It's to reward employees for working through "unprecedented challenges" this year, according to an internal message seen by CNBC.
Jamie Condliffe ( @jme_c) is the news editor at Protocol, based in London. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, he worked on the business desk at The New York Times, where he edited the DealBook newsletter and wrote Bits, the weekly tech newsletter. He has previously worked at MIT Technology Review, Gizmodo, and New Scientist, and has held lectureships at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London. He also holds a doctorate in engineering from the University of Oxford.
Meta announced Monday that it has built a supercomputer to train AI and machine learning systems, which the company claims will be the fastest in the world later this year after a major expansion.
Called the AI Research SuperCluster, Meta said it plans to use the machine to train the company’s content-moderation systems, develop new augmented reality tools, and help build the technology necessary to power the metaverse.
“The experiences we’re building for the metaverse require enormous compute power (quintillions of operations / second!) and RSC will enable new AI models that can learn from trillions of examples, understand hundreds of languages, and more,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement.
Meta technical program manager Kevin Lee and Shubho Sengupta, a software engineer, said in a blog post that AI models and infrastructure are important technical components in the “foundational technologies that will power the metaverse and advance the broader AI community as well.”
With its current 760 Nvidia DGX A100 systems that contain a total of 6,080 GPUs, Meta said that the new system ranked among the fastest AI supercomputers in the world. And once it completes this year's expansion plan of attaching roughly 10,000 more graphics chips used for AI tasks, RSC will be be fastest supercomputer for AI. The expansion will more than double its AI training performance with the goal of generating enough computing power to train machine learning models with data sets as large as an exabyte, which is roughly equivalent to 36,000 years of high-quality video.
The company declined to disclose the cost of RSC, or where it was built. But, with the 760 Nvidia DGX A100 systems costing a reported $200,000 each, the new supercomputer could not have been cheap — the Nvidia systems alone would cost more than $150 million.
Years ago, researchers figured out that chips designed to render video-game graphics were well suited for AI-related computing too. Graphics processing units, or GPUs, have thousands of cores that work in parallel at crunching billions of repetitive low-level tasks that are common in AI and other kinds of research.
Meta is already one of the largest data center operators in the U.S. But RSC’s technical requirements demanded Meta’s engineers develop new designs for data-center cooling, networking, and storage.
The Bank of Korea concluded its first phase of testing a central bank digital currency in a simulated environment in December 2021, according to a report published Monday.
The first phase, launched in April 2020, tested the basic functions of how a digital won would work in real life, looking at manufacturing, issuing and distribution. Last July, it named Ground X, a blockchain subsidiary of South Korea-based tech giant Kakao Corp., its preferred supplier for the CBDC program.
BOK will now move on to phase two of the program, which will include testing offline payments and privacy data technologies. The projected date of completion for phase two is June 2022, after which it will do more testing in cooperation with existing financial institutions. The Bank of Korea has also made it clear in a separate report that much more testing in a real environment is required to move forward.
While South Korea is moving slowly but surely, China is going full steam ahead with its digital yuan, or e-CNY. China’s CBDC efforts have been around since 2014, and it most recently launched a pilot wallet app for its digital yuan.
Nigeria launched its digital currency, e-Naira, in October 2021, with 500 million e-Naira minted, an estimated worth of $1.2 billion. The UAE and Saudi Arabia launched a bilateral CBDC pilot program in 2019 and in February 2021, in conjunction with China, Hong Kong and Thailand, the two countries launched a “Multiple Central Bank Digital Currency” bridge to test foreign currency payments.
According to findings by the Atlantic Council’s CBDC tracker, at least 87 countries are exploring the creation and use of a CBDC, with nine countries who have fully launched one.
In a report published last week, the U.S. Federal Reserve is also considering launching a CBDC, but is holding off while waiting for public opinion.
In many overseas countries like Pakistan and the Philippines, Meta has brokered deals with cell phone carriers so that low-income people can use a free version of Facebook without paying for data. But a software glitch the company has known about for months has made it so that many of these users unwittingly exceeded their prepaid plans on Facebook, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation.
According to internal documents, Facebook knew about and did not fix the software problem, leading to an estimated total of $7.8 million that had been charged to Facebook’s free-data product users by July 2021. Many of these users do not know they were being charged until they ran out of data on their prepaid plans.
Facebook’s free data plans are part of its strategy to acquire more users internationally. According to the documents, the free-data plan was set to bring another 10.6 million monthly users to the platform from July through December 2021.
A company representative told the Journal that it is aware of the problem and has been investigating it for some time. The problem has been solved in most cases, he said, but the work is ongoing. He also said that without purchasing-power adjustments, the charges are closer to $3 million.
