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In this week’s What’s Appening, a storm is brewing between TikTok and the FCC. Commissioner Brendan Carr believes the uber-popular app is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, allowing China to steal data from US citizens. TikTok claims it complies with data laws and just wants to bring funny dances to the world. Elsewhere, Pinterest has a new CEO who wants to realize its untapped potential as a marketplace. There’s a neat new feature with Apple’s CarPlay, allowing you to pay for gas on your dash. Our Stat of the Week looks at the biggest of Bitcoin whales. And it’s back to China for What’s dAppening, with news of “speculation-free” NFTs.

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Takes 🎬

📵🕺TikTok – Top FCC Commissioner Calls On Google and Apple to Remove App

This is a huge story, but also a complicated one, so strap in while we try to break it down succinctly: FEC Commissioner Brendan Carr has sent a letter to both Google and Apple calling on them to remove TikTok from their respective marketplaces. TikTok, Carr claims, is a national security risk, citing an explosive Buzzfeed story that claimed (with the aid of leaked video) that Chinese-based TikTok employees had “sweeping” access to US users’ data, including sensitive biometric data. Carr argues that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is subject to the whims of the Chinese government, which can therefore access US users’ data whenever it wishes. Carr has set a deadline of July 8th for Apple and Google to provide an appropriate response. TikTok, meanwhile, has responded by claiming that it has moved all US users’ data to servers at US-owned Oracle Corp, although that’s arguably not enough to satisfy Carr and other critics. So that brings you up to speed, but what happens next? Will we really see the deletion of the world’s most popular app from the smartphones of 80 million American users? Our guess is probably not – at least not yet. For a start, the FCC doesn’t have the power to ban apps, so Google and Apple will not be forced to do anything anytime soon. Secondly, the accusations against TikTok aren’t exactly new – you might remember former President Donald Trump signed an executive order demanding TikTok be divested from ByteDance – and TikTok has at least given the impression it wants to comply with American security concerns. And yet, American indepenDANCE (sorry, not sorry) from TikTok would not be wholly unprecedented: India banned the app in 2020. This would be a huge deal here in the ‘land of the free’ though. #HappyIndepen-Dance-Day read more here.  

🛒 💵 Pinterest – New CEO Has Grand Plans to Build the Internet’s Shopping Mall

Pinterest has a new CEO. Bill Ready (great name) was formerly Google’s head of Commerce, Payments & Next Billion Users (great job title), but he now has the remit of continuing Pinterest’s evolution from a place of discovery to a major online marketplace. It’s long been noted that Pinterest had huge untapped (financial) potential. It has the users – around half a billion of them at last count – put they would simply go to the platform for inspiration, then leave and buy that inspiration somewhere else. Ready, whose career can be summed up by two words, “commerce” and “payments” (he also worked at Venmo and PayPal), is all in on taking Pinterest to where it arguably should have been years ago. We’ve yet to see a concrete blueprint for Ready’s plans, but expect him to try to turbocharge the burgeoning creator economy on Pinterest and start opening up the platform for serious sellers. #ReadySteadyGoPinterest Read more here.  

⛽ 💳 Apple – CarPlay Allows You to Purchase Gas Directly from Your Dashboard

Apple’s updates for CarPlay announced at WWDC 2022 arguably didn’t get the mainstream media attention they merited, although we did bring some of the best bits to you in a previous edition of What’s Appening. Anyway, further details of CarPlay’s updates have now been released, and they include a novel feature that will allow you to pay for gas through your dashboard. You’ll need the app of your gas provider – Dallas-based HF Sinclair has promised to incorporate paying with CarPlay at its 1,600 gas stations in the coming months – and you’ll be able to tap the dash, pay, and go. No word yet on whether big players like Shell, BP, and Chevron are working on making their apps compatible with CarPlay, but it obviously makes sense. Apple is not the first to try dashboard gas payments, as Ford & Exxon and GM & Shell tried to do something similar, with disappointing results. Tesla, as you might expect, is well ahead of the game, as it has allowed dashboard payments for supercharging electric terminals for a couple of years now. #AppleGasPay Read more here.  

🧐 Stat of the Week – 129,699 BTC   

Michael Saylor, CEO of MicroStrategy, really, really, really likes Bitcoin. He’s one of those crypto gurus that pops up all over the place talking about the virtues of digital assets, much to the annoyance of crypto critics. But to be fair to him, he literally puts his money where his mouth is by continuing to accumulate Bitcoin, even in this most bearish of bear markets. With the latest purchase of 480 BTC, MicroStrategy’s holdings now come in at 129,699 BTC (approx. $2.6 billion). To put that in perspective, MicroStrategy, which is based in Tysons Corner, VA, around 30 minutes from 3Advance’s spiritual home in DC, now owns 1 of every 161 Bitcoin that will ever be in existence. Saylor’s commitment to Bitcoin is admirable, but we do worry that he and other whales will have too much power over the market. What if he suddenly decides to cash in his chips? It’s a scary prospect, and one that contradicts the ‘power in the hands of the many’ ethos of crypto that Saylor and others like him purport to cherish #BullInABearMarket Read more here.   

🕸️ What’s dAppening?

A dApp is a decentralized app. Here’s the latest in web3, nfts and blockchain apps.

🐼 🖼️ China – Regulation of Speculation-Free NFTs Is In Sight

If Michael Saylor’s relationship with crypto is one of unconditional love, then China’s is one of antipathy and suspicion. Back in 2021, the country’s government said that all cryptocurrency-related transactions would be deemed illegal and promptly banned. Despite that, some of China’s tech titans, including Tencent and Ant Group, have pursued a workaround for the nascent NFT industry which seems to have the blessing of the government. Speculation-free NFTs are just that; NFTs that can be bought and sold, but without being speculative assets. Tencent and others have begun testing the waters, putting up NFTs for sale on digital marketplaces held on private chains. There will be no purchases with ETH, though, as buyers must pay in old-fashioned Chinese Yuan. While some might say that there is little fun in this heavily regulated NFT market, we should note that there are benefits to not having the wild speculation – and scams – we have seen elsewhere. Purchasing an NFT without the belief that its value will dramatically rise allows the buyer to view it more objectively, appreciating it for its artistic merit or utility, not what the market says it’s worth. #ChinaNFT Read more here.  

Meanwhile at 3Advance…

Just back from our 4th July break, and we’ve officially kicked off our Summer schedule, including one of 3Advance’s most popular benefits → a day off, every second Friday in the Summer! But this doesn’t mean we’re slowing down. We have some major releases happening in July and August, and are excited to see two new flagship apps, Istruzi (a golf coaching app) and TriAxle (a networking app for building contractors) go live! Both projects have been in the works for a while and now we’re gearing up for a strong launch. We have high hopes of success for these startups. You can sign-up now to join the waiting list for Istruzi and for TriAxle.

Don’t forget, this week’s video episode will be released shortly on YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn. There’s also the mini-recap on TikTok and Instagram. As always, we appreciate y’all following along on any of these social platforms and we’d love to hear your feedback.