Camber Bytes w/c Apr 5, 2021

Brice Gramm
April 5, 2021

This is the lil tech news you need to know for the week commencing April 5, 2021.

📱 Apps are Winning the Attention War

Analytics firm App Annie’s latest figures for app usage in the first quarter of 2021 show a 30% increase in the time consumers spend per day using mobile apps, compared with the same quarter just two years ago.

The global average usage increased to 4.2 hours per day, and that number is more than five hours per day in some countries.

Our Take: In one of our Bytes just last week, we shared that consumers spent a record $32 billion in apps in the first quarter of 2021. So, not only are consumers spending more money in apps, but they are also spending more time.

Considering that many apps don’t make money directly from consumer spending inside the app, but rather by monetizing attention with ads, sponsorships, and promoted content, we suspect that the total economic impact for app owners of the combined increase in spending and attention is substantial.

💴 China’s Digital Currency

China has become the front-runner among major countries in launching an official digital currency. The digi-yuan is an all-digital currency intended to entirely replace some of the printed money currently in circulation.

While it may sound like it’s in the same realm as something like Bitcoin, this new digital money should not be confused with cryptocurrency. The digi-yuan is fully centralized–meaning it’s created, monitored, and managed by the government of China.

The deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China–which has spearheaded the development and trials of the digi-yuan–wrote of the need for the new digital currency that the benefits would not only be the reduced costs of producing and storing physical currency, but also eliminating the opportunity for anonymous transactions “for illegal purposes.”

Our Take: In many countries, and certainly among many demographics, cashless payments have already become the preferred format. It makes sense to attempt to reduce the amount of new paper money printed and coins minted when the demand for legal tender you can hold in your hand goes down.

There are, however, significant implications of a centralized, state-run digital currency to consider. As the People’s Bank of China deputy governor alluded to in his comments about the new digital currency, the details of all transactions using this new currency–such as the identities of the parties in the transaction, the amount of the transaction, and any other metadata which may be required to facilitate it–will be tracked and monitored by central authorities.

Privacy advocates are likely to have some objections to such a concept.

🏛️ Google’s Supreme Victory

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Google’s favor in what is likely the most consequential programming-related case ever heard by the country’s top court. The ruling overturned a prior decision from the lower Federal Circuit Court which adjudicated the case previously.

The case started a decade ago when Oracle argued that its Java APIs were copyrightable, and Google’s incorporation of some of those APIs into its Android operating system constituted a copyright violation… to the tune of $9 billion worth.

The Supreme Court opted not to rule on the issue of whether APIs are copyrightable in the first place, instead ruling that Google’s use of the APIs is not copyright infringement under the fair use doctrine, even if APIs were copyrightable.

Our Take: While we kind of wish the court would have gone ahead and settled the debate as to whether APIs should be copyrightable, we understand why they chose not to–they didn’t have to do it to decide the case.

Nevertheless, we think they landed on the correct side of this issue. Whether APIs are copyrightable or not, it’s critically important that they are allowed to be used for their intended purposes, and under the terms of the licenses by which they are provided.

We appreciate how Uri Sarid of integration software platform MuleSoft articulated his thoughts on this, “APIs are quite utilitarian, like an ATM machine’s operation: slide your card here, punch your code there, select from a menu, and expect cash in return. How could that be copyrighted? This surely isn’t what the copyright law was intended to protect: it’s not a creative work of art, it’s not an author expressing ideas in a personal and distinctive style, nor a programmer choosing to write code this way vs that way. Thank you, your honor, for re-establishing common sense.”

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