We often hear about software acquisitions for huge amounts of money. Most recently, the search software Vurb is reported to be in the process of being bought by Snapchat for $110m.
Let's look back at some of the most expensive takeovers of web and mobile apps, focusing on the most memorable names.
WhatsApp bought by Facebook for $19bn
It's the annoying name that makes it sounds like you're asking someone what's up, but not quite. WhatsApp was bought by Facebook for $19bn two years ago.
An interesting article by Tech Crunch explains why this valuation was not so ludicrous. And it did seem ludicrous – at the time of the acquisition, WhatsApp wasn't even used widely in the US.
However, Facebook had previously missed out on buying Snapchat, so felt they had to make a meaty offer for WhatsApp. It also meant they avoided Google acquiring it.
Instagram bought by Facebook for $1bn
Facebook's other software biggie. Instagram was bought for the pocket change of $1bn, a bargain in hindsight (at the time of the acquisition in 2012 it was considered a lot for a start up). It is now valued at about $35bn by Citigroup. Eye bulge emoji.
Bitstrips bought by Snapchat for $100m
This isn't as expensive as the others and Bitstrips is less of a household name, but the thread here is the acquisition merry-go-round, as Facebook had previously failed to buy Snapchat (they didn't offer enough money).
Bitstrips is behind the Bitmoji cartoon characters – pre drawn templates that you can choose from to create comic strips and avatars.
Vine bought by Twitter for $30m*
I wanted to include a Twitter acquisition and this is one of the most well known, given that it's described as a 'vine' when someone posts a vine-hosted mini-video, rather than just a 'video'.
*This figure is disputed with $970m also mentioned. Stock value could account for this, though there doesn't seem to be a definitive answer.
Waze bought by Google for $966m
We haven't had a company gobbled up by Google yet, so here it is. Waze is a type of GPS and social sat nav. It takes data from users, who can also report crashes, traffic jams, etc.
Skype bought by eBay for $2.6bn
Companies can be acquired more than once, this time we're chosen to highlight one of the earlier acquisitions, as Skype was eventually bought by Microsoft for $8.5bn.
Early Skype software development took place in Estonia, and Microsoft have maintained a large base there.
YouTube bought by Google for $1.65bn
Another Google acquisition, and this is one of their most famous. They practically picked YouTube up at car boot sale for $1.65bn, when you consider it is an omnipresent online fixture.
Last year it was valued at about $70bn by analysts.
Myspace bought by News Corporation for $580m
A list of spendy acquisitions wouldn't be complete without mentioning myspace, bought for $580m and later sold (to Justin Timberlake and friends) for $35m.
But that doesn't tell the whole story. Myspace remained popular for years following the acquisition, and its valuation kept going up.
In 2008, Facebook became a bigger force, and Myspace continued to decline.
LinkedIn bought by Microsoft for $26.2bn
Another purchase by Microsoft and an ongoing acquisition expected to complete by the end of the year. The acquisition will boost Microsoft social networking portfolio.
Viber bought by Rakuten for $900m
Viber, a messaging app similar to Skype, was acquired by Rakuten, a Japanese online retailer, in 2014. At the time, Rakuten's chief executive said they would be unable to create such an app on their own, and it provided new communication strategies for them.
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Xamarin became popular for building mobile applications because it brought the programming language C# to Android, iOS and Windows Phone apps, allowing developers to use their existing coding expertise for mobile app development.
But that isn't really what makes the Xamarin framework special.
When developers use Xamarin, they are able to share code between Android, iOS and Windows Phone while still producing native mobile apps – which means the app functions just as well as if it had been written in the specific framework for that phone, rather than a cross-platform framework.
How code sharing still creates native mobile apps
Sharing code across mobile development platforms means that you can share code between iOS, Android and Windows, rather than having to rewrite 100% new code if you wanted an app that worked on more than one operating system.
Arguably the most important thing about Xamarin, and the thing that differs most from its closest alternatives, is that the final product is the same as if you had used the native language.
For example, a photography app being used on an iPhone should ideally be using code meant for an iPhone and an iPhone camera, not something written for Android that may work on iPhone, but not make the best use of the iPhone camera's features.
