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Will we go back to the grocery store?
Good morning! This Thursday, we look at Wikipedia's take on the information wars, the newly high-tech future of grocery shopping, and Disney+'s ongoing world takeover.
See you at our virtual meetup today! It kicks off at noon PDT / 3 p.m. EDT, with Protocol's Mike Murphy, Goldman Sachs' Ericka Leslie and Nasdaq's Lars Ottersgard talking about keeping markets up and running in these crazy times. Sign up here if you haven't yet.
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People Are Talking
The most riveting story on Twitter yesterday was Akamai's Andy Ellis trying to fix his internet for his company's virtual summit:
- "I had video/audio failures; and weird intermittent network failures. An afternoon of debugging, couldn't find the problem; but it looked a lot like this other problem. Uh-oh."
From Protocol: Alexis Ohanian explained his family's new daily board meeting:
- "In a world with things we don't have control over, it's really helpful to find things that you can control and exert control over. I'm not asking Serena to put together an agenda! We're definitely partners. But it's a good mental model for me to be checking in on them."
Before Kevin Systrom left Instagram, he asked Chris Cox to not just turn him into another division within Facebook:
- "Let's be straight with each other. I need independence. I need resources. And when something happens, I know I'm not always going to agree with it, but I need honesty. That's what's going to keep me here."
- This is from an excerpt from Sarah Frier's upcoming book about Instagram, called No Filter, which comes out next week and is excellent.
The Big Story
On coronavirus Wikipedia pages, not quite anything goes
"Please be precise in future edits," one volunteer Wikipedia editor told another on Monday, in the background of a page discussing the coronavirus pandemic in mainland China.
The fight to keep information accurate on the site is always intense. But it has recently intensified. And with good reason: Wikipedia broke its record last week for most views in a single day. (Though, believe it or not, that was almost as much to do with "Tiger King" as it was coronavirus.)
Wikimedia CEO Katherine Maher told Protocol's Sofie Kodner what the company is doing to step up. Starting with a long-standing system called WikiProject Medicine:
- "Think of it like a little mini medical encyclopedia," Maher said. Experienced volunteer editors scrutinize all of the site's medicine- and health-related articles. Sources must be peer-reviewed and, unlike most of Wikipedia, pages are locked from public editing. Maher says that last week there were over 900 approved edits to the main coronavirus pandemic article.
While social media platforms scramble to take information down, Maher said Wikipedia is focused on something else.
- "What makes Wikipedia unusual relative to other platforms is that Wikipedia maintains a whole article on misinformation about coronavirus. Rather than simply keep the information off, the editors are doing the work of also documenting misinformation that's out there in the public and clearly labeling it as such."
- "The editors have also started creating articles like the article about a coronavirus vaccine. Although there is no vaccine at this point, the article is specifically designed to fill a gap in the information ecosystem by holding place for information about the potential for the development of a vaccine, but also the fact that none exists yet."
Wikipedia's also looking to integrate trusted sources beyond its benevolently bickering group of editors.
- "One of the initiatives that WikiProject Med is pushing forward now is how to partner with leading health institutions, in order to integrate information and guidance from those leading scientific centers into Wikipedia."
Will we go back to the grocery store?
Grocery shopping has been resistant to technology in the U.S. — it's been one of the few commerce nuts that even Amazon couldn't crack. (Spending $13 billion to just buy a grocery chain doesn't count.) But lockdowns have forced many stores and companies to figure out a higher-tech, more efficient option.
- OpenTable now lets you reserve a distancing-appropriate appointment at your grocery store. Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking Holdings, which owns OpenTable, told me that the company's making the feature free to "any retailer, any farm, anybody who needs something to spread out their demand."
- Instacart recently tweaked its app to let people plan their shopping well in advance and offer up a wider range of delivery options. Both will make it easier for Instacart to keep up with crazy demand, and for users to get their stuff.
- Folks that keep missing coveted delivery slots on Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods can actually use a simple script written by one Georgetown student that automatically notifies you when one opens up. It's already been downloaded thousands of times.
- And stores themselves are turning to robots to keep floors clean and shelves stocked.
Still, there's at least one key and mostly unsolved problem: real-time inventory. There's just no good way to know what's available, right now, at the store.
- A group of Texas developers built a website called InStok that pulls inventory information from various websites — but the site shows a huge disclaimer saying its sources are often unreliable. Womp womp.
- There's hope, though. The same companies putting robots in grocery stores are also using them to collect real-time data on what needs to be restocked, which means some of the data's at least being collected somewhere.
