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Tech’s next business model: Making the entire internet shoppable

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Good morning! This Monday, why companies are moving from advertising to shopping, what's happening on the last day of Epic v. Apple, why Bezos and Musk are fighting about the moon, and what we'll soon learn about Elizabeth Holmes.

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The Big Story

Everything is shoppable now

Advertising products on your platform isn't cool. (Though it is very lucrative.) You know what's cool? Making every single pixel of your platform shoppable.

There have been big product announcements from a number of huge tech companies over the last week, all with the same eventual goal: to make it drop-dead simple to buy anything you find online.

  • Google's is the most straightforward. It's working with Shopify to let merchants sell stuff through Maps, YouTube and Search. Across its platform, Google is working on ways to turn every photo you look at, every video you watch, and everything you search into a quick purchase.
  • Snapchat's new AR filters let you try on clothes and makeup, and quickly buy stuff you like. You can even take a picture of someone's real-life outfit, and Snap will help you shop the look for yourself.
  • Pinterest's new "Idea Pins" are basically Stories, and they're designed for creators to guide people through recipes or projects, or show off how their interior design project turned out. And, of course, you can buy just about anything that shows up on screen.
  • Facebook is starting "Live Shopping Fridays," featuring shoppable livestreams from brands and creators. It's Home Shopping Network, but on Facebook.
  • And TikTok is testing its own in-app shopping tools, Bloomberg reported, while also partnering with Walmart and Shopify for shopping experiences.

The key here is creators. Creators have become the most effective advertisers on just about any social platform; rather than run an ad in between two dance videos, why not have the dancers take a break to tell the viewer about their favorite energy drink? The platform's job, in that world, is obvious: to get as many people buying that drink as possible, right then and there, and take a cut every time.

  • Building a store like this also lets users personalize their own online store based on who and what they care about. "There are 475 million people using [Pinterest] every month," Pinterest's Naveen Gavini said. "We feel there should be 475 million shops on Pinterest. And each person basically has their own shop tailored to them." (Pinterest also partnered with Shopify.)
  • This is already a massive business in China, of course, where social shopping is already driving hundreds of billions of dollars in sales. U.S. customers and businesses are still catching up.

The advertising market has been largely sewn up by Google and Facebook, and the only companies with a chance to get in are giants like Apple and Amazon. But the social shopping market? Anyone with a popular app can bite off a piece, and as the world continues to shift to online shopping — which is still a tiny piece of overall retail — there are going to be many billions of dollars to go around. Ads are over; buy buttons are coming.

Everybody is running toward this change. Walmart, Amazon and others are desperately trying to figure out how to be cool and hip and influencer-y, while tech companies are building shopping infrastructure as fast as they can.

And then there's Shopify, sitting in the middle counting its money.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM SLACK

The future of work is digital-first and collaborative. But, our old tools don't support this new way of working. A recent survey of 1,200 IT decision makers found that collaboration platforms are quickly replacing traditional communication. What does this mean for the new workplace?

Learn more

People Are Talking

Satya Nadella tried to distance Microsoft from Bill Gates' actions while CEO:

  • "The Microsoft of 2021 is very different from the Microsoft of 2000. To me and to everyone at Microsoft, our focus on our culture, our diversity, our inclusion, and in particular the everyday experience of our people, is super important. It's a huge priority. And not just in the abstract sense. It's about the lived experience. This is about being able to confront your fixed mindset each day so that we can improve."

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers grilled Tim Cook about App Store policies, and the idea that Apple is just in it to help users. She seemed ... skeptical:

  • "I understand this notion that somehow Apple's bringing the customers to the users. But after that first time, after that first interaction, the [developers] are keeping the customer with the games. Apple's just profiting off that, it seems to me."

The upcoming Theranos trial will include details on Elizabeth Holmes' big-spending lifestyle, Judge Edward Davila said:

  • "Each time Holmes made an extravagant purchase, it is reasonable to infer that she knew her fraudulent activity allowed her to pay for those items. While the benefits of these purchases are not as directly tied to the fraud … it may still be probative of Holmes' scienter."
Evan Spiegel said Snap's happy to pay Apple 30% on in-app purchases:
  • "We really feel like Snapchat wouldn't exist without the iPhone ... In that sense, I'm not sure we have a choice about paying the 30% fee, and of course, we're happy to do it in exchange for all of the amazing technology that they provide to us."

Nobody's going to out-Netflix Netflix, Barry Diller said:

  • "Netflix won this several years ago, they're the only ones who have the scale and momentum to keep making these somewhat lunatic investments in programming. You cannot compete with the momentum, the scale, no one will ever be able to do that."

Coming this week

Today should be the last day of proceedings in Epic v. Apple. A verdict could come this week, but it could also take weeks or months to get a final decision.

Microsoft Build starts tomorrow, and is always an interesting look at the state of things in Redmond. What do you think will come up more, Azure or Teams? It's gonna be close.

Snowflake, Nvidia, Xiaomi, VMware and Salesforce all report earnings this week.

In Other News

  • Netflix might be getting into gaming. It's hiring an executive to lead its efforts, The Information reported, and may be planning to launch a bundle of games in a single subscription. It's kind of like Netflix, but for games, you know?
  • On Protocol: The four-year vesting period is dying. Stripe, Lyft and Coinbase have all shortened their golden-handcuff period to one year, but not everyone is thrilled with the new way of thinking about comp.
  • Pony.ai got a self-driving permit. The California DMV said it can test in Fremont, Milpitas and Irvine, making it the eighth company able to put driverless cars on the road.
  • The Indian government is asking social media platforms to take down anything that mentions an "Indian variant" of COVID-19, claiming that those references constitute misinformation.
  • Snap bought WaveOptics, the company that built the AR displays for its new Spectacles, for $500 million. It's yet another big investment in both AR and hardware.
  • Jack Ma's stepping down from the business school he founded, The Financial Times reported. Chinese authorities supposedly didn't like the power the elite Hupan University gave Ma.
  • Citizen is starting to sound like a "Black Mirror" episode: After it funded an online manhunt for an arson suspect who turned out to be innocent, Vice reported that Citizen is also testing an on-demand private security force accessible from within the app.
  • Bezos vs. Musk is going interstellar. Both men badly want their companies to be the ones bringing astronauts back to the moon, The Washington Post reported, and are getting increasingly intense and public in their fight.

Work in the future

Meeting Rooms 2.0

Microsoft published a video on Friday that shows a vision for the future of meetings. (Spoiler alert: It involves Teams.) It's all about hybrid: cameras that bring everyone in the room and on the screen to the same eye level, spatial audio for everyone in the room, and tech that understands the discussion and can grab notes and action items.

It's a smart concept, and an increasingly common one. But it all seems to involve … a lot of gear? One vision of the future of work includes rooms that can easily move and adapt and be whatever's needed at the moment; this one requires screwing cameras into every wall and placing the mics just-so in the ceiling. Seems like a lot of people might just stick with their laptop webcam.

A MESSAGE FROM SLACK

The future of work is digital-first and collaborative. But, our old tools don't support this new way of working. A recent survey of 1,200 IT decision makers found that collaboration platforms are quickly replacing traditional communication. What does this mean for the new workplace?

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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