In this example, Xamarin offers the opportunity to share some of the general logic behind the photography app, without recycling the unsuitable Android code. The code that cannot be shared is rewritten, which will likely be a fair chunk of it.
Xamarin doesn't require you to write generic code that detracts from a specific mobile device, it instead shares the code where possible, but not all the time.
Anything you can do while creating an iOS app with Swift (the development language used for Apple) you can also do in Xamarin.
Big changes for Xamarin mobile development
Earlier this year Xamarin was acquired by Microsoft for a reported $400million. It was then announced at the Build 2016 keynote (a developer conference) that Xamarin would be integrated into Visual Studio.
This was great news for mobile app developers. It meant you no longer needed to pay for each Xamarin account you needed to develop in each platform. If you already used Microsoft's Visual Studio, Xamarin was included, while some versions of Xamarin can be used without needing Visual Studio, too.
Is Xamarin the best choice for mobile app development?
Xamarin isn't necessarily better, but it offers benefits for cross-platform app development. This has the potential to save on coding time, enabling developers to pass cost savings to clients.
The app development company I'm using is using Xamarin for my mobile app, Is this OK?
Xamarin is definitely a reputable choice. Ask your mobile developer why they have chosen it for your specific mobile app, and they should be able to explain without technical jargon.
Are there any alternatives to Xamarin for mobile app development?
Each mobile app requirement is different, and it's too simplistic to say that all cross-platform apps should be made using Xamarin. Alternatives include PhoneGap and Ionic, though neither of these offers the same features as Xamarin. Most notably, you do not produce the equivalent of native mobile apps in the way that you do with Xamarin.
Xamarin is not necessarily any better than anything else. As Xamarin mobile developers ourselves, we don't automatically use it. It depends on the circumstances.
If you are developing only an iOS app, or only an Android app, the cross-platform aspect of Xamarin is probably not relevant. Additionally, if a developer is experienced in either or both iOS and Android development, they will likely be able to code those apps entirely separately just as quickly.
I attended a cyber crime conference in Cambridge last week held by Cambridgeshire Police. The event outlined what the police are doing to tackle cyber crime and what we can do to avoid it in the first place. They said 80% of cyber crime is preventable. It was stressed at the conference that not only can you be hit with financial losses, but cyber crime can have significant impact on well being.
Some stats for Cambridgeshire to get us started: There were 142 cyber-dependent crimes in a 150-day periodOne company recorded eight DoS* attacks in a dayLosses of £752,000 during this time*Denial of service attack, basically unable to use your network Here is a quick bullet point take-away from the conference before we delve a bit deeper: Cyber crime is a priority for cambs police and is as high a priority for the country as anti-terrorismAlways report attacks to Action Fraud even if nothing is damaged/takenA lot of damage is preventableReporting cyber crime to police: We heard that without reporting of hacks and attacks, funds will not be given to fighting cyber crime as the extent of the issue would not be known.
What to do if you suspect you are a victim of cyber crime in Cambridgeshire? As soon as you are aware... Phone your bankReport to the local policeKeep evidence (emails, letters, phone call recordings)Report to Action Fraud, even if it is an attempted crimeMandate fraud:
Mandate fraud is the most prolific crime seen by cambs police. Mandate fraud is when someone is convinced to update a suppliers banking details, therefore sending funds to the wrong bank account.
How is mandate fraud carried out and what should I be aware of?
Mandate fraud will be carried out by phone, email, letters, etc. Essentially the scammers are looking to make staff believe them. This may be with an official looking letter, or by frequently calling them, building up a rapport, and then asking them to please update to our new details.
Double check account number changes, do not automatically use a contact number given on a letter and seek further authentication before responding to an email exchange (see more on two step authentication in this blog post).
We were told about two simple ways for someone to gain access to a bank.They may pretend to be a BT engineer, or someone enquiring about a mortgage or new bank account.
So the scammer can say they are from BT, and then have access to the servers while they “do their repairs”. Alternatively, they can pretend to be applying for a mortgage and then use distraction tactics to gain access to hardware.
This is in relation to the bank itself, but can be applied to an office. If you have information stored on computers or servers, someone could still seek to gain physical access to that by pretending to be a customer or service personnel.
