Twitter the crypto sandbox
Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Twitter the crypto sandbox

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Good morning! Elon Musk has some major problems to chew through first — like, uh, restructuring all of Twitter — but it looks like big crypto experiments are coming to the social network soon enough. This morning, we're taking a close look at both.

What's happening at Twitter

A lot has happened since Elon Musk finally took the reins of Twitter on Thursday. Here’s a quick catch-up.

The Musk-Twitter war room is solidifying. The Verge and other outlets reported seeing several Musk allies in Twitter’s employee directory.

Musk is continuing to clean house after Friday’s bloodbath, when he fired CEO Parag Agrawal and several others.

  • Musk’s inner circle and remaining Twitter executives met over the weekend to discuss laying off 25% of Twitter’s workforce, The Washington Post reported. It's claimed all departments will be affected.
  • He also dissolved the Twitter board — though he claimed this was "temporary" — and is officially now CEO.

Then there's the product itself. Product leadership is likely to be overhauled as part of Musk's restructure, Bloomberg reported.

No word yet on content moderation policies, though Musk announced he’s forming a moderation council with “widely diverse viewpoints.”

Twitter the crypto sandbox

So, Twitter’s future looks fuzzy under Elon Musk. But could things be coming into focus for crypto Twitter, asks Protocol's Benjamin Pimentel?

Musk has shown he can move crypto. The self-appointed “chief twit,” who has more than 112 million followers on Twitter, is known for triggering wild movements in the price of dogecoin by just mentioning the token.

  • Dogecoin has been rallying again, its price boosted not by any tweets by Musk but simply by the idea that one of its leading cheerleaders is in charge.

And crypto could play a big part in Twitter's future.It even played a role in financing Musk’s takeover: Binance invested alongside him, giving it a say in the reshaping of the social network.

  • Patrick Hillman, Binance’s chief strategy officer, told Protocol's Benjamin Pimentel that the investment is “a great R&D opportunity” to use Twitter as a “sandbox” for applying “Web3 solutions” to the problems that plague a Web 2.0 social network. That includes fighting the crypto spam bots Musk has complained about.
  • Some ideas already being considered include a microtransaction system that would impose prohibitive costs on bots, Hillman said. Another proposal is to use NFTs to help establish users’ identities.

So when do the Web3 experiments start? Musk is currently focused on reorganizing Twitter — the work "you would expect any new executive who's just taken over a prestigious company," Hillman said — but once that's done, these kinds of projects could get underway.

  • Rob Siegel, a management lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, said Twitter under Musk could mean that “Web3 technology finally gets a commercially interesting application at scale that is more than financial speculation.”
  • But it’s also easy to see scenarios where Twitter “devolve[s] into more chaos,” Siegel said. “Musk’s promises of a barely moderated free-for-all” could easily attract “racist and anti-Semitic” tweets, said Marc Fagel, a former SEC regional director for San Francisco, as well as “unfounded crypto evangelism and pitches for NFT and crypto scams.”

Though crypto fans obviously want to know how the Musk regime will benefit them, their needs are likely on the back burner. Indeed, Musk has barely tweeted about crypto since he started accumulating his stake in Twitter. Crypto Twitter might particularly love Musk, but Musk has a lot of people to love.

Read more:Crypto Twitter grapples with the Elon factor

The future of AI collaboration

The open-source software movement and development of AI has thrived on borderless knowledge sharing. But tension between the U.S. and China threatens innovation in the space, Protocol’s Kate Kaye reports.

AI development has thrived thanks to the borderless, open-source software movement that has risen above geopolitical tensions between China and the U.S.

  • AI is a melting pot of shared foundational elements that include anything from bundles of code to prebuilt machine learning models that, when cobbled together and customized, have created innovations like speech recognition and natural-language processing.
  • “I don’t think we’d have the kind of machine-learning boom we are having without open source,” Kevin Goldsmith, chief technology officer at Anaconda, told Kate.

