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Tech’s immigration wishes come true

Passport

Good morning! This Thursday, tech leaders love Biden's early immigration moves, everybody loves the new WhiteHouse.gov, the self-driving race is finally getting going and Amazon wants to help administer COVID vaccines.

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The Big Story

Biden reopens the talent pool

One of the first things President Biden did upon becoming President Biden was sign two immigration-related executive orders and send an immigration bill to Congress.

  • The orders will reverse the so-called "Muslim ban" and preserve the DACA program.
  • Meanwhile, the bill, Protocol's Emily Birnbaum wrote, "reads like a tech industry wishlist." If it was passed, it would make it easier for skilled workers to stay in the U.S. and even become citizens, and eliminate the per-country cap for worker green cards, which has in particular made it much harder for workers from India to move to the U.S.

Tech loved the whole thing and wasn't shy about showing its appreciation:

  • "We welcome President Biden's commitment to pursuing comprehensive immigration reform that reflects the American values of justice, fairness and dignity," Tim Cook said. "This effort will strengthen American communities and the pathways to opportunity this country has long fostered."
  • Sundar Pichai echoed the sentiment in a tweet: "We applaud @POTUS's quick action on COVID relief, the Paris Climate Accord, and immigration reform. Google has supported action on these important issues & we look forward to working with the new administration to help the US recover from the pandemic + grow our economy."
  • Uber told Emily that the company "will continue to support Dreamers, and we welcome the new Administration's effort to reform our nation's immigration system."

This is still just a start, and passing a big immigration bill is a lot harder than proposing one. But for a tech industry that has spent the last four years worrying that the best and brightest couldn't or wouldn't come to the U.S. anymore, it's hugely welcome news.

Autonomy

Who's winning the self-driving race

Autonomous vehicles have been right around the corner since, like, the Renaissance. But now a number of companies look like they're getting close. Or, at least, investors think so.

  • Just this week, Cruise raised another $2 billion (valuing the GM subsidiary at $30 billion), and Rivian took in another $2.65 billion.
  • There's definitely a "get in early on the next Tesla and let's all get filthy rich" vibe here. But there's also a sense in the industry that this tech is about to scale in a big way: Microsoft's deal with Cruise, for instance, is about cloud computing resources, and getting Azure into the burgeoning space.

So who's going to win this race? Lots of companies are working on self-driving, of course, and all have been hyped to death. So I asked Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at Guidehouse Insights, which companies are actually nearing the finish line. Or maybe the starting line.

  • "Waymo is clearly the leader in terms of scale at this point," Abuelsamid said, particularly with its Waymo One service in Phoenix. It's a limited, carefully-managed service, but Waymo is still the only company carrying passengers in the U.S. without a safety driver.
  • A few others have been running services as well, albeit with more precautions: Motional, the joint Hyundai-Aptiv venture, is working in Las Vegas, and Cruise is testing in San Francisco. Thanks to Cruise's new investment, Abuelsamid said, "they have some extra runway now, although they have clearly faced some technical challenges."
  • Ford's work with Argo is also getting close to paying off, he said. Though, he added, "I expect Ford will put a lot of near-term emphasis on goods delivery over ride-hailing."
  • After that, there's a long list of companies with huge potential and interesting technology: Zoox, Mobileye, Nvidia, Voyage, even Baidu in China.

The big years for these companies, Abuelsamid said, will be 2022 and 2023. (Always just around the corner.) And you know what's striking about the leaders here? Most of them are traditional car companies that have found ways to buy or partner with tech firms to make huge strides in this space. Detroit isn't dead yet.

People Are Talking

Amazon's Dave Clark offered Biden some help getting the vaccine out:

  • "We are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration's vaccine efforts. Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately in the fight against COVID-19."

Julian Knight, a British MP who is looking into Big Tech, offered an idea for fighting disinformation:

  • "Do you think that it would be wise for you to adopt a new policy where you kept money on your platforms in escrow prior to its distribution so that any cause in which disinformation found to have taken place ... you could perhaps withhold that money?"

On his last day as FCC chairman, Ajit Pai offered a … controversial take on his time in the role:

  • "Over the past four years, we have delivered results for the American people, from narrowing the digital divide to advancing American leadership in 5G, from protecting consumers and national security to keeping Americans connected during the pandemic, from modernizing our media rules to making the agency more transparent and nimble."

A MESSAGE FROM SYNCHRONY

SYNCHRONY

Contactless payments are no longer a nice to have.

At Synchrony, we understand the challenges of running a business. Our financial and technology solutions, like touchless payment tools, help you offer your customers more tailored experiences, so they keep coming back.

Learn more about our solutions.

Making Moves

Avril Haines is the new U.S. director of national intelligence. She was confirmed right after Biden was sworn in.

Noah Beddome is Opendoor's new CISO, joining from Datadog.

Tom Blomfield is leaving Monzo, after stepping down as CEO last year. He told TechCrunch he's been struggling with mental health issues for a while now.

In Other News

  • Tim Cook gifted Donald Trump a $6,000 Mac Pro, according to a financial disclosure report. This isn't particularly notable, except for that the price only covers the base model with no upgrades or accessories. Made in the U.S.A., sure, but you have to wonder if Trump wishes he had those $400 wheels for moving the thing out.
  • On Protocol: That Slack outage a few weeks ago? It started with an AWS issue, and has caused Slack to rethink some of the ways it manages traffic.
  • The new White House website is running on WordPress, and it appears that even caught Matt Mullenweg by surprise. He found some fun stuff on the site, too. Plus there's an Easter egg in there for anyone looking for a coding gig.
  • Do you refuse to give up your Zune? Weirdly, you are not alone: Here's a fun story from The Verge about the dedicated, maybe slightly crazy group of people who can't live without the old MP3 player.
  • Andreessen Horowitz is getting into the media biz, with plans to launch an opinion section and a broader setup for directly telling "unapologetically pro-tech, pro-future, pro-change" stories.
  • Google is starting to pay for media content in France, having signed contracts with a handful of news publications. Google's long been accused in Europe of gobbling up media ad revenue by displaying articles. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
  • Chinese telcos asked the NYSE to U-turn (again) on delisting their stocks. I'm not sure this one will ever end.

One More Thing

URL trolls are the best trolls

Go to a browser and type in antifa.com. (Or, you know, just click on that link!) It goes to WhiteHouse.gov! That is (A) hilarious, and (B) evidence of exactly nothing. Any domain can redirect to anything, and it turns out some genius troll has been sending antifa.com to various Biden-supporting sites for a while. And this is a thing! Hail-Hydra.com once redirected to the White House, JebBush.com briefly led to a Trump website in 2016, and Carly Fiorina once bought SethMeyers.org and tried to lightly blackmail him with it. URL politics is my favorite politics.

A MESSAGE FROM SYNCHRONY

SYNCHRONY

Contactless payments are no longer a nice to have.

At Synchrony, we understand the challenges of running a business. Our financial and technology solutions, like touchless payment tools, help you offer your customers more tailored experiences, so they keep coming back.

Learn more about our solutions.

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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