iOS 11’s new App Store boosts downloads by 800% for featured apps

When Apple launched its new App Store in iOS 11 back in September, it aimed to offer app developers better exposure, as well as a better app discovery experience for consumers. A new study from Sensor Tower out today takes a look at how well that’s been working in the months since. According to its findings, getting a featured spot on the new App Store can increase downloads by as much as 800 percent, with the “App of the Day” or “Game of the Day” spots offering the most impact.

The app store intelligence firm examined data from September 2017 to present day to come to its conclusions, it says.

During this time, median U.S. iPhone downloads for apps that snagged the “Game of the Day” spot increased by 802 percent for the week following the feature, compared to the week prior to being featured.

“App of the Day” apps saw a boost of 685 percent.

Being featured in other ways — like in one of the new App Store Stories or in an App List — also drove downloads higher, by 222 percent and 240 percent, respectively.

The numbers seem to indicate that Apple is achieving the results it wanted with the release of its redesigned App Store.

Over the years, Apple’s app marketplace had grown so large that finding new apps had become challenging. And developers sometimes found ways to bump their apps higher in the top charts for exposure, leaving iPhone owners wondering if a new app was really that popular, or if it was some sort of paid promotion.

The iOS 11 App Store, on the other hand, has taken more of an editorial viewpoint to its app recommendations. While the top charts haven’t gone away, the focus these days is on what Apple thinks is best — not the wisdom of the masses. Apple has applied its editorial eye to things like timely round-ups of apps; curated, thematic collections; as well as articles about apps and interviews with developers. Apple also picks an app and game to feature daily, so the App Store always has fresh content and a reason for users to return.

The end result is something that’s more akin to a publication about apps, instead of a just an app marketplace.

What’s most interesting, then, in Sensor Tower’s report, are what sort of app publishers Apple has chosen to feature.

Apple had touted the App Store changes would be a way to give smaller developers more exposure. But if you’ve popped into the App Store from time to time, you may have noticed that big publishers — not indies — were having their apps featured.

In fact, an early report about the App Store revamp criticized Apple for giving big publishers too much attention. It said that apps from brands like Starbucks and CBS, or game makers like EA and Glu, weren’t exactly hurting for downloads.

But Apple’s favoring of big publishers is only true to a point, says Sensor Tower.

It found that 13 of the top 15 featured publishers (by number of features) had at least one million U.S. iPhone downloads since the launch of the new App Store last September. It’s not surprising that Apple wants to highlight these publishers. Many of them, and particularly the game publishers, have multiple popular apps. So when their apps get an update or they have a new release, consumers pay attention.

Apple, of course, wants to capitalize on that consumer interest because it shares in the revenue app publishers generate through things like paid downloads, in-app purchases and subscriptions.

However, Apple isn’t only giving the limelight to large publishers, says Sensor Tower.

It also found that 29 percent of the apps it has featured since the launch of the revamped App Store were from publishers who had fewer than 10,000 downloads during that time.

“While it’s clearly the case that big publishers are more likely to receive the largest number of features, small publishers still very much have their chance to benefit from a feature on the App Store,” said Sensor Tower’s Mobile Insights Analyst, Jonathan Briskman.

Though Sensor Tower’s published report focused only on the iOS App Store, it’s worth noting how it compares with Google Play.

Getting a featured spot on Google’s app store isn’t as impactful, the firm tells TechCrunch. The largest week-over-week increase to the median it saw there was only around 200 percent.

Image credits, all: Sensor Tower 

Musiio uses AI to help the music industry curate tracks more efficiently

A former streaming industry exec and an AI specialist walk into a bar, they leave starting an AI company for the music industry.

That’s not exactly how Singapore-based startup Musiio was formed, but it’s close enough and the outcome is the same.

Co-founders Hazel Savage, formerly of Pandora and Shazam, and Swedish data scientist Aron Pettersson connected at Entrepreneur First in Singapore. The program began in London as a way to help likeminded tech connect with the potential to start projects, so it does mirror the serendipity of meeting new friends in a bar.

“We’d probably never have met each other if we hadn’t gone to EF,” Savage told TechCrunch in an interview.

Brit Savage was looking for new ideas after work brought her and her husband to Singapore, and after crunching through some problems that need fixing, the duo settled on an AI service that helps music platforms tackle content and curation.

