These are the actual locations

for millions of Americans. At the New

York Stock Exchange …

… in the beachfront neighborhoods

of Los Angeles …

… in secure facilities like

the Pentagon …

… at the White House …

… and at Mar-a-Lago, President

Trump’s Palm Beach resort.

One nation, tracked

An investigation into the smartphone tracking industry from Times Opinion

Every minute of every day, everywhere on the planet, dozens of companies — largely unregulated, little scrutinized — are logging the movements of tens of millions of people with mobile phones and storing the information in gigantic data files. The Times Privacy Project obtained one such file, by far the largest and most sensitive ever to be reviewed by journalists. It holds more than 50 billion location pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans as they moved through several major cities, including Washington, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Each piece of information in this file represents the precise location of a single smartphone over a period of several months in 2016 and 2017. The data was provided to Times Opinion by sources who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to share it and could face severe penalties for doing so. The sources of the information said they had grown alarmed about how it might be abused and urgently wanted to inform the public and lawmakers.

After spending months sifting through the data, tracking the movements of people across the country and speaking with dozens of data companies, technologists, lawyers and academics who study this field, we feel the same sense of alarm. In the cities that the data file covers, it tracks people from nearly every neighborhood and block, whether they live in mobile homes in Alexandria, Va., or luxury towers in Manhattan.

One search turned up more than a dozen people visiting the Playboy Mansion, some overnight. Without much effort we spotted visitors to the estates of Johnny Depp, Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger, connecting the devices’ owners to the residences indefinitely.

If you lived in one of the cities the dataset covers and use apps that share your location — anything from weather apps to local news apps to coupon savers — you could be in there, too.

If you could see the full trove, you might never use your phone the same way again.

A typical day at Grand Central Terminal in New York City

Satellite imagery: Microsoft

The data reviewed by Times Opinion didn’t come from a telecom or giant tech company, nor did it come from a governmental surveillance operation. It originated from a location data company, one of dozens quietly collecting precise movements using software slipped onto mobile phone apps. You’ve probably never heard of most of the companies — and yet to anyone who has access to this data, your life is an open book. They can see the places you go every moment of the day, whom you meet with or spend the night with, where you pray, whether you visit a methadone clinic, a psychiatrist’s office or a massage parlor.

The Times and other news organizations have reported on smartphone tracking in the past. But never with a data set so large. Even still, this file represents just a small slice of what’s collected and sold every day by the location tracking industry — surveillance so omnipresent in our digital lives that it now seems impossible for anyone to avoid.

It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure the powers such always-on surveillance can provide an authoritarian regime like China’s. Within America’s own representative democracy, citizens would surely rise up in outrage if the government attempted to mandate that every person above the age of 12 carry a tracking device that revealed their location 24 hours a day. Yet, in the decade since Apple’s App Store was created, Americans have, app by app, consented to just such a system run by private companies. Now, as the decade ends, tens of millions of Americans, including many children, find themselves carrying spies in their pockets during the day and leaving them beside their beds at night — even though the corporations that control their data are far less accountable than the government would be.

“The seduction of these consumer products is so powerful that it blinds us to the possibility that there is another way to get the benefits of the technology without the invasion of privacy. But there is,” said William Staples, founding director of the Surveillance Studies Research Center at the University of Kansas. “All the companies collecting this location information act as what I have called Tiny Brothers, using a variety of data sponges to engage in everyday surveillance.”

In this and subsequent articles we’ll reveal what we’ve found and why it has so shaken us. We’ll ask you to consider the national security risks the existence of this kind of data creates and the specter of what such precise, always-on human tracking might mean in the hands of corporations and the government. We’ll also look at legal and ethical justifications that companies rely on to collect our precise locations and the deceptive techniques they use to lull us into sharing it.

Today, it’s perfectly legal to collect and sell all this information. In the United States, as in most of the world, no federal law limits what has become a vast and lucrative trade in human tracking. Only internal company policies and the decency of individual employees prevent those with access to the data from, say, stalking an estranged spouse or selling the evening commute of an intelligence officer to a hostile foreign power.

Companies say the data is shared only with vetted partners. As a society, we’re choosing simply to take their word for that, displaying a blithe faith in corporate beneficence that we don’t extend to far less intrusive yet more heavily regulated industries. Even if these companies are acting with the soundest moral code imaginable, there’s ultimately no foolproof way they can secure the data from falling into the hands of a foreign security service. Closer to home, on a smaller yet no less troubling scale, there are often few protections to stop an individual analyst with access to such data from tracking an ex-lover or a victim of abuse.


