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Elon’s anticlimax

Image: Danilo Alvesd / Protocol
Tesla battery

Good morning! This Wednesday, Tesla has a (kind of) new battery, TikTok's asking the social world to come together, virtual events are becoming big business, and a YouTube moderator said the company didn't do enough to protect them and their colleagues.

Also, don't forget to sign up to come to Protocol's next virtual event, The Evolution of Cybersecurity. It's this Thursday at noon ET, and has a great group of speakers coming to chat.

(Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here to get Source Code every day.)

The Big Story

The new Tesla, and the new Tesla battery

There's a new Tesla coming next year: The Model S Plaid, which Elon Musk said "will achieve the best track time of any production vehicle ever, of any kind. Two-door or otherwise." If you can wait a bit longer, Musk also said Tesla's about three years away from selling a $25,000, fully autonomous vehicle.

But the point of Tuesday's Tesla event was batteries. Elon Musk has always tried to explain Tesla as an energy company, not a car manufacturer. "The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good," Musk wrote in his Master Plan, Part Deux in 2016.

At Tesla's aptly named "2020 Annual Shareholder Meeting and Battery Day," which I can only describe as a drive-in science lecture exclusively for Tesla-driving Tesla shareholders, Musk showed off the company's latest, more efficient car battery, which Tesla plans to manufacture itself.

  • The new battery will bring up to 54% more range to vehicles, Tesla SVP Drew Baglino said, along with 56% reduction in cost and a 69% reduction in investment per gigawatt hour.
  • Musk started battery day by explaining the problem: There's no way to scale the battery technology of today to a size that actually begins to solve the world's problems. This, Tesla hopes, is a start.
  • Tesla's also clearly invested in owning its entire process and ecosystem. After some well-documented issues with suppliers — and the ever-changing ambitions and plans within Tesla itself — the company just seems happier controlling its own destiny.

This is not the million-mile battery some had talked about, though, and Tesla's share price showed some seriously disappointed investors, dropping more than 5% after hours. (Musk was careful to set expectations ahead of the event, saying the new tech "will not reach serious high-volume production until 2022," but it didn't temper the hype much.)

As the electric car industry heats up, and as CATL and Porsche and so many other companies start to put out their own tech, some looked at Battery Day as the moment Tesla would prove it was still a decade ahead. And it didn't quite live up to its billing.

Social

Many social media companies, same problems

TikTok's Vanessa Pappas sent a letter to nine "social and content platforms" yesterday, which means Sundar Pichai, Mark Zuckerberg, Adam Mosseri, Emmett Shear, Ben Silbermann, Jack Dorsey, Susan Wojcicki, Evan Spiegel and Steve Huffman all received a copy.

TikTok is looking for collaboration, which Pappas thinks is the only way to solve social media's problems.

  • She was referring in particular to that video of a man committing suicide that traveled on TikTok and through other networks. TikTok's Theo Bertram has said that video was part of a coordinated effort from groups meant to "raid social media platforms including TikTok."
  • Pappas proposed developing a memorandum of understanding to enable these companies to let each other know when particularly problematic content is starting to spread, so they could work together to stop it. She also asked for a meeting of "our respective trust and safety teams to further discuss such a mechanism."

This strikes me as an obviously good idea, and one that should have existed a long time ago. No social company wants this kind of content on its platform, and some already have a history of working together to fight some things like child pornography. In general, these platforms all have so many of the exact same problems, and rather than all try to solve them alone they could go much faster and farther together. Folks I've talked to for years have wondered why this hasn't happened yet, and maybe this will be the spark that finally gets it done.

  • It's worth noting that TikTok doesn't yet seem to have the same safety capabilities as the Facebooks and YouTubes, so it's obviously in its interest to collaborate. But that doesn't make it any less a good idea.

TikTok also released its global Transparency Report yesterday, and it's an eye-opening read. It took down more than 104 million videos in the first half of this year, more than double the number from the previous six months, and of those 30% were removed due to adult nudity or sexual activities and 20% were removed for violating "minor safety" guidelines. It also received 1,768 government requests for user information. Oh, and the word "China" appears exactly … zero times.

Events

The new (virtual) social calendar

Someday we'll be allowed to socialize in the real world again, but the virtual events industry is here to stay. From Airbnb to ClassPass to all those conference passes that have suddenly become Zoom links, getting together without getting together is now a part of life.

So there's a void to be filled by whatever company can become the place that people go to find stuff to virtually do. A leading candidate? IRL, which announced $16 million in new funding yesterday and has found success by turning a calendar app into something significantly more social.

  • Early on, IRL was basically just "group chat for planning events," CEO Abraham Shafi told me. But over time, he started to see calendars as an untapped social network. "If you make enough plans, your feed just starts to look like … your calendar," he said.
  • So many events — especially virtual ones — exist online, but not in any indexable and searchable way. That's what IRL's trying to change.

IRL inverts the whole idea of the calendar. Instead of scheduling events directly, you just tell IRL that you're an Arsenal fan and it fills in the time for you. Or tell it your favorite Twitch star, and IRL will put their streams right onto your schedule. IRL's working with colleges to the same end: Sign in with your .edu account, and you can quickly access class schedules, fraternity events, and lots more.