Push for personalization

Personalization has been the big push for music streaming giants. The initial face of the streaming revolution was based on giving users instant access to millions of songs in a single place, removing the pain of downloads and paying per song. Now that streaming is established, the puck has moved to smarter solutions that help music streamers shift through those tens of millions of songs to find music they like, or better yet discover new tracks they’ll love.

Spotify has moved on this in a major way. Aside from consumer products such as Discovery Weekly, a playlist that pulls in a weekly selection of music tailored to a user, it has invested considerable resources in making its product smarter. That’s including acquisitions such as music intelligence company Echo Nest for $100 million, and smaller AI startup Niland which helps make recommendations and search results smarter. Spotify has also ramped up its internal hires, too.

While Spotify, which recently went public in an unconventional listing, might be the most visible company in need of smarts for music, it is not the only one by far. And we’re not even talking about direct rivals like Pandora, Apple Music, Google and co. Others involved in the less visible — but hugely lucrative — parts of the industry who also need help pouring through millions of tracks include labels, who filter through talent on a daily basis, and agencies that pick out music for brands, advertising, media, etc.

Musiio co-founders Hazel Savage and Aron Pettersson

Not just streaming smarts

That’s the focus for Musiio, which is aiming to use AI to help those without the spending power of Spotify to automate or partially-automate a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to scouring through music.

“Musiio won’t replace the need to have people listening to music,” Savage told TechCrunch. “But we can delete the inefficiencies.”

The AI uses a combination of deep learning and feature extraction, the latter of which Musiio said allows it to identify and understand patterns and features of a track. The training is focused on the audio itself, rather than stats and data from third-parties which some services use to categorize tracks. Pettersson runs the AI. For what it’s worth, he cut his teeth with an algorithm for the Swedish stock market that netted him a 28 percent annual return for eight years.

As an example of Musiio’s AI potential, Savage points to previous roles where she has observed music curators assigned piles of music as high as 1,300 tracks each day.

“That’s more than a day’s work!” she said. “It probably takes four days to tackle and then you are three days behind. Plus, the average person loses the ability to be efficient after about the first 20 tracks.”

Musiio wants to help take the burden by using AI to pick out the ‘best’ tracks, thus cutting the list of tracks to listen to down significantly.

“Our systems can listen to 1,000 tracks inside four hours, after which we can give a smaller selection. For labels, that can help them be more efficient, increase hit rate and spend more time with artists helping to develop them,” Savage said.

“Artists and repertoire (A&R) divisions have billion-dollar budgets, for every artist they spend maybe $2 million on development. We think we give them a better guarantee of success using AI, and [from early conversations with labels] they are very interested,” she added.

Free Music Archive

Musiio said it is developing solutions for a number of undisclosed clients, but one public name it is talking up is Free Music Archive (FMA), a Creative Commons-like free music site developed by independent U.S. radio station WFMU. The site offers up legal audio downloads that are particularly popular with filmmakers, non-profits, podcasters and remixers.

The site has over 120,000 tracks each of which is hand-selected, but with just one part-time developer the curation side is lacking. That’s where Musiio is hoping to help make a difference. The startup has begun working with FMA to develop AI-based playlists in a project that doesn’t generate revenue but is “a lovely example of what the tech can do,” so says Savage.

“Not only are we backfilling the Echo Nest partnership [after Spotify closed the service following its acquisition] but the lead track in the inaugural playlist (Kurt Vile, ‘I Wanted Everything’) had received 3,000 plays when we found it, after eight years in the database. Two days later after being playlisted by our AI, it had 6,000 plays. We are pretty excited that AI can have that kind of impact,” she explained.

The Vile track is now closing on 10,000 plays two weeks after the playlist was published.

For now, the playlists are created and held within Savage’s FMA account but Musiio confirmed that it is considering the potential to develop a dashboard that would allow listeners themselves to use the AI to develop playlists. That’s already part of what is building for other clients.

Funding-wise, Musiio has taken SG$75,000 ($57,000) as part of its involvement in Entrepreneur First. The startup will be part of the EF demo day in July, but Savage said it has already begun to have conversations with investors with a view to raising a seed round of funding.

LinkedIn’s AutoFill plugin could leak user data, secret fix failed

Facebook isn’t the only one in the hot seat over data privacy. A flaw in LinkedIn’s AutoFill plugin that websites use to let you quickly complete forms could have allowed hackers to steal your full name, phone number, email address, ZIP code, company and job title. Malicious sites have been able to invisibly render the plugin on their entire page so if users who are logged into LinkedIn click anywhere, they’d effectively be hitting a hidden “AutoFill with LinkedIn” button and giving up their data.

