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Kevin Mayer didn’t sign up for this

Kevin Mayer

Good morning! This Thursday, Kevin Mayer is out at TikTok, Facebook's worried about iOS 14, and you should be writing your own personal manual.

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The Big Story

Kevin Mayer calls it quits

I'll grant you this, Kevin Mayer: It's hard to imagine a rougher start to a CEO gig than the one you endured at TikTok.

Mayer left Disney on a high, having successfully launched Disney+, and took over what looked like The Next Big Thing in social and entertainment. But that was in early June, and by early July, TikTok was firmly in the crosshairs of the U.S. government. Last night, he decided he was done.

In Mayer's message to his staff, he basically said: This wasn't what I signed up for.

  • "In recent weeks, as the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for," he wrote in an email to staff that was obtained by the Financial Times, "Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company."
  • You have to wonder, though, whether Mayer should have seen this coming. The U.S.-China trade war has been brewing for a while, and the anti-TikTok crusade has been rolling since at least last fall. Mayer must have had an inkling he was diving into the middle of a global fight, even if he didn't see it going quite this far.

Anyway, the subtext: Mayer wasn't going to be CEO much longer anyway. No matter who TikTok sells to, he'd suddenly have a new boss at a new company. Mayer didn't want to work for Satya Nadella or Larry Ellison. His new boss might not have even wanted to keep him on.

  • And don't forget, Mayer was also the COO of ByteDance, a job title he'd definitely have lost as soon as TikTok was sold.
  • Suffice to say he was about to get a pretty serious demotion, no matter the outcome in the next few weeks.

The response within TikTok seems to be something along the lines of "yeah, that makes sense." The FT reported that ByteDance CEO Zhang Timing said he understood Mayer's decision and wished him well, and a company statement …. well, it wished him well.

As for what happens now, Vanessa Pappas, the GM of TikTok and the head of the company's U.S. operations, is the company's interim leader. But there are new bosses coming to TikTok no matter what, so the corporate hierarchy doesn't seem to matter much right now.

  • And Mayer? Hard to say where he'll land next. I hear Triller's cool, and relatively uncomplicated. And that Disney+ thing is still going pretty well.


Panic hits the ad world

When users upgrade their iPhones to iOS 14 sometime in the next month or so, they're going to start seeing a slightly startling message when they open many apps. It will say, basically: Do they want to allow this app to track them on other apps and websites?

  • If they say yes, they're allowing Apple's Identifier for Advertisers, or IDFA, to follow them around on their phone. If they say no, well, they're not.
  • Most people will probably say no. And that's a pretty scary idea to a lot of companies.

Facebook, for one, is rattled. It published a blog post saying that it won't collect the IDFA, and explained that "this is not a change we want to make, but unfortunately Apple's updates to iOS 14 have forced this decision." It said that its decision provides "as much certainty and stability" as it believes it can offer the companies it works with,

  • Apple considers its change a win for user privacy, but Facebook framed it as a problem for developers and publishers.
  • The logic goes like this: Lots of publishers use Facebook's Audience Network to sell ads in their own apps. Without personalization, the price of those ads will go way down. Which means less money for Facebook, yes, but also for those app developers.
  • In its early testing, Facebook found as much as a 50% revenue decrease when personalization was removed from its in-app Audience Network ad campaigns. Half! Incredible.
  • It's not just Facebook, either. Any company that uses this kind of app tracking, which includes Google and lots of others, will have to hope that users consent.

This will shock you, but there wasn't a whole lot of sympathy going around yesterday for poor old Facebook.

Anyway, if your company relies on ads, I hope you're ready for what's coming this fall. In addition to Apple's changes, Google's continuing its crusade against third-party cookies. In other words, a lot of the things companies have assumed about how ads work are about to be upended, one opt-out at a time.


What's in your manual?

I said the other day every CEO should write their company's Risk Factors every once in a while. Well here's another writing assignment: The cool new thing to do in tech is to write the manual on ... you. Or working with you, at least.

  • The idea's been around for a while. I think it originated in an interview with QuestBack's Ivar Kroghrud from 2013, but if it goes back further please tell me! Brad Feld was also an early practitioner.
  • Kroghrud explained the idea this way: "If you give them this 'how to work with me' page on the first day, they get a different perspective on who you are and how you relate to people and how open you are. It's much easier when they understand that these are the things I like and don't like, and this is how I am."

