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Image: Facebook

What Facebook’s CTO learned this year

Mike Schroepfer

Good morning! This Tuesday, there's a movement growing to keep Bay Area companies local, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer has some video-call tips and Apple's making a car (again).

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The Big Story

The case for the Bay

Biz Carson writes: The conversation about who's leaving the Bay Area and who's staying is happening everywhere and at all levels. Even the governor has questions.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has spoken to tech execs. He recently chatted with both Airbnb's Brian Chesky and DoorDash's Tony Xu around their IPOs, and part of the conversation was about their futures in the state.

  • "Airbnb is staying in California and I'm staying in California. This is a special place," Chesky tweeted, adding that he had talked to Newsom about it. (Newsom's team didn't respond to request for comment.)
  • Xu also told Business Insider that he planned to stay put in California despite a recent exodus. "I think it's a reflection that we're all virtual today so your kind of geographic location is less important, but you know, that the policy decisions do matter," Xu said. "And, what we have to do is we have to work together, especially during a pandemic, we have to work together to help businesses grow so that the economy recovers.

Other tech executives are piling in too, with the likes of Twilio's Jeff Lawson having launched their own campaigns to get tech execs to commit to the Bay Area. (His comments were not inspired by a Newsom phone call.) Lawson asked fellow Bay Area CEOs to "commit to the Bay" and pledge to stay and help rebuild after the pandemic.

  • "What I take issue with is our leaders — people of means — abandoning our community when it needs us most," Lawson tweeted. "Reaping the benefits of Silicon Valley's talent, tech incubators, mentors, professional network, and culture until they no longer need it."
  • "Whether it's homelessness, equality, education — business can be the greatest platform for change to solve the world's most pressing problems," Bret Taylor said. "I hope those people leaving the Bay Area commit to serving their new communities and not treating them as resources to be harvested.
  • Garry Tan echoed the sentiment. "I will pay my seven or eight figures worth of taxes," he said, "because it's worth it. This is my home. And I want those tax dollars to go to my community, and this is my community. I'm from here, and this is where I want to stay."

Whether this all works — the phone calls from government officials or peer pressure from other CEOs — is hard to say. (Income tax bills also speak pretty loudly.) And so far, it doesn't sound like Newsom's office is doing a full-throated push to keep companies in town. But as ever, don't write off Silicon Valley just yet.

2020

Facebook's CTO loves a video Q&A

To mark the end of 2020, we've asked the same questions of some of the most interesting people in tech to find out what they've learned this year, how their work has changed and what's going to stick going forward. Today, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer. (But everybody calls him Schrep.)

What was the biggest change to your personal work habits in 2020, outside all the obvious stuff like "more video calls?"

Doing more live video Q&As to stay connected. Every other week I host a live Q&A from my Workplace profile and anyone from the company can submit a question. I share top priorities, what's top of mind and talk about new technologies we've recently launched or that are in development. And then once a week I do a recorded Q&A that goes deeper into a technology or topic that I think is particularly interesting for people to understand. Sometimes we also post those videos to my blog, CTO Notebook.

Is there anything you wish you or your team had done sooner (in 2020 or even before), knowing what we know now about how the world works?

Encouraging people to get better at writing. Asynchronous communication is something our teams depend on now more than ever before, and it's an important skill for everyone to work on when we're so reliant on chat and email to communicate across teams. We're thinking a lot these days about what work will look like in the future, and I think no matter what the mix of remote, in-office and in-between ends up being, people will be most effective when they can communicate well in writing.

What's one thing that was new to you or your team in 2020 that you're definitely going to carry over in 2021?

Will definitely continue doing my biweekly live video Q&As. I get far greater engagement from a much wider audience than I would if I hosted a Q&A in person.

What company, other than your own, have you been most impressed to watch this year?

Impossible Foods!

What 2020 tech story or trend are you most interested in following next year?

The future of remote work. Once everyone can get back into an office, I'm curious to see how offices, commutes, and work from home evolves. This touches directly on so many of the technologies our teams are working [on] every day — things like group calling, messaging, virtual and augmented reality.

Bonus question: What's the best tech-related gift you've gotten or given recently?