Washington, D.C., sued Google on Monday, alleging the company had violated consumer protection laws with "bold misrepresentations" about its location tracking on Android phones and other privacy practices, according to an announcement from the district's Attorney General Karl Racine.
The suit is the latest fallout from a 2018 report in the Associated Press that showed Google continued collecting sensitive information about users' locations even when they specifically opted out of a setting called "Location History."
Arizona sued Google in 2020 over the practices. Now, the attorneys general in Texas, Indiana and Washington state will also sue Google in their state courts, according to Racine's office. Texas is also leading a multistate antitrust lawsuit in federal court against Google that focuses on the company's position in the online ads market.
Racine, who is seeking a court order that would stop Google's practices and force the company to disgorge the profits from its actions, focuses on Google's habit of collecting location information from users' phones through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other apps, even when consumers turned off the location setting.
The lawsuit also alleges that "Google manipulates its users through deceptive design choices that alter user decision-making."
Google has previously argued Arizona "mischaracterized" the company's data collection practices.
The crash in cryptocurrency prices, which accelerated Friday into a rout, has wiped out more than $1 trillion in market value since early November. More than $200 billion was lost in just the last 24 hours, according to CoinMarketCap.
The total market value of all cryptocurrencies has slipped to around $1.7 trillion, down from nearly $3 trillion in early November. Bitcoin prices plunged from around $41,000 Thursday afternoon Pacific time to below $36,000 by Friday, shedding nearly half its value since early November when it topped more than $67,000.
Shares of companies with heavy exposure to crypto also tanked on Friday. Coinbase fell about 13% in regular trading, and continued to drop after-hours. Robinhood sank more than 5%.
China plans to build enough charging stations for 20 million electric vehicles by 2025, according to a new document by the National Development and Reform Commission and nine other ministries. The government will offer direct financial subsidies and encourage favorable banking policies for companies to build charging facilities.
The plan calls for China’s EV charging capacity to be built “moderately ahead of the curve” to accommodate the potential growth of EV ownership in China. Specifically, it demands all newly built residential complexes to offer charging stations and all existing complexes to convert their parking spaces if possible. It also asks 60% of highway service stations nationwide to be equipped with fast charging stations and 80% in regions with high air pollution.
In 2021, about 3 million "new energy vehicles" were sold in China, accounting for 14.8% of global EV shipments.
Developers at Raven Software, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, have formed a union with a supermajority of quality assurance workers after five weeks of striking, just days after Microsoft announced it would be acquiring Activision Blizzard for nearly $70 billion.
The QA workers have asked for voluntary recognition for the formation of their union with the Communications Workers of America — called the Game Workers Alliance — from Blizzard management, according to a Friday announcement. QA workers at Raven have been striking since 12 people on fixed-term contracts were laid off when Activision Blizzard decided not to renew their contracts at the last moment in December.
"Activision Blizzard is carefully reviewing the request for voluntary recognition from the CWA, which seeks to organize around three dozen of the company’s nearly 10,000 employees," a spokesperson said in a statement to Protocol. "While we believe that a direct relationship between the company and its team members delivers the strongest workforce opportunities, we deeply respect the rights of all employees under the law to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union."
The strikers, more than 60 of whom walked out in December, have demanded that all workers at Raven be offered full-time, salaried contracts, including the 12 laid-off workers. (The Raven QA department is primarily responsible for testing the Call of Duty game series, Activision Blizzard's most important franchise).
"For the 12 temporary workers at Raven whose agreements were not extended, we provided an extended notice period, included payment for the two-week holiday break, and will be working directly with those that need relocation assistance," an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement in early January about the ongoing strike.
The Raven layoffs came months after Activision Blizzard was first publicly mired in scandal over both state and federal investigations into a workplace culture that permitted gender-based discrimination and harassment. The new union is the first to officially form within Activision Blizzard, though workers across the company have engaged in several walkouts and protests through an alliance calling itself "A Better ABK." Though "A Better ABK" is not a formal union, the group has worked with CWA to challenge the company's response to worker demands with the National Labor Relations Board, which protects federally mandated worker rights to organize and discuss salary.
The workplace crisis at the company reportedly instigated the company's decision to sell to Microsoft. It is not clear how or if Microsoft's planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard would shape unionization efforts, though it is unlikely there would be any real impact on the current process given that the acquisition could take more than a year.
