A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts from the Le Web Category

For the first time since 2005, we don’t have a LeWeb this year:

LeWeb takes a break in 2015 and look towards 2016 for the next edition. Quality has always been our driving factor.

It will be strange not getting on the Eurostar to Paris this December, as I have been doing for a decade. However, it makes sense for Loïc and Geraldine to take stock and reconsider what they do with the conference, after the rise of other events – and their reacquisition of it from Reed Midem.

A LeWeb session on drones, curated by Mr Robert Scoble.

Robert Scoble

Scoble & Loic

Robert loosely puts drones in three categories:

  • Toys – and other things you’ll chase your cat with
  • Professional drones – made to carry cameras and other payloads.
  • B2B drones – soil analysers for farmers, architectural drones…

What Amazon’s doing is interesting – but I don’t think that people will be delivering things to your home with then any time soon. They’re dangerous, and they will be regulated.

Edwin Van Ruymbeke, Bionic Bird

Bionic bird

Birds are light – and making a functional bionic bird required waiting until the weight of motors came down to make it feasible to fly. They’re using the sorts of motors that allow phones to vibrate. And in the meantime, computer power and metals have got cheaper and lighter.

The Bionic Bird’s charger is an egg. You charge the egg, and the bird recharges from that.

€100 for the Bionic Bird – and you can order it now.

Christian Sanz, Skycatch


The Skycatch drone is designed to be used continuously, with a “landing station” that the drop homes in on, switches the battery pack (which also holds the storage) and gets back in their air. The “tractor” beam is a microwave signal that guides the drone back.

This is useful for monitoring construction sites, for example, allowing them to speed up construction. They work like Uber – you identify the area you want done, and three hours later you get a map.

A lot of early autopilots were designed for hobbyists, who did;t mind rebuilding drones that much. For a commercial business they have to be much better – they use a lot of noise detection to double check directions.

It costs $1000s to lease one per month, along with the fully autonomous ground station. Their biggest data is in acquiring data for people, though.

Henri Seyoux, Parrot

Parrot bebop

The Parrot Bebop is not really a drone – it’s poetry. When you are a child, you like video games where you can be a hero. In real life, not so much. But can we bring you something like that?

It’s fun and easy to fly, with an unique camera. It’s designed to work with your smartphone or tablet. It has no moving parts, and can shoot HD images. And you can now use it as VR. It’s officially a toy, and while it might hurt you when it hits you, it won’t cut you.

Eric Cheng, DJI

Dji inspire 1

The DJI Inspire 1 is essentially a flying camera. It has indoor stabilisation, an integrated camera which shoots 4k, and wireless streaming of HD video. The problem with using land cameras on drones is that you can’t control them in the air the way you can a specially designed one.

It shifts configuration in the air, and shows remarkable video stability in the air, even when swinging around. It can fly at up to around 50mph. Without GPS you can get up to 70mph – but you have to be a very competent pilot to make that work.

They use propriety Lightbridge wireless tech to talk to the drones, so your smartphone retains full connectivity to the cloud.


IN the US you can fly up to 400 feet – and they’re banned in national parks. Parrot works within the guidelines for toys – which are rigorous and stop the drones becomes too dangerous. They’re light, with flexible blades. In Switzerland, for example, you can fly them pretty much anywhere.

They need to regulated and treated like any tool. A hammer is a very dangerous weapon, but most people have one. Users need to be aware of flight space – flying one into an airport will be a big problem.

There are three issues here:

  • Regulation
  • Innovation
  • Safety

Some countries are very heavily regulated – you need to be a pilot to fly any size of drone, for example. Some safety issues can be addressed in software – but there’s open source software that will allow you to circumvent those sort of safety protections. We need a standard protocol for communicating with drones.

A lot of drones are vulnerable to weather. DJIs drones have sensors that will ground the fleet in dangerous weather conditions. Everyone wants reasonable, risk-based legislations. Everyone’s taking steps towards that, but it’s taking time.

People are working on “following” drone, where they’ll follow a person or object with a device attached to them. It’s a big challenge right now – it’s too easy for the probe to end up following into a tree.

Matthias Lüfkens

Liveblogged notes from Matthias Lüfkens’ talk at LeWeb 2014

There are now hundreds of accounts of political leaders and foreign ministers on Twitter. Very few world leaders actually do the tweeting themselves. Those that do are normally in northern Europe, on the shores of the Baltic Sea – the Estonian President, and the Finnish Prime Minister, for example. The president of Malaysia is very good at selfies – which are far more engaging than the traditional handshake shots:

Foreign ministers – in Europe in particular – will use Twitter to make concessions. They @reply each other, they follow each other, and it appears that they direct message each other. Laurent Fabius is the best connected minister at the moment – but it’s his team doing it. Kudos to them, as they’re reaching out to other leaders.