The companies that collect all this information on your movements justify their business on the basis of three claims: People consent to be tracked, the data is anonymous and the data is secure.

None of those claims hold up, based on the file we’ve obtained and our review of company practices.

Yes, the location data contains billions of data points with no identifiable information like names or email addresses. But it’s child’s play to connect real names to the dots that appear on the maps.

Here’s what that looks like.

The data included more

than 10,000 smartphones tracked

in Central Park.

Here is one smartphone, isolated from the crowd.

Here are all pings from

that smartphone over the period covered by the data.

Connecting those pings reveals a diary of the person’s life.

Note: Driving path is inferred. Data has been additionally obscured. Satellite imagery: Maxar Technologies, New York G.I.S., U.S.D.A. Farm Service Agency, Imagery, Landsat/Copernicus and Sanborn.

In most cases, ascertaining a home location and an office location was enough to identify a person. Consider your daily commute: Would any other smartphone travel directly between your house and your office every day?

Describing location data as anonymous is “a completely false claim” that has been debunked in multiple studies, Paul Ohm, a law professor and privacy researcher at the Georgetown University Law Center, told us. “Really precise, longitudinal geolocation information is absolutely impossible to anonymize.”

“D.N.A.,” he added, “is probably the only thing that’s harder to anonymize than precise geolocation information.”

[Work in the location tracking industry? Seen an abuse of data? We want to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, contact us on a secure line at 440-295-5934, @charliewarzel on Wire or email Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson directly.]

Yet companies continue to claim that the data are anonymous. In marketing materials and at trade conferences, anonymity is a major selling point — key to allaying concerns over such invasive monitoring.

To evaluate the companies’ claims, we turned most of our attention to identifying people in positions of power. With the help of publicly available information, like home addresses, we easily identified and then tracked scores of notables. We followed military officials with security clearances as they drove home at night. We tracked law enforcement officers as they took their kids to school. We watched high-powered lawyers (and their guests) as they traveled from private jets to vacation properties. We did not name any of the people we identified without their permission.

The data set is large enough that it surely points to scandal and crime but our purpose wasn’t to dig up dirt. We wanted to document the risk of underregulated surveillance.

Watching dots move across a map sometimes revealed hints of faltering marriages, evidence of drug addiction, records of visits to psychological facilities.

Connecting a sanitized ping to an actual human in time and place could feel like reading someone else’s diary.

In one case, we identified Mary Millben, a singer based in Virginia who has performed for three presidents, including President Trump. She was invited to the service at the Washington National Cathedral the morning after the president’s inauguration. That’s where we first found her.

Mary Millben has performed for three presidents during her singing career.
Getty Images

She remembers how, surrounded by dignitaries and the first family, she was moved by the music echoing through the recesses of the cathedral while members of both parties joined together in prayer. All the while, the apps on her phone were also monitoring the moment, recording her position and the length of her stay in meticulous detail. For the advertisers who might buy access to the data, the intimate prayer service could well supply some profitable marketing insights.

“To know that you have a list of places I have been, and my phone is connected to that, that’s scary,” Ms. Millben told us. “What’s the business of a company benefiting off of knowing where I am? That seems a little dangerous to me.”

Like many people we identified in the data, Ms. Millben said she was careful about limiting how she shared her location. Yet like many of them, she also couldn’t name the app that might have collected it. Our privacy is only as secure as the least secure app on our device.

“That makes me uncomfortable,” she said. “I’m sure that makes every other person uncomfortable, to know that companies can have free rein to take your data, locations, whatever else they’re using. It is disturbing.”

The inauguration weekend yielded a trove of personal stories and experiences: elite attendees at presidential ceremonies, religious observers at church services, supporters assembling across the National Mall — all surveilled and recorded permanently in rigorous detail.

Protesters were tracked just as rigorously. After the pings of Trump supporters, basking in victory, vanished from the National Mall on Friday evening, they were replaced hours later by those of participants in the Women’s March, as a crowd of nearly half a million descended on the capital. Examining just a photo from the event, you might be hard-pressed to tie a face to a name. But in our data, pings at the protest connected to clear trails through the data, documenting the lives of protesters in the months before and after the protest, including where they lived and worked.

