A revealing look at Snap's metrics
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Snap is an infamously secretive company — so much so, that we didn't actually know much at all about its metrics, active users or even growth at the time of its IPO, and the company is an expert at keeping such things behind closed doors. 

Taylor Lorenz over at The Daily Beast has uncovered a trove of data that gives us a peek at detailed user statistics for the first time, as well as detailing how closed-off internal culture is:

Take the case of one former Snapchat employee. On his first day, he was forced to sit through an ominous orientation in which he was threatened with termination if he so much as breathed a word of what he was working on to friends or family. He was told that he couldn’t bring anyone into the building unapproved, and those who were cleared could only be taken to specific conference rooms or the cafe.

Given Evan Spiegel's penchant for secrecy, this is not surprising, but it's something employees are beginning to question — especially as even teams are not permitted to discuss what's being worked on.

Anyway, the leaked data is pretty insightful, if only because it surfaces the Snapchat reality: most people just use it as a chat application and don't do much more than that. 

Take Snap Maps, a feature that was touted as a way to teleport around the world, and its active users have fallen over a third in less than a year. Users also prefer 1-to-1 messaging rather than stories, with users now 64% more likely to send direct images rather than add it to a public story.

Discover, the only place Snap actually makes money with ads, also appears to have not seen significant growth since launching. With the company hedging its bets on this feature but it ultimately being demoted in a upcoming redesign, this is concerning:

The entire concept for the redesign has been contentious. Sehn, Snapchat’s then-VP of engineering, left the company in November and was reportedly a critic of Snapchat 2.0.One of the biggest fears about the redesign is that Discover usage will plummet and it will crater Snapchat’s ad revenue. “If I was on the Discover team, I’d be fucking furious,” one former employee said.

I don't like drawing comparisons to previous startups, but it reminds me of Evernote, a company that was valued at billions of dollars because it would reshape the note taking industry, that ultimately ended up tacking on features to find a market fit and finding itself unable to fill any sort of niche

Snapchat may be able to pull itself out of the rut, as publishers adore throwing money at it to this day, but with just 20% of all users even looking at Discover, it's not a great sign. If publishers figure out they can't even get a fraction of the millions of eyeballs they were promised, they may abandon it en-masse.

A couple of promising insights from the data, however: Snap's retention is real. It's not shrinking, users appear to be sticking around, and sharing continues to grow in general. Ultimately, Snap wants to be something more, but maybe it's just a chat app.

Unfortunately for Snap, chat apps are hard to monetize. Luckily for Snap, it has plenty of money (at last glance it had 2+ years of cash runway even at that high burn rate) to figure out what, exactly, it is.


Microsoft warns about serious CPU slowdowns

After Intel tried to calm panic around Spectre and Meltdown last week, Microsoft has come forward with hard numbers that suggest older devices will be impacted significantly by patches to the flaw, and even goes as far to suggest server admins delay implementation.

The company says PCs from 2016 and onward will see almost zero perceivable impact, but devices with Haswell or older (circa 2015) will see a perceivable performance loss, particularly if they're running Windows 7 or 8.

Windows Server is somewhat worse, with Microsoft warning that any silicon will be impacted in a serious way, and that admins should be "careful to evaluate the risk of untrusted code" to balance the security vs performance tradeoff.

Meanwhile, Intel is busy rolling out patches for CPUs and continues to claim that the impact will not be that bad, just that it's "workflow dependent" which is disingenuous at best. Over the last week we've seen massive amounts of data to suggest the opposite, like game hosting companies with CPU spikes of more than 40% after patching

The logical point you will probably jump to is "this will suck for them" but the reality is the opposite: Intel owns more than 90 percent of the CPU market, and continues to dominate it. Unfortunately, this bug, however bad it is for PR, may actually increase sales of modern processors as enterprises and consumers rush to replace their PCs.

It may, however, also accelerate the adoption of alternative architectures. Both Apple and Microsoft have pursued ARM-based computers in recent years, and perhaps this incident will be enough to push both companies toward an alternative in 2018.

Either way, the news is not good for consumers. I've discussed this with many friends in the security and infrastructure industries who disagree about the impact for consumers. 

Some believe that your personal threat model and the impact of Meltdown/Spectre et al mean that you could reasonably avoid patching for now, while others believe it's a 'sky is falling' scenario -- but they're all in agreeance that this is a huge pain in the ass for cloud customers.

This story isn't going away, so stay tuned for more in the coming days.


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