WeTransfer Moves Toward File Transfer as a Microservice

It shouldn’t be news that enterprise file storage, sync, and sharing software and services (EFSS) have largely become a commodity. Prices continue to fall, in part because providers’ storage costs are still decreasing. More importantly, their cost to actually transfer a file has always been negligible, even with the application of strong encryption.
With costs low and decreasing, it’s fair to ask which of the aspects of file storage, sync, and sharing creates enough value for customers that providers can charge for the service. When you stop and think about it, the sharing or transfer of the file has always been the action that the rest of the bundled offer hangs on, especially for cloud-based services. A file can’t be stored on a provider’s servers until a copy has been transferred there. Similarly, changes to files must be transferred to keep copies in sync. The vast majority of the value proposition clearly lies in the transfer (sharing) of the file.
So it makes sense for the file transfer element to be the focal point for providers’ monetization strategies. If you accept that premise, then the next logical conclusion to be made is that file transfer can be monetized as a stand-alone service. In today’s world, that service would be built and licensed as a microservice, which can be used in any application that can call a RESTful API.
WeTransfer, a company based in Amsterdam (despite claiming San Francisco as its headquarters), has announced today the first step toward the creation of such a commercially-available file transfer microservice. A new partnership makes WeTransfer’s file transfer service an option (alongside Dropbox) for delivering photos and videos purchased from Getty Image’s iStock library. WeTransfer works in the background while the customer remains in iStock.
WeTransfer has exposed its file transfer API to Getty Images only at this point, but will be able strike up similar partnerships with other providers of graphics services. Of course, WeTransfer could also license API access to any developer looking to incorporate file transfer into an application. While it isn’t clear from their statement today if and when that will happen, the possibility is very real and quite compelling.
It’s important to note that both Box and Dropbox have made their file sharing APIs commercially available to developers for several months now, so WeTransfer is playing catch up in this regard. However, WeTransfer has emphasized file sharing almost exclusively since its founding in 2009 as a web-based service that only stores a file being shared for seven days before deleting it from their servers. Dropbox, on the other hand, originally was popular because of its simple-but-effective sync feature, and Box was initially perceived as a cloud-based storage service.
The potential market for file transfer microservices is so young and large that no provider has a clear advantage at this point. The recent nullification of the Safe Harbor agreement (PDF) between the European Union and the United States also presents a significant challenge to file services vendors that provide file storage for a global and multinational customer base. If WeTransfer emphasizes its legacy as an easy-to-use, dependable file transfer-only service with its newly-created microservice, it could gain a larger share of the market and expand well beyond its current niche of creative professional customers.

Twitter left a lot unanswered with new ad strategy, but Wall Street didn’t mind

Twitter left a lot of questions unanswered about its new syndicated ad network, but it looks like Wall Street didn’t mind. The social company’s stock closed up six percent after it announced it would start powering promoted tweets on other sites. The tweets would look a lot like they do in Twitter.

A mockup of a promoted tweet that could appear outside Twitter

A mockup of a promoted tweet that could appear outside Twitter

It’s sort of a confusing premise, one that led Re/Code to call it a “concept” rather than a “full-blown product.” Would promoted tweets appear on the sidebars of websites? Would they pop up embedded in posts? Would they only show up in widgets that serve up a bunch of tweets? Twitter’s blog post on the news didn’t elaborate further, aside from saying they’d appear on Twitter’s first partners: Flipboard and eventually Yahoo Japan.

Flipboard is an obvious integration, since tweets are already part of the content. Flipping past a promoted tweet as you go through stories would feel natural. “Because Flipboard already integrates organic Tweets into the app, the Promoted Tweet will have the same look and feel that is native to the Flipboard experience,” the Twitter post said.

I was struggling to think of many other examples where there are streams of tweets on other websites. Most media companies embed or show one-off tweets, so a promoted tweet there would look jarring and might keep journalists in particular from embedding tweets. A few years ago, embedded widgets showing latest tweets by certain users were very popular, but I haven’t seen those in awhile. I asked Twitter for more examples of where they imagine these promoted tweets appearing, and I’ll update this if I hear back.

On the surface, Yahoo Japan is a weirder partner choice than Flipboard. Why would Twitter want to work with an Asian arm of a struggling media brand?

Turns out, Yahoo Japan is its own separate entity — the American Yahoo helped found it in conjunction with telecommunications company SoftBank. Yahoo Japan’s popularity has continued to soar even as Yahoo’s has plummeted. And Twitter is hugely popular in Japan as well. It’s an easy way to test the product before courting other companies.

A source familiar with the Twitter’s strategy told me they’re still developing this new promoted tweet strategy and will be releasing more information in the future. The person I spoke with said that we can expect to see promoted tweets both in feeds of tweets from the website, but also as standalone units. “The promoted tweet is a trusted and known unit and it looks and feel really easily digestible,” they said. “You need users to say, ‘This is content I’m ok with having here.'”

That’s key for Twitter’s new external ad strategy to succeed. Given the fact that the company is serving up promoted tweets, not newly designed ads, it has to hope people like that format.

Here’s why new competitors can’t do what Hotel Tonight does

HotelTonight, the app for booking a hotel stay on the go, has introduced new personalized price cuts, one called a “bonus rate” and the other called a “rate drop.”

