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Thursday, January 21, 2016

A tale of 4 social networks

I got interested in investing in the stock market when Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) when public with it's IPO in late 2013. When the stock first started trading it shot up to approximately US$72.00 in the first day of trading. This was too expensive for me to buy. My first investment was an oil drilling company which I sold about 4 or 5 months later for a small profit. I have made a number of investments since then. However, this post is not about investing specifically but who or what are behind 4 social networking sites - Twitter, Google, Facebook and Instagram.

As we all know, both Google and Facebook were founded by their founders, while in university, as student projects. Because both were founded in universities they received funding (unofficially) from DARPA, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - Creating Breakthrough Technologies For National Security. This certainly explains why both Google and Facebook have been very data centric. It also explains why both have become very valuable to the US military industrial complex (USMIC) and thus to investors. In fact the only other 2 companies to have a connection with DARPA or the USMIC, that I know of, are Apple (Steve Jobs father was an employee of an US military contractor) and Microsoft (Bill Gates started MICROSOFT while still attending university as a course assignment).

We have all hear about the NSA, National Security Agency, using Facebook, Google and other social media platforms to spy on people. Is this surprising? No! They get what the USMIC/DARPA paid for - intelligence in the form of user data. However, this article is not about NSA/DARPA/USMIC using user created data for (US national) security. It is about why Google, Facebook and Instagram are booming with users and profits while Twitter seems to floundering. It has to do with how all 4 started and were funded during the initial stages.

I already established the connection between the US military intelligence community, Google and Facebook in the preceding paragraphs. How about Instagram? According to Inc. magazine, Instagram was started by 2 Stanford fellows. The article does not say whether Instagram was started while Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger were still at the university. But still there may be a DARPA funding connection. It also says Instagram gained 10,000 users within hours of placing their app in the Apple's app store in early October, 2010 - another USMIC connection. Instagram was bought out by Facebook. Birds of a flock together - companies with connections to US security intelligence community tend to take care of their own.

Twitter, on the other hand was started by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass, while they worked at Odeo. (Odeo was founded by Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass as a search engine for RSS feeds.) However, at the time Jack Dorsey was an undergraduate student at New York University. New York University (NYU), like all US universities, receives funding from DARPA. This does not necessarily means Twitter received any funding from DARPA/NYU. It also explains why Twitter takes privacy and security even more seriously than even Google. Because Twitter may have received little or no funding from DARPA, it is in no way a part of the US security intelligence community thus not covertly receiving funding from the US government or the USMIC. This, I believe is why Twitter has been a target of the US government legal attacks on Twitter under PRISM, PATRIOT ACT, FISCA and other US security laws that takes away US citizens' constitutional  rights. It may also explain why Twitter appears to be floundering both in adoption and profitability.

In closing, if you are looking to invest in Twitter, now is the time to do so. If you are looking for a social media platform to use that respects your rights to privacy and security, Twitter is the place to be. The same cannot be said for Facebook or Google. Both sells users' information and data to the highest bidder. The US security intelligence community generally only need to make a request for user information and data to receive it. This is generally true for all companies that receives funding from DARPA.

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