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Ars Technica Puts Twitter, Uber On '2018 Deathwatch' (arstechnica.com) 152

The editors of Ars Technica have compiled their annual list of "Companies, tech, and trends least likely to succeed in 2018... Let's grab a Juicero and take a moment to reflect on the utter dumpster fires that we've witnessed over the past 12 months." Some of its highlights: Uber. "The company is losing billions of dollars a year, with no clear strategy for getting to profitability. Uber lost $2.8 billion in 2016 and will lose even more than that in 2017. Uber had $6.6 billion cash on hand in mid-2017 -- money that might not last much beyond the end of 2018... The company needs to find a way to stem its losses and get on the path to profitability before investors get frustrated and close their checkbooks..."

Twitter. "Still a money-losing concern. In 2016, it lost a mere $456.9 million, and its losses have continued in 2017 (though at a slightly less hemorrhagic pace). Still, on paper, the company is burning through the equivalent of a third of its cash on hand per year. And profitability (or an acquisition) is nowhere in sight..."

Net Neutrality. "It's not a company, but it's on deathwatch anyway..."

They also advise readers to "Pour out one for Radio Shack, which died even faster the second time around after what looked like a brave reboot" (though it's now getting another reboot). And they're bragging about their successful picks last year for the companies least likely to succeed in 2017.

"Yahoo has now been officially digested by Oath, a Verizon Company, its bits commingling with AOL's in a new, bizarrely named beast that for now bears the same logos... Yik Yak, the anonymous gossiping-messaging app that got banned by various universities for hate speech, is dead -- selling its intellectual property to Square, of all companies... Theranos is busy sending out thousands of refunds to Arizona residents, and the company has rented out its Palo Alto headquarters in an attempt to stay solvent until it can legally test blood again... BlackBerry doesn't make phones any more, having licensed its trademark and some of its tech to TCL. It is now a 'cybersecurity software and services company dedicated to securing the Enterprise of Things.'"
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Ars Technica Puts Twitter, Uber On '2018 Deathwatch'

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  • Thank God (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Sunday December 31, 2017 @01:42PM (#55839213)

    Twitter can't die fast enough.

    • Re:Thank God (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Sunday December 31, 2017 @01:58PM (#55839297)

      Twitter is highly unlikely to be allowed to die any time soon. It's too useful of a propaganda tool.

      It will be kept afloat by those interested in maintaining the existing propaganda networks on twitter. It's a very cheap asset when you view it in this light, and likely the primary reason for its current ownership structure. And those owners are more than wealthy enough to keep twitter afloat indefinitely, while ensuring that they have more and more control over it as twitter's money woes continue to pressure the staff.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      There are other companies in the queue before them. Twitter isn't that significant and the only reason it makes news these days is due to Trump and his blubber.

    • Twitter can't die fast enough.

      Amen, brother, but...

      The article was much easier to read by looking for what wasn't there: NOTHING about the stock markets or share prices. Actually, there were implicit considerations of the capitalization of the deathwatch companies, but almost no explicit consideration of the financial situations. (There is a little bit in the Uber entry.)

      The most vulnerable companies right now are the ones most exposed to burps in the stock prices. Considering how the electronic stock exchanges work these days, you can

    • I'd rather see Facebook die. Then there would be mass suicides of attention whores and drama queens.
      • I'd rather see Facebook die. Then there would be mass suicides of attention whores and drama queens.

        "I condemn social media like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram where people post on an internet forum" say countless Slashdotters posting on an internet forum.

  • Cash on hard means nothing. This is all fueled by VC money. What a dopey article.
    • Cash on hard means nothing. This is all fueled by VC money. What a dopey article.

      VC's pay out on the expectation of a big payday at the end. If their belief that you'll find profitability doesn't match your need for capital then you go under.

      • For sure, but to claim that Uber is going to go under because they are running out of "cash on hand" is silly. They can always raise cash. Even Theranos raised money recently, and they are a fraud. Money is extremely cheap and available right now, and the rich are only getting richer.
        • For sure, but to claim that Uber is going to go under because they are running out of "cash on hand" is silly. They can always raise cash. Even Theranos raised money recently, and they are a fraud. Money is extremely cheap and available right now, and the rich are only getting richer.

          VC money isn't free, you need to give away some of the company, at some point you run out of company to give.

          I don't know what Theranos had to give up for their $100 million but Uber needs several billion annually.

          • You can never run out of the company. You can just dilute the existing investors. Uber is still growing fast as more and more people use it. I wouldn't invest, but there are plenty of VC that would.
            • VCs aren't in it for the long haul. They expect an IPO and Uber is dragging its ass. It appears staying private, for the short term, is part of Uber's plan. Which is why the VCs were trying to take it over and force an IPO.

            • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

              You can dilute to the point that current investors are unwilling to approve the deal. Or that debt owners call the loans due. The smartest investors in uber right now are the ones with debt stakes- they get interest, and when uber eventually defaults (highly likely) they'll get first dibs on the company and likely own a multiple of the percentage they would from an equity stake.

            • You can never run out of the company. You can just dilute the existing investors.

              Only if the existing investors - who inevitably hold voting shares - allow you to do so. In that case, they're letting you dilute so they can sell off some of their stake to another sucker, so they can get cash out. But if the board (loaded with investors) and the voting base (significant ownership typically with early investors) say no - no dilution.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Uber's fate really depends on their ability to get a fleet of self diving cars running before everyone else. Taxi diving is a profession that will be automated away in the next decade or two, along with truck driving, and the only way to survive is to own the fleet and capture the market early.

          So far Uber looks pretty far behind the competition, but if someone offers to sell them the cars they might be okay.

          • Uber's fate really depends on their ability to get a fleet of self diving cars running before everyone else. Taxi diving is a profession that will be automated away in the next decade or two, along with truck driving, and the only way to survive is to own the fleet and capture the market early.

            So far Uber looks pretty far behind the competition, but if someone offers to sell them the cars they might be okay.

            But why would Uber be allowed to operate as a monopoly transport provider? Is everyone working on the assumption that in ten years time we will actually be living in a Libertarian/Corporatist dystopia where there is no government to stop such things?

            On reflection, they probably are.

  • Every time I read that I am completely disappointed that it didn't really explode.

    • by shanen ( 462549 )

      If I ever saw a mod point, I think I'd give yours a "Funny", though I can't explain why. Substantively, I, too, am amazed that Twitter hasn't gone away. Can I safely defy anyone to name one good or useful thing Twitter has accomplished? Even if you came up with something, I would respond thusly: #PresidentTweety.

      My separate comment (above in the discussion, assuming the usual trolls haven't trash-moderated it into invisibility) is much more substantive than this one. However it wasn't prepared for Slashdot,

  • by Bite The Pillow ( 3087109 ) on Sunday December 31, 2017 @01:47PM (#55839235)

    Twitter employs 3500+ people, making that the right amount of dollars to lose at 120k plus per person. Assuming ad revenue covers hardware and utilities and cxo compensation.

    I can't imagine why they need that many people. It boggles the mind.

    • by religionofpeas ( 4511805 ) on Sunday December 31, 2017 @01:51PM (#55839253)

      Speech doesn't ban itself, you know.

    • >>> It boggles the mind.
      It does, doesn't it? I mean, as a platform, it's something you could knock together in a week or so and host on AWS. Maintain it with a ten-person team, hire a 50 person sales team, and you're good to go. What the heck are the other 3440 people doing?

      • Not that i think Twitter is an overly complicated platform, but i really think you're oversimplifying here.

        • Craigslist is about an equal complexity as Twitter, and it runs with 50 people [wikipedia.org]. The biggest issue for both Twitter and Craigslist is database management. Front-end/UI/account management really isn't that big of a deal, not one that requires thousands of people. And for the record, I work right across the street from the Twitter building, but for a company that actually makes hundreds of millions of dollars in operating income, annually.
          • Craigslist serves ~60 million users. Twitter is around a billion. No, they're not equal in complexity.

            • Is there a practical scaling differences between 60 million and a billion users? Could you please enumerate them?
              • Yes, several, and i'm guessing you already know this. The requirements for services managing that users and those many QPSs are completely different from "traditional" websites such as Craigslist, where a small number of users will be active at a time hitting mostly common cached data. Once you scale at 20x you reach a point where throwing hardware at the problem doesn't help anymore and the entire architecture must be rethinked - load management, monitoring, content (even static) serving, storage sharding

                • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
                  re "rethinked - load management, monitoring, content
                  That can be solved by finding a few of the very best staff.
                  If a company has to many average and less than average staff who have to get paid at a top rate that becomes a wage problem.
                  Better to find a few top experts who know what they are doing rather than have larger teams of average workers who have to be looked after rather than doing the job expected of them.
                  Hire experts on merit only not just to show jobs are been filled with random people.
      • >>> What the heck are the other 3440 people doing?

        Two hour "agile" stand-ups where they sit down and go through every single open feature request.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      They can only make money by selling ads and providing extra services to business (i.e. helping them manage their social media stuff).