Yesterday, Reid Hoffman published "Reid: The Manual,"a Coda document with lots of Reid-on-Reid information into how he works, what he thinks about, and why you shouldn't feel bad when he leaves you to deal with a problem by yourself.

  • In response, a number of other folks started sharing theirs. Hunter Walk and Josh Elman both had interesting ones.

I suspect this is going to catch on. Before you know it, you'll need to enter every board meeting or investor lunch armed with your pitch deck, your business plan and your CEO manual. Plus, it's a good exercise in self-reflection. Like journaling for the MBA set, I suppose.

Join us next week


Edge computing is an emerging concept that holds great promise. AI best practices are still evolving in the cloud. Join us on Tuesday, September 1 at 9 a.m. PT / noon ET for our virtual event "Computing at the Edge." Protocol's Tom Krazit will host a discussion with Edgeworx's Farah Papaioannou, IBM's Rob High, Cox Communications' Nancy Li and's Simon Crosby. This event is presented in partnership with Intel.

RSVP here

People Are Talking

Spotify may be the big new thing in podcasting, but Joe Budden said he's leaving the platform:

  • "Spotify is pillaging. You pillage the audience from the podcast, and you've continued to pillage each step of the way without any regard for [the fans.]"

Sundar Pichai said the pandemic has changed his thinking about the future of work:

  • "Hoping in the future that we have more of a flexible workspace … We know now that we can work remotely. You don't always have to pull people 5 days of the week in."
  • Pichai was also asked if he was interested in buying TikTok. His answer, in full: "We are not."

The problems with Amazon aren't just with Amazon, Tim Bray said, they're with capitalism:

  • "I think that the entire basis of 21st century capitalism builds in a huge amount of disregard for people in blue collar jobs by people in white collar jobs. And Amazon is by no means the worst."

Making Moves

Congratulations, Jeff Bezos: You're now worth more than $200 billion. More than $87 billion of that was made in 2020 alone, the biggest increase so far this year of anyone on Bloomberg's Billionaires Index. Though Elon Musk's not far behind on that metric.

Salesforce is laying off some employees, even after reporting one of its best quarterly results ever. About 1,000 jobs are being cut, The Wall Street Journal reported, and those affected have 60 days to try to find a new spot within Salesforce.

In Other News

  • Hours before two protestors were killed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, users reported the "Kenosha Guard" Facebook page for inciting violence. Facebook said community standards weren't violated, though the platform did eventually take the page down — after the murders. Facebook says there's no link between the shooter and the Kenosha Guard page.
  • That was fast: The AB 1286 bill we mentioned yesterday has already been amended, removing the clause that terrified scooter and bike sharing companies.
  • Clearview AI might be even more prevalent than we thought. CEO Hoan Ton-That said "over 2,400 police agencies" use its facial recognition. He also said that Clearview keeps logs of how police use it, but he doesn't want to "police the police."
  • Don't miss this great piece about the TikTok-Microsoft negotiations, from The New York Times. The talks reportedly started with plans for a minority investment, but as time went on both sides ended up preferring an outright acquisition.
  • Airbnb pushed its return-to-work date out a little further. Employees can work remotely until the end of August 2021, a month later than Facebook's provisional July deadline. It also encouraged employees to use their free Airbnb credits to temporarily relocate, something it says consumers are doing too.
  • This might just be the Reddit sleuthing story of the year: One Redditor figured out that most Scots Wikipedia pages were written by an American teenager who doesn't speak Scots, but just writes mangled English instead. In the detective's words: "They engaged in cultural vandalism on a hitherto unprecedented scale."

One More Thing

Quick Bites … at the drive-in

First Quibi decided, OK, sure, we'll work on your TV. Now it's … going to theaters? The company held a screening of its show "The Stranger," at a drive-in in LA, and it sounds like the idea even weirded out the show's creator, Veena Sud. "This is the first time I'm seeing it on a big screen like this," she told the audience, per the Hollywood Reporter. At this rate, I give it three months before Quibi is renting DVDs and showing up on an IMAX screen near you.

Join us next week


Edge computing is an emerging concept that holds great promise. AI best practices are still evolving in the cloud. Join us on Tuesday, September 1 at 9 a.m. PT / noon ET for our virtual event "Computing at the Edge." Protocol's Tom Krazit will host a discussion with Edgeworx's Farah Papaioannou, IBM's Rob High, Cox Communications' Nancy Li and's Simon Crosby. This event is presented in partnership with Intel.

RSVP here

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to, or our tips line, Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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