Sizzle Fizzle: Snapchat Sizzles, Uber Fizzles And Amazon Breaks The Internet


Snapchat and the snapback in tech IPOs? When Snapchat posts a 44 percent gain its first day out of the gate, what does that say about the state of tech IPOs to come? Maybe nothing, as this is a singular event … but then again, maybe everything. Even with stock markets at new highs, investors found much to cheer about and all eyes seemed to be on this highflyer, which is a banner name for tech and the millennials who use tech. That alone might be a business model driving enthusiasm, the skew towards younger users, and perhaps it will be a long-lived one.

Bank stocks at highs: Amid the market rallies that seem neverending, banks stocks are at highs not seen since 2007, the good old days just before the financial crisis. Firms like JPMorgan have said they will return cash to shareholders, and peers see rising rates as boosting net interest margins. No small kindling is being set in place by the potential for regulatory rollbacks.

Global mobile money economy: This past week saw encouraging data on the mobile money front, as the GMSA said in its annual “state of the industry” report. The report stated that at the end of 2016 there were more than half a billion registered money accounts globally. That stretches across 92 countries and is helping improve financial inclusion. All in all, 1.3 billion transactions are nothing to sneeze at, and neither is the fact that 4.4 percent of global GDP came from mobile technologies.


Uber: Dance as if nobody’s watching. Yell at your employees as if everyone’s watching. That maxim should have been taken to heart by Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who was caught on video arguing with an Uber driver, complete with vulgarity, to the delight of viral social media. The chastened executive has now reached out for leadership help. Lesson learned: Think before you speak.

Target: Not everybody can be Walmart in the mass retailing market. Target learned that the hard way when it missed its, well, targets, said rough holiday shopping presaged the firm cutting its estimates to as much as 25 percent below what the Street was expecting. The stock fell 13 percent on the heels of the announcement. No bullseye here, unless you were a short seller on Wall Street.

Marissa Mayer (and Yahoo, too): Guess what was about as secure as a Yahoo email account? CEO Marissa Mayer’s stock awards and bonus, valued at as much as millions of dollars. The punishment was doled out by the board in the wake of the data breaches stretching back to 2014 that compromised more than 1 billion users and now have, rather predictably, resulted in a spate of lawsuits.

Fizzle Of The Week:  AWS And The Hiccup That Took Down The Web

There were a lot of choices for fizzle of the week. Target’s earnings results were a disaster, Uber is rapidly becoming a euphemism for toxic work environment instead of a euphemism for a game-changing innovation and Wells Fargo revealed it might not quite yet be done finding fraudulent accounts just yet. March comes in like a lion indeed.

However, while all of those things under more normal circumstances merit the top prize in our weekly walk of shame, this week everyone got a pass because Amazon broke the internet. Or at least broke enough of the internet to massively crimp everyone’s style on the last day in February when large section of the web went down due to issue with Amazon Web Services.

So what happened, and why should everyone be paying attention?

Small Problems — Big Issues 

A relatively small technical failure in Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) simple storage service turned into a pretty big problem Tuesday (Feb. 28) when that small glitch turned into hundreds of thousands of crashed websites.

Big ones. Among the affected were the SEC; Netflix; Amazon’s Video Streaming; and Apple’s app store, music streaming and iCloud backup — just to name a noteworthy few.

The failure started around 15 minutes to 10 Tuesday and ran for about four hours — and as of yet there is no confirmed explanation of what tipped off the error at Amazon’s cash cow. AWX brought about $12 billion in revenue last year.

Dave Bartoletti, an analyst at Forrester, noted that the glitch earlier this week aside, in general Amazon is still one of the most stable games in town.

“This is not a trend, in my view — the cloud is getting increasingly more reliable over time,” he said.

Still, given AWS’ reach’ — the outage should perhaps give one pause, he noted.

AWS is far and away the largest public cloud provider in the U.S., with more than 10 times as much storage capacity as each of its nearest rivals, Microsoft and Google. Its client list includes the Central Intelligence Agency and dozens of Fortune 500 companies, including Deloitte, General Electric, Kellogg’s, Comcast and Condé Nast.

“People are sort of realizing how much of the internet relies on Amazon,” he noted.

And also perhaps realizing that small glitches — or intentional attacks — can do big and unexpected damage to one’s day, or one’s business’ bottom line.

When 99.99% Isn’t Good Enough 

Amazon, it should be noted, claims — and is widely believed — to offer web services that are 99.99 percent reliable.

The problem 0.01 percent that is unreliable can be a massive hassle for consumers and businesses — as we all learned this week.

And this isn’t the first variation on this lesson the digital community has learned in the last year. The wide web failures this week were the result of an as-of-yet unexplained hiccup at AWS. As November was closing out, the world enjoyed a different internet outage — the Mirai botnet attack shut down a large section of the web (including, once again, poor Netflix) with an assist from a whole bunch of wireless routers that were weaponized into staging grounds for bot armies.

Different starting point — similar result, the internet goes down in large chunks.

So far, these incursions have been short — able to be handled in hours — but the experts aren’t convinced this will always be the case. The world is getting more and more digital — billion of smart devices are expected to jump on the web in the next few months. Fridges, lightbulbs — even sneakers are getting the ability to order pizza.

All of those entry points create lots of chances for hacker and hijackers to shut down the web hurling sophisticated malware at it.

And all those entry points also represent a spot of consumer dependence that then goes south in the event of an attack or a hiccup. Users hoping Apple would replace their physical wallet would have been in trouble if Apple Pay had gone down instead of Apple Music.

The connected world can be an easier place to live — smart devices can order your groceries, bills can be paid casually in line on a phone and being able to digitally customize everything from a movie night to a shopping trip is a big upgrade.

That could be very difficult to suddenly live without if the next big outage is resolved over the course of days, not hours.

Hence the fizzle of the week for AWS — and the reality that we may not yet have systems ready to step in when the primary systems we rely on fall down.


New PYMNTS Report: Preventing Financial Crimes Playbook – July 2020 

Call it the great tug-of-war. Fraudsters are teaming up to form elaborate rings that work in sync to launch account takeovers. Chris Tremont, EVP at Radius Bank, tells PYMNTS that financial institutions (FIs) can beat such highly organized fraudsters at their own game. In the July 2020 Preventing Financial Crimes Playbook, Tremont lays out how.

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