  • It's working with Twitch and YouTube, but also trying to keep track of sneaker drops, album releases, phases of Mercury, and anything else people are interested in. "Anything with a time, date and location" is fair game, Shafi said. And when the location is the internet, the possibilities are kind of endless.
  • Shafi's even interested in helping create "calendar influencers," people who can find and recommend cool stuff for people to do. Since so much of that stuff is no longer geographically constrained, it could be useful to a lot more people.

A MESSAGE FROM PHILIPS

Philips

Stronger care … from more efficient operations

In a defining moment for healthcare, it's even more crucial to deliver patient-centered care efficiently. At Philips, we are committed to providing intelligent, automated workflows that seek to improve patient care. More efficient healthcare means stronger, more resilient healthcare.

Learn more.

People Are Talking

On Protocol: The fintech industry is too fragmented, One CEO Brian Hamilton said, which is also what he'd like to change about it:

  • "If I go to one of the neobanks today, it'll do one of those things for me, maybe two. I've got to go over here to Acorns ... in order to get some kind of meaningful savings back, and then maybe I'm going to go over to ... Greenlight in order to get my child access account."

Barry Diller said what pretty much everyone is thinking about the TikTok deal:

  • "The whole thing is a crock ... It has now morphed into this ludicrous game-match between tossing ownership here, control there … Its original aims are out the window. In has just come a whole political mismash."

An anonymous former YouTube moderator is suing the company for failing to take care of the people who see the worst of the platform:

  • "YouTube failed to implement tooling safeguards … that would mitigate some of the harm caused by reviewing graphic and disturbing content, including changing the color or resolution of the video, superimposing a grid over the video, changing the direction of the video, blurring portions of the video, reducing the size of the video, and muting audio, although it knew that doing so was necessary to mitigate the harm to Content Moderators that was certain to result."

Making Moves

Andrea Wong is Roblox's newest board member. She's a longtime entertainment exec, with stints at Sony, ABC and Lifetime. Her appointment is a pretty good indication of exactly how Roblox sees itself, and its opportunity going forward.

Stephen Stokols is the new CEO of Boost Mobile. He's a longtime telecoms exec who actually made a play to buy Boost in 2019. Now, he'll try to turn it into the fourth big American carrier.

Morgan Beller is leaving Facebook. She was one of the founders of the Libra currency and the Novi wallet, but she's leaving her post as Novi's head of strategy to be a partner at VC firm NFX.

Saf Yeboah-Amankwah is the new CSO of Intel. He joins from McKinsey, where he ran the firm's telecom, media and technology transformation practice, and he'll be expected to help Intel figure out where to go next as the internet creeps into every corner of the planet.

In Other News

  • The DOJ's Google lawsuit is going to focus on search, The New York Times reports. That suggests legal action against the company's ad tech strategy is on hold, for now at least.
  • Facebook has plans for if the election becomes "extremely chaotic and, worse still, violent," head of global affairs Nick Clegg said, which could include restricting "the circulation of content."
  • Facebook also said it found a Chinese election influence campaign, which it removed. The campaign wasn't obviously supporting one candidate over another, with Facebook's head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher saying it was "focused on driving division."
  • On Protocol: Samsung launched TV Plus on Samsung phones, after seeing huge success with the platform on its smart TVs. Samsung Electronics SVP Sang Kim said the platform streams "billions of minutes every month."
  • Amazon reportedly limits large competitors, including Roku, from buying search ads on its site. In an incredible statement to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon's Drew Herdener said: "News flash: Retailers promote their own products and often don't sell products of competitors … Shocker. In the Journal's next story they will uncover gambling in Las Vegas."
  • Microsoft has exclusively licensed GPT-3. For now, other companies can still use it via OpenAI's API, but it sounds like Microsoft will have closer access to the code to improve some of the products it offers on Azure.
  • Google launched an Airtable competitor called Tables. It has a paid tier, but isn't included in G-Suite, because that would be much too simple.
  • Reliance is reportedly building a $54 Jio Phone, and it wants to sell 200 million of them in the next two years. It would be produced in India, run Android and come with ultra-cheap wireless plans.
  • 179 people were arrested and 1,000 pounds of drugs seized in a huge global dark web takedown, called Operation Disruptor. It's all thanks to German police who seized the online bazaar Wall Street Market more than a year ago, recovering its backend server and all the data it contained.
  • Xbox Series S and X pre-orders were chaotic yesterday, and it looks like some people might have gotten particularly confused: The Xbox One X, last generation's console, surged up Amazon's sales charts.
  • iOS 14 lets users customize their home screen, creating a new business category as people go wild for icon sets. It's like Windows in the '90s all over again. Anyway, the absolute best has to be this one, which turns your phone into a grid of tech CEOs, including a glorious Timtrych.

One More Thing

'It was awesome. Until it wasn't.'

This is the best thing that happened on the internet yesterday. If you don't think it's funny, don't taco me.

A MESSAGE FROM PHILIPS

Philips

Stronger care … from more efficient operations

In a defining moment for healthcare, it's even more crucial to deliver patient-centered care efficiently. At Philips, we are committed to providing intelligent, automated workflows that seek to improve patient care. More efficient healthcare means stronger, more resilient healthcare.

Learn more.

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Shakeel Hashim. 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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