CWA is also the first national union to push heavily for unionization across both the tech and games sector. In addition to the nine tech companies unionized in the last year with the national organization, the U.S.-based department of Vodeo Games became the first formal game developer union in the United States in December 2021. Last week, the Game Developer's Conference annual State of the Industry Report also found that a majority of developers support unionizing game studios.
"The goal of the Game Workers Alliance (CWA) is to represent what we as workers in the industry want as well as set a new standard for workers across the industry moving forward,” said Erin Hall, a QA functional tester II at Raven, in a press release.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Vodeo Games.
By establishing an opaque corporate structure and avoding detailed questions from partners, regulators and law enforcement, Binance is dodging many of the rules other financial firms are forced to follow. That’s according to a new Reuters investigation, which reviewed dozens of private documents including copies of encrypted Telegram messages, internal regulatory reports and letters sent by law enforcement.
Binance has long struggled with regulation, having publicly left China in 2017 and being banned from the U.S. in 2019. In 2018, founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao said Binance would operate its exchange from Malta, declaring to a group of the island’s elite that “Malta came at a time when regulatory clarity was very much needed.”
But according to Reuters, Binance got cold feet as early as 2019, telling the authorities that it would not proceed with the licensing application. It also terminated an agreement to donate to a Maltese charity for cancer patients in 2020. Simultaneously, Binance was still telling users the exchange was "governed by the law of Malta."
The Reuters investigation fit those findings within a larger trend of Binance hiding information about its finances and licensing to avoid regulation. The investigation also found that the company regularly ignored warnings from its own compliance department about money laundering and fraud risks, and in at least some cases denied requests for information by German authorities who were looking into incidents of fraud. Reuters also found that an Islamist gunman who killed four people in Vienna had made transactions on Binance, and the German police had requested more information.
A Binance spokesperson said that much of Reuters' information was outdated or incorrect, but declined to answer detailed questions. “As the leading cryptocurrency and blockchain ecosystem, we are both leading and investing in the future of technologies and legislation that will set the crypto industry on the road to becoming a well-regulated, secure industry,” the company said.
Hank Green doesn’t think creators on TikTok are getting paid well enough, and he doesn’t think the majority of the people on TikTok even realize it, the vlogger explained in a YouTube video on Thursday.
“Along with the many innovations of TikTok, there have been some creator monetization innovations that I think are really worrying and bad for creators,” he said in the video. “It’s a bit of a giant hole in the creator economy.”
Green has a huge presence on the video-sharing platform: He’s racked up over 6 million followers and has been making TikToks since 2019. He’s been creating videos for far longer than that; in 2007, Green and his brother started a video blog, and he’s branched out to several platforms like YouTube since then.
The creator said there’s a flaw in the way people make money on TikTok: As the platform continues to grow, creators will start to make less money. That’s because creators who get enough views to be paid make money through TikTok’s Creator Fund, which is a set amount of money the platform reserves each year, is static, whereas TikTok is growing. As TikTok gets bigger and the pool of money for the fund stays the same, those who can get paid won’t make as much. “When TikTok becomes more successful, TikTokers become less successful … What?” Green pointed out.
He said he experienced this issue himself. At one point, he was making 5 cents per 1,000 views on TikTok. Now, he said he makes about 2.5 cents per 1,000 views on the platform.
The platform has grown the amount allocated for its Creator Fund over the past few years. In 2020, TikTok set aside $200 million for the fund, and the platform had planned for it to grow to $1 billion in the U.S. over the following three years. At the same time, the number of users exploded from 700 million in 2020 to 1 billion monthly active users last year.
A TikTok spokesperson said the Creator Fund is one of many ways creators can make money off the platform; users can connect with brands through the Creator Marketplace, give tips and more "We continue to listen to and seek feedback from our creator community and evolve our features to improve the experience for those in the program," the spokesperson told Protocol.
But Green argued that creators will always make less than, say, YouTube, because they’re paid from a static pool of cash instead of the platform’s revenue. On YouTube, creators take about half of the money from an ad posted to their video, and YouTube takes the other half. TikTok doesn’t pay creators from ads, which Green said could be because ads are posted as individual, separate clips rather than a leading segment at the beginning of a creator’s video.
Green asked his 6 million followers how many ads they see per TikTok on average, and found that most people were getting one ad per 10 or so TikToks. He said the platform could take the money made from those ads and give paid creators some of the cut, similar to the partnership YouTube has with its creators.
“Every creator who thinks to themselves, ‘Wow, $1,000 a month, that’s $12,000 a year,'” he said. “That person could be a full-time creator. They could be thinking about expanding, about hiring, about creating a business in their community for their audience. This is the economic engine that drove YouTube forward, and TikTok is just letting it leak out of the tub, into their bottom line.”
