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A world without Google

Google

Good morning! This Tuesday, Australia is ready for life without Google search, Facebook and Apple are fighting through popups and everybody still loves tech companies.

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The Big Story

Bing's big win

The Australian government wants Google and Facebook to be better partners to the news industry. Google and Facebook are … not fans of this plan.

Australia's new law would require that Google and Facebook go to arbitration if they can't agree on deals with local publishers, and that they notify publishers in advance of any material algorithm changes.

  • Facebook and Google say these are dangerous precedents. "If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia," Google's Mel Silva said recently. Scott Morrison, Australia's prime minister, shot back: "We don't respond to threats."
  • This week, Australia's treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said he met with Mark Zuckerberg but neither side was willing to budge. "We're told that if we go ahead with this, we're going to break the internet," Frydenberg told ABC, but he's not buying it.

Let's say this isn't just Big Tech playing hardball, and that Facebook and Google are actually willing to leave the country over this deal. What changes in a country like … wait, what's that? How did Bing get in here?

  • Microsoft reportedly reached out to the government last week about Bing becoming something like Australia's official search engine, despite only having about 3% of local market share. "I can tell you Microsoft's pretty confident" that Bing can pick up Google's slack, Morrison said. And Microsoft's presumably willing to play by the new rules.
  • The government seems unconvinced Google's really going to leave. And it does seem unlikely: Australia's not a huge portion of Google's revenue, but I don't think "a whole country kicked Google out and it went just fine!" is a story the company's keen to make happen.
  • If Google does turn off search, Morrison said, "this is a potential commercial opportunity for other providers of search." And while there are certainly plenty of providers out there, Bing's the only real full-fledged competitor.

Meanwhile, Australia's cracking down on information quality. It's in the midst of a huge vaccine rollout, part of which includes a huge trust-building campaign that seems to double as an anti-Facebook crusade.

  • "We've been very clear to point out where you can get your information from," Morrison said. "You don't get it from Facebook, you get it from official government websites and that's what I encourage everybody to do and that's what we're doing, what we're investing in."

Google and Facebook are right that everyone's watching what happens here. And it doesn't look like Australia's backing down anytime soon.

Privacy

Privacy by pop-up

It's not always just the question you're asking. It's how you ask it. And when it comes to user privacy and data collection, Apple and Facebook both want it their way.

Apple's about to add a pop-up to Facebook's app (and others) telling users that "'Facebook' would like permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies."

  • Users can "Ask app not to track" or "Allow tracking." The don't-track option is the first on the list, which is definitely not an accident.

Facebook's trying to preempt the pop-up with its own pop-up, explaining that "to provide a better ads experience, we need permission" to know what you're up to. "This won't give us access to new types of information," it says, which is not not ominous.

  • Facebook's pop-up offers two options: "Don't allow," on a gray background, and "Allow," on a tempting blue one. Which one users select doesn't change the Apple setting, though.

This is just one small part of the increasingly ruthless fight between the two companies, which both assume bad faith and evil business practices on the part of the other.

Ultimately, I suspect Facebook is going to need to tell users a more compelling story than "we'll show you such good ads, you'll love them, just give us all your data!" It's demonstrably true that people would rather have targeted ads than non-targeted ones, which is the way Facebook likes to frame the question. Apple wants to ask it differently: "Would you rather have your data, or really great ads?" That's not often going to go Facebook's way.

Big Tech

Everybody still loves tech companies

What techlash? According to Fortune's annual "World's Most Admired Companies" list, there's no more beloved industry.

  • Apple, Amazon and Microsoft were the three most admired companies overall, and Alphabet and Netflix also made the top 10. (Disney was No. 4, but it only half counts as a tech company.) Apple was No. 1 for the 14th year in a row.
  • Tech was all over the rest of the list, too: Salesforce, Nvidia, Adobe, IBM, Samsung and PayPal all made the top 50.
  • And a number of familiar faces made Fortune's list of overrated and underrated CEOs. Satya Nadella, Mary Barra and Tim Cook led the underrated class, while Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk topped the overrated list.

A MESSAGE FROM SLACK

Slack

Why sales teams at Box and Segment rely on Slack to build stronger customer relationships and seal deals faster.

Read how sales organizations at Box and Segment are harnessing the power of channel-based messaging to keep communication strong, seal deals and streamline the sales cycle when everyone is remote.

Read more

People Are Talking

People don't need to be "protected" from making WallStreetBets-based decisions, Reddit's Steve Huffman said:

  • "Just like in a casino, you can be sophisticated, or you can be a sucker. And I don't think it's fair to exclude people on that, on the basis of intelligence or knowledge because I don't think there's an intelligence or knowledge gap here. I think there's a resources gap."

Backstage Capital is turning into a new kind of VC firm, Arlan Hamilton said:

  • "It's almost like having an IPO for Backstage. I think it is as close as you can get, without the real thing happening. Someone can invest for as little as $100 and have a piece of Backstage."

Skip email and open up your Instagram DMs instead, Initialized Capital's Garry Tan said:

  • "Having the DMs open helps me get out of my bubble. If I'm not careful, I know it's very easy for me to close the door to others."

Making Moves

David Schmaier is the new president and chief product officer at Salesforce. He's been at the company since joining as part of the Vlocity acquisition.

David Lee is the new head of Samsung Next. He's getting out of the VC game for now, but said he'll still be working with partners all over the world.

On Protocol: Alondra Nelson is America's first deputy director for science and society, and will spearhead efforts to study what tech and science are doing to modern life.

Sriram Krishnan is a new general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, The Information reported. Presumably he'll also keep hosting the Good Time Show on Clubhouse.

Oliver Heckmann just started as Coda's head of engineering, after a long stint at Google.

Jade Raymond is leaving Google, as the company shuts down its internal game development projects. (Stadia in general seems headed toward "feature of Google Cloud" rather than "consumer product.")

IBM has reportedly cut over 90% of its blockchain team after it missed revenue targets by 90%. IBM denied the claims.

In Other News

  • Robinhood raised another $2.4 billion, and is reportedly looking for a further $1 billion in debt. It needs the cash to meet clearinghouse collateral demands. Meanwhile, POLITICO reported that Vlad Tenev will likely testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Feb. 18; and Public ditched the controversial "payment for order flow" business model, instead asking users for cash tips.
  • On Protocol: Ford will now use Google Cloud, and future cars will include the Play Store. It's a win for Google, after GM announced a partnership with Microsoft.
  • Democrats have complained to Google and Microsoft about pausing political donations, The Wall Street Journal reported. They've asked for the rationale behind pausing all donations, rather than just those to people who tried to overturn the election.
  • On Protocol: Google will pay about $2.6 million to end a discrimination pay investigation. It will offer back pay to thousands of female and Asian-American employees to settle complaints that it allegedly paid them less than it should have.
  • Tim Cook will be deposed for seven hours in the Apple-Epic trial. Apple initially didn't want him to be deposed at all.
  • On Protocol | Enterprise: Databricks raised $1 billion at a $28 billion valuation, while UiPath raised $750 million ahead of its IPO.
  • On Protocol: The FCC took its first step toward funding remote learning. It asked for public comment on its proposal to fund Wi-Fi hotspots for schools, a top priority for acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel.
  • Twitter suspended dozens of prominent accounts in India yesterday, having received a "legal demand" from the government. Many of the accounts were critics of the government. Twitter eventually restored the accounts after public outcry.

One More Thing

Your space flight awaits

The first all-civilian space flight is happening this October, Elon Musk said yesterday, all in the name of charity. Want a seat? You can enter Shift4's entrepreneurial contest, which sounds complicated. Or you can just win a raffle, and all that'll cost is a donation to St. Jude's. Jared Isaacman, who is spearheading the project, said he's hoping to raise $200 million, so maybe buy a couple of tickets.

A MESSAGE FROM SLACK

Slack

Why sales teams at Box and Segment rely on Slack to build stronger customer relationships and seal deals faster.

Read how sales organizations at Box and Segment are harnessing the power of channel-based messaging to keep communication strong, seal deals and streamline the sales cycle when everyone is remote.

Read more

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.

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