Image: Fuse Studio / Protocol
March 18, 2021
Good morning! This Thursday, the response to the horrific shooting in Atlanta, the opportunity facing YouTube Shorts, how Angie's List rebranded, why Kevin Mayer left TikTok, and Robinhood's new CPO.
And don't miss our State of VR event today! It's Janko Roettgers and a great group of VR expert guests, and it kicks off today at 10 a.m. PT. See you there!
The Big Story
We wanted to take a moment this morning to pause and give room to the voices of the Asian-American women in this industry, many of whom have been sharing their own experiences since the mass shooting in Atlanta on Tuesday. Six of the women killed were of Asian descent, and their deaths mark not some random, horrible moment in this country, but yet another tragic crime in the wave of anti-AAPI violence rising in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic.
Here are the words of just a few of the women from the tech sector who chose to share their own stories and thoughts yesterday.
- Jesslyn Tannady, a developer advocate at Facebook, described how people used to tell her that she was lucky to be an Asian-American woman in Silicon Valley. "I was told that I was 'high in demand' because 'everyone here wants to date Asian women.' I know that it was meant as a compliment and I'm sure I politely laughed it off at the time, but I was counting down the days until I could get out. It was suffocating," she wrote.
- "This is more than just anti-Asian hate. This is also about fetishization, misogyny, exploitation, sexual violence, poverty, colonialism, erasure... ALL OF IT. A white man targeted Asian women working at massage parlors and killed 8. And I don't even know their ethnicities," wrote Michelle Kim, the CEO of Awaken.
- "I've been working on a thread on intertwined Black x Asian history, but kept getting exhausted by new events. This is part of the fiction of who claims this land, who has the right to thrive vs. be 'grateful' to keep laboring," wrote Christine Su, the leader of Twitter's Product for Conversational Safety team.
- And Tracy Chou, the founder of Block Party, who has long been open about her own experiences of harassment, racism and fetishization, wrote: "The fact that the news coverage won't name the anti asian hate and the misogyny, leaves this headline in the passive tense instead of calling out the white man for his domestic terrorism ... it makes me so deeply upset and furious."
- "'Hate violence' is not an act of individual animus, but violence rooted in structural injustices and enabled by systemic inequalities," wrote Veena Dubal, a professor at UC Hastings who advocates for gig worker rights, adding: "I'm reminded today that so many people who are dealing with the intense grief of the loss of a loved one are also feeling intense rage at the systemic injustices that cause early and unnatural deaths."
A copy of a copy
What is YouTube Shorts? Well it's TikTok. On YouTube. That's pretty much it.
You can see for yourself: it's rolling out to U.S. users now, after launching in India last fall. I wrote about what the company is up to and why Shorts matters, but it was YouTube product manager Todd Sherman's thoughts on the idea that Shorts is a "TikTok clone" that really stuck with me.
Calling Shorts a "TikTok clone" is too simple, Sherman said. TikTok isn't some wholly new thing full of wholly new ideas: it's a clever packaging of a lot of existing ones.
- "Think about the Vine multi-segment camera," he said. "Think about countdown timers. Think about speed controls from Musical.ly. Think about providing audio sources from Dubsmash." Heck, even TikTok itself is just an international take on Douyin.
- He's right, of course. There are few original ideas, and the few that do exist get immediately copied around the industry. Who had an idea first doesn't really matter in the long run. (And as the original product lead for Snapchat Stories, Sherman's qualified to have that opinion.) All that really matters is the execution.
And there are some unique aspects to Shorts. YouTube's making every video on the platform available to be used as a backing track for a video; Sherman said the plan is to "effectively remix YouTube." (Creators can opt out, but they'll be included by default, and that's going to make some people mad.) Plus, sounds can connect back to a video, which YouTube hopes will help drive users to discover new content, most obviously music.
- YouTube's big challenge going forward is figuring out how to add new features (and revenue streams) that take advantage of YouTube's huge library and community without running roughshod over it. The Music team is working on it; the TV team is working on it; the Gaming team is working on it. Whether Shorts works depends on them all getting it right.
The art of the rebrand
Angie's List is no more. There is only Angi. The 25-year-old company has spent the last several months planning not just a name change but a total overhaul and rebranding. And CEO Oisin Hanrahan said the change has been a long time coming.
An outdated name can be a challenge both internally and externally, he said: "It brings conversations with your team back to, 'Well, our name is X, shouldn't we be doing X?'"
- Angie's List was just a list 25 years ago. But the more the company branched out, the more it felt it was being constrained by the name.