Green said creators need to work together and speak out about the issue. He said competing platforms for creators, like YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels, could prompt some action from TikTok, adding that he currently makes more from Instagram Reels than he does on TikTok even though he gets more views on TikTok.
“So what are we going to do? I don’t know,” he said. “That depends on what the three populations here do: the creators, the audience and the platform. If I learned anything from 15 years, doing this, when those three groups get aligned, really amazing things happen. So I want those three groups to be aligned.”
This story was updated with a comment from TikTok.
Robinhood said it has started rolling out its much-awaited crypto wallets in a move that’s expected to boost its reach in the fast-growing market.
It will start giving the first 1,000 customers on the waitlist access to the new feature. The program will be expanded to 10,000 customers by March, and then the wallets will become available to the rest of the waitlist.
Robinhood said the initial wallet users will have a daily limit of $2,999 in total withdrawals and 10 transactions.
IBM announced today that it has sold its Watson Health data and analytics assets to private equity firm Francisco Partners. The highly anticipated sell-off includes data sets and analytics products such as Health Insights, MarketScan, Clinical Development, Social Program Management, Micromedex and imaging software offerings.
IBM Software SVP Tom Rosamilia called the sale a move to align the company with its “hybrid cloud and AI strategy,” rather than a signal that the company has given up on its massive AI platform Watson, or its health care IT business more broadly.
But it’s difficult not to see the sale as a failure of IBM’s big bet on Watson to usher health care into the AI age. From the start over a decade ago, IBM touted the health care analytics capabilities of Watson, its massive AI platform. In 2015, when the company launched its Watson Health division, it did so with gusto — snapping up other health data and analytics providers and partnering with hospitals and big names like Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic.
Then, just a few years later in 2018, reports emerged of layoffs at IBM’s acquired health units including data analytics company Truven, medical imaging company Merge and patient management company Phytel.
Phytel engineers told IEEE Spectrum at the time that Phytel’s customer base was split nearly in half from 150 clients to 80 after IBM acquired the company. “Smaller companies are eating us alive,” said one staff member. “They’re better, faster, cheaper. They’re winning our contracts, taking our customers, doing better at AI,” the engineer told the publication.
The IBM sale stands in stark contrast to Oracle’s recent $28.3 billion acquisition of health data and technology company Cerner, a deal that in many ways revolves around what Watson Health promised: spinning massive amounts of unstructured health data into algorithmic models and insights to advance medicine and help improve day-to-day health care and hospital operations — all in the cloud. That deal could create its own set of challenges for Oracle.
The IBM transaction is expected to close in Q2 of this year, subject to regulatory clearances. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Intel plans to invest $20 billion in building out a 1,000-acre chip manufacturing mega site outside of Columbus, Ohio, the company said Friday, a project it said would create 3,000 permanent jobs in the region.
“The only way to address this economic and security risk is to increase our domestic semiconductor manufacturing capacity,” Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said at a Friday press conference with President Joe Biden and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
The White House touted the announcement as part of its ongoing efforts to increase chip manufacturing in the U.S. in response to the ongoing shortage and supply chain crisis exacerbated by the pandemic.
"Experts estimate that the global chip shortage knocked off a full percentage point from U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) last year," the White House wrote in a fact sheet. "U.S. autoworkers faced furloughs and production shut downs due to pandemic-driven disruptions in Asian semiconductor factories, contributing to large increases in the price of cars for U.S. consumers."
For Intel, the new factory is a strategic maneuver. After years of dysfunction in its manufacturing operations under Gelsinger’s leadership, the company has vowed to return to its former self. Part of the plan includes a bet of hundreds of billions of dollars that it can again produce the world’s most advanced chips, and that it can sell its manufacturing capacity to fabless chip makers such as Nvidia and Qualcomm.
For the Biden administration, Intel’s ambition to regain its chipmaking throne fits neatly into its economic and national security plans. And at the press conference, Biden reiterated the U.S. commitment to regaining its former ability to manufacture chips that are vital to a growing part of the economy.
“[Chips power] your phone, your car, your refrigerator, your washing machine, hospital equipment, the internet, the electric grid and so much more,” Biden said. “And here's the deal: America invented these chips. America invented these chips and federal research and development led to the creation of these chips.”
Gelsinger described the new factory as the “catalyst for a Silicon Heartland” in Ohio; it will be the first new domestic fab site for Intel in 40 years. Construction on the first two fabs will start late this year, and chip production will begin in 2025. The first two fabs account for $20 billion, and Gelsinger said the company could spend as much as $100 billion on the entire site, for eight plants in total.
