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Apple fights the future of gaming

Image: Apple
Apple Gaming

Good morning! This Tuesday, Apple has a new enemy in the game-streaming industry, Snapchat registered more than a million voters, somebody moved more than $1 billion in Bitcoin, and Elon Musk keeps getting richer.

Also, now that Amy Coney Barrett is officially on the Supreme Court, it's a good time to revisit our story from last month on what she might mean for tech.

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The Big Story

Apple fights the future of gaming

Facebook's making a big push into cloud gaming, in a decidedly Facebook-y way: It wants to build and support a new generation of super-duper-casual, online, multiplayer games that you can play from right within Facebook. Or even within Facebook ads. No more downloads! So many ads!

Anyway, there's one place Facebook's vision won't work: iOS. Facebook's run into the same game-streaming restrictions that have kept gamers from using Xbox's xCloud or Google's Stadia on their iStuff. And Facebook is … not staying quiet about its unhappiness.

  • "Apple treats games entirely differently from every other form of content," Jason Rubin, Facebook's VP of Play, told Protocol's Seth Schiesel. "We intend to find a way, but it's really, really hard."
  • It's not even about the money, Rubin said: "I can't give Apple the money. They won't let me do that. So any game based on [in-app purchases] ... I can't deliver because the developer can't make their money."

Apple says it's trying to be helpful. It told CNBC it provided Facebook with "helpful feedback" on how to comply. But Rubin said … not exactly. "Responding to multiple requests for approval of our iOS cloud concepts with 'this fails under policy' is better than the radio silence we have experienced at times in the past," he tweeted, "but that's hardly 'helpful feedback.'"

I'm shocked Apple hasn't found a way to be more accommodating to game-streaming platforms. (I mean, it has in a way on paper, but forcing developers to list every game separately in the App Store seems like a nonstarter.)

  • Phil Shoemaker, who used to run the App Store, said this is all about Apple wanting to boost Arcade. But you'd think Apple would see game-streaming as a way to sell a lot of Apple TVs, iPads and even iPhones to people looking for the best possible screen to game on.
  • Instead, all this has done is given Apple some powerful new enemies, from Facebook to Microsoft to Epic. Meanwhile, I bet your friendly neighborhood Android manufacturer will happily talk to you all about it.

It doesn't seem like much sticks to Apple at the moment, so long as it has another iPhone or AirPod launch coming soon. But I don't think this issue is going away.

Get Out The Vote

Snapchat's secret election weapon: the hot dog

Snapchat users are young. They also love Snapchat. Heading into the election season, armed with those two facts, Snapchat decided to make a big push to help users understand how elections work, and how they could get involved.

  • Snap's big realization was that Gen Z folks want to do everything on their phones, a spokesperson told me, and I don't think you'd describe most voter-registration sites as "mobile friendly."
  • Snap built a registration tool into its new mini-app tech and struck a partnership with TurboVote. They've registered about 1.25 million people through the tool, which the company said significantly exceeded its internal expectations. (Facebook registered a whopping 4.4 million, but we'll come back to that later this week.) Over half of those people are first-time voters, and almost two-thirds are between 18-24 years old.
  • You can see where this is headed, right? Evan Spiegel does: He said in an interview last week that "you could imagine a world in the future where you could just vote on your phone," and that that would be "a cool thing to collaborate on with the U.S. government."

Snap did a decent job in 2016: It said 57% of the people who registered to vote through the app back then actually ended up casting a ballot. To help improve on that, it built another mini app with BallotReady that lets users fill out a sample ballot.

  • This week, Snap's helping users find polling locations and make plans to vote safely. There's also a big information hub in the app, which users find by searching for most voting-related things.
  • And let's not forget about the Dancing Hot Dog, everybody's favorite election-season friend! It's back, and it's here to help people vote. And then to party with them when they do.

Snap's doing work on misinformation and disinformation, of course, and tries to aggressively police the political ads on its platform. But the company decided that the best thing it could do this year was be actionable, and help people understand the voting process. Everybody on Twitter might already be engaged, but Snapchatters are mostly just entering the fray.