After life returns to normal, I suspect a lot of people are mostly done grocery shopping. But this crisis could spawn technologies that mean, actually, that's far more plausible than it ever has been.
A MESSAGE FROM SLACK
Learn more at slack.com.
Zoom's race against the security clock
I can't remember ever seeing a company go through the hype cycle this quickly. In just a few weeks, Zoom has gone from relatively unknown to monster hit to massive backlash.
It's now in the midst of a high-stakes race to fix its security issues and convince users that it's a trustworthy company and product, before everyone switches away. Here's the latest:
- Google became the latest company to ban Zoom for official use. Google is hardly unbiased, since Meet is a natural choice after leaving Zoom, but it's a big announcement all the same.
- The Senate also told its members not to use Zoom because of security concerns, according to anonymous sources cited by the FT.
- Michael Drieu, a Zoom shareholder, filed a class-action suit alleging Zoom hid its security issues and lied about key features.
- Zoom set up a CISO Council, including executives from Netflix, Uber and elsewhere, to help guide its security plans. It also brought on former Facebook CSO and current Stanford professor Alex Stamos as an outside advisor.
- And Zoom is quickly fixing its product. On Wednesday it removed Meeting ID numbers from the app's title bar, so people who screenshot and share their meetings won't accidentally share their codes. It's also making it easier for hosts to find security features within every meeting.
Sure, Zoom is moving fast. But the security revelations continue to come. And with Microsoft, Google and others obviously sensing an opportunity to attract people onto their own platforms, Zoom may not have long to get back into users' good graces before they leave for good.
From Protocol: Eventbrite laid off 45% of its staff, as the live-events business continues to crash. Employees told Matt Drange they called it "Blood Orange Wednesday."
Headspace tapped CeCe Morken, a longtime Intuit exec, as its new president and COO. Her job, and Headspace's goal? Scale.
Tech companies are still looking for summer interns, but there's a twist this year: Many are moving their internship programs either partially or entirely online. Most companies say they'll still pay the same.
In Other News
- Today in coronavirus: Apple and Stanford co-developed an app to help first responders and medical professionals get expedited virus testing. Amazon will let you return recent purchases until May 31. Postmates set up a "relief fund" that's giving drivers as little as $30. Facebook's automated ad-review system is having trouble spotting bad coronavirus ads. Samsung and Facebook are donating thousands of devices to the NHS for use in hospitals. Microsoft's dual-screen devices may not be coming this year as a result of the pandemic. Airbnb has restricted bookings on its platform in the U.K. to only allow vital workers to use the service. And the U.S. and U.K. governments are tracking 2,500 different coronavirus-related online threats, from malware to Zoombombing.
- Google got regulatory clearance to operate an underwater internet cable connecting the U.S. and Taiwan for the next six months. Without it, Google said it would have had to find other, more expensive connectivity options.
- Twitter will share more information with advertisers, it told users yesterday. This looks like one of potentially many changes coming at the behest of Twitter's new private-equity financiers.
- Don't miss this Wall Street Journal story diving deep into the problems at Airbnb. I wonder if, after so many huge startups waited to go public, Airbnb might become the cautionary tale for what happens when you wait too long.
- When WeWork fell apart, many people expected companies like Knotel might be able to succeed by learning from its mistakes. But Business Insider reported that Knotel has struggled financially for years – long before coronavirus made things even worse.
- Disney+ has 50 million subscribers. That's almost double what the company announced in February, and as Disney rolls the service out in more countries it's likely to keep rising.
- From POLITICO: Jared Kushner's task force is looking to build "a national coronavirus system to give the government a near real-time view of where patients are seeking treatment and for what, and whether hospitals can accommodate them."
One More Thing
Engineering projects for the whole family
Everybody needs a quarantine project. Here's a family-friendly one, or, rather, a family-friendly 44: the James Dyson Foundation's Challenge Cards. The projects aren't new, but they're perfect for right now. They're pretty much all doable in your living room, require mostly things you'll already have at home, and are designed to teach basic principles of engineering while you play. Can you build a human-supporting chair out of cardboard? Or put a skewer through a balloon without popping it? I think tonight I'm going to try to build my own invisible fire extinguisher.
JOIN US TODAY
Join Protocol's Transformation Editor Mike Murphy today at noon PDT/3 p.m. EDT in conversation with Ericka Leslie, Global Head of Operations at Goldman Sachs, and Lars Ottersgard, Head of Market Technology at Nasdaq, about the extraordinary efforts to keep markets up and technology running smoothly.
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