But that could easily change. Efforts from the U.S. and China to thwart technical collaboration could dampen the vibrant open-source ecosystem. Take, for example, collaboration on GitHub, the world's most populated online public square for the exchange of AI tech ideas.

  • While GitHub provides a wealth of knowledge and tech support for China’s AI researchers and industry developers, China’s government has indicated it wants its developers to abandon the site in favor of Gitee, its own alternative, seemingly for both self-sufficiency and control.
  • Already Gitee users have seen government intervention that some worry amounts to censorship.
  • In the U.S., the biggest concern is the development of “dual-use” AI created by China for civilian use that may have potential military or criminal uses.
  • Government officials concerned with exposing U.S. tech to China also cite the risk of trade secret and intellectual property theft.
  • While it’s harder for governments to wrangle open-source projects, The U.S. government has severely restricted sales of advanced U.S. semiconductor technology to China in an effort to curtail China’s AI research

If tensions between the U.S. and China continue to escalate, a slow, arduous breakup may lay ahead. But the countries’ deep and long-held entanglement in tech means a decoupling likely would be met by fierce backlash.

Read more:Will nationalism end the golden age of global AI collaboration?

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People are talking

Not everyone is convinced that Adobe’s $20 billion Figma acquisition was worth the price, including Gregg Moskowitz, managing director of enterprise software research at Mizuho:

  • “When you consider what Figma is adding as a percentage of Adobe's total ARR and even factoring in an expectation of robust growth for another two, three years, it’s still in our view difficult to truly rationalize the amount that is being spent.”

Moderating content on TikTok can’t just be solved with technology, says Karan Lala, a fellow at the Integrity Institute and former software engineer at Meta:

  • “Let’s say you review one video and say, ‘oh the content of this video was a lie.’ How do you effectively link that decision to all the videos that might be coming from different creators that phrased the lie in a different way?”

Making moves

Two Apple execs are leaving the company. Anna Matthiasson, vice president of online retail, is leaving after three years, and Chief Information Officer Mary Demby is retiring after 30 years, sources told Bloomberg.

Tim Shannehan will be Eight Sleep’s new chief revenue officer. He was previously at Peloton for eight years, most recently as chief sales officer.

Who's next in line for the Adobe CEO job? While current CEO Shantanu Narayen hasn't said anything about leaving, David Wadhwani — a president at Adobe who led the Figma deal — may apparently one day take his job.

Oracle will close some Cerner offices in Kansas Cityand move staff to a single location.

In other news

The DHS is working to curb online speech it deems dangerous, according to a report from The Intercept. Leaked internal documents show how the department is influencing tech platforms.

Amazon will delist seller Appario Retail in its India marketplace after pressure from India’s antitrust regulatory body.

Homework help platform Chegg is “careless” with data, the FTC alleges. In 2018, for example, a former contractor was able to use login credentials to steal data from 40 million people.

Mass production of the Tesla Cybertruck is planned to start at the end of 2023, according to Reuters.

Is Meta really in a death spiral? Here's an argument for yes, and Ben Thompson's argument for no.

Uber reported losses for Q3, but its revenue beat Wall Street expectations.

Adobe users must now pay to use Pantone colors. That'll be $15 a month for the privilege.

Many crypto industries quietly depend on oracles, the automated feeds that enable trading on blockchains, among other things. But as oracles draw more scrutiny in light of their roles in recent hacks, some VCs and big crypto players see it as an opportunity.

How much should you pay yourself?

According to a new report from accounting software company Pilot, which surveyed 500 startup founders, 46% are making less than six figures. Sixty-nine percent of bootstrapped founders reported taking less than $100,000 a year, and 18% said they took a $0 salary.

Don’t do this to yourself. Although it might be considered “a flex” to take as little salary as you can, for some reason, experts agree that paying yourself a living wage is more important. Some founders have gone bankrupt, despite raising millions in funding. “No one forced them to do that. They just sort of had the impression that, ‘I’ve heard I’ve got to starve to win,’ or something like that,” said startup fundraising adviser and former Y Combinator partner Aaron Harris.

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