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China’s version of the future

China’s version of the future

Good morning! This Sunday, here's your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from life inside China's censorship machine to understanding Clubhouse's popularity.

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Best of Protocol

I helped build ByteDance's censorship machine, by Shen Lu

  • A former employee lays out the what, how and why of one of China's huge censorship and surveillance operations. It takes an unbelievable amount of computation and human resources to keep this going.

Airbnb will build a new tech hub in Atlanta, by Anna Kramer

  • Forget Austin, forget Miami. The future of the tech industry — at least a more diverse, more functional one — might just be in Atlanta. And don't miss the way Airbnb is going about making its moves there, with very different incentives and plans than, say, Amazon's HQ2.

Amazon pioneered content-centric TV interfaces. Now, it's looking to rein in the chaos, by Janko Roettgers

  • First: Cable is too expensive, let's unbundle everything! Then: There are too many streaming services, I can't watch my shows! And finally: I pay for everything, why can't I find anything? That's what Amazon's trying to solve, without upsetting its persnickety content partners. Good luck.

From Washington to Florida, here are Big Tech's biggest threats from states, by Emily Birnbaum

  • The great privacy bill mish-mash is almost upon us. Keep Emily's cheat sheet bookmarked, and keep an eye on all the states — from New York to Florida to Washington to Virginia — hoping to change the way tech companies operate inside their borders. This is going to get a lot more complicated before it gets simpler.

Marqeta is building tools for finance's old guard — and their disruptors, by Ben Pimentel

  • The tightrope Marqeta has to walk will be familiar to companies in almost any industry: Your biggest clients are rarely the most forward-thinking, and so you're stuck between helping them and arming their eventual successors. There's a smart playbook inside this story.

A Macedonian misinformation site dominated Parler before the Capitol riot, by Issie Lapowsky

  • The stat from this story that I can't stop thinking about: In the days leading up to the insurrection at the Capitol, a whopping 87% of news links shared on Parler were from misinformation sites. And American Conservatives Today, a site that launched in December and was run out of Macedonia of all places, was the most popular site on the platform. Yikes.



At Amazon, we pay at least $15 an hour—more than double the current federal minimum wage. We believe that's the minimum anyone in the U.S. should earn for an hour of labor. That's why we're calling on Congress to pass the Raise the Wage Act.

Best of Everything Else

Virtual control: The agenda behind China's new digital currency — The Financial Times

  • Governments around China are already giving away digital renminbi, and that provides a pretty good look at what the world might look like if and when digital currency becomes an everyday part of the economy. (And not … whatever Bitcoin is now.)

Why did I leave Google or, why did I stay so long? — Noam Bardin

  • This post struck a serious nerve in the tech world. Noam Bardin sold Waze to Google, was promised it could keep acting like Waze, and spent the next several years confronting all the ways that wasn't actually true. If you've ever sold a company, worked at an "internal startup," or whined about free lunch, you'll nod along to this one.

Amazon's great labor awakening — The New York Times

  • The pandemic changed the way Amazon understands its place in the world, and changed the way employees see their place at Amazon. That's taking different forms all over the world, but the ways employees are organizing, and the things they're learning to demand of their bosses, are surprisingly consistent. (For some more Amazon reading, check out its plan to get around regulators in India.)

The rise, fall and resonance of ESPN Esports — The Washington Post

  • The future is esports! Right? Well, sort of. Maybe? Anyway, there's a lot to learn from how ESPN is trying to figure out how to cover an entirely new thing in both a novel and familiar way. Not least of which is: When you're trying something new, how do you even know if it's working?

Clubhouse and the future of cult-driven social platforms — The Information

  • Silicon Valley companies like to talk about communities and networks. Sam Lessin makes a good point: That the most successful social companies may actually be the ones who understand — and exploit — the characteristics of cults.

Meet Elizabeth Ann, the first cloned black-footed ferret — The New York Times

  • Yes, this is a scientific accomplishment with huge possibilities for the future of the natural world. Blah blah, whatever. Look at that cute little face!



At Amazon, we pay at least $15 an hour—more than double the current federal minimum wage. We believe that's the minimum anyone in the U.S. should earn for an hour of labor. That's why we're calling on Congress to pass the Raise the Wage Act.

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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