source-codesource codeauthorDavid PierceNEWSLETTER LayoutWant your finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in tech? Sign up to get David Pierce's daily newsletter.64fd3cbe9f
×

Get access to Protocol

I’ve already subscribed

Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

Protocol Source Code
What matters in tech, in your inbox every morning.

It’s Zoom’s world now

Image: Visuals
Antitrust hearings, Zoom fatigue and Affirm CEO Max Levchin
Zoom Dogs Chat

Good morning! This Wednesday, Zoom reckons with its new place in the world, Ebony Beckwith recommends a little self-care and direct listings just got more attractive.

Also, we're off the next few days, returning Monday, Dec. 28. In the meantime, have a wonderful, restful holiday weekend! (And if you need last-minute gift ideas, text us at (415) 475-1729.)

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

The Big Story

How 2020 changed Zoom

It's been good to be Zoom in 2020. (Other than all the sleepless nights and endless scrutiny, anyway.) It grew at practically unprecedented levels, and became part of daily life for millions of people all over the world. Zoom is now in the Google pantheon of products whose names now represent an entire activity or category. We don't video chat anymore. We Zoom. (I've never heard anyone say: "Wanna Teams later?" Just saying.)

Zoom never expected to be this popular, and never really even aspired to be.

  • "We are still a business application," Oded Gal, Zoom's chief product officer, told me at the beginning of 2020, "and we don't see ourselves moving away from that."
  • Actually, Zoom once tried to be both a business and consumer tool, and CEO Eric Yuan told me it was a mistake. "We were too ambitious" in the early days of Zoom, he said, "with business and consumer. We realized that's not realistic, because there's feature conflict."

But growth forced Zoom to make a big decision about whether it should embrace its new normal and become the kind of mass-consumer product it never wanted to be. And it decided to lean in.

  • "The pandemic hasn't changed our mission or our concept of ourself," CMO Janine Pelosi told me this week. "We will always be dedicated to delivering happiness to our customers and employees and providing a frictionless experience. Certainly, though, our role in the world has expanded. Zoom now has a much more diverse set of users who are leveraging the platform in a variety of new and exciting ways, and we've grown to meet their needs."
  • Health care, education and finance have always been Zoom customers, she said, just much less so than they are now. And work is still Zoom's main focus. But Pelosi mentioned everything from book clubs to yoga sessions as core uses of the platform going forward.

So Zoom is now both a business and a consumer product. Which feels appropriate, really, given the way the pandemic has blurred the lines between work and life for everyone. "Nine months ago, if Zoom wasn't working, that was IT's problem," said Phil Libin, the CEO of video app Mmhmm. "And now it's not. It's your problem. That's a big change."

  • Zoom's not the only app thinking through this transition, either. And if you're finding your own products are used in places you never imagined, you should be asking some of these questions. Being a consumer product is really different from being a business tool, and as the world continues to change, which you are may not be up to you.

You tell me: If you were to pick the other most important tech of 2020 — not just the most successful companies but the ones that best represent the year — what would you choose? My top three so far are Peloton, TikTok and Tesla. (With SolarWinds a late-breaking honorable mention.) What about you? I want to hear it: david@protocol.com.

2020

Ebony Beckwith makes the case for self-care

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, Salesforce Foundation CEO Ebony Beckwith.

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

I used to think of self-care as an optional treat. Now, it's become a core management skill. This pandemic has required all of us to give of ourselves in new ways and show compassion to others as they figure out their own balance between work, kids, partners, pets and more. To show up for them, you have to show up for yourself, which is something I'm embracing.

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?

Shifting to an exclusive work-from-home experience really leveled the playing field for my global team. Now, no one is missing out by not being in the room in person. There are no side hallway conversations. We're all in the same boat!

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

A new level of humanity! Because we're seeing into each other's lives like never before, we have a new appreciation for each other outside of an office setting. I hope this compassion carries over to 2021 and beyond.

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

Two companies that I've been impressed by are DocuSign and Kohl's. DocuSign became even more of a mainstay in our business transactions this year, and built out their portfolio with important acquisitions. And Kohl's, [with its] innovative partnership with Amazon, has become so critical this year for people like me who are getting packages delivered regularly.

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

Corporate purpose became non-negotiable this year. We saw a lot of companies step up and make commitments that will roll over into 2021 and beyond. Only time will tell if these words will turn into action. I'm hopeful that it will because business is one of the most powerful platforms for change.