“A semiconductor factory is not like other factories,” Gelsinger said Friday. “It's more like a small city supporting a vibrant community of services suppliers and ancillary businesses. You can think about this as a magnet for the entire tech industry.”
Biden urged Congress to act on its plans to invest in the industry through the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which includes the $52 billion in subsidies for factory construction and research and development. The funding has already made it through the Senate, but has been stalled in the House for months.
This story was updated to include remarks by Biden, Gelsinger and Raimondo at a press conference Friday.
Twitter's new CEO has continued to shake up company leadership, announcing Wednesday that both Rinki Sethi and Peiter Zatko — better known as Mudge — would leave their roles as chief information security officer and head of Security, respectively.
Zatko has already left the company and Sethi will leave in the coming weeks, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed to Protocol. According to the staff-wide memo reviewed by the New York Times, their departure is due to "an assessment of how the organization was being led and the impact on top priority work." Twitter declined to comment further on their departure, citing company policy on employment and privacy.
Almost immediately after becoming CEO in December, Agrawal decided to restructure the leadership team, resulting in the departure of Dantley Davis, the former head of Design, and Michael Montano, the former head of Engineering.
Both Sethi and Zatko were hired to help revamp Twitter's security procedures in the fall of 2020, after a group of young hackers managed to get access to prominent public-facing accounts like Bill Gates' and Joe Biden's, as well as many others. The federal government is also investigating two former Twitter employees for spying for the Saudi Arabian government inside the company.
Sethi and Zatko did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
This story was updated with comments from Twitter.
Twitter announced Thursday that some Twitter Blue subscribers can now use one of their NFTs as their profile photo, as long as they're willing to connect their crypto wallet to their Twitter account.
Twitter will differentiate NFT and non-NFT profiles through the shape of their profile pictures — those who are displaying NFTs will have a soft hexagon, rather than a circle. Users can tap the profile image to find out more about the NFT.
Meanwhile, Meta has "early-stage" plans in the works to let users utilize NFTs on their platforms, people familiar with the matter told the Financial Times. The feature will allow users to mint NFTs as well as display them on their Instagram and Facebook profiles. Meta is also reportedly discussing the launch of a marketplace to buy and sell NFTs.
Twitter and Meta's moves are the latest sign that social media giants want in on the $40 billion NFT industry. Adam Mosseri, head of Meta-owned Instagram, said in December that the company is "actively exploring NFTs." TikTok announced plans for creator NFTs in late September, but has yet to deliver on those promises.
A Tesla employee at the company's Fremont factory died on Wednesday while working on its production line.
The employee collapsed while working on the factory's powertrain production line, Cal/OSHA told KTVU. Tesla notified the agency of the death, and Cal/OSHA is now investigating to determine whether or not it is related to work and if it should conduct an inspection of the factory.
Crew from the Fremont Fire Department responded to an emergency at the factory early Wednesday. The first firefighter to arrive on the scene said there there was no machinery involved, FFD spokesperson Aisha Knowles told the East Bay Times. The employee was pronounced dead at the scene.
Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard this week has proven to be among the most consequential acquisition announcements in the history of the game industry, and it's proved equally controversial when considering what it means for big game franchises like Call of Duty. Now, Xbox chief Phil Spencer, CEO of the newly formed Microsoft Gaming division, has come out with a public statement affirming Microsoft's position on multi-platform support for the shooter series, though with a fair amount of ambiguity thrown in.
"Had good calls this week with leaders at Sony," Spencer wrote in a statement posted to his personal Twitter account on Thursday.
"I confirmed our intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard and our desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation. Sony is an important part of our industry, and we value our relationship."
Sony's stock dropped nearly 13% on Tuesday following news of Microsoft's acquisition of the Call of Duty publisher, raising concerns that Microsoft's buying spree of big studios and its investments in subscription gaming may pose a longer-term existential threat to the PlayStation business. New entries in the Call of Duty franchise have been the best-selling games on both PlayStaton and Xbox consoles almost every year for the last decade, and both the 2020 and 2021 releases held spots in the top three best-selling games on both platforms last year, according to The NPD Group.
Of course, Spencer's strategically worded statement leaves open the possibility for a number of scenarios here. Microsoft could make future annual Call of Duty installments Xbox exclusives that release as part of its Game Pass subscription on console and PC, while keeping the multi-platform Warzone battle royale accessible on PlayStation. That Spencer says his company intends to "honor all existing agreements" indicates that after those existing agreements are honored, all bets may be off.