      So they need lots of sales staff, commercial support staff, accountants etc on top of the engineering division.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      To ban trending political links, movie reviews, accounts, users and news reports.
      To virtue signal the hiring practices added lots of different people.
  • Who cares what they think? Just like sports analysts, these idiots and others like them are wrong every year and there's no accountability for them being wrong. You're better off going to Vegas and putting it all on red than listening to what these turds predict.
    • If you cared to RTFA, those "idiots" begin with recapping how their last year predictions turned out.

      And yes, it's a lightweight article in a tech magazine to be read as entertainment on a lazy holiday evening. Not a serious analysis with billion dollar decisions at stake. Chill.

  • The amount of hype around those means that when one goes down, it'll take a great deal of the over-inflated tech industry with it as investors get obvious evidence that 'tech' companies are not fundamentally different than 'non-tech' companies.

    Whenever that happens, it'll be 2001 all over again.

    This will have some interesting downstream effects on vendors. 2001 pretty much ultimately killed Sun. This time, I'd have my eye on AWS as the troubled vendor this time around (a lot of expense to support revenue

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      AWS has a very big guaranteed customer, and Amazon actually seems to have a sound and profitable business, so it's unlikely they're going anywhere.

      AWS might shrink, but I doubt it's going anywhere. The other cloud services... they might be in trouble.

      • by Junta ( 36770 )

        It is interesting, as AWS is part of a bigger company that is on solid footing, and one that has a history of taking hits and playing through.

        Azure has proportionally more revenue from "old" businesses, and also a part of a bigger whole, so they are in a decently strong position.

        Google compute may be in the most precarious position of the big three in such an event, mainly because the larger whole has a habit of dropping things at the first hint of trouble.

        But in any event, that entire industry will get a b

  • Ars forgot to include Conde Naste on their 'Deathwatch' list.
  • Twitter. "Still a money-losing concern. In 2016, it lost a mere $456.9 million, and its losses have continued in 2017 (though at a slightly less hemorrhagic pace). Still, on paper, the company is burning through the equivalent of a third of its cash on hand per year. And profitability (or an acquisition) is nowhere in sight..."

    Kind of hard to make money when you're constantly changing the service to meet Silicon Valley whims.

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Sunday December 31, 2017 @02:48PM (#55839499)

    - HTC is doing better now that they sold their phone business to Google. We'll see if Google messes up like they did with Motorola.
    - Uber will be fine. They'll IPO in 2020 at more than $20 Billion in valuation. That'll be a huge disappointment for Uber investors, but the world never has to go back to the taxi.
    - Twitter will be like Yelp. Not a great business, but an ongoing one.
    - Faraday and Karma and a bunch of other hyped electric car businesses will fail and get absorbed into Fiat or some other non-US car maker. But maybe not in 2018. Tesla will keep going.
    - Gearbox has Borderlands 3 in 2018. It should be a huge success if they don't pull an EA and accidentally cut their own throats.
    - Apple will prove critics wrong again by selling more iPhone X units than expected. Apple profitability will be helped by AirPod and Watch sales. New products in 2018 will be good. Critics will continue to be wrong.
    - Cisco, Apple, Intel, Oracle, and Microsoft will all announce a special dividend for stockholders and huge stock buybacks, paid for by funds finally brought back from overseas.
    - Slashdot will continue to be a politics and Internet-complaint site that occasionally mentions technology topics.
    - Facebook use will see year over year usage declines in the US
    - Silicon Valley culture will continue to be authoritarian as it relates to politically correctness. Calling people racist is the only marketable skill some people have.
    - Red Dead Redemption 2 will be the biggest entertainment release of the year, bigger than any other game, book, movie, TV show, sporting event, or music release. It will be an amazing world. The story will be very good, but not as good as Red Dead Redemption.

    • True. Ars reflects the short term sensibilities of their readership, but no more than that.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Motorola was a great success for Google. They got the patents they wanted, and Motorola is doing fine with reasonably priced and good phones that took over the spot Google vacated when they dropped the Nexus line.

      SV issues will be resolved in court. Various discrimination and employment cases will eventually come to a head.

  • seeing as most of their stories now contain 30% by volume of 'people reacting on twitter'. double bonus if the tweet came from ANY level of sleb

    still front page news over xmas has included 'famous person's father dies' and 'cousin of famous person shot'.

