Good morning! This Thursday, T-Mobile finally got its merger done, Airbnb changed its ideas about travel, and Adam Neumann lost a billion dollars.
Don't forget to come to our Virtual Meetup with Ro Khanna today on all things tech and coronavirus. It starts at 3 p.m. EDT / noon PDT, and it's going to be great.
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People Are Talking
Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to Instacart, Uber, DoorDash and Grubhub telling them to classify workers as employees:
- "Because these workers perform essential delivery work and are critical to serving customers who cannot leave home during the pandemic, you have a responsibility to protect their health and the public's health. To do so, I urge you to reclassify your delivery workers as employees, rather than independent contractors, and ensure they are provided a full suite of employee protections and benefits."
Zoom CEO Eric Yuan apologized to users for falling short on privacy and security, and said the company has a plan:
- "Over the next 90 days, we are committed to dedicating the resources needed to better identify, address, and fix issues proactively. We are also committed to being transparent throughout this process. We want to do what it takes to maintain your trust."
- Zoom also published a post explaining its approach to encryption.
Sheryl Sandberg said Facebook is leaning on the WHO in a big way for coronavirus issues:
- "We are not global health experts. The WHO is, so we are relying on the WHO to tell us what information they believe will lead to imminent harm ... Our process is very clear. No matter who says something, if the WHO thinks it's going to cause imminent harm, we're going to take it down."
- Also: Don't miss Issie Lapowsky's story on the tech-giant "infodemic," and how many companies are accepting a new kind of moderation role amid this crisis.
From Protocol: Hiring slowdowns mean huge layoffs for recruiters, said ZipRecruiter's Julia Pollak:
- "We've wiped out years of job gains in just weeks. This shock is going to lead to a very broad pullback in hiring for several months. In the meanwhile, having a director of talent recruitment — they're not going to have much work the next few months."
The FCC wants to unwind Altria's $12.8 billion Juul investment:
- "For several years, Altria and Juul were competitors in the market for closed-system e-cigarettes. By the end of 2018, Altria orchestrated its exit from the e-cigarette market and became Juul's largest investor. Altria and Juul turned from competitors to collaborators by eliminating competition and sharing in Juul's profits."
The Big Story
There is no Sprint, only T-Mobile
The $26 billion merger that took forever suddenly seemed to happen all at once. As of yesterday, Sprint is no longer and T-Mobile is now the third big carrier in the U.S. So what happens now?
- Actually, before that, here's how this happened so suddenly: The New York Times explains that Sprint recently made a technical change to the way it handles phone calls: it no longer uses landlines. That meant the California Public Utilities Commission — the last remaining roadblock — no longer had jurisdiction. Clever!
Anyway, here's what happens now:
- John Legere is officially out as T-Mobile CEO, a month before his originally planned departure date, as Mike Sievert takes the reins of the new carrier. Wonder how long it'll be before Sievert starts showing up in unavoidable promoted tweets?
- For now, Sprint customers stay on Sprint's network and Sprint's plans — the company said it'll take as long as three years before things are fully integrated and pink-ified.
- "During the crisis here, we're not going to make big changes," Sievert told CNBC. More branding changes will happen this summer, he said, but the Sprint brand may not go away entirely. The Sprint icon will stay in the corner of customers' screens for now, too.
- In the long run, the new carrier has about 100 million subscribers.
There will be some early signs of change, though. Now that the merger's done, T-Mobile can turn its attention back to building out its 5G network. Sievert told CNBC the plan is to "start lighting up 5G on what was Sprint's network almost immediately." He said the long merger process gave T-Mobile plenty of time to plan. Plus, carriers are classified as essential services, so they can keep working during lockdowns.
- But he did allow for the possibility that for things like permitting and partnerships, coronavirus could force T-Mobile to move a little more slowly. And with 75% of the two combined carriers' stores closed, there's going to be a "material impact" on the business.
- If T-Mobile can eventually roll out 5G nationwide, it could also make itself a powerful cable company without having to dig trenches or launch satellites. Sievert told the NYT the pay-TV business is "the least competitive market I've ever seen," and the company has had entertainment deals for years. Including Quibi!
Airbnb's new brand: stay close, stay longer
Airbnb is typically an aspirational, lifestyle kind of brand. Get out and see the world! Look at this cool yurt in Bali!
But amid coronavirus, Airbnb is becoming something else. Something more … practical.
- After a big increase in local and long-term stays on the platform — think doctors who can't be with their families, first responders from out of town, families who need a more workable lockdown setup — Airbnb tweaked its platform to emphasize those kinds of listings.
- The company's encouraging hosts to accept longer stays, and even its homepage is now more "stay home comfortably" than "check out this cool beach."
- Bookings for these long-term local stays have doubled in just the last two weeks, Airbnb said.
It's been a tough month for the company. Its IPO plans are all messed up. It had to deal with a rash of cancellations from people who suddenly couldn't and shouldn't travel. Then it endured outrage from hosts whose income had suddenly disappeared.