Oculus Quest 2 for going to new worlds while stuck at home, and the Roomba for keeping my real world clean.

People Are Talking

SoftBank launched a SPAC, and said in its S-1 that it's accepting pretty much all comers:

  • "Relevant sectors may include, but are not limited to, mobile communications technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud technologies, software broadly, computational biology and other data-driven business models, semiconductors and other hardware, transportation technologies, consumer internet and financial technology. However, we may consummate a transaction with a business in a different or related industry."

The SolarWinds hack affected lots of tech companies, and security expert Dmitri Alperovitch said it won't be easy to fix:

  • "If this is indeed SVR, as we believe it is, those guys are incredibly hard to kick out of networks."

Google filed an early version of its anti-antitrust defense:

  • "People use Google Search because they choose to, not because they are forced to or because they cannot easily find alternative ways to search for information on the internet."

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Micron

At Micron, we see an opportunity to establish memory and storage platform capabilities that will unleash software developers to deliver solutions that speed insight and ultimately support emerging customer requirements. The data-centric era has ushered in a new opportunity to tap data for business growth, but many companies continue to struggle to transform mounting data stores into competitive advantage.

Learn how here.

Number of the Day

2024

That's the year Apple hopes to release its very own electric car, per a Reuters report. That's right: Project Titan lives! What once was a car, then was software, is now a car again. The key to the project, reportedly, is "a new battery design that could 'radically' reduce the cost of batteries and increase the vehicle's range."

In Other News

  • Facebook and Google agreed to "cooperate and assist one another" in the event of an antitrust probe, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing an unredacted version of last week's Google lawsuit. An internal Google document said the two companies could collaborate to "build a moat," and an ad-cooperation deal, according to the lawsuit, committed Facebook to spending at least $500 million a year in Google's ad auctions, with Facebook guaranteed to win a fixed percentage of those.
  • Microsoft and Google support Facebook in the WhatsApp-NSO case. They, along with Cisco, VMware and the Internet Association, filed an amicus brief calling NSO's tools "powerful, and dangerous."
  • Michael Pack wants to stop federal funding of the Open Technology Fund, which helped create Signal and Tor. It's partly down to a dispute over whether the fund should support Falun Gong, according to The New York Times, and a decision will be made by Jan. 19.
  • The SEC is about to sue Ripple for selling unlicensed securities, CEO Brad Garlinghouse said. He said it was "an attack on the entire crypto industry and American innovation," calling the pre-Christmas timing "Grinch-worthy."
  • Google Cloud announced a partnership with Saudi Aramco. As Bloomberg points out, don't expect Google employees to just accept that.
  • Big Tech is pushing for allies to get top jobs in the Biden administration. Reuters reports that Eric Schmidt wants roles for Schmidt Futures' Christopher Kirchhoff and Jigsaw's Jared Cohen, while Amazon wants board member Indra Nooyi to get a senior role.
  • Ron Conway, Rich Barton and Jeff Rothschild joined the Giving Pledge. Jeff Bezos did not.

One More Thing

Venture-capital toffee

We're nearing the end of our holiday-recipe takeover! Thank you to everyone who has shared their lovely stories.

Today's recipe comes from Susan Kimberlin, a venture partner at Backstage Capital: "Every year for the holidays I make toffee as a gift for friends and family, and for me, it's the signal that the holiday season has really begun. I started making it as a kid — my cookbook with the original recipe is inscribed as a Christmas gift from my parents, from 1986 — and since then I've branched out from the original recipe, which is for toffee layered on toasted almonds and coated with dark chocolate. I make it as my gift for my a cappella group's white elephant gift swap every year, and there's always a lot of maneuvering to try and guess which package is the one from me, with its mother lode of crunchy-sweet-saltiness."

You can try out Susan's Double-Chocolate Almond toffee right here.

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Micron

At Micron, we see an opportunity to establish memory and storage platform capabilities that will unleash software developers to deliver solutions that speed insight and ultimately support emerging customer requirements. The data-centric era has ushered in a new opportunity to tap data for business growth, but many companies continue to struggle to transform mounting data stores into competitive advantage.

Learn how here.

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and 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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