April 14, 2021
Good morning! This Wednesday, why Coinbase's direct listing is such a big deal for the crypto industry, a new bill that would curb the power of NDAs is getting traction in tech, Asana is launching a partner program and Epic got a huge influx of cash.
The Big Story
Coinbase to the moon?
The whole tech world is watching Coinbase today. The company is going public through a direct listing, is set to be valued at upwards of $65 billion (though some people think it'll be way upwards of that), and might take its place on the Mount Rushmore of Crypto Moments.
- So far on the Crypto Mount Rushmore? Probably the publishing of the Bitcoin whitepaper, the day some unfortunate guy bought two pizzas with 10,000 Bitcoin, the Mt. Gox collapse and maybe that Elon Musk tweet about Dogecoin? I'm open to suggestions, though.
The crypto market is practically bursting with anticipation, too. Bitcoin and Ethereum both hit record prices yesterday, and the coins representing Binance and other exchanges were also spiking ahead of the listing. Even Dogecoin is spiking!
- Prices are rising on the assumption that a big Coinbase debut will be a sign of legitimacy for all things crypto, and could help set a precedent — and a price — for projects to come.
- "What Netscape did for the internet in 1995 is what Coinbase will do for crypto and blockchain in 2021," Battery Ventures's Roger Lee told Protocol | Fintech's Tomio Geron last week. "The internet was very opaque and a very abstract concept to most people in the mid-'90s. Netscape created a lens through which to interact with it."
- That would be big not just for cryptocurrencies, but for blockchain projects in general, which are mostly still treated like side projects and counter-culture ideas. Coinbase could help prove that blockchain is a good bet in general.
Coinbase's tie to cryptocurrencies is a double-edged sword, though. Fears of crypto regulations — or even an outright ban — are creeping around the industry, and a Bitcoin crash would almost certainly mean a Coinbase crash. (Coinbase is working on diversifying its features to make sure that's not the case, but for now it seems to be.)
There are Coinbase downers out there, but they're few and far between. Almost everyone I talked to thinks its debut is going to be huge. Or at least is hoping so.
NDAs are enabling workplace abuse and need to be stopped, former Pinterest employee Ifeoma Ozoma said. "Regardless of the law, business leaders invested in running ethical companies should reject the use of these agreements to hide abusive behavior, and the shareholders they're beholden to should demand it," she wrote in a New York Times op-ed.
- "For a long time," she wrote, "I hesitated to speak about the issues I experienced at Pinterest. I didn't want to be sued, and I hoped that the company would do the right thing and address the pay inequities and retaliation I faced."
- Protocol has previously reported on this problem, with tech employees telling us that they had experienced racism and discrimination in the workplace but couldn't speak out for fear of retribution from their employers.
Ozoma is now co-sponsoring the Silenced No More Act, which would allow California workers to break their NDAs in order to discuss harassment and discrimination.
- Pinterest is supporting the bill, CEO Ben Silbermann said yesterday, and plans to enact it no matter what happens. "Regardless of what happens in the legislature, whether the bill moves forward or not, we're going to adopt the policies behind the proposed law," he said.
- Pinterest might still require employees to sign NDAs relating to company information and trade secrets, the company told Protocol's Issie Lapowsky, but won't forbid them from talking about their personal experience.
- Ozoma asked Pinterest to go further, and release all former employees from existing NDAs.
Companies often say they see NDAs as a tool to protect trade secrets, while employees say they're prevented from speaking out about the industry's problems. It's possible for these agreements to do right by all parties, and companies need to figure out how.
Who is free speech for?
After being alerted to a misinformation campaign from the Honduran government, The Guardian reported, Facebook's Guy Rosen "referred to the return of the Honduras campaign as a 'bummer' in an internal discussion in December 2019 but emphasized that the company needed to prioritize influence operations that targeted the U.S. or western Europe, or were carried out by Russia or Iran."
The clear message: Facebook cares more about some countries than others. You know who that doesn't surprise? Jillian C. York, an author and activist whose new book, "Silicon Values: The Future of Free Speech Under Surveillance Capitalism," digs into all the ways Facebook and others police — and don't — what's happening on their platforms.
So why aren't some countries considered as important? Well, York joined the Source Code podcast to talk about all things online free speech, including why tech companies don't think globally enough:
- "The cynical answer to that is that only certain countries and regions are profitable," she said. "They do pay a lot of attention to Saudi Arabia, to Turkey, because those are big markets for them. They don't pay a lot of attention in Myanmar, because it's a poor country. It's that simple."