That does not explain how Activision and its various studios responsible for the shooter series may update Warzone in the future, considering the game has for the last two years included new weapons, cosmetics and other items borrowed from newer Call of Duty entries. But as it stands today, Warzone players are not required to buy new Call of Duty games to keep playing, and so perhaps in the future those PlayStation owners will simply be barred from accessing new content while still being allowed to play the core game in perpetuity.
There is also the chance Microsoft sees more benefit in keeping Call of Duty multi-platform in totality, so long as it feels like it's beneficial enough to both its bottom line and the growth of Xbox Game Pass. That may also help ease tensions with antitrust enforcers, as U.S. lawmakers are already calling on regulators to investigate the deal. Microsoft may be able to negotiate a deal with Sony that involves giving the PlayStation platform a smaller commission on microtransaction sales, or some other type of deal that allows both Microsoft and Sony to benefit while also justifying the high price tag of the Activision acquisition.
Ultimately, the ball is in Microsoft's court, and it will be fascinating to see how the company intends to distribute its massive content empire across platforms now that it holds more leverage over its rival and a much larger customer base than it did during the PlayStation 4 era.
The Federal Reserve released a long-awaited review of the potential for creating a central bank digital currency Thursday, after months of delays. Ahead of making a decision, the Fed has asked the public to submit answers on 22 questions posed in the report.
“The introduction of a CBDC would represent a highly significant innovation in American money,” the authors said in the report. “This paper is the first step in a public discussion between the Federal Reserve and stakeholders about CBDC.”
Many in the industry have called for the creation of a U.S. CBDC, saying it could take the place of dollar-linked stablecoins and help connect fiat and crypto transactions. China has created its own CBDC, the digital yuan or e-CNY, and some observers suggest the U.S. needs its own to stay competitive and maintain the dollar's dominant role in the world financial system.
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The Fed report notes that the creation of a CBDC will seek to complement current financial systems, not replace them. Any digital currency the central bank issued would have to protect consumer privacy while supporting faster and cheaper payments. However, a CBDC would also pose risks for current monetary regulations and could have large effects on the structure of financial markets.
While the report didn't take a position on whether the Fed should create a digital currency, the prospect of a U.S. CBDC has drawn both criticism and support from government leaders.
Fed Gov. Lael Brainard has been a strong advocate for a CBDC, having said that “it just doesn’t sound like a sustainable future” without one. Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, however, warned against it, saying that such a currency “could also be used as a surveillance tool that Americans should never tolerate from their own government.” While Emmer has proposed a bill that would prohibit the Fed from issuing CBDCs directly to individuals, the Fed made it clear in the report that any CBDC it creates would be intermediated — in other words, managed through existing financial institutions and not issued directly to consumers.
While the Fed has previously said that creating a CBDC was top priority, the development of FedNow, an instant payments service through banks for individuals and businesses, may impact its progress. FedNow is expected to be available next year.
The report also made it clear that the Fed would not proceed with a CBDC “without clear support from the executive branch and from Congress, ideally in the form of a specific authorizing law.”
TikTok ousted its Nick Tran, its global head of marketing, The Information reported. The reason for his departure was not made clear.
Tran, who has been at TikTok since mid-2020, was known for his out-of-the-box ideas. He announced creator NFTs in September, but most were never released. TikTok Kitchens, a ghost-kitchen concept which would serve viral recipes, was first reported in late December; its website still says it is "coming soon." One executive said on a call with the marketing team earlier this month that the app is "not in the restaurant business and we shouldn’t pretend to be," The New York Post reported. The executive reportedly called Tran's campaigns “stunt marketing."
“We can confirm that Nick Tran is no longer with TikTok and we wish him well in his future endeavors,” a TikTok spokesperson told the Post.
Vanessa Pappas, TikTok's global COO, will take over Tran's duties until his position is filled.
Know someone in the market for a few hundred boxes of alcohol wipes, thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer or some bulletproof glass partitions? Meta is selling all this and more at its Menlo Park headquarters in an auction closing Thursday. (What, the company didn't think it could move it on Facebook Marketplace?)
The items were listed Tuesday on Silicon Valley Disposition, an auction site where companies sell off old assets like furniture, computers and, apparently, a historic working paper mill in East Texas. Meta’s impressive haul includes pallets of sanitizing spray, solar panels, cage fencing, emergency survival blankets and ponchos, ladders, air filters and even two Vespas.
Tim Stack, the chief operating officer of Silicon Valley Disposition, has seen all kinds of corporate auctions, but said the amount of hand sanitizer on offer in Meta’s auction stood out.
“This is one of the only companies that we’ve been involved in recently where hand sanitizers were being sold in such quantity,” Stack told Protocol. “They’re just in a position where they need to get rid of a lot of their surplus assets, and that just happens to be one of them.”