We spotted a senior official at the Department of Defense walking through the Women’s March, beginning on the National Mall and moving past the Smithsonian National Museum of American History that afternoon. His wife was also on the mall that day, something we discovered after tracking him to his home in Virginia. Her phone was also beaming out location data, along with the phones of several neighbors.

Senior Defense Department official and his wife identified at the Women’s March

Note: Animated movement of the person’s location is inferred. Satellite imagery: Microsoft and DigitalGlobe.

The official’s data trail also led to a high school, homes of friends, a visit to Joint Base Andrews, workdays spent in the Pentagon and a ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall with President Barack Obama in 2017 (nearly a dozen more phones were tracked there, too).

Inauguration Day weekend was marked by other protests — and riots. Hundreds of protesters, some in black hoods and masks, gathered north of the National Mall that Friday, eventually setting fire to a limousine near Franklin Square. The data documented those rioters, too. Filtering the data to that precise time and location led us to the doorsteps of some who were there. Police were present as well, many with faces obscured by riot gear. The data led us to the homes of at least two police officers who had been at the scene.

As revealing as our searches of Washington were, we were relying on just one slice of data, sourced from one company, focused on one city, covering less than one year. Location data companies collect orders of magnitude more information every day than the totality of what Times Opinion received.

Data firms also typically draw on other sources of information that we didn’t use. We lacked the mobile advertising IDs or other identifiers that advertisers often combine with demographic information like home ZIP codes, age, gender, even phone numbers and emails to create detailed audience profiles used in targeted advertising. When datasets are combined, privacy risks can be amplified. Whatever protections existed in the location dataset can crumble with the addition of only one or two other sources.

There are dozens of companies profiting off such data daily across the world — by collecting it directly from smartphones, creating new technology to better capture the data or creating audience profiles for targeted advertising.

The full collection of companies can feel dizzying, as it’s constantly changing and seems impossible to pin down. Many use technical and nuanced language that may be confusing to average smartphone users.

While many of them have been involved in the business of tracking us for years, the companies themselves are unfamiliar to most Americans. (Companies can work with data derived from GPS sensors, Bluetooth beacons and other sources. Not all companies in the location data business collect, buy, sell or work with granular location data.)

A Selection of Companies Working

the Location Data Business

A Selection of Companies Working

in the Location Data Business

Sources: MightySignal, LUMA Partners and AppFigures.

Location data companies generally downplay the risks of collecting such revealing information at scale. Many also say they’re not very concerned about potential regulation or software updates that could make it more difficult to collect location data.

“No, it doesn’t really keep us up at night,” said Brian Czarny, chief marketing officer at Factual, one such company, said. He added that Factual does not resell detailed data like the information we reviewed. “We don’t feel like anybody should be doing that because it’s a risk to the whole business,” he said.

In absence of a federal privacy law, the industry has largely relied on self-regulation. Several industry groups offer ethical guidelines meant to govern it. Factual joined the Mobile Marketing Association, along with many other data location and marketing companies, in drafting a pledge intended to improve its self-regulation. The pledge is slated to be released next year.

States are starting to respond with their own laws. The California Consumer Protection Act goes into effect next year and adds new protections for residents there, like allowing them to ask companies to delete their data or prevent its sale. But aside from a few new requirements, the law could leave the industry largely unencumbered.

“If a private company is legally collecting location data, they’re free to spread it or share it however they want,” said Calli Schroeder, a lawyer for the privacy and data protection company VeraSafe.

The companies are required to disclose very little about their data collection. By law, companies need only describe their practices in their privacy policies, which tend to be dense legal documents that few people read and even fewer can truly understand.

Satellite imagery: Microsoft, Vexcel and DigitalGlobe


Does it really matter that your information isn’t actually anonymous? Location data companies argue that your data is safe — that it poses no real risk because it’s stored on guarded servers. This assurance has been undermined by the parade of publicly reported data breaches — to say nothing of breaches that don’t make headlines. In truth, sensitive information can be easily transferred or leaked, as evidenced by this very story.

We’re constantly shedding data, for example, by surfing the internet or making credit card purchases. But location data is different. Our precise locations are used fleetingly in the moment for a targeted ad or notification, but then repurposed indefinitely for much more profitable ends, like tying your purchases to billboard ads you drove past on the freeway. Many apps that use your location, like weather services, work perfectly well without your precise location — but collecting your location feeds a lucrative secondary business of analyzing, licensing and transferring that information to third parties.