- Automation won't solve our problems either, she said: "What [automation] is good at is stuff that can be put in box A or box B. And what I would like to see happen is an increased use of automation for that, but with the decision of what happens after it's placed in boxes A or B in the hands of the user instead of in the hands of the centralized platform." Users are different, she said, and should be treated as such.
- Ultimately, York said, transparency and choice are a huge part of the answer. But it starts with resources: "Stop spending the money on acquisitions and start spending it on genuine inclusivity."
A MESSAGE FROM INTEL AND MICROSOFT AZURE
Open-source computing is going gangbusters — and that's good news for those seeking better and stronger security in the enterprise. With the growth of hardware platforms, ISVs and CSPs using trusted execution environments to protect data in use, open source-licensed projects are a natural way to encourage experimentation, learning and adoption.
People Are Talking
On Protocol | Enterprise: Asana is launching a partner program, and Billy Blau said it's meant to make work sane again:
- "The reality of the situation is that people are doing the work in communication tools; they're in Zoom meetings, or they're in Slack talking about stuff. They're producing content either in Adobe or Canva, or Figma, or with Dropbox or Box. But that's all disparate, and when you want to be the single source of truth for a company of who is doing what by when, those experiences have to tie back into that platform."
- "Our campaign about WordPress didn't twist the truth. We published what many in the WordPress community will agree to be the valid shortcomings of WordPress. But I'm pretty sure you already know all of that. What I'm not so sure is, why are you twisting the truth?"
After the blowback to its cryptocurrency tests, Signal's Jun Harada explained why the company is getting into payments:
- "It's still rare to find cryptocurrency projects that start with UX as a first principle. The only exception may be Facebook, who appears ready to emerge with technology that will deliver on this promise — though not in the way everyone had hoped (notably, on privacy). The 'alternative future' has been shaping up so that it may, very unfortunately, be Facebook."
What's better than government email systems? Gmail, said British politician Tom Tugendhat:
- "I was told by friends at GCHQ that I was better off sticking to Gmail, rather than using the parliamentary system, because it was more secure. Frankly, that tells you the level of security and the priority we're giving to democracy in the United Kingdom."
LG-Magna could be the Apple Car supplier. The Korea Times reported the two sides are near a deal to handle production for early prototypes and testing models.
Apple is having an event next Tuesday. It's dubbed "Spring Loaded," which either means we're about to get a lot of new products (Spring, loaded) or an Apple Slinky (spring-loaded). Could be either, really.
Metaverse alert: Epic raised $1 billion, and is now valued at $28.9 billion. Guess nobody's worried about that Apple lawsuit.
Diogo Rau is the new chief information and digital officer at Lilly, after 10 years as the head of engineering for Apple Retail.
Katrina Lake is stepping down as Stitch Fix's CEO, becoming executive chairwoman instead. Elizabeth Spaulding will replace her.
Toshiba CEO Nobuaki Kurumatani suddenly resigned, raising questions as to what will happen with CVC's $20 billion bid for the company.
Squarespace is thinking about a direct listing, Bloomberg reported, which could happen later this year.
In Other News
- Amazon and Google both signed a statement opposing discriminatory voting restrictions, along with hundreds of other business leaders, after they had a long meeting over the weekend in response to new Georgia laws.
- On Protocol | China: China's STAR Market has become a tough gauntlet, data analysis shows. Nearly 40% of the IPOs granted "final" status in early 2021 were terminated, a big spike from relatively low termination rates in the first three quarters of last year.
- Adam Neumann sold his Bay Area house for $22.4 million (which even turned a profit, unlike most of Neumann's projects). New buyers get a greenhouse, a pool and … a guitar-shaped living room.
- Apple's pushing for companies to disclose emissions data on how their products are used and said the SEC should issue rules to make that happen.
- On Protocol | Enterprise: The NSA discovered new flaws in Exchange, prompting Microsoft to release new patches. They don't appear to have been exploited yet.
- Facebook's Oversight Board will now accept appeals for content removal. Separately, Facebook's testing a video speed-dating app, which seems like a fun thing to moderate.
- On Protocol: Nonprofits are suing ICE, the DHS and CBP over Clearview AI. They want to gain access to any documents that show how and if the agencies use Clearview AI's facial recognition software.
- Discord's blocking all iOS users from accessing NSFW content on its app, seemingly to comply with App Store rules.
One More Thing
I mean, you'd assume the former CEO of Nintendo would have a great personal site. And indeed, the site for The Yamauchi No. 10 Family Office, which manages the assets of the late Hiroshi Yamauchi, is almost certainly the video game-iest financial services site you'll ever see. Reddit loves it, and so do I.
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Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or our tips line, email@example.com. Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.