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Visualizing the Length of the Fine Print, for 14 Popular Apps

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length of terms of service agreements

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Terms of Service: The Length of Common Digital Contracts

Do you take the time to read the terms of service before you agree to when downloading the latest app or software?

Of course you do…

The world is awash with apps and internet services that ask potential users to agree to a service agreement. Most people click on ‘agree’ and move on, knowing that reading the service agreements could put them to sleep and defer their favorite internet fix.

Taking inspiration from designer Dima Yarovinsky’s project titled I Agree, today’s post visualizes the length of service agreements, by counting the words and calculating how long it would take users to read each one.

Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That

The average reading speed of most adults is 200 to 250 words per minute (wpm). College students, probably because they are very studious and not skimming, move that pace up to around 300 words per minute. For the sake of this analysis, we calculated reading times based on 240 wpm.

App/ServiceWord CountHow many minutes to read? (240 wpm)
Microsoft15,26063.5
Spotify8,60035.8
Niantic (Pokemon Go)8,46635.2
TikTok7,45931.4
Apple (Media Services)7,31430.5
Zoom6,89128.7
Tinder6,21525.9
Slack5,78224.1
Uber5,65823.6
Twitter5,63323.5
Bumble5,44222.7
Snapchat4,93520.6
Linkedin4,34618.1
Facebook4,13217.2
Google3,45914.4
Amazon3,41614.2
YouTube3,30813.7
Reddit3,26713.6
Dropbox2,70411.3
Netflix2,62811.0
Instagram2,4519.7

The service agreement for Microsoft stands out at the top of the list with an agreement that would take over an hour to read — a bit less time than it would take to read Shakespeare’s Macbeth. To be fair, this service agreement does seem to cover the company’s entire suite of products.

These agreements are an insight into the legal mumbo jumbo that exists when it comes to regulating the use of these apps. There are a multitude of agreements that go even further into depth about what rules govern developers, online cash transactions and much more. The average American would need to set aside almost 250 hours to properly read all the digital contracts they accept while using online services.

Regardless, users may feel like they are wasting time reviewing a contract that can neither change or refuse—or more vitally, even comprehend.

Not All Text is Equal: The Flesch Reading-Ease Test

Apparently dealing with some of his own textual frustration, a Dr. Rudolf Flesch observed that some text, in particular legal language, appeared to be written to make reading as difficult as humanly possible.

Long sentences filled with arcane words can drag out simple sentences and discourage comprehension. Flesch wanted to measure the variability in reading comprehension — and by studying different kinds of writing, he developed a formula to determine readability and forever scorn lawyers.

In the Flesch Reading-Ease test, higher scores indicate material that is easier to read. Lower numbers mark passages that are more difficult to read. The formula for the Flesch Reading-Ease Score (FRES) test is:

Flesch Reading Ease Test

The readability score uses two metrics:

  1. The numbers of words per sentence
  2. The number of syllables per word

Based on this score, a text would correspond to a particular education level.

ScoreGradeAvg. Words per sentenceSyllables per 100 words
100-905th grade8123
90.0-80.06th grade11131
90.0-70.07th grade14139
70.0-60.08th and 9th grade17147
60.0-50.010 to 12th grade21155
50.0-30.0College25167
30.0-0.0College graduate29192

So how do the service agreements in our sample rank in terms of the Flesch Reading-Ease test?

App/ServiceFlesch Reading Ease ScoreEquivalent Grade Level
Facebook5610 to 12th grade
Google5610 to 12th grade
Instagram5410 to 12th grade
Linkedin5410 to 12th grade
Microsoft5410 to 12th grade
Snapchat5410 to 12th grade
Dropbox5110 to 12th grade
Bumble50College level
YouTube50College level
Reddit48College level
Apple Media Services47College level
Tinder46College level
Amazon45College level
Netflix45College level
TikTok44College level
Spotify44College level
Zoom42College level
Uber40College level
Twitter39College level
Niantic (Pokemon Go)39College level
Slack36College level

While not the most difficult to read, they definitely include a fair amount of legalese that helps discourage reading. The length and the difficulty of reading these agreements makes them practically useless to the average person.