- "If you've got a literal brand that describes exactly what you do," Hanrahan told me, "you can build something around it. If you've got a literal brand that no longer describes what you do, it's really hard to build some meaning around that."
Did it think of doing a crazy pivot in the rebrand? Becoming homefixers.ai or something like that? Hanrahan said there's always somebody in the room advocating for chaos, but that the Angie's List branding was good and recognizable enough that the company didn't want to leave it behind entirely. (And by dropping the "e" from Angie, it could still trademark the name.)
- Angi also has a new look, a new app and its first-ever mission statement. It's also trying to make clearer that its other brands — Handy, HomeAdvisor and others — are part of the Angi family. Hanrahan hopes that makes the company's story easier to tell.
- "Once we got our arms around it in terms of how it would look and how it would feel," he said, "it started to feel really right. Angi is the easiest way to take care of your home … it just kind of made sense."
Protocol's Joe Williams sits down with Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk for a discussion on his influential leadership of the industrial icon and what's next in the company's digital overhaul.
People Are Talking
Kevin Mayer said he left TikTok because he really, truly believed it was about to be sold:
- "The job that I signed up for was going to be gone. And in the next few days was going to be gone. It was, like, extremely imminent. And so the guys at ByteDance and the board and I had discussions about it. And I didn't want to go run a division of Microsoft or Oracle."
Buying groceries with Bitcoin? Maybe soon, Visa CEO Alfred Kelly said:
- "We're trying to do two things. One is to enable the purchase of Bitcoin on Visa credentials. And secondly, working with Bitcoin wallets to allow the Bitcoin to be translated into a fiat currency and therefore immediately be able to be used at any of the 70 million places around the world where Visa is accepted."
Billionaire philanthropy is not enough to save the world, Melinda Gates said:
- "They can try innovations that sometimes work and sometimes fail. They can look for new solutions, they can help us collect the data. But ultimately it's always up to government to scale up these innovations, to create this change."
Chuck Schumer said the future of transportation is about much more than EVs:
- "I would like to look at the broad range of transportation. We're looking at mass-transit buses and subways right now. And I'd like to make it as expansive as possible — scooters, everything. I'm a bicycle rider. Obviously, that's very clean."
Aparna Chennapragada is the new chief product officer at Robinhood, joining from Google.
Google's investing over $7 billion in the U.S. this year. Sundar Pichai said that would create at least 10,000 new jobs.
Ford is letting 30,000 employees work from home permanently, adding to the companies going all-in on remote work.
Snap acquired Fit Analytics, which built tech to help people find the right size when shopping for clothes online.
ByteDance is hiring hundreds of people in Singapore, according to The Financial Times. It looks like the city might become its non-Chinese global hub.
SMIC announced a $2.35 billion chip plant, partly funded by the Shenzhen government. It will produce chips using manufacturing processes down to 28 nanometers.
In Other News
- The NLRB found Amazon retaliated against protesting Chicago workers, The Intercept reported. Amazon is reportedly negotiating a settlement.
- The DOJ is investigating Chrome's cookie ban, Reuters reported. It's reportedly asking ad execs whether Google's using its dominant browser position to hurt other ad companies.
- On Protocol | Policy: The detente between Microsoft and Google is over. Microsoft sees an opportunity to ride the post-2016 techlash and paint itself as the most responsible large tech company — and Brad Smith's determined to win that fight.
- Congress is debating CEO pay. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill to increase taxes on companies where the CEO makes drastically more than the median salary. Which would be … most of them.
- Alibaba plans to offer Taobao Deals on WeChat, Bloomberg reported, in what looks like an attempt to appease antitrust regulators.
- AT&T data caps will now include HBO Max usage, after a federal court upheld California's net neutrality law. The change will happen nationwide, AT&T said, since "the internet does not recognize state borders."
- Amazon's telehealth service is now available to other companies, having previously been trialed internally.
- The FCC issued a $225 million fine to telemarketers, its biggest fine ever. It alleged that the telemarketers sold fake health insurance policies via robocalls.
- The chip shortage might have started a vicious cycle. Kulicke and Soffa said delivery times for its packaging equipment, needed for making chips, have extended due to a shortage of chips for that equipment.
One More Thing
NFT of the day
A thing is not a Thing until the brands get involved. So congrats, NFTs, because now that Charmin is selling NFTP ('cuz toilet paper, you know?) I think we can agree that NFTs are both fully in the public consciousness and have now officially jumped the shark. But hey, it's for a good cause! Digital currency for digital toilet paper almost makes perfect sense. Almost.
Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or our tips line, email@example.com. Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Block Party. This article was updated on March 18, 2021.