In the last year we’ve seen the rise of Twitter diplomacy – people attempting to use Twitter to gain influence. It’s becoming a digital battleground. How did the Russians respond to western allies using #unitedforukraine? They co-opted the hashtag.

In September things turned belligerent with NATO tweeting pictures of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, with a mocking response from Russian accounts. #RussiainvededUkraine led to the most retweeted tweet from the Ukraine government.

Some of the behaviour is trolling. Thomas Hendrik Ilves gets heavy trolling. The Latvian foreign minster came out on Twitter:

— Edgars Rinkēvičs (@edgarsrinkevics) November 6, 2014

Most response were supportive, but one Russian one mocked. We’ve come perilously close to declarations of war on Twitter – and we’re clearly seeing political posturing.

The age of Twitter diplomacy is here.

Further reading

You can follow Matthias’s digital diplomacy work on Twitter:

Matthias himself:

Burston-Marstler has a Twiplomacy site
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What does truly disruptive innovation look like? The opening session of LeWeb 2014’s third and final day set out to explore that in series of talks. Here’s some liveblogged notes:

Brian Solis – Innovation as an ecosystem

Brian Solis

What is possible with disruption when you look beyond a product or a service? What happens when the world adapts to you, rather than you adapting to the world? At the heart of it is doing something better, making your world better than it was before.

In his conversations with companies and people, Brian sees too much incrementalism – steady little pushes forwards all the time. True innovation changes everything around it. True innovation – and true disruption – starts by questioning everything.

Here’s two examples of people doing exactly that.

Marcus Weller – Skully

Marcus Weller

In 2011 Weller was on his way to an appointment in Barcelona on his motorbike. He looked at a street sign, and by the time he looked back at the road he was crashing into a smart car. If he’d had a “floating” map in front of him in his helmet, it wouldn’t have happened. He looked for it, couldn’t find it, so set out to build it himself.

Two big challenges:

  1. Make it visible in bright light
  2. Only show what the rider needs, when they need it.

Riders are generally doing head checks of their environment all the time. This brings some of those pieces of information directly to them. Riding is a highly cognitively loaded task. They want to reduce that load by providing sensory awareness, without intruding too much on the driver’s consciousness, and thus distracting them from the road.

Their IndieGoGo campaign hit $1m in 48 hours.

Helmets had been foam and shells for 40 years – how could they move it on from something that protects your head when you have an accident to something that stops you having that accident? One company is starting to produce Skully-ready bikes, which will project their telemetry into the helmet – no need for drivers to refocus to get that information. One less chance of crashing.

Down the line, the helmet could be part of a network that will prevent smart, self-driving cars from driving into motorbikes. But, right now, they’re concentrating on shipping in time… The current helmet design is powered by a nine-hour battery, but they’re working on an integrated turbine to charge it as it goes.

Jeremy Johnson, Andela

Jeremy johnson

Andela trains extraordinarily bright young people in Africa to be world-class problem solvers. Human brilliance is roughly evenly distributed across the population. When you look at a population of the size of Nigeria, and its unemployment levels, you realise that there is a huge pool of talent with no normal route into work.

He can produce a 95th percentile coding problem solver with 1000 hours of training for half the cost of doing that in the US. There’s a growing skills gap. The skills that are in most demand are in technology, and shifting faster than universities can shift to meet demand. People starting at, say, Google are behind, because universities are at least 18 months behind.

Students are working from almost the beginning of the course. It take four to six months for them to reach a position where they can start serious working as a remote developer, but the overall course last four years. They expect their graduates to move on to start their own businesses and inspire the next wave of talent.

Investing in disruption

Investment discussion

The session on disruptive innovation started with a panel discussion on funding it. The panel was:

  • Host: Nina dos Santos, CNN
  • Eric Archambeau, Wellington Partners
  • Philippe Botteri, Accel Partners
  • Benjamin Ling, Khosla Ventures

Here’s some notes of the conclusions they agreed with:

  • Companies used to go public at a certain valuation, and ramp up from there. Now, they’re being valued in anticipation of that – the ramp up is before the IPO – not after it.
  • Given the potential market size of mobile-centric businesses, ut makes perfect sense for some of them to be valued very highly.
  • Don’t just invest in vision – although that’s vital – invest in an entrepreneur and a team.
  • One big opportunity: don’t just look at consumers. Think about collaboration with existing large businesses
  • The US VC market is very concentrated, while Europe is more diffuse – a collection of hubs.
  • Do investors have some responsibility to look at the ethics of the companies in their portfolio? Yes, seems to be the conclusion. They need to be smart about how they disrupt markets – because there are long-term benefits, and long-term consequences.