Bonus rate: left; Rate drop: right

Rate drop: left; Bonus rate: right

The apps will analyze your phone’s location and offer you added discounts for hotels in specific other cities, a deal it’s calling a “bonus rate.”

For example, if you’re in San Francisco you may see that a same-day $145 room at a Los Angeles hotel is now discounted to $85. But if you’re in Munich, you’ll only see the original HotelTonight price. HotelTonight is trying to tempt people who might not otherwise travel or stay in a hotel to change their minds. “Some people value price and flexibility over the certainty of where they’re staying,” CEO Sam Shank told me. “At some point I hit my price point.”

Conversely, the app is also introducing a price cut known as a “rate drop” that can only be seen by people in close proximity to a specific hotel. Once again, the idea is to tempt people that might not otherwise spend the night in a place to change their mind. “People who weren’t thinking of booking a hotel in advance. Perhaps the other option was to stay with a friend or get a train home,” Shank said.

The hotels don’t want to cannibalize their business by slashing their rates on their websites on a day to day basis. Then they’d lose money from people who might have booked at the full price anyways. But by using cell phone location coordinates, the hotels can target new customers through HotelTonight that they might not otherwise snag, without losing their brand loyalists who would pay full price. “It’s about growing the market,” Shank said.

As anyone who uses HotelTonight already knows, the app offers the cheapest possible prices for same day booking. Hotels actually have to bid the lowest fee for their type of accommodation in order to be featured in the app. The companies most willing to do that are those with a lot of empty rooms they need to fill up.

This is a feature that HotelTonight’s bigger competitors, companies like Expedia and Priceline, have been able to imitate once they saw it worked. With bigger brand awareness, it’s a worthy foe for the comparably scrappy startup.

But the latest bonus rate and rate drop features aren’t going to be quite as easy for the travel giants to rip off. For them to work, they require up-to-the-minute information on a person’s location, down to specific mileage. As a result, customers have to be accustomed to checking hotel rates and booking rooms from their phone, a concept that HotelTonight’s clientele is obviously on board with, but Expedia’s legacy user base, maybe not so much.

Services with Airbnb pricing data grow as the king stays quiet

Successful new companies generate new business opportunities, as other companies emerge in their wake to support them and find their own profits, and Airbnb is no different. As more and more consumers are renting their properties on Airbnb — and some are doing so full-time as their own business — a spate of companies have formed to help Airbnb renters become mini real estate agents.

Airdna is one such offering. It combs Airbnb data to give people information on average Airbnb prices in their neighborhood, as well as analytics like most popular amenities offered in your area and the effects of using Airbnb’s Instant Book feature.

Based in Santa Monica, the product is built and marketed by a father-son team. Airdna started out as an e-book written by the son, Scott Shatford. It offered directions and advice to those looking to rent Airbnb apartments full-time. Shatford soon realized that Airbnb’s wealth of data, once organized, would be its own business opportunity. He calls it the “Wild, Wild West.”

“We’re making this leap of faith that people really want to get smart and data-driven about Airbnb,” Shatford told me.

Airdna is a freemium product, and you can access basic information — such as what can you expect to make in your city based on the size of your place — for free. The more detailed report of your area costs $30.

Airdna faces some stiff competition. A few other companies have cropped up with similar offerings. Beyond Pricing is one such product, and its slick beautiful design puts Airdna’s early 2000s look to shame. Airenvy is another competitor in the field, although it’s a little different. It manages your property for a fee, using a price fixing algorithm to determine the best price for the season, market availability, and area.

These are the kinds of companies that will help the nascent apartment sharing industry mature and reach a mainstream population. But their businesses are probably at the mercy of Airbnb’s whims; Airbnb offers a rudimentary room recommendation price already for its hosts (albeit not one sophisticated enough to consider seasonal or day-to-day demand changes).

If Airbnb wanted to kill these counterpart companies by producing its own data analytics, it could at any time. We’ve seen it happen before, whether it’s Twitter killing off Twitpic by introducing its own photo upload feature or Facebook rolling out a music player to compete with iLike.

Apple Stock Climbs Above $300

Apple’s stock price reached a lofty milestone in pre-market trading early this morning, crossing the $300 mark for the first time in company history. It reached as high as $301.50, and remains above $300 after opening bell today. Analysts predict it will go higher still.

iPad Price Gouging? Not Quite

While Apple haters are surely whining that Apple is gouging customers with its iPad prices while getting away with huge margins, the reality is actually quite different.

The Dollar Show: Cheap TV and What It Could Mean for the iPad

The Wall Street Journal is claiming this week that Apple (s aapl) is testing out 99 cent episodes of TV shows on iTunes with the intent of offering the same deal much more broadly across its library when the iPad launches in late March. The information comes courtesy of people familiar with the talks between Apple and the networks regarding pricing changes.

Shows already being offered at 99 cents are cited as examples of testing for this new scheme, but the shows in question aren’t exactly the most popular, so it seems almost as likely that the discounting is designed to stimulate sales in these specific cases. MTV’s “Wonder Showzen” and Warner’s “Children’s Hospital” are among those on offer at the reduced rate. Read More about The Dollar Show: Cheap TV and What It Could Mean for the iPad