Bubbles, books and black boxes
Photo: Diana Orey/Unsplash

Bubbles, books and black boxes

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Your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from the case against bitcoin to the future of soccer video games.

The best of Protocol

Transparency can help fix social media — if anyone can define it, by Ben Brody

  • Regulators, researchers, oversight boards: Everybody wants more transparency. But, uh, what does that mean? What do we want to know? How should it be collected, documented and shared? Who's responsible for doing the work? Every time we get an answer, we just get more new questions.

China is reinventing the way the world reads, by Zeyi Yang

  • Web novels are among China's most successful cultural exports, and they're taking over the internet around the world. The idea — a book updated practically in real time, available for a fee to readers almost as soon as the author is finished typing — is also creating a new sort of social experience online.

NFTs have the potential to flip Hollywood's studio model upside down, by Megan Rose Dickey

  • One way to understand NFTs is that they are a system for cutting out middlemen. That's part of why artists and creators like Erika Alexander are so drawn to the tech; it gives them a chance to connect more directly with their audiences. And as Alexander explains, NFTs can also give marginalized and underrepresented groups new ways to find each other.

Meet the productivity app influencers, by Lizzy Lawrence

  • Have you ever watched someone use Excel? Like, really use it? Hands never leave the keyboard, formulas everywhere, it's like watching an artist at work. And it's not just Excel; there's a corner of the internet that loves watching people design and build productivity systems. And the apps need to figure out how to get on board.

The EA and FIFA breakup could remake the world of sports games, by Nick Statt

  • FIFA is one of the most popular and lucrative franchises in the gaming world, and its days may be numbered. In its current iteration, anyway, given that EA and FIFA breaking up could mean the beginning of a new competition in the space. Either way, the fallout between the two sides is yet more evidence that gaming is taking over, and everyone wants a piece.

Ola Bini wanted to build a secure internet. Now he's on trial, by Anna Kramer

  • Ola Bini's trial in Ecuador is happening right now, and hackers and activists all over the world are paying attention. Charged with trying to bring down the Ecuadorian government's systems in a cyberattack that never happened, Bini's case may be more about governments trying to punish what they can't stop or understand.

On the schedule

Handling gender, diversity and difference in Chinese workplaces

China's not monolithic — and neither are its workplaces. What are China's most forward-looking workplaces, and what are they doing to become more inclusive? Join us at 5 p.m. PT Thursday, where we'll talk about some key companies leading the way for inclusion in China, identify what might port over to U.S. workplaces and highlight the obstacles Chinese companies are facing in their DEI efforts. RSVP here.


Jack is one of 40,000 people working on safety and security issues at Facebook. Hear more from Jack on why Facebook supports updating regulations on the internet's most pressing challenges, including reforming Section 230 to set clear guidelines for all large tech companies.

Learn more

The best of everything else

With coercion and black boxes, Russia installs a digital iron curtain — The New York Times

  • Russia's moves to censor and filter the internet its citizens see is sometimes incredibly sophisticated, and sometimes as simple as making it take a really (really) long time to download an image. This story has lots of details on how it all works, and how Silicon Valley's problems have given Russia cover to do as it pleases.

Google's biggest moonshot is its search for a carbon-free future — Bloomberg

  • Big Tech's climate and sustainability ambitions are getting bigger as the need for change gets more urgent. This is a good, deep dive into what it really takes to overhaul a Google-sized operation, and why "it's expensive!" is only the beginning of the challenges. But like Sundar Pichai said, there's no time to waste.

Revealed: The crypto fans who secretly paid $4 million for pharma bro's Wu-Tang album — Rolling Stone

  • Remember when Martin Shkreli bought a Wu-Tang album and hid it from the public seemingly just to irritate everyone? The album's story only got weirder from there, and now it's in a thoroughly 2021 place: the hands of PleasrDAO, and memorialized in an NFT. You might even get to hear the music sometime soon.

Facebook confronts growth problems as number of young users in US declines — The Financial Times

  • One somewhat ironic thing about the backlash over Facebook's treatment of young people is that young people are already leaving Facebook. But that's not the most interesting thing in this story: It raises questions, from recently unsealed court documents, about how much advertisers can trust Facebook data.

Why the 'Big Short' guys think Bitcoin is a bubble — New York Magazine

  • It was a good week for bitcoin, with the first ETF hitting the stock market and the coin's price hitting all-time highs. But investors like Michael Burry have been saying for years that it's all going to come crashing down. You may not agree with their argument, but it's worth reading.

136 facts every web dev should know before they burn out and turn to landscape painting or nude modelling — Baldur Bjarnason

  • An old(ish)ie but a goodie, and was making the rounds again this week. Come for tips like "Only use the ID selector in your CSS as a last resort to fix extreme and hard-to-solve specificity issues," stay for ultra-deep philosophy like "Never go up against a free service from a multinational. At least, never directly."


Jack is one of 40,000 people working on safety and security issues at Facebook. Hear more from Jack on why Facebook supports updating regulations on the internet's most pressing challenges, including reforming Section 230 to set clear guidelines for all large tech companies.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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