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Tim Berners-Lee at LeWeb

Tim Berners-Lee invented the web. Staggering as it might seem, one person is responsible for the whole industry that has arisen around his technology. When did he know he had created something special? For the first three years there were ten times the number of hits on his web server every month compared to the last month. There was no magic point where it stopped or started – it was growing logarithmically. And we’re still not there. Only a minority of the planet has access still.

Why did he create the web? To solve communications problems at CERN. All their computers had their own operating systems and their own documentation systems. There was a huge heterogeneity of systems, and to find information you had to go from computer to computer. He thought it would be neat to build something that his team could use to share information – and which a student could use when they came in, and solved a problem, They could leave that solution woven into the web. When they went away the information would stay. Most people just read the web – when it becomes a read/write mechanism, when you blog, when you edit Wikipedia, it becomes interesting.

HTML was designed to look like STML. HTTP was designed to look like STMP – so engineers could recognise it and implement it. If he’d started from scratch, he might have done it differently – but that’s not the way things work.

Native apps are boring. Like paper.

loic Le Meur and Tim Berners-Lee at LeWeb

When you design a platform without an attitude about what’s carried on it, you see these explosions, as you did with the internet, and then the web. If you just take your magazine and put it into an app, it’s boring. You lose my passion, my enthusiasm, and my tweets. You lose the clicks. Every piece in a web app has an URL – we can link to it, it can become part of the discussion. If it’s a native app – it’s boring. It’s like paper. Sometimes they do it right – even in native apps – with an URL for everything.

There’s a huge amount of frustration out there in people who have put a huge amount of information into a social network, that they can’t take with them elsewhere. If you’ve set up all your friends in Flickr, you can’t take that to Facebook. These silos are a problem. It’s back to the days of AOL and Prodigy. When Berners-Lee talked with Mark Zuckerberg they discussed the need for the data in Facebook to be available elsewhere. There are new companies emerging who will help you store you own data and share it where you want. We have to insist on net neutrality.

Laws should protect digital privacy

Should we consider privacy dead? No. When people work in groups, those groups work by exchanging information amongst itself, and nobody else. If you don’t respect that right within a family, you don’t respect the family. It’s very silly to say that privacy is over. Cyberwar is no way to run a planet. We should have the rule of law. If people access my health data to change my insurance premiums, we need to say “no, that’s illegal”. I prefer a world where you say, “If I’m going to employ people, I’m not going to look at their childhood social media activity.” We are building this world. Yes, we should build encryption into systems, but not because we can’t change laws, or the way companies operate.

The right to access history is important. The right to be forgotten is important – if the fact you want forgotten if false. But if it’s true, well, you shouldn’t have the right. Here’s the move we have to make: we need to move from “you can’t talk about this” to “you’re not allowed to use juvenile crime, or crime committed over ten years ago, when you’re deciding to employ him.” Rules about how we use data are more important than trying to pretend things didn’t happen.

We should teach everyone about coding. Not about using Microsoft Office – but about coding. Then, when they grow up and start making laws, they will understand what computers can do, not just what Office can do.

The robots are here

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Artificial intelligence is coming. AI has been nailing things for decades – but once we solve a problem, we stop calling it AI. There is a mysticism out there that a stream of consciousness will be hard to do because it incorporates the “soul”, but I have a horrible feeling is that it’ll just be a few lines of code on top of what we already have.

He read a lot of Asimov when he was young: the Foundation Trilogy, the Robot series. When computers get the rights of human beings, it’s time to pay attention. It’s already happened. Fast trading companies are run by computers – and companies are giving the rights of humans under US law.

The robots are already here – and they’re corporations. And you should be very, very scared.

He’s paid by MIT, and his day job is director of the W3C. He tries to look at the future to make sure things hang together – and to think about what will replace the current architecture. He’s also part of the Web Foundation, which tries to make sure the web serves people. He spends a lot of time pushing for open data – if you’re in Government, you data should be open.

Pushing into the pixel future

Why does he keep moving forwards given all that he’s done? Because we’re still so not done yet. He wants his data in open standards on computers he controls – and to be able to share that with the people he wants to. This is so important in healthcare. He wants open, linked data. We have lots of content on the web – but we’ll never stop fighting for it to be open. You’d be philosophically incorrect to imagine that this will ever stop. We’re seeing the web moving from static documents, which is valuable, to the point where ever webpage can be programmed, and can talk to each other without going back to the server.