The data contains simple information like date, latitude and longitude, making it easy to inspect, download and transfer.
Values are randomized to protect sources and device owners.

For many Americans, the only real risk they face from having their information exposed would be embarrassment or inconvenience. But for others, like survivors of abuse, the risks could be substantial. And who can say what practices or relationships any given individual might want to keep private, to withhold from friends, family, employers or the government? We found hundreds of pings in mosques and churches, abortion clinics, queer spaces and other sensitive areas.

In one case, we observed a change in the regular movements of a Microsoft engineer. He made a visit one Tuesday afternoon to the main Seattle campus of a Microsoft competitor, Amazon. The following month, he started a new job at Amazon. It took minutes to identify him as Ben Broili, a manager now for Amazon Prime Air, a drone delivery service.

“I can’t say I’m surprised,” Mr. Broili told us in early December. “But knowing that you all can get ahold of it and comb through and place me to see where I work and live — that’s weird.” That we could so easily discern that Mr. Broili was out on a job interview raises some obvious questions, like: Could the internal location surveillance of executives and employees become standard corporate practice?

Ben Broili’s interview at Amazon was captured in the data.
Grant Hindsley for The New York Times

Mr. Broili wasn’t worried about apps cataloguing his every move, but he said he felt unsure about whether the tradeoff between the services offered by the apps and the sacrifice of privacy was worth it. “It’s an awful lot of data,” he said. “And I really still don’t understand how it’s being used. I’d have to see how the other companies were weaponizing or monetizing it to make that call.”

If this kind of location data makes it easy to keep tabs on employees, it makes it just as simple to stalk celebrities. Their private conduct — even in the dead of night, in residences and far from paparazzi — could come under even closer scrutiny.

Reporters hoping to evade other forms of surveillance by meeting in person with a source might want to rethink that practice. Every major newsroom covered by the data contained dozens of pings; we easily traced one Washington Post journalist through Arlington, Va.

In other cases, there were detours to hotels and late-night visits to the homes of prominent people. One person, plucked from the data in Los Angeles nearly at random, was found traveling to and from roadside motels multiple times, for visits of only a few hours each time.

While these pointillist pings don’t in themselves reveal a complete picture, a lot can be gleaned by examining the date, time and length of time at each point.

Large data companies like Foursquare — perhaps the most familiar name in the location data business — say they don’t sell detailed location data like the kind reviewed for this story but rather use it to inform analysis, such as measuring whether you entered a store after seeing an ad on your mobile phone.

But a number of companies do sell the detailed data. Buyers are typically data brokers and advertising companies. But some of them have little to do with consumer advertising, including financial institutions, geospatial analysis companies and real estate investment firms that can process and analyze such large quantities of information. They might pay more than $1 million for a tranche of data, according to a former location data company employee who agreed to speak anonymously.

Location data is also collected and shared alongside a mobile advertising ID, a supposedly anonymous identifier about 30 digits long that allows advertisers and other businesses to tie activity together across apps. The ID is also used to combine location trails with other information like your name, home address, email, phone number or even an identifier tied to your Wi-Fi network.

The data can change hands in almost real time, so fast that your location could be transferred from your smartphone to the app’s servers and exported to third parties in milliseconds. This is how, for example, you might see an ad for a new car some time after walking through a dealership.

That data can then be resold, copied, pirated and abused. There’s no way you can ever retrieve it.

Location data is about far more than consumers seeing a few more relevant ads. This information provides critical intelligence for big businesses. The Weather Channel app’s parent company, for example, analyzed users’ location data for hedge funds, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles this year that was triggered by Times reporting. And Foursquare received much attention in 2016 after using its data trove to predict that after an E. coli crisis, Chipotle’s sales would drop by 30 percent in the coming months. Its same-store sales ultimately fell 29.7 percent.

Much of the concern over location data has focused on telecom giants like Verizon and AT&T, which have been selling location data to third parties for years. Last year, Motherboard, Vice’s technology website, found that once the data was sold, it was being shared to help bounty hunters find specific cellphones in real time. The resulting scandal forced the telecom giants to pledge they would stop selling location movements to data brokers.

Yet no law prohibits them from doing so.

