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Remembering Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh

Good morning! This Monday, the tech industry remembers Tony Hsieh, Black Friday was a huge win for online retail, Ev Williams has thoughts on the future of publishing, TikTok's probably not going to sell this week (but Slack might), and new chaos at Coinbase.

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The Big Story

Everybody has a Tony Hsieh story

Tony Hsieh died on Friday, as a result of injuries sustained in a house fire earlier this month. He was 46. And he was an absolutely beloved figure in the tech community: The CEO of Zappos, a longtime investor and dedicated to revitalizing Las Vegas, he was someone everyone in tech seemed to know and admire.

Many (many, many) people shared remembrances of Hsieh over the weekend, recounting some of their favorite stories:

  • Mark Pincus remembered losing in cards: "My favorite Tony Hsieh memory was watching him beat us all breezily in poker and then give our money to the dealers and servers as tips. I will miss his quiet smiling confidence."
  • Josh Reich tried to poach a Zappos employee: "He found out and made a counter-offer: we could come to meet his team and they'd teach us about how they operated."
  • Matt Mullenweg remembered him as a gatherer: "I noticed that almost every picture I have of Tony we're in a group, and it was almost always a meal or trip that ended up being memorable thanks to the frisson Tony's presence would engender."
  • Christine Tsai met him through 500 Startups: "I remember when you came to speak at our founder retreat 5+ yrs ago and thinking it was amazing that you took the time to do that. Turns out that was just you — thoughtful, generous. Your inspiration will always live on."
  • Cyan Banister was an early investor in Zappos: "[O]ne time I came to Vegas and he asked me to speak on a local podcast thing. I agreed and when I showed up he took me aside and said, 'I got you a surprise.' Then he revealed, I kid you not, two adorable penguins. During my show, the penguins went back and forth on the desk in front of the mics."

It went on and on like that. Everyone who met Tony seemed to know they were better for it.

If you haven't, you should read Hsieh's book, "Delivering Happiness," which has been one of those constantly-referenced texts in the customer service world since it was published in 2010. He was a relentless workplace experimenter — remember how he'd offer people money not to keep their job with Zappos? — and was early to a lot of the ideas that have since become commonplace in tech.

  • Jeff Bezos, who became Hsieh's boss in 2009 when Amazon bought Zappos, summed it up pretty well on Instagram. "The world lost you way too soon @downtowntony," Bezos wrote. "Your curiosity, vision, and relentless focus on customers leave an indelible mark. You will be missed by so many, Tony. Rest In Peace."

Shopping

The internet wins Black Friday

Friday was the second largest day of online shopping in U.S. history, with $9 billion spent over the course of the day according to Adobe's retail data. The biggest day ever? Last year's Cyber Monday, which Adobe predicts will be topped today, with people spending between a predicted $10.8 billion and $12.7 billion.

  • All that growth seems to be coming at the expense of in-store shopping. Traffic at retail stores dropped 52% over last year, Sensormatic said. Which, you know, obviously. It's a pandemic! But the numbers are pretty staggering. (At least until you compare them to China's Singles Day.)
  • One big brick-and-mortar winner: curbside pickup. (Told you BOPIS was going to be the season's hot new retail acronym!) Adobe said in-store and curbside pickup were up 52% over last year. People don't mind going to stores, they just don't want to go inside.
  • Small businesses had a big weekend, too. The Targets and Walmarts of the world still do most of the sales, but smaller retailers did much more online business than in a typical year. Shopify said that it did $2.4 billion in sales on Friday, which would seem to match with that growth. The digital transformation of retail is real.
  • It's hard to say exactly what these numbers mean, though. Black Friday used to be a day you went to the mall, but this year's shopping season is going to be a little longer. Most retailers I've seen have deals running through the next week or so.

The most popular purchases were roughly what you'd expect: Smart-home stuff and smartwatches both sold well, and Hot Wheels, Legos and video games were at the top of everyone's shopping lists. (Personally, I bought AirPods and a bunch of random junk for my house.)

Oh, and put this on your calendar: Dec. 11. That's the last day Adobe estimates that cheap, before-the-holidays shipping will be available from most online stores. So you've got a couple of weeks left to shop, but don't wait too long.

Blogging

Ev Williams on the future of publishing

There's another shift happening in how people sell and shop online: Businesses are increasingly looking for ways to own their own web presence rather than relying on Yelp and Google and Facebook for their whole existence. I wrote about this change on Protocol, and how what's happening in the blogging world is part of a bigger change in the way we use the internet.

