Image: unDraw / Protocol
April 28, 2021
Good morning! This Wednesday, Facebook is betting the Big Blue App on making creators rich, Big Tech has big office plans all over the U.S., and the Basecamp culture clash continues.
The Big Story
Big Tech meets Big Creator
Facebook is pivoting. As hanging out with friends moves away from the Big Blue App and into messenger apps and private groups, the company has to figure out what to do with its giant public platforms on Facebook and Instagram. And Mark Zuckerberg seems to have his answer: become the home for all creators everywhere.
Zuckerberg announced a laundry list of new creator-focused features yesterday: A shop that'll allow creators to sell merch directly on Instagram, a marketplace for matching creators and brand deals and an affiliate marketplace for people who want to hawk products and get a cut.
- That's on top of all the new tools Facebook has rolled out for people who want to make money on the platform, whether it's through newsletters or stickers or audio.
- A lot of Facebook's creator tools are coming to Instagram first, but the Facebook app is still its biggest priority and opportunity.
This is about social media becoming less social and more media. The future of social is private, and the future of entertainment is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and anywhere else that figures out how to make its most popular users obscenely rich.
- There's a huge opportunity, with audiences everywhere. But most of those audiences, on places like Twitter and WhatsApp, are near impossible to directly monetize.
- In the long run, creators will devote their attention to where they make their living — which is why you hear about "YouTubers" but not "Twitterers" — and every platform is betting that the audiences will follow. And that when the money shows up, the platform will get a cut.
- Facebook's product strategy of shamelessly copying every interesting feature on the internet actually helps it here: It can become a default home for creators just by having all the features and tools anyone could want.
- So "how to make our superstars rich" should be at the top of every social company's roadmap. Clubhouse is all-in on creators; Twitter is too. Spotify and Apple are competing to be the podcasters' home. TikTok is getting better at monetizing; Substack's whole business is based on it.
The question is whether Facebook has been too slow. It's arguably late to the party; yeah, Zuck, creators are a thing! But this economy is far from settled, and therein lies Facebook's opportunity.
- YouTube has continued to dominate the space because it offers people a way to make money directly; just get an audience and turn on monetization.
- Facebook has unparalleled scale and runs two of the internet's biggest public platforms, and could become the default home for creators pretty easily — if it can help them make more money.
The new office parks
Anna Kramer writes: The tech campus construction business is big-time booming. Last year left the industry absolutely flush, so how better to use it all than build a shiny new building for the hybrid work future? Plus, much of the best talent now wants to live and work in a whole lot of places that are not Silicon Valley.
Some big companies have construction plans in Austin, LA, New York and D.C., but many are also kicking off large-scale projects in slightly unusual places. (Then there's Apple, which is building … everywhere.) So we've compiled a quick list of the most-hyped new locales.
- Atlanta, Georgia: Microsoft has plans to build a massive new headquarters by developing a long-neglected tract of land in a historically Black neighborhood. And Airbnb will eventually construct a new technical hub for future engineering talent and R&D, second only in size to the company's Bay Area office. Other startups, tech education programs and VC firms are thriving there, too.
- Raleigh, North Carolina: Apple will invest around $1 billion in a new campus in the North Carolina "Research Triangle" area, which has a long history of tech R&D from the surrounding colleges and universities.
- San Diego, California: Apple also has big plans to add thousands of jobs to its San Diego office, while a number of startups have also begun relocating from the Bay Area down the California Coast.
- Denver and Boulder, Colorado: Palantir announced plans to relocate its headquarters to Denver last year, and Apple just announced it plans to invest heavily in hiring in the city. Sundar Pichai said in an early 2020 statement that Google may as much as double its workforce in Boulder in the coming years.
- Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas: Amazon is adding hundreds of jobs to its Fort Worth tech hub, and Facebook is spending more than $1 billion expanding its data center there.
But never fear, Silicon Valley! Most of these companies also have big investments and new campuses underway in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area, as well as Seattle. They're just growing absolutely everywhere now.
People Are Talking
Mark Zuckerberg said that ultra-sunscreened photo was a ploy to get away from the paparazzi … but it didn't really work:
- "The delta between how cool you think you look and the worst photo a paparazzi can take is pretty funny."