Location data is transmitted from your phone via software development kits, or S.D.Ks. as they’re known in the trade. The kits are small programs that can be used to build features within an app. They make it easy for app developers to simply include location-tracking features, a useful component of services like weather apps. Because they’re so useful and easy to use, S.D.K.s are embedded in thousands of apps. Facebook, Google and Amazon, for example, have extremely popular S.D.K.s that allow smaller apps to connect to bigger companies’ ad platforms or help provide web traffic analytics or payment infrastructure.

But they could also sit on an app and collect location data while providing no real service back to the app. Location companies may pay the apps to be included — collecting valuable data that can be monetized.

“If you have an S.D.K. that’s frequently collecting location data, it is more than likely being resold across the industry,” said Nick Hall, chief executive of the data marketplace company VenPath.

Satellite imagery: Microsoft, DigitalGlobe, Vexcel Imaging, Distribution Airbus


If this information is so sensitive, why is it collected in the first place?

For brands, following someone’s precise movements is key to understanding the “customer journey” — every step of the process from seeing an ad to buying a product. It’s the Holy Grail of advertising, one marketer said, the complete picture that connects all of our interests and online activity with our real-world actions.

Once they have the complete customer journey, companies know a lot about what we want, what we buy and what made us buy it. Other groups have begun to find ways to use it too. Political campaigns could analyze the interests and demographics of rally attendees and use that information to shape their messages to try to manipulate particular groups. Governments around the world could have a new tool to identify protestors.

Pointillist location data also has some clear benefits to society. Researchers can use the raw data to provide key insights for transportation studies and government planners. The City Council of Portland, Ore., unanimously approved a deal to study traffic and transit by monitoring millions of cellphones. Unicef announced a plan to use aggregated mobile location data to study epidemics, natural disasters and demographics.

For individual consumers, the value of constant tracking is less tangible. And the lack of transparency from the advertising and tech industries raises still more concerns.

Does a coupon app need to sell second-by-second location data to other companies to be profitable? Does that really justify allowing companies to track millions and potentially expose our private lives?

Data companies say users consent to tracking when they agree to share their location. But those consent screens rarely make clear how the data is being packaged and sold. If companies were clearer about what they were doing with the data, would anyone agree to share it?

What about data collected years ago, before hacks and leaks made privacy a forefront issue? Should it still be used, or should it be deleted for good?

If it’s possible that data stored securely today can easily be hacked, leaked or stolen, is this kind of data worth that risk?

Is all of this surveillance and risk worth it merely so that we can be served slightly more relevant ads? Or so that hedge fund managers can get richer?

The companies profiting from our every move can’t be expected to voluntarily limit their practices. Congress has to step in to protect Americans’ needs as consumers and rights as citizens.

Until then, one thing is certain: We are living in the world’s most advanced surveillance system. This system wasn’t created deliberately. It was built through the interplay of technological advance and the profit motive. It was built to make money. The greatest trick technology companies ever played was persuading society to surveil itself.

Stuart A. Thompson ( is a writer and editor in the Opinion section. Charlie Warzel ( is a writer at large for Opinion.

Lora Kelley, Ben Smithgall, Vanessa Swales and Susan Beachy contributed research. Alex Kingsbury contributed reporting. Graphics by Stuart A. Thompson. Additional production by Jessia Ma and Gus Wezerek. Note: Visualizations have been adjusted to protect device owners.

Opening satellite imagery: Microsoft (New York Stock Exchange); Imagery (Pentagon, Los Angeles); Google and DigitalGlobe (White House); Microsoft and DigitalGlobe (Washington, D.C.); Imagery and Maxar Technologies (Mar-a-Lago).

Like other media companies, The Times collects data on its visitors when they read stories like this one. For more detail please see our privacy policy and our publisher’s description of The Times’s practices and continued steps to increase transparency and protections.


The National Retail Foundation (NRF) reports this year’s online holiday sales are expected to increase between 11% and 14% over last year, bringing in between $162.6 billion and $166.9 billion — up more than $16 billion over 2018’s holiday e-commerce revenue in the U.S.

The NRF’s holiday predictions are a bit more generous than Adobe’s, which anticipates this holiday season will bring in $143 billion in online sales.

Since releasing its holiday forecasts in October, the NRF has published a consumer survey of more than 7,000 consumers that found 165 million people plan to shop during the busiest shopping week of the year — Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. Of those 165 million, 68.7 million said they will be going online to shop during Cyber Monday.

Younger shoppers lead the pack for Thanksgiving week shopping. Overall, 69% of the survey respondents said they plan to shop during the five-day stretch between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, but that number increases sharply when looking at younger consumers. For shoppers age 18- to 24-years-old, that number goes up to 88% — and up to 84% when looking at the 25 to 34 age group.

Any retailers and e-commerce brands focused on younger audiences should take this into account when planning their Black Friday/Cyber Monday strategIes.

Shopping in-store versus online. The NRF reports that there is almost an even split between consumers who plan to start their shopping in-store (47%) compared to those who will start their holiday shopping online (41%).

“Those under 25 are even more likely to say they expect to start shopping in-store,” said the NRF, with 52% of younger shoppers reporting they’ll start their shopping at a physical retail location. Even with more consumers starting their holiday shopping in-store, brands need to be thinking about their online promotions and email marketing leading up to next week’s shopping surge — building awareness now is a proactive way to capture shoppers both in-store and online.

A good deal is the biggest motivator. The NRF asked survey participants their top reasons for shopping during the holiday week. Sixty-five percent (the largest majority) said, “Deals were too good to pass up.” Other reasons for shopping Thanksgiving week included: it’s a tradition, something to do over the holiday week, or a group activity to do with friends and family (although none were as popular as the offer of a good deal).

Why we should care. This year’s holiday season is much shorter than usual, with six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Brands and e-commerce retailers that bank on the holiday season to make their annual numbers must enter the holidays armed with as much information as possible to plan a streamlined and succinct holiday strategy. Understanding consumer shopping patterns — and forecasted revenue — is key to implementing effective campaigns.

About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.



sign up

  • Sign Up
  • Login
  • Upload
  • FAQ
  • Trends
  • Colors
  • Holidays
  • Categories

500 Most Popular PNG Image Colors

We have analyzed many millions of PNG images, which include graphics, photos, drawings and all types of images. Below are the 500 most commonly used colors found in those images. You can browse images by color code.























































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Grammarly has received $90 million in its latest round of funding, led by returning investor General Catalyst, with help from IVP and other new investors. The money will go towards advancing the technology that enables the AI-powered writing assistant platform, as well as product development initiatives to support enterprise clients, the company said.

Why we should care

Marketers use Grammarly to help finetune content projects. The platform offers wide-ranging capabilities, from simple editing and grammar recommendations to more sophisticated tools such as a tone detector that can be used to make sure language conveys an intended tone. With this new investment, Grammarly’s technology could become even more intuitive to the needs of its users.

More than 2,000 businesses and institutions use Grammarly to help improve content and communications. The company has been investing in technology to make recommendations beyond basic grammar corrections. It uses AI to make recommendations to phrase something more concisely, vary word choice and use more inclusive language, for example.

There are also opportunities to improve existing integrations. From our own experience with the Grammarly plug-in on WordPress’s Gutenberg, edits often do not save and extraneous code sometimes get inserted into articles. The Grammarly extension also integrates with Google Docs and Medium.

More on the news

  • More than 20 million people use Grammarly daily, and the company reports it has more than tripled its user base since 2017.
  • Grammarly launched in 2009 and became a profitable within two years.
  • Grammarly CEO Brad Hoover told TechCrunch this latest round of funding pushes the company’s valuation to more than $1 billion.

About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.


NEW YORK — TikTok doesn’t report user numbers publicly. Recent reports have pegged its user base at anywhere between 260 to 500 million, but those estimates may be low. “It’s not a billion, but it’s not half that either,” TikTok VP Blake Chandlee said cagily during a talk at Advertising Week in New York Monday. The audience giggled at the lack of clarity, but his comment indicates the video platform is more popular than many realize.

TikTok VP Blake Chandlee speaking with Gary Vaynerchuk of VaynerMedia at Advertising Week 2019and Snapchat, it’s more a platform to watch and engage with content than to connect with friends and family. Vaynerchuk pushed back on that idea, saying text messaging has become the place for friends and family for many consumers, while TikTok is very much a social network in the way younger audiences use it. I can attest to this in my own household: kids watch videos from other creators on TikTok, but they largely create, share and comment among their own friend groups.

Global growth, regionally managed

Chandlee noted TikTok has seen a lot of grown in India and other parts of Asia. TikTok’s global presence is managed by individual teams in their respective markets. And though the platform is owned by Chinese internet firm ByteDance, which bought in 2017 and integrated it into the TikTok app, Chandlee emphasized thatTikTok does not operate in China. “It’s autonomous from the Chinese side of the business. We run it outside of the Chinese market, and we run a very locally-centered business. The U.S. is run by teams in the U.S. The European business is run by teams in Europe.”