Ev Williams was one of the people I talked to for the piece, and he had some smart thoughts on both Medium and the next era of blogging in general:

  • On what's changed since the pre-Facebook era: "The difference between blogging 15 or 20 years ago, and today, was that everybody had their own space [then], and there wasn't this collapse where everyone's in the same feed and there's this context collapse. By having your own space, it changes the psychology of what you write and what you share."
  • On being independent and being social: "The beauty is that all these things can link together. If you're a writer, generally you want your stuff to spread as widely as possible. So we've done things to make that easy. We don't show the paywall if you're coming from Twitter, we've designed the pages so they do well on Google with SEO, and that drives a lot of traffic. But we don't have a strategy where it's all about social, because the drive-by visitor isn't going to help our business model."
  • On Medium having a paywall without being a walled garden: "I think if anything we'll get more open over time. I think you could think of YouTube as a corollary: It also is a massive network of its own right, and integrated with the whole internet. That works … Medium works as a subscription business because it is an open platform. The breadth of it is what allows it to work."

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Micron

An unprecedented year has accelerated the adoption of a decade's worth of breakthroughs. This is your guide to what's changed. The New Enterprise manual is presented by Micron.

Read more.

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Join Protocol's David Pierce and 800+ amazing speakers at Web Summit, the world's largest technology conference, from Dec 2-4. Click here to book tickets.

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People Are Talking

Google is leaning on resilience training to help employees through the pandemic, its wellness manager Lauren Whitt said:

  • "In July and August, we realized this isn't going away and we really began to shift the conversation to how to set new routines, how to change or alternate the environment they're working in and focus on new skills and habits and routines."

Lime CEO Wayne Ting said the world finally understands why scooters are here to stay:

  • "One of the key questions was: 'How do I move around in a safe way?' And we have an open air, single passenger mode of transportation, and we saw lots of passengers taking another look at Lime."

Dyson may have given up on electric cars, but its CEO Roland Krueger said it's spending $3 billion on new initiatives:

  • "Now is the time to invest in new technologies such as energy storage, robotics and software which will drive performance and sustainability in our products for the benefit of Dyson's customers."

Coming Up This Week

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today on Van Buren v. United States, which is fundamentally about what U.S. hacking laws mean when they refer to "unauthorized" access. That turns out to be more complicated than you think, and the outcome could strengthen the power of big tech companies.

Is Salesforce buying Slack? That was the rumor flying around last week, and The Wall Street Journal reported that the acquisition could be announced before Salesforce reports earnings tomorrow.

AWS re:Invent starts tomorrow. As Tom Krazit wrote last week, it's going to be a different one this year.

Web Summit runs Wednesday-Friday of this week. Last-minute tickets aren't cheap, though.

Zoom, Snowflake and HPE report earnings this week.

And there's another TikTok deadline set for Friday. But don't hold your breath.

In Other News

  • Trump plans to add SMIC to the defense blacklist, Reuters reports, potentially preventing U.S. investors from owning its stock. That would be an escalation from actions in September, and is reminiscent of the Huawei situation. Speaking of: The U.K. said new 5G equipment from Huawei must not be installed after September 2021.
  • Apple continues to reshape global supply chains. Sony told the Japanese government that it might have to move production out of the country, as Japan doesn't have enough renewable energy available for Sony to meet Apple's supplier standards. Meanwhile, Foxconn is reportedly moving some iPad and MacBook production to Vietnam at Apple's request, in an effort to increase diversification.
  • The U.K. announced the Digital Markets Unit, a new division of the Competition and Markets Authority that will specifically focus on governing digital platforms. Facebook and Google were specifically named in the announcement. Meanwhile, the EU reportedly wants to work with the U.S. on Big Tech regulation.
  • Libra is set to launch in January, the Financial Times reports, though it will only have one dollar-backed coin to start with.
  • Black Coinbase employees said the company has a race problem, The New York Times reports. But on Tech Twitter, the story received even more attention for the way Coinbase handled it, by preempting the Times' publication with a blog post of its own, downplaying the allegations.

One More Thing

The encryption winner

Signal's a very popular app, but its encryption protocol will be the organization's legacy. When Google announced that Android Messages will now encrypt messages by default, it also announced that it'll use the Signal protocol to do so. Wired has a good primer on what Signal brings to encryption, why its approach is so popular, and why I suspect every person in Congress is going to want to yell at Moxie Marlinspike in the next couple of years.

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Micron

An unprecedented year has accelerated the adoption of a decade's worth of breakthroughs. This is your guide to what's changed. The New Enterprise manual is presented by Micron.

Read more.

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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