The address listed on the auction is 1350 Willow Road, which is part of a 59-acre site that Meta is seeking to redevelop into 1.6 million square feet of offices, 1,729 homes, a 151,603-square-foot hotel and as much as 200,000 square feet of retail space.
Even if Meta is simply preparing to move out of one or more of its buildings, one wonders why the company is auctioning off so many alcohol wipes and bottles of hand sanitizer two months before employees are set to stream back into the office. "We’re in the process of working to repurpose the building. In order to do this we have to clear out the building and its contents," said Meta spokesperson Tracy Clayton. "This includes the removal items that we have not been able to reuse, donate or otherwise have no further use. In an effort to be as sustainable as possible and not discard these items into a landfill, we determined that auctioning these would be a better route. We’ve previously donated large quantities of hand sanitizer and wipes, but have since exhausted that channel as many are unable to receive or use them at the moment."
Hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes aren’t the only interesting items up for bidding. Meta is also selling several portable, bulletproof ballistic partitions. It’s not clear why Meta has these, or why it’s getting rid of them now. Stack couldn’t say why Meta had bulletproof partitions in stock, but said he was reminded of when he helped Alphabet’s failed internet-balloon startup Loon auction off its assets, which included boat hoists turned into launch stations for balloons the size of tennis courts.
“That’s the thing with companies like the Googles and the Facebooks,” Stack said. “All these major companies have so many different divisions within their company that we just never hear of.”
Update: This story was updated Jan. 20 at 4:40 p.m. PT with Meta's statement.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams will receive his first paycheck in bitcoin and ethereum, highlighting his bid to turn the Big Apple into a major crypto hub.
Adams’ first check arrives Friday. New York City cannot technically pay employees in crypto, so the funds will be converted via Coinbase, his office said.
Adams had announced that he would accept his first three paychecks in crypto. He has also been vocal about making New York City the center of the fast-growing crypto industry.
“New York is the center of the world, and we want it to be the center of cryptocurrency and other financial innovations,” Adams said in a statement.
The game industry as a whole is slowly but surely beginning to call for systemic change to business practices and workplace culture norms, and developers are now more than ever before looking at unionization as the tool for doing so, according to a new survey.
The Game Developers Conference's annual State of the Industry report, released on Thursday and now in its 10th year, surveyed nearly 3,000 active game developers about a wide variety of topics, from the Epic v. Apple lawsuit and the popularity of new platforms to remote work shifts and work-life balance. Like last year, the GDC survey has begun tracking sentiments toward unionization amid a reckoning over sexist and discriminatory workplace cultures at major game publishers like Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft.
In 2021, 55% of developers said they support unionizing game studios, up from 51% the year before, and 18% of those surveyed think it's a potential reality in the future, down from 20% who felt unionization was possible in last year's survey. Still, many of the survey respondents remain either unsure or on the fence about unionization, seeing it as either too difficult a task or an unrealistic expectation of the U.S. gaming industry, given the size and power of many of the largest game-makers.
Notably, the survey was conducted prior to The Wall Street Journal report last November on Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick's prior knowledge of misconduct at the company, which helped instigate Microsoft's announcement this week that it would acquire Activision Blizzard in a record-breaking nearly $70 billion deal.
GDC general manager Katie Stern told Protocol she expects industry developments like those may have pushed attitudes even further toward unionization and improving game developer working conditions.
Other interesting stats from the survey include 34% of developers saying they felt Epic was in the right in its lawsuit against Apple over the removal of Fortnite from the App Store. Just 8% of developers said they sided with Apple, while others were either unsure or felt both were wrong. The survey also asked about sentiment toward non-fungible tokens and blockchain gaming, with 70% of respondents saying they were not interested in NFTs and 28% saying they were somewhat curious about the space.
Among new platforms, the survey found that developers were almost evenly split on their platform of choice for current projects across PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Android and iOS, with PS5 edging out a slight lead over Xbox at 31% of survey respondents. When asked about general interest in gaming platforms, developers said PS5 trailed only behind PC with 43% of developers saying they were interested in PS5 and its capabilities, compared with just 30% for Xbox Series X/S.
PC remained far and away the most popular platform among game-makers, with roughly 60% of developers creating current and future projects for Windows and 62% saying the PC platform was most interesting to them today. The survey also shows growing interest in augmented and virtual reality, with jumps in the number of developers making future AR (4%) and VR projects (11%) and showing general interest in the technologies going forward (13% and 24%, respectively).