Early adopters will gain the attention edge

Vaynerchuk called on the marketers in the audience to think about the attention opportunity on TikTok now rather than getting wrapped up in concerns about what its lifespan will be. Now is the time content and creators can gain huge audiences and engagement really fast. “It’s not super complicated. It went really fast on Vine, too. It went really fast on Instagram when Instagram didn’t have enough creators making for it. This is one big game of supply and demand of content and the attention on the other side,” he said. “This is the one game played over and over again.”

He compared it to brands sitting on the sidelines watching podcast growth because the reporting mechanisms aren’t in place. “I mean, there’s no confusion that there’s an enormous amount of people listening to podcasts. But watching people not buy ads because reporting isn’t in place yet.” He argues even if and when a network like Vine goes away, brands that were on the platfom “take the brand equity” with them.

Mainstream brands are jumping in, experimenting

Chandlee said in the past month or so, brands have flocked to TikTok: “There’s been a real inflection point.” Many mainstream and powerful brands are getting on the platform, Chandlee said, and experimenting. “When I talk to leading brands, I keep trying to say is we want to be different. We want brands to be this first-class citizen in the graph, so that when people see the content, they actually engage with it.” In other words, they can’t try to repurpose what they’re doing on other platforms.

The NFL, the NBA, Nike, Burberry, Samsung, HP, Chipoltle and Walmart are among the brands Chandlee mentioned doing interesting work on TikTok. “At some point this conversation is going to evolve into, Is this doing anything for my business,” said Vaynerchuk. “And the only way to actually make that happen is to be a relevant storyteller …. And that takes strategy, let alone contextual output.”

About The Author


“Big integers” have landed in Javascript, at least in Firefox and Chrome.
One of my favorite things to do with high precision arithmetic is to calculate
digits of π. From scratch, that is, using only addition, subtraction, multiplication,
and division.

You can find lots of formulas for calculating π, but my favorite is this one:

For some reason, it doesn’t make most lists of π formulas, but I like it because
of its simplicity. I can recall it easily without looking anything up.
All you have to remember are the first two terms and a simple evolution rule
for each of the three multiplicands. An uncle told it to me when I was in
elementary school and I’ve been able to remember it for decades.
I never even knew why it worked until I investigated it this month. (Hint: Taylor series)

It only uses addition, multiplication, and division. No square roots.
It computes π directly (not 1/π).
And even though there are complicated formulas that converge faster, this simple one
still converges at about 0.6 decimal digits per term.

To use big integers in Javascript, you put an “n” suffix on your integer literals.
Here is how we can use this formula to calculate the first thousand digits of π in

let i = 1n;
let x = 3n * (10n ** 1020n);
let pi = x;
while (x > 0) {
        x = x * i / ((i   1n) * 4n);
        pi  = x / (i   2n);
        i  = 2n;
console.log(pi / (10n ** 20n));

We just calculate the terms of the sequence with the decimal point shifted right 1020 places (using
BigInts), until they are too small to matter, add them up, chop off the last 20 digits, and
print the result.

This code works as is in Chrome, Firefox, and the latest version of Nodejs. Here are execution times
on a 2014 MacBook Pro (4-core i7 2.50 GHz, though I’m sure it’s only using one core.)

Length Firefox 68 Chrome 76 Node 10
1000 digits  0.02 sec  0.01 sec  0.01 sec
10,000 digits  1.04 sec  0.34 sec  0.40 sec
100,000 digits 88.91 sec 30.74 sec 37.34 sec

Increasing the number of digits computed is as simple as increasing the exponent in line 2,
so here is Javascript code to generate a million digits of π:

let i = 1n;
let x = 3n * (10n ** 1000020n);
let pi = x;
while (x > 0) {
        x = x * i / ((i   1n) * 4n);
        pi  = x / (i   2n);
        i  = 2n;
console.log(pi / (10n ** 20n));

This works in the Chrome developer console. It takes about an hour on my machine. Firefox, however,
seems to hang when dealing with numbers longer than 315,633 digits (which happens to be right
around 1,048,576 bits).

Here is a page that computes π in your browser. It uses the code above, with some
modifications so it can show progress as it goes.

Proudly powered by Pelican, which takes great advantage of Python.

The theme is by Smashing Magazine, thanks!