Just about six months ago, Uber won a big battle with D.C. regulators to have its on-demand car service approved for operation within the nation’s capital. But new regulations from the D.C. Taxi Commission could severely hamper the company’s ability to offer low-cost services in the district.
Last December, the D.C. City Council voted to approve a legal framework that legitimized mobile e-hail applications there, as long as those applications followed certain rules. It defined a new class of for-hire vehicles (taxis and sedans) that could use mobile apps as a way to connect drivers and passengers.
The unanimous City Council vote followed a year of negotiations with local regulators to get its services approved for usage within the district. (The very public fight even included a sting operation by D.C. Taxi Commissioner Ron Linton in which he took an Uber and then handed over a variety of fines to the driver.) Still, after a whole lot of back-and-forth, it seemed like Uber was finally in the clear.
New regulations approved by the D.C. Taxi Commission last week could be a setback in the progress that Uber has made there, however. Among other things, those regulations would require mobile e-hail applications to integrate with the payment processor that is used within local taxicabs. That’s a non-starter for Uber, which currently has its own payment processor for in-app payments, and it could mean the end of UberTAXI in the city.
Another set of rules, which is being considered now, would ban cars that weighed less than 3,200 pounds. That would keep Uber from offering fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, which would affect its ability to offer its lower-cost UberX service there. With the possibility of UberTAXI and UberX being shut down, the company would only have its legacy black car and SUV businesses in the city.
Other regulations that Uber disagrees with would require Uber and other e-hail providers to hand over data related to rides that were booked using mobile applications. According to Uber, another rule could give the Taxi Commission the ability to choose whether or not apps are approved for usage in the city, and unilaterally keep Uber and other services from operating there.
For its part, Uber has tried to once again mobilize its users to reach out to D.C. officials and petition the local government. It’s asked users to email and tweet at Mayor Vincent C. Gray, and has put up a petition on Change.org. That petition has already received more than 2,500 signatures, with 5,000 needed.
Parse, the mobile back-end startup that Facebook recently bought to set up a new developer-focused business, just launched hosting. Parse It’s meant to help mobile developers that have a desktop web presence or companion experience on the web. The acquisition has already given Parse a boost, with the number of apps it hosts up 33% to 80,000 since the deal was announced.
“People were building mobile apps using Parse. But when they wanted a web presence or a dot-com landing page, they were using the Parse for the log-in, but the website was being served from something else like Heroku or App Engine,” explained Parse co-founder Ilya Sukhar. “So we’re launching a fully featured web hosting platform.”
Sukhar said the project has been in the works for the last four to six weeks, even while the Facebook negotiations were going on.
The new hosting service lets developers host landing pages, and display user data retrieved using the Parse API. Say if a developer wants to show a leaderboard for their game on the web, they can do it using both the new hosting service and the standard Parse data product.
Parse Hosting comes on top of other products that help mobile developers manage push notifications and user identities and log-ins.
He added that the Facebook deal, which we had independently heard was worth $85 million excluding retention incentives, hadn’t scared away developers. They’re at 80,000 apps now, from the 60,000 apps they said they had when the Facebook deal was announced. “There was an interesting debate about whether people would move off Parse, but all of our metrics are up,” he said.
Facebook had won the deal to buy Parse even as many of the Valley’s best known companies like Apple, Yahoo and Dropbox had looked or expressed interest. They’re starting their very first business-to-business revenue stream through the Parse acquisition and had — like in the case of Instagram — promised the team a fair amount of autonomy to grow their products as they see fit. They’re not tampering with Parse’s SaaS-based revenue model.
He also said that the company hadn’t celebrated the deal yet. “We have a lot of stuff on our plate,” he said.
Verizon Communications is preparing a $100 billion cash and stock bid to take full control of Verizon Wireless from Vodafone Group, reports Reuters. Verizon’s board is expected to discuss the potential buyout next week ahead of its annual shareholder meeting.
Verizon Communications and UK-based Vodafone formed Verizon Wireless as a joint venture in 1999. Though Verizon has not yet made an official proposal to Vodafone, it has hired banking and legal advisors, according to Reuters’ sources. The company currently owns 55 percent of Verizon Wireless. Though it’s uncertain if Vodafone is interested in the deal, Verizon is prepared to take a bid public if negotiations don’t come to fruition.
Reuter’s two unnamed sources state that after contemplating a buyout Verizon Wireless, its British partner, from Vodafone for the past 10 years, Verizon is now “ready to push aggressively for a deal.” Taking full ownership of Verizon Wireless would give Verizon more flexibility thanks to the wireless company’s cash flow. Verizon currently has the advantage of record low interest rates, as well the current strong performance of its shares, which have risen about 20 percent this year and are currently trading at their highest price in a decade. The company would raise about $50 billion of bank financing, and make up the other $50 billion with its own shares.
Verizon spokesman Bob Varettoni declined to confirm the proposal to Reuters, but noted that Verizon had said earlier this month that it would be a willing buyer of Vodafone’s share of Verizon Wireless.
If Verizon does indeed take Verizon Wireless of Vodafone’s hands, it would fit into Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao’s strategy for the company, which has been to streamline its assets after years of rapid expansion. Colao has been exploring options for its stake in Verizon Wireless, which makes up 75 percent of Vodafone’s valuation. Selling its Verizon Wireless share to Verizon is just one of Colao’s options. He could also sell Vodafone in its entirety to Verizon, but that seems less likely because of Vodafone’s relatively high valuation. If Vodafone does indeed sell off its Verizon Wireless stake, it could potentially make the company an attractive acquisition for suitors like AT&T.
Twitter became the unexpected battleground for tensions between the United States and Egypt, after the American embassy tweeted an episode of The Daily Show, which tore into the oppressive tactics of President Mohammed Morsi. “@USEmbassyCairo @TheDailyShow @DrBassemYoussef It’s inappropriate for a diplomatic mission to engage in such negative political propaganda,” responded the official account of Egypt’s president.
Egypt has taken a turn for the worse since the election of Morsi. Most recently, he arrested the host of a satirical news show, Bassem Youssef, after promising that no critic of the president would be harmed. No surprise, Daily Show host Jon Stewart went after Morsi is a (brilliant) 10 minute sketch.
Tweeting such a searing critique of Morsi not only shows the increasing power of Twitter in diplomatic relations, but reveals how bad negotiations have gotten between Egypt and the U.S.. Watch the episode that started it all below: