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The best bits of Elon's SNL

​Elon Musk on SNL

Good morning! This Sunday, here's your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from Elon Musk's big moments on SNL to the unparalleled influence of Jeff Bezos.

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Elon Musk was always a multihyphenate, but I think "SNL host" definitely goes near the top of his Wikipedia page from now on. It wasn't the best episode of Saturday Night Live anyone's ever seen, but Musk might have been the best part of the show. If you missed it, there were three sketches really worth a watch:

The Dogefather: Musk as Lloyd Ostertag, answering the only question anybody has about Dogecoin. Over and over and over again.

Chad on Mars: One of a few "Elon Musk plays Elon Musk" sketches of the night, set in an apocalyptic moment at SpaceX.

Cowboy Standoff: This feels like a pitch-perfect description of what Musk actually would have been like as a cowboy, reinventing wheels and digging tunnels to win fights.

Wario: Hands-down the best costume of the night for Musk, and one of the better ones at subtly poking fun at Musk himself.

OK, onto the rest of the week's news.

Best of Protocol

Buy Nothing blew up on Facebook. Can it keep growing without it? By Anna Kramer

  • Buy Nothing is one of the weirdest, biggest, most engaged communities on Facebook. (I mean, like, seriously weird.) Now it's trying to chart its own path, in an app and outside of Facebook. Some people love the idea; others hate it. Either way it's going to be a big lift to bring people along.

Why Spotify loves being locked into Google Cloud, by Tom Krazit

  • It seems like everybody's afraid of being locked into a cloud ecosystem, and bends over backwards to build multi-clouds or take more control of their services. Spotify went the other way, went all-in on Google Cloud, and says it has made everything easier and better. There are some upsides to lock-in.

Digging in the dust of AOL and Yahoo's lost internet empires, by Owen Thomas

  • AOL and Yahoo seem like relics of an internet long ago, but the alternate universe in which they dominated the internet for decades isn't actually all that far away. This is a story about how companies get big, how M&A can destroy a company, and why you should never ever buy Moviefone.

Playlists and podcasts? Netflix is exploring developing 'N-Plus,' by Biz Carson and Janko Roettgers

  • We had a long debate in the Protocol Slack about whether you'd call N-Plus a social network. (I still say yes.) Whatever N-Plus is, and regardless of whether it becomes a real product, it's clear that Netflix is trying to figure out how to build an even bigger universe around its shows. Next up: theme parks?

Instead of crowdfunding startups, VCs are crowdfunding themselves, by Biz Carson

  • If you're rich, you invest in companies. But what about the rest of us? Maybe try investing in the companies that invest in companies. Backstage Capital and Earnest Capital are offering a really different way of thinking about VC, but one that could get more people involved on all sides of the process.

NY AG finds nearly 82% of net neutrality comments to the FCC were fake, by Issie Lapowsky

  • We all kind of knew that many of the 22 million comments on the FCC's net neutrality debate were fake. But the scale is something else: A full 18 million of them were fabricated in some way. And the broadband companies spent millions of dollars leading the charge.


Despite corporate commitments, more than 75% of Americans report a lack of investment in recruiting diverse candidates at their company since last summer.

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Best of Everything Else

The untold story of how Jeff Bezos beat the tabloids — Bloomberg

  • From Brad Stone's forthcoming book on Amazon, this is a wild tale of how the world's richest man wields his almost unfathomable power. Come for the story of how he took on the National Enquirer, stay for the details about his yacht … and its companion yacht.

Mr. Beast, YouTube star, wants to take over the business world — The New York Times

  • Jimmy Donaldson, better known as Mr. Beast, is perpetually a step ahead of the creator industry. Now, he's leading the charge to figure out how to turn audiences into businesses in a sustainable, functional way. And without screwing over the people who love him and made him famous in the first place.

Elon Musk is maybe, actually, strangely, going to do this Mars thing — The Atlantic

  • In a lot of ways, SpaceX is the future of space travel in the United States. Even NASA is betting on it. This is a good look at what's happening at Starbase in Texas, why SpaceX matters so much to the space industry, and why Musk might not be full of crap about going to Mars. (Plus why he still might be.)
  • Also: Read about how the people of nearby Boca Chica Village feel about all this.

LSD, cargo shorts, and the fall of a high-flying tech CEO — Bloomberg

  • You heard about Justin Zhu, the CEO who got fired from his job for taking LSD before a meeting, right? Well the bigger story is somehow even wilder. And in a funny way, it raises questions about how companies ought to work, what counts as quirky and what's just wrong, and who's really in charge at tech companies.

What is an entertainment company in 2021 and why does the answer matter? — Matthew Ball

  • Social networks, video games, movie studios, whatever Netflix is, whatever Disney is; it's all stretching and redefining the idea of an "entertainment company." And it matters, because entertainment is a bigger business than ever as the creator economy continues to boom. (Also, don't sleep on Sony.)

The inside story of TikTok's tumultuous rise — and how it defeated Trump — Forbes

  • In the vein of "what's an entertainment company," what to make of TikTok? It was huge before anyone really noticed, then became a political target before anyone really understood whether it should have been, then became a center of popular culture before anyone really knew whether that was a good thing. Now, under a new CEO, the company has to figure out what it wants to be, and what it means to get there.


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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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