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

My home office has now turned into a studio, and now I can't live without my 4K camera!

People Are Talking

IPO fervor has put even more power in the hands of tech founders, and Sequoia's Alfred Lin said that's a good thing:

  • "They have earned the right to have that control."

Elon Musk once tried to sell Tesla … to Apple:

  • "During the darkest days of the Model 3 program, I reached out to Tim Cook to discuss the possibility of Apple acquiring Tesla (for 1/10 of our current value). He refused to take the meeting."

When Amazon comes after you, it really comes after you, said Allbirds' Joey Zwillinger:

  • "You can't help but look at a trillion-dollar company putting their muscle and their pockets and their machinations of their algorithms and reviewers and private-label machine all behind something that you've put your career against. You have this giant machine creating all these headwinds for us."

Section 230 reform could backfire, Etsy's Jeffrey Zubricki said:

  • "The Hill is focused on addressing perceived abuses or lapses in responsibility by Big Tech, but one-size-fits-all policy prescriptions may actually embolden those larger platforms at the expense of smaller and mid-sized platforms like Etsy."

The "Alt-right Reddit" site Voat is shutting down, and co-founder Justin Chastain said he's trying to remember the good times:

  • "It was the hardest (website to corrupt with CCP rules), it was the biggest (bundle of laughs ever… 4chan raids us and we didn't even notice), it was bulging (with red pills and truth that you can't find anywhere else), it was throbbing (with people eager to teach others the deception of the world). It's so great in so many ways that it has a list of haters who will be extremely aroused by this post."
  • The whole weird post is worth a read, and the comments (as usual) are even better.

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.

Making Moves

Dava Newman is the new director of the MIT Media Lab. She's been a professor at the school for years, and has had a long career in science and astronautics.

HBCU 20x20 canceled its partnership with Google, with founder Nicole Tinson saying that, "We refuse to partner with a company who continues to oust/disrespect Black people."

Amazon, Zoom and Twilio are the fastest-hiring companies in tech, The Information reported. Tech in general is growing far faster than most industries, you'll be surprised to hear.

In Other News

  • Facebook offered to license its code and relationship network in an effort to head off antitrust concerns, according to The Washington Post. Facebook said that initiative could help other social networks develop their products, but investigators rejected the idea.
  • Some Facebook employees aren't happy about its big Apple IDFA fight, BuzzFeed reports. One engineer told colleagues that "it feels like we are trying to justify doing a bad thing by hiding behind people with a sympathetic message."
  • Biden won't get @POTUS's or @WhiteHouse's Twitter followers, according to the incoming administration. The account will start from zero, unlike in 2017 when Trump got Obama's followers.
  • On Protocol: SAP CEO Christian Klein is trying to reboot the company's strategy. The way it's working with the major COVID-19 vaccine makers is a model for what comes next.
  • Microsoft, McAfee and Citrix set up the Ransomware Task Force. Made up of 19 nonprofits and security and tech companies, it aims to develop a framework for dealing with ransomware attacks.
  • The SEC approved direct listings with capital raises, absolutely thrilling Bill Gurley. Critics had said the process would fail to protect investors, but the SEC dismissed those concerns.
  • Chinese regulators summoned the country's big tech companies to a meeting. Alibaba, Tencent, Meituan, JD.com, Pinduoduo and Didi Chuxing were all warned about predatory ecommerce pricing and abuse of customer data, and told that community group buying would be monitored more closely in future.

One More Thing

An AI-trained recipe

It's the last day of our holiday-recipe takeover! And today we've got something a bit more … frightening. Or cool, depending on your perspective.

Here's an ML-designed "perfect" recipe, brought to you by Google Cloud: "Amid their pandemic baking, Google Cloud's Dale Markowitz and Sara Robinson wondered if they could train AI/ML models to predict new baking recipes. So they collected a dataset of roughly 600 baking recipes for cookies, cakes and bread, identified 16 core ingredients and built a classification model using AutoML Tables. The result of their research was a bread and cookie creation dubbed the 'breakie' — and it actually tastes good."

You can try out their recipe here, if you dare. And if you want to see the full collection of recipes we've collected from people in tech, we rounded them all up in one place.

Happy holidays! We'll see you next week.

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.

Recent Issues

It’s Biden time

Privacy is winning