Protocol Source Code
What matters in tech, in your inbox every morning.
Image: C Drying / Protocol

Who gets in the Clubhouse?

No entry

Good morning! Sorry to all the Chiefs fans out there, and extremely begrudging congrats to Tom Brady. Anyway, this Monday, everyone is mad — and everyone is wrong — about Clubhouse's blocking policy, and a look at the competition to be @realDonaldTrump's new home.

(Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here to get Source Code every day. And you can text with us, too, by signing up here or texting 415-475-1729.)

The Big Story

The Clubhouse velvet rope

Connecting everyone is not a universally good thing. (Mark Zuckerberg was wrong about that one.) And increasingly, the internet is turning to group chats, private Discords and other means of staying out of the internet's public square.

But the lines between public and private are a mess. And nowhere is that clearer right now than on Clubhouse. As ever, there's nothing I like less than litigating arguments between tech and reporters, but here's the TL;DR:

  • Marc Andreessen is one of the most popular users on Clubhouse, a suggested follow for everyone who signs up for the app. He tends to be in the room for the platform's most interesting conversations.
  • Andreessen is also liberal with the block button, particularly with journalists. When someone blocks you on Clubhouse, you can't join a room where that person is a moderator or speaker. That meant that a lot of reporters couldn't listen to, say, the Good Time Show's chat with Elon Musk, nor can they get into Felicia Horowitz's popular Dinner Club.
  • So journalists got mad they couldn't get in, and tech folks told them, basically: Screw off, we don't need to be spied on by reporters.

With Clubhouse specifically, everybody's wrong. It absolutely changes the platform's dynamics if you're telling some new users to follow a person who is reasonably likely to immediately block them, in turn preventing them from using key parts of the platform. Marc Andreessen blocking people on Twitter doesn't prevent them from following Elon Musk, but it stops them from listening to Musk when Andreessen is speaking in or moderating the room on Clubhouse. But! Andreessen can block whoever he wants. (He blocked me!) Them's the rules.

The real question is, is Clubhouse a private thing or a public thing?

  • One way to think about Clubhouse is as an exclusive conference, and not everyone's invited. Another way to think about Clubhouse is as a social network where anyone can join and everyone should participate. How you view the space will change how you think it should operate.
  • These are bad comparisons, though, because there are no good ones for this stuff on the internet. Clubhouse is like you had a few people over … but Elon Musk tweeted your home address, several thousand people came to stand in the yard and listen, and one of them streamed it all on YouTube? All the metaphors are bad, because it's all different and messier online.

These aren't just questions for Clubhouse, but for any online communication. If it's just you and me talking, I don't think anyone wants platforms or moderators policing what we say. (WhatsApp's privacy shenanigans prove it.) If it's 3 billion of us in the News Feed, we absolutely need those things. Discord, Telegram, Clubhouse, Reddit and so many others all exist in a complicated middle ground, and that's where the future of the internet lives too.


Everybody wants @realDonaldTrump

What is a post-presidency Donald Trump worth to a burgeoning, conservative-friendly social network? Worth betting the company on, apparently:

  • Parler offered the Trump Organization 40% of the company last year, BuzzFeed reported, in exchange for then-President Trump to make the platform his primary social home.
  • Former CEO John Matze told Axios over the weekend: "I didn't like the idea of working with Trump, because he might have bullied people inside the company to do what he wanted."
  • Meanwhile, Gab is also trying hard to get Trump on the platform. It has @realdonaldtrump reserved for him, and CEO Andrew Torba said that "The only reason he's not using it right now to contact his base is because dopey advisers like Jared Kushner, who lost him the election, are blocking him from using it."

Jason Miller, a longtime Trump aide, told The Sunday Times that Trump thinks "not being on social media, and not being subject to the hateful echo chamber that social media too frequently becomes, has actually been good." True for us all, really. But other reports have said Trump is itching to get back online, and continues to think about starting his own social network.

People Are Talking

The Boring Company could get $30 million to tunnel under Miami, Mayor Francis Suarez said:

  • "The order of magnitude in terms of safety is significant … I think we have a unique opportunity to create a signature project, not just for Miami but for the world, that will bring people from across the world to see this solution."

Microsoft is suspending political contributions to those who objected to certifying the election, CVP Fred Humphries said:

  • "We will also suspend contributions for the same period for state officials and organizations who supported such objections or suggested the election should be overturned."

Chris Cox rejoining Facebook was an even bigger deal than it seemed, Ron Conway said:

  • "When you look at Chris Cox now, he's the keeper of the culture, and the most important aspect of a company and the reason companies succeed or fail is because of the culture that they built."



Today, we are celebrating 50 years of innovation at Nasdaq. Learn more.

Coming This Week

Twitter, Cisco, Uber and Lyft all report earnings this week.

The second Trump impeachment trial begins tomorrow, and is sure to be interesting.

We're keeping a close eye on the privacy battle between Facebook and Apple, as Apple gets closer to rolling out the tracking notifications that Facebook and others see as something of an existential crisis.

Slide of the Day

SoftBank slide

Yep, it's SoftBank earnings day. The slide deck was full of glorious imagery as per usual, and the numbers weren't bad either: Its Vision Fund posted an $8 billion profit for last quarter.

In Other News

  • On Protocol: Democratic senators introduced the SAFE TECH Act, a new proposal for Section 230 reform. It would dramatically limit the scope of behaviors that Section 230 covers, taking aim at illicit activity that online platforms directly profit from.
  • Hyundai and Kia said they aren't in talks with Apple, sending both companies' shares tanking. Bloomberg previously reported that leaks around the electric car had "upset" Apple.
  • Renesas is buying Dialog Semiconductor for $5.9 billion. The two had previously agreed to cooperate on automotive products.
  • China released new anti-monopoly guidelines. They're targeted at digital platforms, but one analyst said they won't have much of an effect.
  • The CFPB is investigating Venmo's debt-collection practices. It's previously been reported that Venmo threatened to send debt collectors to victims of scams.
  • TikTok is set to add affiliate-marketing tools, according to the Financial Times. Advertisers have reportedly been briefed on the new features, which could also include livestream shopping.
  • Reddit's Super Bowl ad referenced the WallStreetBets saga. Meanwhile, VanEck is relaunching a social media sentiment ETF, which lets investors track companies getting lots of online buzz.

One More Thing

Mars landings for everyone!

Some serious traffic is heading to the fourth planet in the solar system. Three different spacecraft, launched from three different places — the UAE, China and the U.S. — will all hit local orbit in the next couple of weeks. If Pixar hasn't already optioned the rights and made plans for "Wall-E 2," I don't know what it's waiting for.

Update: This story has been updated to correctly name the three countries whose spacecrafts are heading to Mars this month. It's the UAE, China and the U.S.



Today, we are celebrating 50 years of innovation at Nasdaq. Learn more.

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to, or our tips line, Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.

Recent Issues

The best of Protocol

The confessions of SBF

Your holiday book list

A tale of two FTXs