Why U.S. tech giants are obsessed with ShareChat, India’s hot social network
sharechat indiacentric english 160m maus 100magarwal Tech giants are running out of avenues for growth. In the search for their next batch of users, most of them have turned their attention to India, where more people have logged onto the internet for the first time in the last couple of years than the U.S.’s entire online population. And one startup has emerged as their hot ticket into the country’s most idiosyncratic audience: ShareChat.
Headquartered in the southern city of Bangalore, famously referred to as India’s Silicon Valley, ShareChat is an India-centric social network that supports over a dozen regional languages and offers most of the trappings you’d expect from such a service, such as a feed influenced by your interests and the people you follow; the ability to share media and text as well as comment and like other posts; and more.
ShareChat is wired to feed off of India’s soaring appetite for content. It’s designed to fuel new internet users’ obsession with information, and—even more importantly—their proclivity to forward that information on WhatsApp, the country’s most popular messaging app.
Resembling Reddit more than Facebook or Twitter, ShareChat doesn’t make you follow or friend anyone to get going. When you first log in, your home feed will be filled with posts from a wide variety of topics such as news, tabloid gossip, good-morning messages, and more—all in the local language of your choice.
ShareChat is available in many languages—but not English. [Image: courtesy of ShareChat]
On top of that, ShareChat comes equipped with public chat rooms where you can jump in and just start talking to strangers—a common internet perk that new Indian internet users from underdeveloped regions especially find fascinating. To serve this specific behavior, ShareChat even has a feature called “Shake-N-Chat” that connects two strangers engaging with similar kinds of topics over personal chat.
But the biggest difference between ShareChat and other familiar social experiences is that it has no English-language option. That’s part of what’s made western tech giants sit up and take notice. ShareChat is the only startup Twitter has invested in (twice). It’s rumored to be on the cusp of raising more money from Google and Snapchat. At one point, talks of Google acquiring ShareChat for a billion dollars surfaced as well.
A HUGE, HARD-TO-CRACK MARKET
For Google and many other western tech giants, banking on Indian startups has been a regular affair of late. Most recently, Google, Facebook, Qualcomm, and Intel poured hundreds of millions into Reliance Jio, India’s leading telecom operator. And late last year, Microsoft and Google invested in DailyHunt, a news aggregator and content app.
That’s not all. Most of these tech companies have also spent much of the last few years trying to optimize their offerings for India, where the median household income is about $3,600 and the cost of devices and internet service is a major factor in adoption. For instance, you can talk to the Google Assistant via a toll-free number—no internet needed. Amazon sells a battery-powered Echo smart speaker to cater to the country’s electricity-deficient regions. Facebook, Google, and Twitter offer their apps on inexpensive dumbphones. Netflix has a $3 mobile-only plan that lets users stream TV shows and movies in non-HD standard quality on their phones. The list is endless.
The tech giants’ enthusiasm for the Indian market is understandable. It’s the second-fastest growing internet economy and hosts over 650 million online users. Last year, Cisco forecast that this figure would surpass 900 million by 2023.
Much of the credit for India’s digital revolution can be attributed to wireless carrier Reliance Jio, which four years ago began offering cellular 4G services for dirt-cheap prices, forcing the rest of the competition to match the prices in order to survive. (Most of them didn’t, or got rolled up into mergers.) Today, a 4G plan with unlimited calls and 2 GB of data per day costs about $3 a month in India.
Further, since only about half of India’s population is online—compared to the U.S. and the UK where over 90% of people are on the internet—there’s plenty more to come and tech companies can’t afford to miss out.
The problem is breaking into the Indian market isn’t easy, especially as only 10% of its population speaks English and the majority of the country’s internet users are from non-English-speaking rural areas. Soon, nine out of 10 internet users in India are likely to communicate in local languages.
How IonQ is planning to bring a quantum computer to the masses
quantum ionq 2bsullivan fastcompany Today, Maryland-based quantum computing company IonQ is going public via a SPAC in a deal that’s expected to raise $650 million. Its $2 billion valuation and big-name investors indicate that quantum computing may be helpful to businesses sooner than expected.
The company’s main product is a 22-qubit quantum computer, to which it sells access through the Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. Qubits are the far more versatile analogs of the binary bits used in classical computers.
IonQ says its hardware is based on 25 years of research by Chris Monroe and Jungsang Kim, professors at Maryland and Duke universities, respectively. The two licensed their research from the universities and founded a company based on it in 2015, with the stated goal of bringing quantum computing out of the lab and into businesses.
IonQ Founders Jungsang Kim (left) and Chris Monroe. [Photo: IonQ]
Many in the tech industry hope that quantum computers will deliver the next big leaps forward in compute power now that prying incremental gains from traditional silicon chips has grown progressively harder. While chip makers try to squeeze more transistors onto silicon for ever-smaller capacity increases, quantum proponents say adding a single qubit to a quantum machine can double its power.
But quantum computing remains a nascent technology; most experts don’t expect it to outperform today’s supercomputers for at least another five years. So it’s natural to wonder how IonQ is making money now, and why new investors should have confidence that the company’s earnings will keep growing after Friday’s IPO.
IonQ CEO Peter Chapman tells me that anybody can access IonQ’s 22-qubit quantum computers today. “You can use those devices, they’re relatively cheap, for two bucks you can run your quantum version of Hello World,” he says, referencing a short program developers use to test out new programming languages. IonQ doesn’t disclose its revenues, but has said publicly that it’s “eight figures,” with a run rate in the tens of millions per year.