This is a problem because it undermines basic concepts of contracts and informed consent. Users are giving up their rights without their knowledge.

Terms of Service: You Are the Product

These apps and software are the forefront of the data collection for a multi-billion dollar industry.

Individual user activity and information get easily collected and stored, creating databases of user patterns. This type of behavioral information makes marketers salivate, allowing them target their products to their ideal audience at lower costs than traditional advertising.

Do you know what you have agreed to?

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The Top Downloaded Apps in 2022

Six of the top 10 most downloaded apps in Q1 2022 were social media apps, and four of them are owned by Meta.

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The most popular apps in Q1 2022, by number of downloads

The Top Downloaded Apps in 2022

Whether they’re providing a service like ride-sharing or acting as a mere source of entertainment, mobile apps have become an integral part of many peoples’ day-to-day lives.

But which apps are most popular among users?

This graphic uses data from a recent report by Sensor Tower to show the top 10 most downloaded apps around the world in Q1 2022 from the Google Play and Apple App Store.

Social Reigns Supreme

According to the report, total app downloads reached 36.9 billion in Q1 2022, a 1.4% increase compared to Q1 2021.

A majority of the top 10 most downloaded apps were social media platforms, with Meta and ByteDance owning six of the top 10.

RankAppCategory
1TikTokEntertainment
2InstagramPhoto and video
3FacebookSocial networking
4WhatsAppMessaging
5ShopeeShopping
6TelegramMessaging
7SnapchatPhoto and video
8MessengerMessaging
9CapCutPhoto and video
10SpotifyMusic

Meta’s four platforms on the list are Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Messenger, while ByteDance owns TikTok and video-editing platform CapCut.

Just outside the top 10 are Zoom and WhatsApp Business (yet another Meta-owned app).

TikTok’s Winding Road to the Top

In Q1 2021, TikTok exceeded 3.5 billion all-time downloads, becoming the fifth app (and the first non-Meta app) to reach this milestone. This is impressive considering the app has been banned in India as of June 2020. Prior to the ban, India accounted for 30% of TikTok’s downloads.

India’s not the only country that’s banned the use of TikTok. Pakistan has blocked TikTok multiple times because of concerns over “inappropriate” content. However, it’s worth noting that the bans in Pakistan only lasted a few days before being lifted, and currently, Pakistanis are able to access the platform.

Top 10 Highest Grossing Apps

TikTok isn’t just the most downloaded app in the world—it’s also the highest-grossing non-game app, based on Q1 2022 revenue from the App Store and Google Play:

RankAppCategory
1TikTokEntertainment
2YouTubePhoto and video
3Disney+Entertainment
4Google OneProductivity
5TinderLifestyle
6PiccomaBooks
7Tencent VideoEntertainment
8iQIYIEntertainment
9HBO MaxEntertainment
10LINE MangaEntertainment

TikTok generated an impressive $821 million in consumer spending in the last quarter. The video-sharing platform was the top-grossing app on the App Store, and the second-highest-grossing on Google Play, coming just after Google One.

While none of Meta’s platforms made it onto the top 10 list for gross revenue, these platforms make a ton of money that doesn’t necessarily flow through app stores. In 2021, Meta generated more than $117.9 billion in revenue, with over 97% of that coming from ads.

Growth’s on the Horizon

The pandemic had a massive impact on the app market.

In 2020, app spending on things like premium access, in-app purchases, and subscriptions surged by 30% year-over-year to reach $111 billion.

And while COVID-19 restrictions are easing in most places around the world, app spending isn’t likely to taper off anytime soon. By 2025, spending is expected to grow to $270 billion.

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Synthetic Biology: The $3.6 Trillion Science Changing Life as We Know It

The field of synthetic biology could solve problems in a wide range of industries, from medicine to agriculture—here’s how.