People Are Talking

Booking.com is one of the companies the EU wants to regulate more closely, and CEO Glenn Fogel is not a fan:

  • "We are one of the very, very, very few tech successes in Europe. Let's be obvious and blatant about this. And our government regulator wants to handcuff us."

Fred Wilson ruminated on firing CEOs, which he said is about President Trump and I'm sure won't make any Union Square-backed founders (like one Brian Armstrong) nervous:

  • "When the CEO has failed to manage numerous important challenges, when the senior leadership team has been a revolving door, when the CEO has messed up important relationships with customers, employees, and other important stakeholders, when the organization has become toxic as a result of the CEO's abrasive personality, then the choice is abundantly clear and must be made."

Are you giving your team time off to vote? Marc Benioff said that's not necessarily the same as having next Tuesday off:

  • "The best policy is not time-bound but will take into account the unique challenges facing voters this election cycle."

A MESSAGE FROM ROKU

TV's Tipping Point

Join Janko Roettgers tomorrow at noon ET to answer the question: Has TV reached a tipping point? You will hear from industry experts including Tubi founder and CEO Farhad Massoudi, Cinedigm President Erick Opeka, Wurl CEO Sean Doherty and CBS News Digital EVP and GM Christy Tanner. The event is presented by Roku.

RSVP here.

Number of the Day

88,857

That's how many Bitcoin one user moved in a single transaction yesterday, worth a total of roughly $1.15 billion. That's the biggest (dollar-terms) Bitcoin transaction ever, topping the record from earlier this year. What was it for? Who knows! Blockchain! But everyone's really excited about the mere $3.54 transaction fee, because suffice to say a bank would've charged a bit more.

In Other News

  • Critics of Big Tech are holding a Biden fundraiser today. The group includes Roger McNamee, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Tim Wu, and McNamee says he hopes the event will encourage a Biden administration to take into account critics' viewpoints. Meanwhile, OpenSecrets data showed that Microsoft is the fourth largest contributor to Biden's campaign committee.
  • Facebook, Google and TikTok called for protection from the EU over the legal liabilities for moderation. In an issue that mirrors the U.S. Section 230 debate, an industry group said it's concerned that moderating content might deem platforms to have "actual knowledge" of the bad content, making them liable for hosting it.
  • Everything is moderation: PayPal terminated Epik's account, citing financial risk reportedly due to Epik's digital currency. But Epik, a domain registrar that works with the Proud Boys, accused PayPal of "anti-conservative bias."
  • Major music groups wrote to Jeff Bezos and Emmett Shear, saying that they're "deeply disappointed that Twitch continues to allow and enable its streamers to use our respective members' music without authorization." They also raised concerns around Twitch's new Soundtrack feature.
  • Verily's COVID testing program has been suspended in San Francisco and Alameda County. The latter's testing director said it was due to long wait times for results, and because the tests weren't going to those in need. Another person said Verily's registration process was ineffective among homeless people.
  • Ant Group aims to raise $34.5 billion in its IPO, based on pricing it set yesterday. That would value the company at $313 billion, and make it the biggest IPO of all time. Demand appears to be high: Reuters reports that the Hong Kong portion was oversubscribed within an hour of launch. Meanwhile, ByteDance is reportedly considering taking Douyin public.
  • Samsung Display has received a U.S. license to supply Huawei, Nikkei Asia reports. That would make it the first known company in Asia to be allowed to work with Huawei since new sanctions came in.
  • Elon Musk is about to get even richer. Tesla's profit last quarter means he qualifies for the next tranche of his pay package, worth around $3.55 billion.

One More Thing

Pettiness level 100,000

Everybody gets in fights with their neighbors, right? Well here's a playbook on how to really ramp things up. The short version: Bill Gross, a finance exec, bought a million-dollar sculpture and a big net to protect it. Mark Towfiq, his neighbor and a tech exec, doesn't like it. Yelling ensues, everybody gets restraining orders on everybody, and it turns out one of the things that put it all over the edge was Gross blaring the "Gilligan's Island" theme song at all hours. I smell a TikTok challenge coming on.

A MESSAGE FROM ROKU

Roku

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Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from 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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