
  • Google: 57%
  • eBay: 69%
  • Microsoft: 74%
  • Intel: 63%
  • Priceline: 82%
  • Wal-Mart: 25%
  • Ford: 18%
  • Oracle: 80%
  • GE: 26%

As you can see Amazon's gross margin is way below its peers, but in line with that of Wal-Mart's. Proof that Amazon is nothing more than a glorified, high-tech super store.

As to why its stock continues to rise despite any rational justification, another person said it well. Traders play Amazon as a momentum stock and it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Logic indicates that it should come down crashing hard, but this stock escaped logic long ago and it'll be foolhardy to bet against it now.

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