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Big Tech’s company towns

Elon Musk

Your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from SpaceX's effect on a tiny Texas town to lessons everyone should learn from Wikipedia.

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The Best of Protocol

Brownsville, we have a problem, by Anna Kramer

  • This is the story of what happens when Elon Musk comes to town. And decides to use the beach and wildlife refuge nearby as a launching pad to get humans to Mars. It's not all good news, and it's not all bad news. But it's changing everything, faster than anyone realized, and there's almost nothing anyone can do to stop it.

The Activision Blizzard lawsuit has opened the floodgates, by Nick Statt

  • This story just keeps getting uglier, as Activision Blizzard and its employees continue to react to a lawsuit alleging sexism, harassment and discrimination. It has created a swell of activism and support within the industry, and more stories of misconduct are pouring out.

Redbox's secret streaming wars weapon: DVD rentals, by Janko Roettgers

  • The graveyard of entertainment companies is littered with those run by executives who shoved their fingers in their ears and tried to pretend the internet didn't exist. Redbox always seemed destined to join them, but CEO Galen Smith makes a surprisingly good case here that DVD kiosks and the streaming era can peacefully coexist.

China's era of Big Tech Overwork has ended, by Shen Lu

  • The 996 culture — work 9-9, 6 days a week — has been part of China's tech industry for a long time. Now a number of big companies are winding it back, canceling mandatory overtime in the face of both public outcry and regulatory pressure. But the movement that made it happen has been pushing for years.

Jack Dorsey's running two companies. How many more can he handle? By Tomio Geron

  • What is Square? It makes those white credit-card reader things, but it also has the Cash App, and now owns Tidal, and Jack Dorsey basically doesn't talk about anything other than bitcoin anymore. (Even when he's off running Twitter.) The company's vision is more confusing than ever, but maybe also more ambitious.


It's been 25 years since comprehensive internet regulations passed. See why we support updated regulations on key issues, including:

  • Protecting people's privacy
  • Enabling safe and easy data portability between platforms
  • Preventing election interference
  • Reforming Section 230

Learn more


Join Protocol's Biz Carson for a conversation with Atomic's Swathy Prithivi, Accel's Rich Wong and Asana's Oliver Jay during our upcoming event: Going Global: How Tech Companies Can Expand Internationally August 10 at 9 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. ET Learn More



The Jessica Simulation: Love and loss in the age of A.I. — The San Francisco Chronicle

  • What if you could talk with a loved one, even after they die? That's one of those science fiction premises that is becoming more real all the time. This is a deep look not only at how these systems work, but how they're built, and the power AI wields even when we all know we're talking to a computer.

Nooses, Anger and No Answers: Inside the Uproar Over a Future Amazon Site — The New York Times

  • Amazon is building a warehouse in Windsor, Connecticut, and it's throwing the town into chaos. It's a fight between workers and employers, companies and cities, and it's a mess. And everyone on all sides seems to have the same question: What else am I supposed to do?

What I learned surrendering my life to algorithms — CNET

  • Writers do these experiments ("I let computers run my life!") every so often, but what jumps out about this one is both how pervasive recommendation algorithms are and how … mundane it is to live life by them? As they say, we were promised flying cars, and instead we got boxes of plaid shirts and half-decent movie recommendations.

Institutional Authority Has Vanished. Wikipedia Points to the Answer. — The Atlantic

  • The whole internet would be better if it were more like Wikipedia, if you ask us. But in this story, which argues that Wikipedia also offers better answers on how to cope with the pandemic, makes a smart argument about how platforms can manage and even encourage conflict, and how transparency and version history can help us understand anything.

From Stolen Laptop to Inside the Company Network — Dolos Group

  • This one started as a security question: Can you steal a laptop and use it to get into a company network? Turns out, yep. And this is exactly how it works. It's a dense post, but a fascinating one, and an eye-opening one for any company with employees working remotely.

"Ted Lasso" Season 2

  • That's it. That's the recommendation. The tech industry's favorite show is now two episodes into its second season, and if you start now, you can watch the whole show again before work on Monday.


2021 is the 25th anniversary of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the last major update to internet regulation. It's time for an update to set clear rules for addressing today's toughest challenges. See how we're taking action on key issues and why we support updated internet regulations.

Learn more

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Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to, or our tips line, Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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