Human beings are naturally impulsive. And given the way we communicate nowadays this has led to thousands of embarrassing moments because of a lack of context. At the drop of a dime, we sometimes say things we don’t truly mean; and sometimes our words leave us picking up the pieces from the damage they caused.
In the old days, where face to face conversations ruled, our facial expressions, when combined with our tone and body language, could deliver a controversial message in such a way that enticed laughter. Nowadays, given the way technology has transformed how we communicate, words, often unaccompanied by emotion, are left to the imagination of the audience.
I don’t know about most of you straight jacket types, but my band of friends and I often say things that are contextual, and could be easily misunderstood if unaccompanied by gestures and vocals. In fact, if an outsider were to read some of the texts sent back and forth between my buddies and I, they’d probably think we were incredibly immature, trivial and outright annoying. Without any context or body language, communication can easily be misinterpreted by someone a world away.
We, the author of the message, and the one with the most to lose if that message is taken out of context, have exactly zero control over it as it tumbles through cyberspace. But I think we can collectively put that fear behind us now, especially if Mark Cuban‘s new venture takes off like I think it will.
Mark Cuban Loves Tech
Mark Cuban is the entrepreneur that you have seen on the reality show, Shark Tank. He made over a billion dollars investing in tech startups, and he is also the vibrant owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Cuban is one of those unique billionaires that most people like because he tells it like it is without any arrogance attached. He comes off as a very approachable guy.
Cuban is on the verge of another tech industry success in my opinion. His timing for the launch of his new app, given all the snooping by our governments and hacking by nefarious Russian teenagers, is perfect. His new app, Cyber Dust, is going to give the likes of Skype and Snapchat a run for their money.
Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton may want to think about using Cuban’s new innovation the next time they indulge their significant other in some nudies…
Cuban’s app is called Cyber Dust, and you use it so that whatever text message you send, to whomever you send it to, gets erased, automatically, in 24 seconds (just like an NBA shot clock) after opening. Nothing is stored on any hard drive and the message, be it text, image or video, is completely and totally annihilated. How cool is that?
In the old days, before Mark Cuban and Cyber Dust, you’d pick up your device, look at an incoming message, quickly tap out a reply and send it off. If it’s one of those foot-in-mouth replies, and you regret it the same instant you hit send, there is nothing you can do about it; and whatever happens, you will never be able to steer, redraft or even edit that message because everyone who receives it has control over how it will be framed and where it will go next.
At first glance Cyber Dust may seem like an app that’s designed for impetuous teenagers sending raunchy messages back and forth. But it’s much more than that. In today’s world of hyper connectivity, every single message that gets sent out, hangs around long after the author has any recollection of it. A message’s half-life is a huge problem these days. That’s the first thing, and on its own, isn’t too bad. However, you add that to the fact that context is everything, and when an innocuous message is placed in the wrong context, it can create problems down the road for the author. Cuban has personal experience dealing with this very issue. Just Google the case brought against him by the SEC (which he won in the end).
Cyber Dust Business Challenges
The market for Cyber Dust is anyone with a smartphone (making it about 2 billion strong). Everyone wants more privacy these days. So Cuban has the right idea here. What I don’t see is a way to keep other vendors from offering this, which makes companies like Skype more than a worthy adversary for Cuban.
Skype, for example, already has about 300 million users and 5 million of them are active daily. I think it’s easier for Skype to develop this and give it to their customers, than it is for Cuban to get 300 million users to sign up. Or Skype could just buy Mark Cuban out, the way Yahoo bought out his Broadcast.com. Maybe that’s his play. Scratch that… I bet that is his play here. No one understands better than Cuban how much simpler it is to design-build-sell than to design-build-operate.
As far as the business aspect of it goes, the app is free and it is proprietary, so you can’t cross message a friend of yours on, let’s say, Snapchat. Clearly the business plan for Cuban with Cyber Dust is to build a massive database and go from there.
The first downside for the user, and Cuban’s major challenge in establishing Cyber Dust as a real player in the communication space, is that the messager’s friend needs to have Cyber Dust. It can’t just be attached to a SMS.
This brings us back to the point of making Cyber Dust a buyout candidate by an existing messaging company. I am sure with a few tweaks, Skype could make this a premium addition to its existing 5 million regular users – but will it?
Only if it feels threatened.
And for that to happen, Cuban needs to market the crap out of Cyber Dust and get people downloading the app in droves. With a big enough marketing budget, and Cuban’s street credit in the tech world, Cyber Dust could be massive.
The Messaging Market
The proprietary messaging market is growing and has given telco text messaging a serious run for its money. But the fragmentation between the vendors seems to be an issue. If the industry consolidates, then greater numbers may make something like Cyber Dust a feature rather than a vendor, which is where I see them making the best of things.
Consumers are demanding more privacy after revelations of their own government spying on them and intercepting sext messages and the like. Edward Snowden created this new industry by blowing the whistle on government abuse. Now billionaire Mark Cuban is looking to capitalize in a timely manner with Cyber Dust. I think this will be a successful venture for the tech mogul, but only if he builds it to sell it.