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The best tech company to work for

Person at computer

Good morning! This Wednesday: Nvidia is the best tech company to work for, new research finds a new way to think about online life and Visa scraps its Plaid deal.

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The Big Story

The tech companies employees love

Nvidia is the best tech company to work for in the U.S., according to Glassdoor's latest Best Places to Work study, which came out this morning. (In fact, it's the second-best company to work for in the country overall.) And while there's more unrest among tech employees than ever, it's still the industry people want to be in: 28 of Glassdoor's top 100 were tech companies, with HubSpot, Google and Microsoft all in the top 10. (Facebook was No. 11, which was … surprising.)

COVID changed a lot of things, Glassdoor CEO Christian Sutherland-Wong told me, but it didn't change the core things people care about at work. The most important thing, he said, is "being mission-driven." Employees want to feel like they're working on important things, that their company is a force for good. That's why companies like Zoom and Slack shot up the list this year, as their importance to modern life became more clear.

  • After that, Sutherland-Wong said, people want to know that leadership is honest and inspirational, and that they have opportunities to grow and advance their career.
  • He also saw a definite correlation between companies that sent their employees home quickly and have been proactive in caring for them through the pandemic, and happy employees.
  • Oh, and it helps when your company's doing well, which surely helped tech's status this year. "Generally, when businesses are performing well," Sutherland-Wong said, "employees tend to be happier."

Fintech

Acquisitions, meet regulators

Shakeel Hashim writes: One of the most interesting things about the Facebook antitrust suits is regulators' obvious regret for approving Facebook's Instagram and WhatsApp purchases — so much so that the FTC now wants to undo the mergers. With the Plaid-Visa deal, regulators are trying not to repeat the mistake.

  • Yesterday, Visa announced that it's terminating its $5.3 billion acquisition of Plaid. It specifically cited the difficulties of fighting the DOJ's November lawsuit, which sought to block the deal.
  • According to the DOJ's suit, Visa wanted to buy Plaid to eliminate "a nascent but significant competitive threat," words that could easily have been used to describe Instagram back in 2012.

The DOJ didn't even need to win its lawsuit to block the deal — in fact, Visa said it's confident that the acquisition would have been approved in court. But by making the acquisition process time-consuming and expensive, it put a halt to it anyway.

  • With antitrust concerns now top of mind for regulators, this could become a new playbook for stopping acquisitions.

The big question now is what happens to Plaid. Oddly, the merger blowup might actually be good news for its investors: If the rest of the fintech space is anything to go by, Plaid's valuation has almost certainly jumped since the Visa bid.

  • Don't rule out a SPAC: Chamath Palihapitiya has already declared his interest, and Plaid would be a perfect target for Bill Ackman. A bidding war might be on the horizon.

Social

A new way to talk about online life

None of our metaphors for talking about what it's like to Be Online are very good. Mark Zuckerberg isn't really anything like a restaurant owner, and Facebook's not much like a town square. But as we try to figure out what it should be like, we need a metaphor that does work.

Eli Pariser has a pretty good one: Think of the internet like an entire town. Right now, he told me, "we're in a town where a lot of social life has moved to a mall. But our view is actually, long term, revitalizing the main street is going to be a better bet for the town."

  • A thriving town needs lots of thriving businesses, but it also needs parks, rec centers, clubs, libraries, coffee shops and so many other things. They all serve different purposes, but feel connected in the town.
  • Right now, Pariser said, the tech industry focuses a lot on where people shop and where they argue about politics. But that's only a small subset of life. And much as Facebook might want it, not all of online life can happen in one place.

Pariser has spent the last two years studying online spaces with his co-founder Talia Stroud and their team at Civic Signals. And what they've found, by and large, is that there's no such thing as an all-things-to-all-people social space. Not offline, and not online.

  • There are recurring themes in successful places, though. They develop programming, giving people a structure for their time; they offer visual cues about where to go and how to act; they welcome lots of different people; they engage actual, live humans to do the work of building community; and they're built alongside the community they serve.
  • LinkedIn has done a good job over the years of telegraphing that it is a place of business, for example, with the rules and norms that come with that. Reddit pulled off something similar, Pariser said: "They've always said, 'we need to create spaces where people can do their thing, and control the norms of this space, and have a sense of community identity.'"

But how do you measure the success of a place? Pariser's still wrestling with that. Growth and engagement metrics got us here; what will get us somewhere better?

  • Humanization is one that he likes. "There's a bunch of social scientists who have done a lot of thinking about how to measure humanization," he said.
  • He also thinks we should measure who's speaking rather than just what's being said; making people comfortable enough to contribute is a strong signal of a good public place.

Most of all, we ought to stop only thinking about individual users, Stroud said, and start thinking about the group. What's good for everyone sometimes means individual sacrifice or friction, but public-friendly design tends to turn out better.

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Micron

For Raj Hazra, who is senior vice president of corporate strategy and communications at Micron, there has never been a more thrilling time than this golden age of data. In this interview, Hazra describes how "we are now at the doorstep of taking things that we thought were science fiction and making them real, and it's only going to be exponentially faster going forward". Read more from Micron's Raj Hazra.

People Are Talking

The people who raided the Capitol shouldn't get off scot-free, Tim Cook said:

  • "I think it's key that people be held accountable for it. This is not something that should skate. This is something we've got to be very serious about, and understand, and then we need to move forward."

One good reason to clean up your platform? Cold hard cash, Alexis Ohanian said:

  • "It's become more and more clear that having a healthy community, having a platform that's free of hate and harassment is actually really good for business. Advertisers want to be there. Users want to engage there."

Sheryl Sandberg said Facebook is mostly not to blame for the Capitol riots:

  • "I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don't have our abilities to stop hate, and don't have our standards, and don't have our transparency."
  • (This is demonstrably not true, by the way.)

Amazon didn't hold back in its response to Parler's lawsuit:

  • "This case is about Parler's demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove from the servers of Amazon Web Services ('AWS') content that threatens the public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens."

Cryptocurrency could be a tool for economic justice, KRBE Digital Assets Group's Isaiah Jackson said:

  • "We can shift our energy into Bitcoin and cryptocurrency because there is no barrier to entry, it's unconfiscatable, which is something we have not seen in the history of the United States for the Black community, so I think Bitcoin is a step in the right direction and it can definitely help in the long term."

Number of the Day

25,000,000

That's the number of users who've joined Telegram in the last 72 hours, and it's probably even higher since Telegram shared that stat yesterday. And it's not just Telegram taking off: Signal didn't share stats, but it's remained above Telegram as the top app on the Apple charts since Elon Musk endorsed it. All this newfound interest in private messaging follows WhatsApp's decision to now share some user data with Facebook (something the company has scrambled to clarify), proving that in some cases, consumers really do care about their privacy. Especially when Musk tells them to.

In Other News

  • YouTube suspended Donald Trump's channel. He's blocked from uploading new videos for at least seven days due to breaking its rules about the incitement of violence. Separately, Rumble sued Google, saying it rigged its search results to favor YouTube over the popular right-wing site.
  • Apple considered buying electric car startup Canoo, according to The Verge. The two companies reportedly held talks last year. Meanwhile, Tim Cook said Apple would make a "big announcement" today, but it won't be a "a product."
  • Facebook told employees not to wear Facebook-branded clothes, The Information reports. That's supposedly out of concerns that staff might be attacked if they're visible as Facebook employees.
  • Judge James Boasberg will hear the FTC's Facebook lawsuit. He's also hearing the state AGs' case against the company.
  • The Service Employees International Union filed a lawsuit against Prop 22. It, along with a few gig work drivers, says the ballot measure — which passed 59% to 41% — is unconstitutional.
  • Github fired a Jewish employee who called the Capitol rioters Nazis, Business Insider reports. 200 employees have reportedly signed a letter to management protesting the decision.
  • On Protocol: Netflix forces TV makers to include a branded remote button if they want access to its app. That's just one way the remotes have become a proxy for streaming's big turf wars.
  • Huawei has invested in 10 chip-related companies in the last five months, according to Nikkei Asia. That's reportedly part of a bigger effort for the company to maintain its semiconductor supply chain.
  • An Alibaba courier set himself on fire over unpaid wages. Liu Jin, a driver for Alibaba's Ele.me platform, reportedly had a pay dispute with the company. Another Ele.me driver collapsed and died on the job last month.

One More Thing

Use a password manager, reason #718

A sentence that gives me the willies, from The New York Times: "Stefan Thomas, a German-born programmer living in San Francisco, has two guesses left to figure out a password that is worth, as of this week, about $220 million." And Thomas is just one of many people with thousands or millions of dollars in Bitcoin, stuck on locked hard drives. Suddenly a $5 per month 1Password subscription sounds like a pretty good investment.

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Micron

For Raj Hazra, who is senior vice president of corporate strategy and communications at Micron, there has never been a more thrilling time than this golden age of data. In this interview, Hazra describes how "we are now at the doorstep of taking things that we thought were science fiction and making them real, and it's only going to be exponentially faster going forward". Read more from Micron's Raj Hazra.

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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