‘Betwixt’ is Semi-Trending: The New Insight into Old English

Look at that fucking upswing.

Look at that fucking upswing.

Speculative word nerds, keep your dotted eyes fixed on “betwixt,” the Old English utterance enjoying a semi-comeback, thanks to insights gleaned from from Google’s word search.

Giving the likes of Dictionary.com a run for their money (let alone Wiktionary, sans the money), Google has for many years displayed a definition at the top of its search page for any word whose meaning it suspects one might enjoy clarification — stygian, for instance.

Realizing, however, that everything is better with infographics, Google now adorns definitions with a tempting-looking down arrow, begging for the click. To this I say: user, be thyself tempted, and click thyself to a cavalcade of etymological joy.

First drops down the word’s origin, illustrated in March-Madness-style tournament brackets, tracing the roots of the word through branches of time and space. Betwixt itself proves an excellent example, arriving betwixt a confluence of wordlets:

This is what betting pools at the OED look like.

This is what office betting pools look like at the OED.

Offering, after this, an option to translate the word into any which language — including Welsh (rhyngof), Finnish (yhdessä jkn kanssa), and Bulgarian (изправих между) — Google then offers the Googliest insight of them all: trending usage through time.

As one can see in the abovemost picture, betwixt has seen better days, but like that of the proverbial British empire, the sunlight twinkles at the edge of the horizon.

Enjoying a newfound popularity — a moderate popularity, to be sure; a restrained popularity, a Canadian-esque sort of ascendancy — betwixt breezes upwards from the trough years of the aughts, caught as it seemingly was in recessionary mires. (Betwixt bubbles up in the jollier of times, when credit default swaps comport themselves more suitably.)

Could this be a mere aberration, or might boring, overused “between” finally be falling to its zestier, twixtier cousin?

Trending at SXSW: Sex; Anonymity; Free Sunglasses. (Also, Google Glass is definitely creepy.)

Chuka Chase, rocking the wood-grains.

Chuka Chase, rocking the wood-grains.

Southby! It’s that time of the year again, when gobsmacking masses of techies converge in the Texas capital for five days of drinking, trend-chasing, drinking, drinking, socializing, scavenging free barbeque, drinking, standing in lines, sporting the occasional pushup, and chasing the next big thing. Also, drinking.

The widely buzzed-about (or over-hyped, depending on your perspective) festival famously serves as a launchpad for emerging technology trends. The atmosphere offers a palpable taste of the zeitgeist — live at the time of this writing, at the Samsung Blogger Lounge, panelists dive into a live YouTube show, What’s Trending.

SX revolutionized the sharing economy when then-ramen-unprofitable AirBNB revolutionized short-term home sharing. It shifted social media when Twitter blew up, most famously with Scott Beale’s impromptu AltaVista party. It helped launch the musical career of impossible-to-spell-his-name-without-Googling-it Macaulay Culkin’s Pizza Band. And this year includes, among other highlights — not to be confused with Highlight — real-life Mario Kart racing.

Often referred to as “spring break for nerds,” attendees oft scour for the same thing as people at every other spring break: sex. And this year, in particular, there’s an app for that. Many apps. On the top of everyone’s mind is Tinder, whose popularity seems impossible to quell. Then there’s the gay ol’ standby Grindr, whose Saturday night party promises to be… interesting.

Then there’s social dating app Down, rebranded from the infamous Bang With Friends. Offering double-opt-in matchmaking with a twist, users swipe “down” on a person’s face if they want to “get down,” or swipe up if they covet a date. Finally, a solution to humanity’s greatest challenge: separating those who want to date from those who want to fuck. (Venture capital at work!)

Since everyone is getting tired of Facebook’s insistence on real names, anonymity is enjoying a moment in the sun. Most popular, of course, is Secret, among a slew of emerging apps offering freedom from the glaring eye of everyone you know in real life. From another angle, internet privacy matters more than ever, with anonymous web-surfing trending along with the launch of The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz.

Something you’d expect to see a lot of is Google Glass — but tellingly, there’s a lot more Regular Glass (it’s still a nerd conference, after all), not to mention sunglasses. Free shades dance about ubiquitously, elevated to the status of semi-official schwag. (Sidenote: bright neon frames are in, slatted Wayfarers and their assorted knock-offs are out.) When I met someone yesterday wearing Google Glasses, my first question was, “are you recording this?” and he replied, exasperatedly, “why does everyone keep asking me that?”

Bonus trend: “gif” is now definitely pronounced “jif.”

Price Per User: The Surprisingly Average Metric Behind the WhatsApp Aquisition

All your users are belong to us.

All your users are belong to us. (Source: Statista)

Think the price tag for the WhatsApp acquisition is special? Think again.

Via a post on her Napsterization blog, serial entrepreneur Mary Hodder tipped me off to a new perspective that justifies the $16-to-$19-billion acquisition: price per user.

Hodder points to a chart on statistics aggregation site Statista, cited above, compiling the price per user paid for ten high-profile, consumer-oriented technology companies. The figures range from a low of $6 per user (for multiplayer gaming studio OMGpop) to a high of $240 (paid by Microsoft to acquire Skype).

Depending on which way you flip the integer, Facebook either paid $35 per WhatsApp user (at the $16 billion valuation) or $45 per user (at $19 billion). These figures line up consistently with previous high-profile acquisitions, including MySpace ($36 per user) and YouTube ($48 per user).

Facebook’s second-most-recent high-profile acquisition — mobile-first photo-sharing network Instagram, purchased for $1 billion — amounts to $22 per user. Not quite as high as WhatsApp, certainly — but roughly in the same ballpark.

Unlike Instagram, however, which duels in a fiercely competitive photo sharing app arena, WhatsApp supplanted a vast global telecommunications infrastructure, becoming the default messaging platform for nearly half a billion users (and counting), who use the service to bypass the price and privacy concerns raised by SMS, along with the platform lock-in imposed by iMessage, BBM, and other proprietary networks.

In addition to controlling the world’s biggest social network, Facebook nows owns one of the world’s largest messaging networks, providing the Palo Alto company with a windfall of new users, particularly in regions where it’s struggled to gain traction.