Researcher Jack Cable discovered the issue on April 9th, 2018 and immediately disclosed it to LinkedIn. The company issued a fix on April 10th but didn’t inform the public of the issue. Cable quickly informed LinkedIn that its fix, which restricted the use of its AutoFill feature to whitelisted sites who pay LinkedIn to host their ads, still left it open to abuse. If any of those sites have cross-site scripting vulnerabilities, which Cable confirmed some do, hackers can still run AutoFill on their sites by installing an iframe to the vulnerable whitelisted site. He got no response from LinkedIn over the last nine days, so Cable reached out to TechCrunch.

LinkedIn’s AutoFill tool

LinkedIn tells TechCrunch it doesn’t have evidence that the weakness was exploited to gather user data. But Cable says “it is entirely possible that a company has been abusing this without LinkedIn’s knowledge, as it wouldn’t send any red flags to LinkedIn’s servers.”

I demoed the security fail on a site Cable set up. It was able to show me my LinkedIn sign-up email address with a single click anywhere on the page, without me ever knowing I was interacting with an exploited version of LinkedIn’s plugin. Even if users have configured their LinkedIn privacy settings to hide their email, phone number or other info, it can still be pulled in from the AutoFill plugin.

“It seems like LinkedIn accepts the risk of whitelisted websites (and it is a part of their business model), yet this is a major security concern,” Cable wrote to TechCrunch. [Update: He’s now posted a detailed write-up of the issue.]

A LinkedIn spokesperson issued this statement to TechCrunch, saying it’s planning to roll out a more comprehensive fix shortly:

We immediately prevented unauthorized use of this feature, once we were made aware of the issue. We are now pushing another fix that will address potential additional abuse cases and it will be in place shortly. While we’ve seen no signs of abuse, we’re constantly working to ensure our members’ data stays protected. We appreciate the researcher responsibly reporting this and our security team will continue to stay in touch with them.

For clarity, LinkedIn AutoFill is not broadly available and only works on whitelisted domains for approved advertisers. It allows visitors to a website to choose to pre-populate a form with information from their LinkedIn profile.

Facebook has recently endured heavy scrutiny regarding data privacy and security, and just yesterday confirmed it was investigating an issue with unauthorized JavaScript trackers pulling in user info from sites using Login With Facebook.

But Cable’s findings demonstrate that other tech giants deserve increased scrutiny too. In an effort to colonize the web with their buttons and gather more data about their users, sites like LinkedIn have played fast and loose with people’s personally identifiable information.

The research shows how relying on whitelists of third-party sites doesn’t always solve a problem. All it takes is for one of those sites to have its own security flaw, and a bigger vulnerability can be preyed upon. More than 70 of the world’s top websites were on LinkedIn’s whitelist, including Twitter, Stanford, Salesforce, Edelman and Twilio. OpenBugBounty shows the prevalence of cross-site scripting problems. These “XSS” vulnerabilities accounted for 84 percent of security flaws documented by Symantec in 2007, and bug bounty service HackerOne defines XSS as a massive issue to this day.

With all eyes on security, tech companies may need to become more responsive to researchers pointing out flaws. While LinkedIn initially moved quickly, its attention to the issue lapsed while only a broken fix was in place. Meanwhile, government officials considering regulation should focus on strengthening disclosure requirements for companies that discover breaches or vulnerabilities. If they know they’ll have to embarrass themselves by informing the public about their security flaws, they might work harder to keep everything locked tight.

Crypto-collectibles and Kitties marketplace Rare Bits raises $6M

Rare Bits wants to be eBay for the blockchain, where you buy, sell and trade non-fungible crypto-goods. After CryptoKitties raised $12 million from Andreessen Horowitz last month for its digital collectibles game, there’s been an explosion of interest in the space. But without a popular marketplace, it’s hard to find the goods you want at the right price. Now a team of former Zynga staffers is building out the Rare Bits crypto-collectible auction and commerce site with a $6 million round led by Nabeel Hyatt at Spark Capital, and joined by First Round Capital, David Sacks’ Craft Ventures and SV Angel.