Over the next 25 years we’ll start exporting that. Our devices will get better. Maybe one LeWeb we’ll just cover the auditorium with pixels. Soon there will be pixels everywhere that are smaller than you can see, and you’ll be able to access the web everywhere.

Think of the societal implications of what you build. Think at how the web can be better at breaking down barriers. Social networks could introduce you to similar people – in a different country, or a different language.

Cedric Ingrand


  • Ben Huh, Cheezburger
  • Michael J. Wolf, Activate
  • Frédéric Filloux, Groupe Les Echos
  • Host: Cedric Ingrand, Podcaster & resident geek at LCI/TF1

The revenue challenge

Frederic Filloux

Frédéric Filloux: This will be the first year in six years we make a profit. The overall circulation of the title will be the highest for 10 years, with digital being 25% of that. The readership is shifting, though. It went from print to the web, and now from the web to mobile. Mobile is 30% of the readership now, and they expect it to be 50% by the end of the year. Right now they need two digital subscribers to compensate for one print subscriber loss.

Michael Wolf: Everyone is watching more video. The major providers are finding new outlets for that. Shows won’t just be on TV, they’ll be on Netflix and Amazon streaming, They’re finding new places.

Ben Huh: Old media has a very difficult constraint – it needs revenue to survive. For us, revenue just extends our runway. It gives us more time to experiment with new formats.

MW: It’s not about investment – it’s about the user. Frozen is the fifth highest motion picture ever. Someone like Katy Perry still draws a tremendous amount of interest.

BH: Newspapers still sell advertising better than us. Rates from older media are significantly larger than from new media.

FF: the split between high audience, low yield media and the low audience, high yield media has never been greater. But these new businesses are valued far higher than traditional businesses.

MW: Mobile gives readers more opportunities to look for news. People are looking at weather, Facebook, news…

FF: But the revenue for mobile is going to be only 20% of the web. The deflation keeps going.
Michael Wolf

MW: I don’t think we can say that yet. the monetisation platforms are still new and aren’t very good – they’re just adapted from the web. The word “monetise” is way over-used. It makes it sound like we’re exploiting readers. Old media have no manifest destiny to continue making as much money as they did. Just a few years ago there was a belief that people wouldn’t pay for content on the internet – and now they’re paying for Netflix and Amazon Prime. It doesn’t have to be about advertising.

BH: Some consumers buy magazines for the advertising. We don’t have an equivalent.

New advertising formats

FF: Native advertising doesn’t have to be bad. My blog is republished by Quartz, and that’s funded by native advertising. But they set rules and have the staff to help produce it well. We’ll see more corporate journalism, and they’ll hire from the newsrooms. Yes, there’s a danger that there’s a confusion between the two types of content – but a powerful editor will solve that problem quickly.

MW: We’re in an area where people are still experimenting. We don’t know what will work – look at how many people will watch a movie trailer. Look at the Star Wars teaser, and how much that’s been watched.

Ben Huh and Michael Wold

BH: And that’s not counting the parodies.

MW: it’s amazing how quickly someone recreated it from Lego. You see so many of these.

BH: We hear about that startups that take off like rockets – we don’t hear about the ones that end up as smoking ruins.

The platform problem

MW: Soundcloud is an amazing, amazing vehicle. But very few artists have broken out – nothing is getting in the way. The conceit was that music companies were holding them back; that doesn’t appear to be the case.

FF: This is part of the mirage of digital. We thought we might regain the direct relationship with our customer. We though we might pinpoint our readers directly – but now new intermediaries emerge. Facebook is the main one. Buzzfeed depends on it for 75% of its traffic – that’s dangerous, because it’s such a temperamental company. Only 16% of the FT’s page followers see their content.

MW: Facebook is a cruel mistress. A change in the algorithm meant that worthy’s traffic fell way down.

FF: The new intermediaries are interesting – the deals that Evernote are striking are intriguing. AirBnB could be a distributer of local content.

MK: More distributors is better for us. We have people fighting over content – that means more money.

The democratic deficit

FF: We’ll see fewer and fewer people paying for news: the educated and the old. It’ll be a problem for democracy, because most people will be ill-informed.

MK: I’m not sure that’s true. Business Insider gets millions of views on its long form content.