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How Synthetic Biology Could Change Life as we Know it

Synthetic biology (synbio) is a field of science that redesigns organisms in an effort to enhance and support human life. According to one projection, this rapidly growing field of science is expected to reach $28.8 billion in global revenue by 2026.

Although it has the potential to transform many aspects of society, things could go horribly wrong if synbio is used for malicious or unethical reasons. This infographic explores the opportunities and potential risks that this budding field of science has to offer.

What is Synthetic Biology?

We’ve covered the basics of synbio in previous work, but as a refresher, here’s a quick explanation of what synbio is and how it works.

Synbio is an area of scientific research that involves editing and redesigning different biological components and systems in various organisms.

It’s like genetic engineering but done at a more granular level—while genetic engineering transfers ready-made genetic material between organisms, synbio can build new genetic material from scratch.

The Opportunities of Synbio

This field of science has a plethora of real-world applications that could transform our everyday lives. A study by McKinsey found over 400 potential uses for synbio, which were broken down into four main categories:

  • Human health and performance
  • Agriculture and food
  • Consumer products and services
  • Materials and energy production

If those potential uses become reality in the coming years, they could have a direct economic impact of up to $3.6 trillion per year by 2030-2040.

1. Human Health and Performance

The medical and health sector is predicted to be significantly influenced by synbio, with an economic impact of up to $1.3 trillion each year by 2030-2040.

Synbio has a wide range of medical applications. For instance, it can be used to manipulate biological pathways in yeast to produce an anti-malaria treatment.

It could also enhance gene therapy. Using synbio techniques, the British biotech company Touchlight Genetics is working on a way to build synthetic DNA without the use of bacteria, which would be a game-changer for the field of gene therapy.

2. Agriculture and Food

Synbio has the potential to make a big splash in the agricultural sector as well—up to $1.2 trillion per year by as early as 2030.

One example of this is synbio’s role in cellular agriculture, which is when meat is created from cells directly. The cost of creating lab-grown meat has decreased significantly in recent years, and because of this, various startups around the world are beginning to develop a variety of cell-based meat products.

3. Consumer Products and Services

Using synthetic biology, products could be tailored to suit an individual’s unique needs. This would be useful in fields such as genetic ancestry testing, gene therapy, and age-related skin procedures.

By 2030-2040, synthetic biology could have an economic impact on consumer products and services to the tune of up to $800 billion per year.

4. Materials and Energy Production

Synbio could also be used to boost efficiency in clean energy and biofuel production. For instance, microalgae are currently being “reprogrammed” to produce clean energy in an economically feasible way.

This, along with other material and energy improvements through synbio methods, could have a direct economic impact of up to $300 billion each year.

The Potential Risks of Synbio

While the potential economic and societal benefits of synthetic biology are vast, there are a number of risks to be aware of as well:

  • Unintended biological consequences: Making tweaks to any biological system can have ripple effects across entire ecosystems or species. When any sort of lifeform is manipulated, things don’t always go according to plan.
  • Moral issues: How far we’re comfortable going with synbio depends on our values. Certain synbio applications, such as embryo editing, are controversial. If these types of applications become mainstream, they could have massive societal implications, with the potential to increase polarization within communities.
  • Unequal access: Innovation and progress in synbio is happening faster in wealthier countries than it is in developing ones. If this trend continues, access to these types of technology may not be equal worldwide. We’ve already witnessed this type of access gap during the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, where a majority of vaccines have been administered in rich countries.
  • Bioweaponry: Synbio could be used to recreate viruses, or manipulate bacteria to make it more dangerous, if used with ill intent.

According to a group of scientists at the University of Edinburgh, communication between the public, synthetic biologists, and political decision-makers is crucial so that these societal and environmental risks can be mitigated.

Balancing Risk and Reward

Despite the risks involved, innovation in synbio is happening at a rapid pace.

By 2030, most people will have likely eaten, worn, or been treated by a product created by synthetic biology, according to synthetic biologist Christopher A. Voigt.

Our choices today will dictate the future of synbio, and how we navigate through this space will have a massive impact on our future—for better, or for worse.

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