Antitrust reform could bring about a return to the open web, Amy Klobuchar said:
- "Basically, you used to go to websites for everything. Everyone has a website, they mostly do now. But … the app stores have basically taken over the internet in a lot of ways. People are spending an average of four hours a day in the app store [apps]. You could still have a successful Apple, but still demand more consumer protections to make it easier for people to compete."
On Protocol | Policy: We all think about social media wrong, said Duke's Chris Bail:
- "We want to think about social media as this place where we go to get information. When you take the pulse of social media for real for a minute, you realize that it's really not about that at all. Most people use it for this more basic human purpose, which is to really figure out our identities."
- "It appears your reaction to the pleas and asks to recognize that Basecamp already represents a diversity of experiences and that we want the company's software and policies to do the same has once again been lacking and disproportionate. But what's particularly disappointing is the direction of your reaction. The oppressive direction. The silencing direction."
A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK
The internet has changed a lot since 1996 - internet regulations should too. It's been 25 years since comprehensive internet regulations passed. See why we support updated regulations on key issues, including: protecting people's privacy, enabling safe and easy data portability between platforms, preventing election interference and reforming Section 230.
Robinhood is trying to trademark the word 'HOOD' ahead of its IPO, which is either a prudent defense of its upcoming ticker symbol or a sign of a deeply misguided rebrand coming soon.
Burning Man is cancelled again for 2021. See you on the playa next year, I hope.
ADT is suing Ring over blue octagons. (Seriously.) It's also alleging that Ring illegally used ADT property to get its own home-security platform off the ground.
Mastercard and Gemini are building a "cryptocurrency rewards credit card," which swaps cash back for crypto back. It's like business rule No. 1 says: You've got to spend ZCash to make ZCash.
Iterable CEO Justin Zhu was fired for microdosing LSD at work, he said. Co-founder Andrew Boni is replacing him.
In Other News
- Senators are investigating whether Google tried to influence Match's Senate testimony. Match's Jared Sine alleged that Google called Match the night before the hearing, prompting Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee to ask Google for details on the call.
- Google set a new sales record with its first quarter earnings, with revenue up 34% year-over-year and profits more than doubled. Microsoft also grew sales, but shares fell seemingly because investors had hoped for more. AMD, meanwhile, raised its revenue forecast and said supply chain shortages were improving.
- The White House rejected a DHS request to collect social media data on visa applicants. The Knight First Amendment Institute's George Wang called the development "an encouraging move."
- Basecamp's new policies came less than two weeks after employees filed HR complaints against David Heinemeier Hansson, Platformer reported, in response to an internal discussion about the company's former practice of collecting "funny" customer names.
- Samsung's heirs just got a monster tax bill. The family of Lee Kun-hee is already selling valuable art and other holdings to cover the $10.8 billion tax on his inheritance. The inheritance is valued at around $25 billion, though.
- On Protocol | China: A gamer tried to kill the founders of MiHoYo, seemingly because he was enraged by the way a March update to a game depicted a female character in a Playboy Bunny costume.
- Spotify launched paid podcast subscriptions, becoming the latest company to try and better monetize the space. It's taking no cut for two years, and then 5%. That's a lot cheaper than Apple's 30% slice.
- On Protocol | Fintech: Everyone's arguing about payment for order flow. Here's everything you need to know about the practice.
Work In The Future
Embrace the away message
Set your status in Slack or Teams to "Gone for the night," and mute your notifications. Next time you're taking a day off, put up an autoresponder in Gmail that only goes to the handful of people you actually care about. Add a giant meeting to your calendar from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. every night that just says "BUSY," so nobody can schedule over it. Embrace the Out of Office message and take back some semblance of work-life balance.
When you talk to people who work at the companies that make these products, and thus rely on them more than anyone, they'll tell you that they make heavy use of the boundary-setting features in their apps. It's partly a culture thing, for sure, and you'll have to convince your boss to not just power through the Slack warning and send you a notification anyway. But think of setting your away message or status as a sort of symbolic walking-out-the-door at night, and it might even make you stick to it.
A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK
2021 is the 25th anniversary of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the last major update to internet regulation. It's time for an update to set clear rules for addressing today's toughest challenges. See how we're taking action on key issues and why we support updated internet regulations.
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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.