- Meanwhile for a lot of people, Airbnb is vital — not so much for the people who want to get out of town and take the virus with them, but for the people who need a place to be when they can't be home.
Some things will go back to normal after coronavirus — the Bali yurt pictures will surely return. But Airbnb told me that it expects longer stays to be a bigger part of the platform going forward.
A MESSAGE FROM SLACK
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Bringing the neighbors together — virtually
When I think about Nextdoor I think of two things: people being mad at dogs who poop in their yard, and people thinking everything is a crime even when it's just someone being outside. But the app has found a sort of calling in the midst of coronavirus.
- With cities and states enacting different lockdowns and physical-distancing rules, Nextdoor has become a hub of hyperlocal information. It's been rising up App Store charts, and the company said engagement has increased 80% in recent weeks.
- The app made changes to help small businesses, too, making it easier for them to advertise to-go orders or link to fundraisers. Nextdoor said conversations about support for local business have been up 17x in recent weeks.
Obviously most of these features exist in other apps, like Yelp or Facebook. And the inevitable misinformation downside applies here too. In fact, Nextdoor doesn't have the resources to moderate like Facebook, so I'm also seeing posts with bad data and bad ideas about how to treat coronavirus.
But there's something special about the forced proximity of it all:
- My Nextdoor is filled with people offering helpful shopping tips, ideas for physical-distancing-friendly hikes, and the obligatory bougie offering sourdough starter to anyone nearby. People are offering to do grocery runs, dog walks, math tutoring and more. It's all downright … neighborly.
- My absolute favorite thing happening on Nextdoor, though? All the planning for a Bay Area-wide Bear Hunt: People are putting teddy bears in their windows, encouraging families to take walks through their neighborhoods looking for bears.
Jason Kilar, the founder of Hulu, is WarnerMedia's new CEO. His first big task: launch HBO Max into the streaming-service stratosphere. Meanwhile, John Stankey, the former WarnerMedia CEO, is now probably the betting favorite to be the next AT&T CEO.
Brian Solis is now Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce, having built his reputation as a tech analyst and author. "I focus on studying global digital trends, organizational innovation & customer behaviors & preferences," he said.
In Other News
- Today in coronavirus: Instagram-friendly pop-up stores are closing now that there's nobody out there doing it for the 'gram. More Amazon workers are planning to strike. Comcast pledged $500 million for employees whose jobs are affected by the virus. A study found that Chinese disinformation about the virus may have started in January. Uber is hoping Eats can make up for the fact that basically nobody is getting in an Uber right now. Snapchat use is way, way up. And people are getting married on Zoom — and still getting dressed up, because you better get dressed up even if it's a virtual wedding.
- SoftBank bailed on a $3 billion investment in WeWork. Here's how Protocol's Biz Carson reacted: "I can't really remember a time an investment group went back on their word in such a huge way. If SoftBank wasn't a radioactive investor already, this might seal the deal." Nobody's going to feel bad for Adam Neumann, who stands to lose out on $1 billion — but this means a lot of early employees won't get to cash out either. Also, this could start a war between SoftBank and Benchmark, which was planning on selling hundreds of millions in shares.
- From Protocol: There's a battle raging over Verily's coronavirus website — specifically its data-sharing policies. A group of senators is asking for more details, and Verily is trying to assure them that everything's on the up-and-up.
- Apple is letting Amazon and others sell video through their apps without taking its customary 30% cut. In exchange, it seems, those apps are integrating with the TV app, universal search, AirPlay and other Apple features.
- Don't miss this Forbes story on Larry Ellison's next venture: a partnership with the Trump administration to build a data-driven system for tracking and fighting coronavirus.
- Google is turning on 100,000 hotspots to provide free internet to Californians, Gavin Newsom announced yesterday. The company's also providing thousands of free Chromebooks to students.
- Palantir's working with European governments to build coronavirus-tracking software. It's already in discussions with France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Bloomberg reports, and the company says its software can help guide countries through the crisis.
- YouTube is working on a TikTok competitor called Shorts. YouTube is perpetually working on competitors for every app that also does video — Stories! Streaming! Kids! — but TikTok's a particularly ascendant rival, and its moxie may prove particularly hard to copy.
- Anthony Levandowski wants Uber to pay the $179 million that a judge ordered he pay Google. This story will never end, and I'm totally OK with that.
One More Thing
Your body's stuck at home. Send your brain to space?
I think technically NASA At Home is designed for kids. But I don't care: The agency's put together a collection of virtual tours, epic videos, interesting books and family-friendly activities for space enthusiasts of all ages, and I've been watching tours of the International Space Station all day. Tomorrow's project is to make my own cloud in a bottle. And you know how everyone says "Oh, well, Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine?" Well you can beat that: Spend your time in self-isolation helping out with NASA's hunt for undiscovered worlds!
Today at noon PDT/3 p.m. EDT senior reporter Issie Lapowsky interviews California Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) about what Washington and Silicon Valley are doing to address the COVID-19 outbreak.
Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to me, email@example.com, or our tips line, firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.