FF: That’s just a tiny part of their content, though…

Ben Huh

When Ben Huh founded his company – he bought a bunch of cat photos. Yes, he acquired I Can Has Cheezburger? He created the company, bought the website and closed funding in just 45 days. Since then they’ve launched and experimented endlessly. Their mission statement is to make people laugh for a few moments.

But how do you win the content game in the long term?

The medium is the message

-Marshall McLuhan

For Huh, the format is the message. The format is the kind of content that exists within your device. It’s these formats – pioneered and owned by other companies often – that make things interesting. The reason your phone looks the way it does, is because a bunch of people got together in the 90s to create the widescreen TV format. Formats can have unexpected effects.

In the past, each vertical had its formats: print had books, magazine and newspapers. Those safe silos are gone. Now we have vertical competition – your Kindle isn’t just about reading – it will read to you. That’s audio.

Connections through content

Social media has made it easier for us to send content across the internet. The only way to connect with others online is with content – we are what we expose to others. The creation of beautiful and funny content has been driving media for the last five years.

We spend 112 hours awake a week. We spend 80 hours a week consuming media. How much of your visual space is filled with pixels? There are more and more screens in our lives. The longer we live the more pixels we will encounter.

Every time the content market fragments, as it does when new devices emerge, there’s a new chance for a new company – or a new format – to grab market share. That’s why media is so exciting right now.

Ben Huh too

Old formats do not go away – had a till receipt recently? That’s a scroll. Old formats just end up in niches. New formats are born all the time. The people who created media for old formats are woefully bad at creating it for a new format. Yet, we need more than just gaming skills to make VR work – we need the storytelling skills of old media. How do we bring these together?

We are now entering a world where physical objects can be treated as media, thanks to 3D printing. Cats have evolved from bad ass ferocious animals, to cute, friendly meme vectors. It’s not what you might expect from evolution…

The old stories are over

Old stories had beginnings, middles and ends. Online, we go straight to the punchline. How do we learn to tell these new stories. Creativity is not a blank canvas. Constraints and formats that force you to work within a box drives creativity, because you know the limits. Three window jokes aren’t an internet format – they’re the triptych of religious art. We derive new formats from old.

Cheeseburger wants to own short form humour. They want formats that are simple, that don’t make you work too hard, because we are all what we share.

Phil Libin at LeWeb 2014

Work has become pretty unpleasant for a lot of people, says Evernote founder Phil Libin. Many companies are stepping forwards to try and solve that. When iOS7 came out there was a movement away from skeuomorphic design – where we replicated physical ideas digitally.

We’re still doing that. We don’t need files, desktops and slides – but we haven’t questioned that for 30 years. It’s not quite the death of office apps – but PowerPoint is a lot of what’s wrong in the world today. It’s turned everything into a pitch – and that’s not what every meeting should be. Meetings shouldn’t be just about boring people until they give in. They should be discussions.

It’s not great for the presenter either – you have to take the work you’ve already done and boil it down. Word is good for writing things you’re going to print out. 10 years ago, 80% of what I wrote got printed out. It’s less than 1/10th of 1% these days.

His solution? Turn Evernote into a workspace. Communicating becomes part of the writing. The research, communication and writing can all live in the same place. You have the work, the meeting and the context all at the same time.

Augmented intelligence, not artificial intelligence

Phil Libin talks his long-gone afro at LeWeb 2014

There’s a lot of companies working in making you smarter. Some are taking the parent child, where the tech does the work for you and pats you on the head like a child. Option B is the CEO with an assistant. And Option C is making you into a superhero, with powers to do everything.

Phil doesn’t want to be a child, or have an assistant – he wants to feel like he has superpowers. So, Evernote has a single-minded focus on building this supplementary brain that gives us those powers. Competition is good because it drive you harder, and there’s plenty of it in this space. But Libin thinks no-one is taking the “make big companies feel smaller” approach.

The partnership with the Wall Street Journal is not about giving you a new place for reading it – it’s about informing you as you prepare work. If you’re writing in Word, you won’t get the heads-up that there’s been a breaking news story that changes your context for that work.

The LinkedIn link allows you to connect information about people even as you’re mentioning them in notes.

One phase for all work

Evernote is trying to do away with the discreet “research, work, present” phases. The app will allow you to do it all – and stop you doing things that will make a bad presentation. It’s not necessarily for the same situation as presenting at LeWeb – it’s about having something on screen when you’re meeting with 10 people.

Focusing Evernote on this idea of a new way of working is how they feel that they can have the biggest impact on the world.

Like the liveblogging? I’m part of Events in Progress – a business devoted to helping you capture your event’s content – and making the most of it.