Hey folks!

It’s getting harder to prove that you’re not a robot.

You know, those puzzles you have to solve where you pick tiles that only have traffic signals, bees, pandas or whatever. Or even that box you have to check that says “I’m not a robot”. Yeah, so those puzzles are called Captchas (or Completely Automated Public Turing tests to tell Computers and Humans Apart) and apparently they’re getting harder.

You could have weird images that could bamboozle you. Like those of odd looking fruit or rather a bowl of fruit that would ideally be on a table, growing off a tree. And the Captcha could just ask you to click each image containing an apple on a tree. That’s what The Wall Street Journal says, a game developer from Houston, Texas was staring at, when he tried to login to a website.

So, what’s happening?

Well, Captchas were created to stop bots from disrupting websites or the data on it. That’s exactly why Captchas in their early days showed you distorted letters that bots couldn’t decode.

But apparently now, it’s not just the bots that have gotten smarter. An entire third party cottage industry that pays humans to solve captchas all day has mushroomed. So to tackle these problems, cybersecurity experts are creating more annoying captchas and you no longer have to just identify tiles with images but may also have to move or rotate AI generated images and solve harder puzzles.

But hey, making them so hard that we folks can’t solve them at all might mean locking us out of our social media accounts or shopping websites! So, who are we fighting really? Bots or humans?

Here’s a soundtrack to put you in the mood 🎵

Animism by Daniel & Roohi

It’s a Dimasa (Assamese tribe) Folk Fusion that was also the theme song for 2022’s Busu Dima festival. Or a festival the Dimasas celebrate to eat newly grown autumnal rice and keep their tradition alive and kicking. That’s what our reader Sagarika Nath told us.

Thank you for this lovely rec Sagarika!

A couple of things caught our eye this week 👀

Why does LinkedIn want you to play games?

LinkedIn just launched a bunch of games on its app and website! But why would people want to play games on a professional networking website you ask?

Well, first things first, these games are small brain teasers that can help you get your mind off work and take small breaks. So in principle, they could help boost productivity. Also playing games and building daily streaks could help you kickstart new conversations with your colleagues or new people in your network. This in turn builds engagement― something that LinkedIn has been wanting to do.

The company breached the $15 billion mark in annual revenues for the first time in 2023. And while that number looks great on paper, it’s only 9% higher than what it made the year before. So if it needs to up its game, it has to draw new users. It needs more takers for paid services like talent-hiring software, premium subscriptions and advertisements. So building engagement is always a good place to start.

But it may not stop there. It can also switch to a freemium model. This means that the company could get its free users hooked to games and then bundle them with premium subscriptions in the future. You’re probably baulking at this suggestion. But hear us out.

This could be like The New York Times’ (NYT) Wordle Effect.

In 2022 NYT acquired the word puzzle game called Wordle. It’s a simple game that gives you 6 chances to guess a 5-letter word of the day. And its popularity soon rose, with over 2 million people playing it after NYT’s acquisition.

So yeah, LinkedIn might be taking a leaf out of NYT’s book. But will it pan out? We’ll have to wait and see.

***

Does the smart world want dumb phones?

Remember those old monochrome, keypad phones that Nokia sold in the 1990s and early 2000s? (Sorry, Gen Z) Well, these brick phones could be back!

HMD-owned Nokia could soon be releasing some of these new 3210s (that’s the model number) in the US. And if the phones catch on here, maybe they’ll ship these models to other parts of the world too. But that brings us to a question – In a world of rising smartphone usage, why on earth would anyone want a dumb phone?

Look, smartphone sales have surely been rising. But nearly a quarter of the world’s phone users still actively use feature phones which are otherwise also categorised as dumb phones.

Why?

Well, part of the reason is that they’re still very affordable, especially in India and Africa. But there are also people trying to use a feature phone because it isn’t as damaging.

Let us explain.

An article in the “Fortune” states that 17 years of people’s adult life might be spent online. That includes phone screens too. And this increased use of smartphones has led to increased mental health issues. Granted, most people blame social media for this, but smartphones act as passive enablers. In fact, one study states that the rate of depression and anxiety among adolescents in the United States, which was fairly stable in the 2000s, was up by more than 50% between 2010 and 2019. So, maybe some people feel the need to cut back on smartphone use.

But that’s not the only market dumbphones could cater to.

In European countries like Switzerland and Germany for instance, people also call it the weekend phone because it helps you cut off from the internet. It’s a side phone for when you want to unwind.

And manufacturers are bringing this phone back by appealing to minimalism and exclusivity. Very few people have one of these keypad phones and it works great for folks who like to stand out. In the US, HMD Global’s feature flip phone sales were up in 2022, with tens of thousands sold every month. And that could go up by 5% over the next 5 years in some parts of the country.

And even if that seems small, new-age international tech companies like Palm, Light and Punkt are entering the phone market by explicitly trying to create dumb or minimalist phones.

Can dumb phones become a new premium trend the Gen Z will latch on to?

Jargon of the day ✏️

This Day in Financial History 📜

New section alert!

Hey, this week we’re trying out something new. So the idea is this - We’ll pick one memorable financial, economic or business event in history and write a story about it. Sort of like taking a trip down memory lane but also learning something along the way.

So today, we go back in time to the 3rd of May, 1913. This day marked the release of Raja Harishchandra ― India’s first full-length feature film. It was a momentous occasion but one whose seeds were laid way back in 1896 when French Cinematographers, the Lumière brothers sent a man named Marius Sestier to screen their short films at the swanky Watson Hotel in Mumbai (then Bombay). And although they were mostly for the British audience, they may have inspired many Indians to master the art of filmmaking.

Among them was a struggling chap who juggled a bunch of jobs in printing, photography and makeup and wanted to make it big in the film industry too. The man you know as the father of Indian cinema today ― Dadasaheb Phalke. Back then however, he was just another guy who had taken a leap of faith to experiment with filmmaking.

But it was no easy feat. Phalke had to try hard to pursue financers to back his project. He had to travel all the way to London to buy camera equipment and printing tools. He even had to cast male actors in female roles because women didn't want to act back then.

Finally, his passion project and India’s first feature film was released on 3rd May 1913 with a budget of ₹15,000.

Now, we don’t know how well it fared because people didn’t keep track of box office collections or records back then. But his efforts paved the way for the creation of India’s film industry which is now worth over ₹12,000 crore.

That's quite a feat, no?

Readers Recommend 🗒️

This week our reader Vivek Srinivasan recommends reading Blood in the Machine, a book by Brian Merchant. It talks about the Luddite movement, which saw the use of technology as a way to erase livelihoods of craftsmen and only benefit the capital class. The author uses that to draw parallels with modern day examples of similar exploitation taking place under the guise of gig economy, Vivek writes.

Thanks for the interesting rec Vivek!

Finshots Weekly Quiz 🧩

It’s time to announce the winner of our previous weekly quiz. And the winner is…🥁

Shruthi Rajan! Congratulations. Keep an eye on your inbox and we’ll get in touch with you soon to send over your Finshots merch. And for the rest of you, we’ve moved the quiz to our weekly wrapup. So make sure you answer all the questions correctly and tune in here next week to check if you got lucky.

That’s it from us this week. We’ll see you next Sunday.

Until then, don’t forget to tell us what you thought of today’s newsletter. And send us your book, music, business movies, documentaries or podcast recommendations. We’ll feature them in the newsletter! Just hit reply to this email (or if you’re reading this on the web, drop us a message: morning@finshots.in).

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