Because of the Ethereum ledger, for the first time, users can truly own their digital items,” says co-founder Amitt Mahajan. “Previously in mobile or social games, virtual items earned through play or by spending money were actually owned by the company operating the game. If they shut down their servers, the items would go away and users would be out of luck. We believe this new asset class represents a paradigm shift in digital property whereby centralized assets will be moved onto decentralized systems.” For now, Rare Bits isn’t slapping any extra fees on its marketplace, compared to paying up to 1 percent on other marketplaces like Open Sea, or even more elsewhere. Instead, if a crypto-item developer charges a fee on secondary sales, say 5 percent, they’ll split that with Rare Bits for arranging the transaction.

Rare Bits lists more than 500,000 items from a dozen games, including CryptoPunks, Ether Tulips, CryptoBots, CryptoFighters, Mythereum and CryptoCelebrities. Users get the benefit of having all their crypto-collectibles in a single wallet. They can see historical pricing before they buy anything thanks to the transparency of the Ethereum ledger, whether they want to “Buy Now” or win an auction. The collectors can also see related items rather than transacting in a vacuum. One item sold for more than $10,000, and sales in the 5-10ETH range ($555 each today) aren’t uncommon.

Rare Bits founders from left: Danny Lee, Payom Dousti, Dave Pekar and Amitt Mahajan

Mahajan, Danny Lee and Dave Pekar all met after selling their gaming startups to Zynga . [Disclosure: I know Pekar from college.] Their fourth co-founder, Payom Dousti, worked at fintech VC fund 1/0 Capital and sold his sports analytics startup numberFire to FanDuel. With experience across the gaming, virtual goods and crypto space, Mahajan tells me, “We thought long and hard about potentially building blockchain-based games ourselves, but ultimately decided that there was a larger opportunity in focusing on crypto-based property as a whole.” The Rare Bits exchange launched in February and did more than $100,000 in transactions in its first month.

With some CryptoKitties selling elsewhere for as much as $200,000, investors liked the idea of taking a cut of everyone’s transactions rather than just launching another digital trading card. That led Rare Bits to raise a $1 million seed from Macro Ventures and angels like Steve Jang and Robin Chan. As scaling issues threaten to prevent the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains from supporting micropayments and mainstream commerce, new use cases like crypto-collectibles are taking the spotlight.

Now with the $6 million Series A, Rare Bits is bringing in some heavyweight angels from the world of gaming. That includes Emmet Shear and Justin Kan, the co-founders of Twitch. Former Dropbox execs and married couple Ruchi Sanghvi and Aditya Agrawal are also in the round, alongside Greenoaks Captial MD Neil Mehta and Channel Factory CEO Tony Chen.

The team hopes the runway will help it secure partnerships with developers and creatives to publish new collectibles for the blockchain that have a home on Rare Bits. Mahajan says, “People are viewing these items as assets that can be invested in instead of liabilities that are one way transfers of value towards the developer, it’s one of the major changes in this ecosystem versus traditional virtual items.”

Rare Bits will have to deal with the inherent scaling troubles of the Ethereum blockchain it operates on. For now, it’s refunding users the “gas” it costs to execute purchases and sales on its marketplace in a timely manner. Those range from a few cents to a few dollars, depending on network congestion. But Rare Bits could be looking at a steep bill or be forced to push those fees onto users if it gets popular enough.

There’s always the danger that CryptoKitties and the like are just the new Beanie Babies — valued today, but worthless when the fad dies. Rare Bits benefits from getting to follow the trend to whatever crypto-collectible is in vogue, and just has to hope the whole concept doesn’t fade.

But Rare Bits has a hedge against that. “While today most of these items are items from games and collectibles, we envision that we will see licenses, tickets, rights, even tokenized physical goods represented as digital assets,” Mahajan tells us. It’s now building a Fan Bits feature that will let YouTube creators, Twitch streamers and Instagram celebrities create crypto-based collectibles “to engage with their audience and let their fans support them,” he explains. You might one day be able to buy and resell a meet-and-greet pass for your favorite band.

“Our ultimate goal is to convince millions of new people to begin owning and transacting crypto-based property,” says Mahajan. But the founders will probably be okay regardless. “Like anyone crazy enough to start a crypto app company this early, we started buying and HODLing BTC and ETH years ago.”

Uber denies its CTO met with Cambridge Analytica

Uber has denied that its sitting CTO, Thuan Pham, met with Cambridge Analytica — the controversial political consultancy at the center of a Facebook user data misuse scandal.

But it has not been able to confirm that no meetings between anyone else on its payroll and Cambridge Analytica took place.

“I’m not sure who they think they met with, but I can confirm our CTO never met with them and we don’t have a relationship with them,” an Uber spokeswoman told us.

Giving evidence to the UK parliament earlier this week, former Cambridge Analytica staffer, Brittany Kaiser, had claimed that CA executives met with the Uber CTO in the past two years. Although she did not explicitly name Pham — just citing the CTO job title.

The DCMS committee is running an enquiry into disinformation online.

Asked by the committee whether she had ever come across Uber data being used for any of the political campaigns that CA worked on, Kaiser replied “no”.

However she qualified her answer, adding: “Although Cambridge Analytica definitely had meetings with the CTO of Uber in California — about 1.5 to 2 years ago. 

“I don’t believe anything came of that but a conversation was had,” she also said.

The committee did not query her on the intent of the meetings with Uber — although later she was asked if she’d had any contacts with other “big data companies”, including Google.

Responding on that Kaiser confirmed she had had contacts with “Microsoft, Google and a few other companies of that nature, and Facebook” — though she said this was only in a standard business capacity, noting that CA was a client “purchasing digital advertising space through them”.

On Facebook she added: “They had two different political teams in the United States — so they had their Republican team and their Democrat team, who usually inhabited separate offices on separate floors. My consultants in Washington DC would work closely with the Republican team on how we would use their tools to the best benefit for our clients.”

Last month the committee also asked another ex-CA employee, whistleblower Chris Wylie, whether the company had access to Uber data — apparently concerned that a 2016 Uber data breach, affecting 57 million riders and drivers (which the company only disclosed in November last year) could have been another data source for CA.

“To my knowledge Cambridge Analytica has not used Uber data,” responded Wylie.

Uber told Congress last year that one of the hackers behind the 2016 breach was located in Canada — and that this hacker had first contacted it in November 2016 to demand a six-figure payment for the breached data.

Also located in Canada: Aggregate IQ, a data firm that has been linked to CA — which Wylie has described as the Canadian affiliate of CA’s parent entity, SCL — and which has been credited with playing a major role in the UK’s brexit referendum, receiving £3.5M from leave campaign groups in the run up to the 2016 referendum. (AIQ has denied it has ever been a part of Cambridge Analytica or SCL.)

The question of where this small Canadian firm obtained data on UK citizens to carry out microtargeted political advertising has been another line of enquiry pursued by the committee.

“[W]here did [AggregateIQ] get the data?” asked Wylie last month in his evidence session, discussing AIQ’s involvement in the UK’s Brexit campaign. “How do you create a massive targeting operation in a country that AIQ had not previously worked in in two months? It baffles me as to how that could happen in such a short amount of time.

“That is a good question. It is unfortunate that AIQ hides behind jurisdictional barriers and does not come here and answer those questions. But it is something that hopefully can be looked at as to how did it actually work.”

Wylie has also alleged that AIQ “worked on projects that involved hacked material and kompromat” as well as distributing “violent videos of people being bled to death to intimidate voters”.

“This is the company that played an incredibly pivotal role in politics here. Something that I would strongly recommend to the Committee is that they not only push the authorities here, but give them the support that they need in order to investigate this company and what they were doing in Brexit,” he added.

Facebook has a new job posting calling for chip designers

Facebook has posted a job opening looking for an expert in ASIC and FPGA, two custom silicon designs that companies can gear toward specific use cases — particularly in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

There’s been a lot of speculation in the valley as to what Facebook’s interpretation of custom silicon might be, especially as it looks to optimize its machine learning tools — something that CEO Mark Zuckerberg referred to as a potential solution for identifying misinformation on Facebook using AI. The whispers of Facebook’s customized hardware range depending on who you talk to, but generally center around operating on the massive graph Facebook possesses around personal data. Most in the industry speculate that it’s being optimized for Caffe2, an AI infrastructure deployed at Facebook, that would help it tackle those kinds of complex problems.

FPGA is designed to be a more flexible and modular design, which is being championed by Intel as a way to offer the ability to adapt to a changing machine learning-driven landscape. The downside that’s commonly cited when referring to FPGA is that it is a niche piece of hardware that is complex to calibrate and modify, as well as expensive, making it less of a cover-all solution for machine learning projects. ASIC is similarly a customized piece of silicon that a company can gear toward something specific, like mining cryptocurrency.

Facebook’s director of AI research tweeted about the job posting this morning, noting that he previously worked in chip design:

While the whispers grow louder and louder about Facebook’s potential hardware efforts, this does seem to serve as at least another partial data point that the company is looking to dive deep into custom hardware to deal with its AI problems. That would mostly exist on the server side, though Facebook is looking into other devices like a smart speaker. Given the immense amount of data Facebook has, it would make sense that the company would look into customized hardware rather than use off-the-shelf components like those from Nvidia.

(The wildest rumor we’ve heard about Facebook’s approach is that it’s a diurnal system, flipping between machine training and inference depending on the time of day and whether people are, well, asleep in that region.)

Most of the other large players have found themselves looking into their own customized hardware. Google has its TPU for its own operations, while Amazon is also reportedly working on chips for both training and inference. Apple, too, is reportedly working on its own silicon, which could potentially rip Intel out of its line of computers. Microsoft is also diving into FPGA as a potential approach for machine learning problems.

Still, that it’s looking into ASIC and FPGA does seem to be just that — dipping toes into the water for FPGA and ASIC. Nvidia has a lot of control over the AI space with its GPU technology, which it can optimize for popular AI frameworks like TensorFlow. And there are also a large number of very well-funded startups exploring customized AI hardware, including Cerebras Systems, SambaNova Systems, Mythic, and Graphcore (and that isn’t even getting into the large amount of activity coming out of China). So there are, to be sure, a lot of different interpretations as to what this looks like.

One significant problem Facebook may face is that this job opening may just sit up in perpetuity. Another common criticism of FPGA as a solution is that it is hard to find developers that specialize in FPGA. While these kinds of problems are becoming much more interesting, it’s not clear if this is more of an experiment than Facebook’s full all-in on custom hardware for its operations.

But nonetheless, this seems like more confirmation of Facebook’s custom hardware ambitions, and another piece of validation that Facebook’s data set is becoming so increasingly large that if it hopes to tackle complex AI problems like misinformation, it’s going to have to figure out how to create some kind of specialized hardware to actually deal with it.

A representative from Facebook did not yet return a request for comment.

TaskRabbit CEO posts statement as its app returns following a cybersecurity breach

After taking them down to investigate what it called a “cybersecurity incident,” TaskRabbit’s website and app are back online. The Ikea-owned platform for on-demand labor also posted an update from its chief executive officer Stacy Brown-Philpot about the incident.

“While our investigation is ongoing, preliminary evidence shows that an unauthorized user gained access to our systems. As a result, certain personally identifiable information may have been compromised,” she wrote.

While Brown-Philpot said that an outside forensics team is currently working to identify what information was compromised and will notify all affected users, she urged the platform’s customers and providers, called “taskers,” to monitor online accounts for suspicious activity and change passwords if they used the same login information on other services.

TaskRabbit will add several new security measures because of the incident. Brown-Philpot said they are working on ways to make their login process more secure, reduce the amount of data retained about customers and taskers and “enhance overall network cyber threat detection technology.”

The company will continue posting updates to a dedicated page on its website, which also includes a FAQ for taskers who were unable to complete jobs while the app was offline. TaskRabbit says people who were forced to reschedule or cancel tasks will be compensated.

Amazon passes 100 million paid Prime members

Jeff Bezos is understandably all sorts of self-congratulatory in the annual shareholder letter Amazon released today. The note is full of all smanner of large numbers, including, perhaps most notably, 100 million. Amazon has exceeded that number of Prime subscribers globally, 13 years after the service launched as a free shipping offering.

It’s no surprise, really. In spite of some recent price hikes, the company keeps layering incentives on top of the plan. The list now includes access to video, music, Kindle books and a six month subscription to the Bezos-owned Washington Post. From the looks of it, the company will also be adding Whole Foods deals to the pile in the very near future. Oh, the joys of conglomeration. 

According to Bezos, Amazon shipped north of five billion items with Prime globally in 2017. India, one of the most recent countries to get Prime, is also the largest growing market for Amazon at the moment, adding “members in […] in its first year than any previous geography in Amazon’s history,” according to the letter. The company has been pumping investments into the country of late, launching its music service there in February, along with a “lite” version of its Android web browser, just this week.