But the popularity of and interest in cloud platforms remains flat, with only 3% of developers saying they plan to make a future game for Google Stadia and only 5% of developers saying they were interested in Stadia. The survey showed developers were even less interested in the future of Sony's PlayStation Now and Amazon's Luna, with a slightly better reception toward Microsoft's Xbox Cloud Gaming platform, considering it's bundled with Xbox Game Pass.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the percentage of developers interested in PS5 and the percentage of developers interested in unionization in 2020. This story was updated on Jan. 20, 2022.
Amazon is digging deeper into the physical storefront. The tech giant is opening a real-world clothing store called Amazon Style in Los Angeles later this year, the company announced Thursday.
"Customers can browse brands they know and love while also discovering new and emerging designers across hundreds of top brands throughout the store," Simoina Vasen, managing director of Amazon Style, wrote in the announcement.
Amazon plans to incorporate tech into every facet of the retail store, including an app that sends items to a fitting room or checkout. Using the Amazon Shopping app, customers can scan a QR code on an item and send it to a fitting room, request more sizes or send it to a pickup counter.
Amazon seems to be covering as much ground as it can in the physical retail front. The company went back to its roots with physical bookstores a few years back, and it opened its first Amazon Fresh store in 2020. Amazon introduced everyone to cashier-less technology, most recently launching it in two Whole Foods stores.
Other big tech companies are getting into physical stores, too. Meta is looking to open a physical store for people to buy its AR and VR products, and Google opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York City last year.
Shanghai’s municipal government on Wednesday announced new policies meant to bolster China’s advanced chipmaking capabilities.
Shanghai, the largest Chinese city and the country’s financial center, has spelled out plans to woo R&D talent in integrated circuits, industrial software, emerging technology software, and cybersecurity software.
To support semiconductor companies, the Shanghai government will match 30% of the investment in new semiconductor material and equipment projects and chip-software projects such as electronic design automation tools, up to 100 million RMB ($15.8 million).
Shanghai is also investing in creating a pipeline of talent for the chip industry. The government is pushing to institute a major called Integrated Circuit Science and Engineering in the city’s universities and colleges. It's also requiring schools to expand enrollment of undergraduate and graduate students in microelectronics and software-related majors.As China continues to seek to build its homegrown technology sector and reduce its reliance on U.S. tech, central and local governments have rolled out similar policies to boost the semiconductor industry. Though the country faces an uphill battle in manufacturing advanced chips due to a lack of know-how and trained talent, it has shown the capability to spur chip output when facing a prolonged chip shortage. Last year, semiconductor factories in China produced 359.4 billion integrated circuits, up 33.3% from a year ago, according to data released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics. This accelerated pace compares with the 16.2% growth in 2020.
Google is testing the waters with bitcoin as cryptocurrency starts to become more widely adopted.
The tech giant is enabling digital cards that store cryptocurrencies to be used on Google Pay, through partnerships with Coinbase, BitPay and Gemini, the company said. The news was earlier reported by Bloomberg.
Customers won't be able to directly spend in bitcoin, however. Transactions on Google Pay will still be in fiat currency.
“Crypto is something we pay a lot of attention to,” Bill Ready, Google's president of commerce, told Bloomberg. “As user demand and merchant demand evolves, we’ll evolve with it.”
Google has also hired another executive from PayPal, Arnold Goldberg, to head its payments unit, as it seeks to revamp Google Pay. It recently pulled the plug on a simplified banking product operated in partnership with banks like Citigroup.
After shutting down withdrawals due to suspicious activity, Crypto.com CEO Kris Marszalek confirmed to Bloomberg that the exchanged experienced a security breach affecting 400 accounts on Tuesday.
Marszalek said Crypto.com "very quickly stopped" unauthorized withdrawals and lifted restrictions within 14 hours. All accounts affected were fully reimbursed, he said. Crypto news site the Block reported that withdrawals consisted of 4,830 ether, worth $15 million, and 444 bitcoins, worth $18.5 million, though Marszalek did not confirm the value.
Bloomberg reported that Crypto.com has yet to receive any communication from regulators following the breach, but Marszalek said he was prepared to share information on the theft if regulators do inquire. In the U.S., there are few federal laws governing data breaches except for health-related data, and state laws vary. Federally regulated banking organizations will have to report breaches under a new law that takes effect in April, but crypto exchanges are not yet broadly regulated on the federal level.
“Obviously, it’s (a) great lesson and we are continuously strengthening our infrastructure,” Marszalek told Bloomberg. “Given the scale of the business, these numbers are not particularly material and customer funds were not at risk.”
Crypto.com is one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges with more than 10 million users.