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How will Facebook keep people on Facebook? By helping them fall in love





For those who’ve been paying attention, Facebook’s growth appears to be slowing. It’s not clear why, but one theory is that we’re reaching a saturation point, particularly in North America. Basically, everyone has already signed up for an account. Facebook is literally running out of new people to bring aboard. 

This is a problem (for Facebook, to be clear) for a number of reasons. Most notably, North American users are Facebook’s most valuable. Facebook makes more dollars from each user in Canada and the U.S. than it does anywhere else in the world. If you accept the theory that Facebook is running out of new users — a once-reliable source of new revenue — then it has to find a way to squeeze more out of those it already has.

One answer could be dating. And classifieds, and fundraising, and gaming, and weather, and job-hunting, and live-streaming, and food delivery, and deal-hunting and on and on and on until there is no market or industry left unstamped by the company’s omnipresent blue F.

But let’s focus, for a moment, on dating. Starting this week, Facebook users in Canada can sign up for the company’s new dating service. When it was announced back in May, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said about 200 million people had listed their relationship status as single. Facebook thought it could help. 

The point is not necessarily to usurp Tinder or Bumble or any of the other popular dating apps and services that people already like. (Though Facebook would no doubt like that.) Rather, it’s Facebook’s way of ratcheting up the gravitational pull of its ever-expanding digital universe — a play to keep its existing users engaged in lieu of rapid new growth. By giving Facebook users more reasons to visit the service more often, and for longer at a time, Facebook has more opportunities to figure out what users like — valuable data for advertisers. More time spent means Facebook can display more accurate ads, and display them more often, too.

That’s the play. And even if Facebook’s dating feature isn’t being monetized yet, it still gets people to spend more time within Facebook’s overall app, where there are plenty of other opportunities for ads to appear.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced the company’s dating feature at its annual F8 developers conference in San Jose in May. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Dating is just the latest example of Facebook launching a feature similar enough to something a competitor has built. Clearly the strategy is working well enough for Facebook to do it again and again. Each new product may not be compelling enough to attract new users on their own, but it’s easier to justify using if you’re already on Facebook all the time. The barrier to entry is lower when you don’t have to download one more app, or sign up for something new.

It’s why Facebook has a Craigslist clone called Marketplace, and a GoFundMe clone called Fundraisers. You can use Facebook to find jobs, discounts and offers. You could never check your smartphone’s weather app again in favour of Facebook’s forecast. Its Events app isn’t all that different from Eventbrite, and in some cases you can buy tickets through Facebook too. You can trade Slack for Facebook Workplace, or choose to ignore Twitch and stream yourself playing video games with Gaming Video feature instead.

The most blatant — and arguably successful clone — has been the introduction of Stories, the short-form bursts of vertical video that Snapchat introduced, but Instagram popularized further. It was suddenly possible to use Snapchat less when Instagram had one of its most compelling features too.

It’s also why so many people got their news from Facebook, for a time, until Facebook realized how much of a liability being a news source had become. 

The downside to this — though Facebook may not see it this way — is that it’s difficult to know, or understand, or explain what, exactly, Facebook even is at this point. “Social network” seems too quaint for all the company now does. Perhaps recognizing this, Facebook has more recently opted to broadly frame its utility as a facilitator of relationships in all their forms: romantic, platonic, professional, commercial, recreational and more.

Facebook also bears an increasingly uncanny resemblance to the web portals of yore — the AOLs, Yahoos and CompuServes that sought to put everything the web could offer in one centralized place (so much so that, in some countries, Facebook essentially is the internet, to disastrous effect). We all know what happened next. But unlike those portals, which existed when “logging on” was something you did rather than experience as a perpetual state of being, Facebook is something wholly different — more pervasive, widespread, the firmament of our world. Dating, alongside all those other features, is how Facebook plans to keep it that way. 


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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla





Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm





Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover





KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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