The 15 best tech podcasts you need to listen to right now
best tech podcasts Do you ever feel like technology is moving so quickly in so many different directions that there’s no way one human brain can keep up?
That’s what podcasts are for.
Whether you work in tech, run a startup, or just love learning about new technology and gadgets, podcasts can be a great way to keep up with major trends in the tech space. We’ve compiled 15 of our favorite podcasts that are not only entertaining but also can help expand your knowledge of a sometimes complicated industry. Some of these podcasts cover the general industry news of the day while others immerse you in specialty areas like crypto or electric vehicles. Some are short and hit just the highlights while others run longer and dive deep. But all of these great podcasts give you a chance to absorb useful knowledge in a relatively short period of time—even while your hands are busy doing something else.
BEST TECH NEWS PODCASTS
TECHMEME RIDE HOME
Techmeme has for years carefully aggregated and curated some of the best (and fastest) coverage of the most important news in the tech industry every day. Techmeme Ride Home gives you much of the news on the website, but in audio form, making it even easier to digest, especially if you’re multitasking. The podcast is hosted by Brian McCullough, who enthusiastically provides the key facts from the tech stories du jour, with a dash of commentary. The podcasts go up at 5 p.m. daily and are usually pretty brief, at about 15 minutes long.
THE HUSTLE DAILY SHOW
This podcast is another short, daily affair (many episodes are less than 10 minutes) that gives you a solid executive summary of what’s going on in tech news, plus a little bit of smart, and often funny, commentary. The Hustle Daily Show is hosted by The Hustle newsletter writers Zachary Crockett, Juliet Bennett Rylah, Jacob Cohen, and Rob Litterst.
BEST GADGET PODCAST
Software may have eaten the world, but hardware and gadgets are still hugely important, and that’s the niche the Waveform podcast fills. It stars Marques Brownlee, who became well known among tech influencers for his reviews on YouTube of everything from smartphones to electric cars. Every week, Brownlee and cohost Andrew Manganelli look at all kinds of new gadgets, including gaming gear and virtual reality headsets, electric vehicles, folding phones, and pretty much anything consumer tech companies are putting out. These guys look at products with a critical eye, but they clearly love gadgets, which is part of what makes the YouTube cast fun to watch.
BEST PODCASTS ABOUT APPLE
MAC POWER USERS
Many of us love our Macs but also suspect we could get more productivity out of them if we just had a little expert advice. That, in broad terms, is what the weekly Mac Power Users podcast is all about. Guided by hosts David Sparks and Stephen Hackett, and featuring insightful guests from a wide variety of professions and backgrounds, the show teaches listeners new workflows for their Macs, as well as news and commentary on Apple’s newest hardware, apps, and operating systems. The show has been going since 2009, and just published its 649th episode. The episodes are pretty long, but they’re rich with tips, and Sparks and Hackett create a low-key vibe that’s pleasant to listen to.
Connected is a deep dive into Apple World, with weekly commentary on the company’s latest devices, apps, features, operating systems, and services—and how it all works together in the ecosystem. The podcast features MacStories editor-in-chief Federico Viticci and Relay FM cofounders Myke Hurley and Stephen Hackett (also of Mac Power Users); and the three have a comfortable and polished repartee together, complete with long-running jokes and references. All three are long-time Apple watchers/influencers and speculate intelligently on what Apple may come out with next.
IRS stimulus checks update: When will mailed paper checks or EIP cards arrive?
stimulus mailed march 26 If you’ve been waiting for your third Economic Impact Payment to arrive via the U.S. Postal Service, there’s a chance it could already be in the mail.
The Internal Revenue Service said last week it would deliver the second large batch of stimulus checks—about 37 million of them. Although many were delivered via direct deposit, the batch also included about 15 million paper checks and 5 million debit cards.
It appears as though some mailed payments went out on Friday, March 26. That’s according to a number of social media users who were able to obtain an update from the IRS using the Get My Payment tool. If you have access to that tool—and you’re expecting a check by mail—it’s worth checking it for an update. If you’re among the 20 million people whose mailed payment is part of the second batch, there’s a chance it will show up this week, but the IRS says it will take a few weeks to deliver all of them.
Here are a few other things to know:
Nonfilers are still waiting: In its recent update, the IRS said the payments that went out with the latest batch included people who filed a tax return in 2019 or 2020. It also included people who didn’t file a return but were able to register with the IRS’s “nonfilers” tool. Nonfilers who didn’t use that tool are going to have to wait longer. Sadly, this includes many recipients of federal benefits such as Social Security. (We’ve reached out to the IRS for an update on when payments for these individuals will be sent out.)
It could be a paper check or a card: If you’re expecting a mailed payment, the IRS isn’t really saying whether you’ll receive it by paper or a debit card (EIP Card). Importantly, if you received a previous stimulus check by debit card, the IRS will not simply replenish it with $1,400. You’ll either get a new card or you’ll get a payer check. (Needless to say, don’t throw away any envelopes from the IRS.)
Lost payments are traceable: If you received a paper check or debit card but lost it, all hope is not lost. For paper checks, you can request a payment trace from the IRS. For debit cards, you can request a replacement from MetaBank, the issuing bank.
The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law on March 11, authorized checks of up to $1,400 for individuals and $2,800 for couples. As of last week, the IRS said it has issued 127 million payments totaling $325 billion. Unfortunately, it hasn’t provided a timeline for when subsequent batches of payments will be sent out. We’ll keep you posted with updates.
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