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The big chip hack is back

The big chip hack is back

Good morning! This Sunday, here's your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from VLC's two-decade run to the making of Facebook's Oversight Board.

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HOUSEKEEPING

We're off tomorrow, back with your regularly scheduled Source Code on Tuesday. Also, Protocol | Fintech launches on Tuesday! Sign up for a close look at the future of money and how we use it. (And all things meme stock, obviously.)

Best of Protocol

20 years of orange cones: The history of VLC, by Janko Roettgers

  • VLC is a true Swiss Army knife of an app, the thing you turn to when nothing else knows what to do with that weird video file on your hard drive. Now, two decades old and still getting downloaded a million times a day, it's working on a redesign, a web app … and a space flight?

AWS has avoided antitrust scrutiny. Here's how that could change, by Tom Krazit

  • You feel the power of AWS every time it has a hiccup and half the internet seems to disappear. So far, most of America's antitrust energy has been focused elsewhere, but maybe not for long.

PayPal wants to be an all-in-one super app. It has its work cut out, by Tomio Geron

  • It's the holy grail of fintech apps: one place for your checking account, your investments, your loyalty programs, your coupons, your crypto, your shopping, your everything. PayPal wants to do it. So do about a thousand other companies.

Chinese microlending is getting weird and dangerous, by Zeyi Yang

  • Speaking of increasingly ubiquitous fintech trends: Did you know Chinese users can borrow money inside their photo-sharing, maps and streaming TV apps? Fintech has moved faster in the country because the nation's traditional banking system was so lacking, and that helped this unusual situation come about. But as regulation comes for the space, it's going to cause big changes.

Libby is stuck between libraries and publishers in the e-book war, by Anna Kramer

  • It's a story as old as the internet, really: A new platform comes along promising to make everything faster, cheaper and more efficient, but one part of the equation is always left holding the bag. In this case — which involves publishers, libraries, schools, Overdrive and all of us — the tension between easy and workable is obvious.

A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON

Amazon

In 2018, Amazon announced a starting wage of at least $15 an hour for all U.S. employees. Since then, other major companies have followed suit. Now, it's time for Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009, and revitalize the national economy.

Best of Everything Else

Silicon Valley's safe space — The New York Times

  • And then read Scott Siskind's response. This story has everything: The Slate Star Codex backstory, a dissection of tech versus media, and plenty of reasons for everyone to get mad no matter what they believe. (We'll talk more about this on Tuesday, but in the meantime I'm curious to know what you think of all this. Reply to this email and let me know!)

Supermicro hack: How China exploited a U.S. tech supplier over years — Bloomberg

  • Actually, before you read that, read this story from 2018, which made a huge allegation: that China was using tiny chips to infiltrate Apple, Amazon and others. That first story was vociferously denied by everyone involved. Three years later, Bloomberg is doubling down with a slightly different — but only slightly less harrowing — story.

Inside the making of Facebook's Supreme Court — The New Yorker

  • Facebook's Oversight Board is either a transparent PR ploy or a genuine attempt to turn a huge platform into something more democratic. Mark Zuckerberg is either pulling the strings behind the scenes or actually trying to let go. This story, about how the Board came to be, makes it out to be all those things and more.

Employer-tied health care is also a tech accountability issue — OneZero

  • As we talk about NDAs, tech unions and the increase in employees speaking out against their employers, Ifeoma Ozoma makes an important point: It's hard to be a whistleblower when that means suddenly losing your health care coverage in the middle of a pandemic.

A sneak peek at MetaHuman Creator — Epic Games

  • The eye-opener of the week, this one. We talk a lot about what our digital avatars can and should and will look like, and then here come the Unreal Engine folks saying, "Well what if they just looked like … us?" It's a little uncanny valley-ish, but it's still pretty impressive.

A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON

Amazon

In 2018, Amazon announced a starting wage of at least $15 an hour for all U.S. employees. Since then, other major companies have followed suit. Now, it's time for Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009, and revitalize the national economy.

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce. 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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