Impersonating a CEO:
How this works is that a scammer will send an email pretending to be the CEO. It may appear to be from the CEO's address (or one so close they hope you won't notice).
Even if you have payment processes in place, a request from the boss will often take precedence. If a boss asks you to expedite a payment, staff will want to help out and maybe even not want to bother their boss. CEO spoofing relies on helpful staff not double checking, or not wanting to disturb their CEO.
Small amounts from many bank accounts
Often scammers will take a small amount from many accounts, hoping people won't report it. Keep an eye on all transactions.
“A mobile phone without a pin is the most valuable thing you can find” Put a pin on your mobile.
Apparently thing is a thing. It is when memory sticks are deliberately left outside a business, so helpful/curious people will collect them up and plug into their computer to check the content/find an owner.
Not all businesses have a formal IT policy, and it's something worth doing. The information shared here came from the cyber crime conference I attended last week in Cambridge, held by the county's PCC. A broader overview of cyber crime in Cambridgeshire can be found in the previous blog post.
What is an IT policy?
You probably already know – a document or collection of documents that set out best practice for staff regarding cyber security, online access, emails, etc.
The aim to to stay safer by educating staff. By having an IT policy, staff should be aware of preventable issues and be able to respond quickly if something is amiss.
How important is it?
We need to do more to protect company data, according to the experts: http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Cambridge-companies-beware-cyber-attacks/story-28609175-detail/story.html
According to Cambridgeshire Police, one local medium-sized business went bust due to the extent of a cyber crime, and many companies are victims on a smaller scale (see more in this post).
What should be in an IT policy?
Below are some things to think about:
What is the policy on storage such as USBs? Can staff bring in personal USBs and use them on a work computer?
Who and where are you buying hardware, software and services from?
Passwords Are colleagues allowed to share passwords? Are all desktops and laptops password protected? Network and remote access
Can you logon to the network externally?
Who can access your office? Employees, cleaners, visitors?
Who has access to what?
Email links and attachments
Think about a policy on clicking links, or file extensions to be aware of. For example receiving a .exe file from an unexpected source should be a red flag.
Do you keep backups and who is responsible for them?
Are laptops or towers/monitors left logged in and unattended?
When I hear two-step authentication I think of banks or Google mail logins, where you have a password and a text, or password and security key.
It is also something else just as useful – literally getting a second authorisation before committing to a payment. A common way of scamming money relies on administrative staff not getting a second authorisation after receiving an email from the boss. This is called CEO spoofing (see more on CEO spoofing in previous blog post).
The policy should also include what to do in the event of a security breach (see previous article for advice on this).
Ecommerce via a mobile phone or tablet has overtaken ecommerce via desktops and laptops for number of visits, with two thirds of all online website visits being mobile.This is a higher overall percentage than the US, Germany and India. The stat of 65% of online ecommerce being via a mobile was taken from January of this year.
The report is by Similar Web, a website analytics company. We're looking at a snapshot of findings below, relating to mobile ecommerce.
Mobile ecommerce (sometimes referred to as mcommerce) has been growing steadily over the years, with mobile versions of websites being an increasing area of investment for businesses.
As an example, for Black Friday, Similar Web said that for 25 large retailers (including Amazon, Ebay and Argos), the daily average amount of visits per site was 761,000 for desktops and just under 1.4 million for mobile devices.
Desktops still popular
While more traffic was shown to go through mobiles, shoppers spend more time per visit on desktops. In turn, they also view more pages than those looking on their smartphones.
Mobile conversion rate lower
While mobiles have proven to be massively popular for online shopping, there is one significant aspect in which it is still catching up to desktop, and that's with purchasing.
In previous research by IMRG, it showed that conversation rates on mobile, while lower than desktop, had gone up significantly year on year. The IMRG study also showed that more sales themselves (rather than traffic/visits) are through a mobile device.
So while visits and sales are higher on mobiles, the conversion rate is still lower.
The report by Similar Web shows that smartphones are at a 1.16% conversion rate, while traditional computers are at 3.65%. Interestingly the tablet, in between sizes, fares pretty well, much closer to computers at 3.22%.