  • With the maker movement, I could actually see Radio Shack working as an extension of local maker spaces. Or maker spaces in places that don't have them. It'd take some really bright management, though, and that's one thing it seems like Radio Shack hasn't had for a very long time.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Makers can buy in product they need with overnight shipping in the USA.
      Usually at a low cost in 10 or 100 packs.
      Once some of the more entrepreneurial makers have a video of fixing 30 year old tech they might on sell the remaining 9 or 95 parts.
      With instructions, art work, a video, as a set of parts, as a kit.
      Makers are selling their repairs and upgrades online direct to other makers and people who need repairs, upgrades, mods.
      The central catalogue site with all the parts wins, the maker wins. No ne
  • unless (or until) governments act against it for violating labor law. Uber has basically done an end run around 100 years of hard fought worker protections and rights. The economic value of that is hard to fathom. Take what every the 1% don't already own and you've got a rough approximation. So no, Uber isn't going away anytime soon. Not unless you can convince the working class they and the entire 'gig' economy is a threat.
    • Uber just amazed me. Cabs are regulated for insurance, inspection and drivers. While there are problems like the old NYC Medallion restraint of trade, there are many legit reasons for the public to be sure a car for hire meets some standards. Uber tosses all this. To paraphrase: I intend to sell cannabis in mid town...it would sell. I am tossing out all my rent controlled tenants...because freedom My tavern isn't participating in food inspections or any kind of zoning restrictions. That's the Uber busine
  • Will Oath now spit out an owl pellet of teeth and bones?

  • Specially since no one really seems to understand what it entails. The current administration has been really successful in framing it as a free market issue; it is kinda sad to see everyone discussing along those terms.

    • The current administration 'wins' because it has absolutely no cares about truth, honesty, or the good of the people it is governing. They can spew whatever propaganda they wish 24/7 without shame or morals holding them back.

      The other side is trying to fight propaganda with truth. If they'd dive into the muck they might lose their souls but win the battle. And then have lost the war because that would reinforce the current state of things as the new standard.

      • are you sure about that, it seems to me the propaganda is strong everywhere, nobody cares about the truth anymore, just their entrenched positions..

        • Reasonably sure. The Republicans currently don't seem to care if they're caught lying - they just repeat the lie. The Mall crowd size, all the deflection with repeating debunked lies about Hillary Clinton, and 5x documented false statements per day from the POTUS, the ongoing story about the Trump team not meeting with Russia that changed several times as more proof came to light (though oddly this is also an exception of sorts, since they actually changed their story). Denying means innocence if you're

  • I've noticed a real trend over the last year or so. Approximately once per day there is a dump of stories to Slashdot that have been on the front page of Ars Technica in the last day or so. It's almost like someone posts all the Ars stories to Slashdot as they're doing their daily reading.

    Once day I'll do an analysis to determine if they're posted in reverse chronological order or not (i.e. from the top of the Ars front page).

  • Imagine the ripple effect through the economy if the bitcoin bubble bursts and Uber and Twitter go bye bye. This should rapidly erase any economic gains and might actually cause some real turmoil.
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Sunday December 31, 2017 @04:41PM (#55840101)
    I'm thinking that pretty much nobody who's suddenly felt hipper-than-thou using the phrase "dumpster fire" has ever sat around a campfire, let alone seen an actual dumpster on fire.
  • I mean, I thought the reason people use it convenience?

    I live in a country and an area with functional public transportation (actually, it's sometimes considered the country with the best public transportation system in the world), so I usually use that.
    The number of taxis I've taken in my life can be counted on two hands, probably.
    And I never really found anything objectionable about them.

    • by djinn6 ( 1868030 )
      Just go to Miami or some other touristy place and try the taxi there. I guarantee you will be taken the scenic route and charged extra. When an Uber driver tried that with me, I sent an email and complained, and they refunded me immediately. You're not going to get that kind of service from an independent taxi driver.
  • by tsa ( 15680 )

    I hope next year Airbnb dies. They are destroying the lives of millions of locals in the cities where they operate. Whole neihbourhoods are transformed sleeping quarters for drunken tourists, making the lives of the people who live there a continuous hell. Please let Airbnb and the likes of them die a fast and fiery death.

  • I mean....isn't their business essentially.

    We hook you up with a ride, you pay us. We own no cars, we do no maintenance. We split the fee with the driver, taking a large chunk as a finder's fee. All we do is run a website/app.

    I mean really, what are they doing that is losing them so much money?

  • I think there is a real chance that someone will seriously look at acquiring Twitter in 2018. It's not likely to be Facebook, Google or Apple, because of the prospect of a major antitrust fight with the FTC and DoJ. And it definitely will not be the Chinese companies that operate Sina Weibo and WeChat.

    One possibility I've thought about personally is someone like Naver Corporation of South Korea, who runs the LINE messaging service that is very popular in eastern Asia.

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