Image: Dave Adamson / Protocol
February 7, 2021
Good morning! This Sunday, here's your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from the best stories from Protocol's first year to the best tech ads of this year's Super Bowl.
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Best of Protocol
- I know we talked about this on Friday, but we're officially a 1-year-old now! By this age, some babies are learning to walk or even talk a little. Which is to say, we still have big plans! Thanks again for being part of this with us, we absolutely couldn't have done it without all of your ideas and encouragement.
- Jeff Bezos' run at Amazon was unprecedented in so many ways, and will be tough to equal for any founder trying to copy his massive success. Now Andy Jassy has a really different job: taking a huge company, with plenty of tailwinds but also plenty of issues, and steering it into the future. Also, read Tom's story about who might run AWS next.
- It's a little bit Pinterest, a little bit Instagram, a little bit TripAdvisor, and in all, one of the fastest-growing shopping apps in China. It's called Xiaohongshu ("Red" in English). And if you can make sense of its complicated algorithms and influencer-led communities, it's also one of the best opportunities for foreign companies to reach Chinese consumers.
- Tech tends to see government tech inadequacy as a sad inevitability, the result of a bureaucracy that's just hopelessly behind. Turns out, at least when it comes to vaccine scheduling, it's just that there are other things to worry about. And tech can, and should, help out.
Amy Klobuchar's new legislation should scare Big Tech, by Emily Birnbaum
- We've covered antitrust reform a lot in this newsletter, and honestly, most of it is just yelling and politics. But what Amy Klobuchar is doing is real, it's serious and it has a chance to change the whole landscape of the tech company.
- This is a fun profile of a relatively common story: Upstart company tries to take on tech giants. But the thing about Bill McDermott is that you might be crazy to bet against him. And as he takes on some of the biggest players in enterprise tech — including his previous employer — there are definitely going to be fireworks.
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One thing we have realized is that COVID-19 has accelerated three transformational trends that already existed before the pandemic, but are now dramatically reshaping healthcare: the concept of a networked healthcare system, the increasing adoption of telehealth, and the idea of virtual care and guidance. At the same time, we have seen consumers becoming much more engaged in their personal health and that of their families.
Best of Everything Else
- Frank Slootman probably won't start your company. But he's really good at taking companies public, and making everyone really, really, really rich in the process. Slootman's story is also a useful study in how companies change as they grow, and why it's so rare for a founder to be the right leader forever.
The new Silicon Valley perks: Child care, financial planning and therapy — The Wall Street Journal
- Every time I talk to people who are working in the office right now, it sounds miserable: You wear a mask, speak to no one, touch nothing, no fun allowed. Meanwhile, working from home has changed everyone's work lives. What does the office look like when you're not supposed to be there all the time?
Rise and fall of the house of Bitcoin — Rest of World
- Bitcoin mining is a big, messy business right now. And, like the currency itself, it's a hard thing to keep track of sometimes. In a place like Argentina, where this story plays out, it represented freedom and success for so many reasons, but reality always turns out to be more complicated.
- It's one of Elon Musk's favorite things to tweet about, perhaps the most ridiculous investment on the internet, and a perfect example of how strange and connected everything is now. Is it illegal? Who knows. Maybe. There will be hearings. But what's happening with Dogecoin is way more interesting than what's happening with GameStop.
The Snapchat thief — Reply All
- An oldie but a goodie, and newly relevant given this week's news about Instagram, TikTok and Twitter trying to crack down on the lucrative trade of awesome internet usernames. Whether you're @cool or @anna_jackson4373741, you're going to want to know what it takes to protect your identity online.
- No Super Bowl parties, no big crowd, no week-long celebration … is it even really a Super Bowl? Tech companies are trying anything to make the game more exciting: new cameras for the broadcast, a way to watch the game as if you're in the stadium, a whole bunch of buzzword 5G stuff. But this is the best idea I've seen yet: There's a football stadium inside Fortnite where you can hang out, play games and hang with NFL players. That's my Super Bowl this year.
Tech's Super Bowl ads
Yet another reason this Super Bowl Sunday will not be like your normal Super Bowl Sunday: There will be no Coke commercials and no Budweiser ads. But you know who's been happy to pony up $5.5 million for a 30-second ad on the biggest TV event of the year? Tech companies. Here are the ads we've seen so far:
- Uber reunited the Wayne's World duo to extol the virtues of Uber Eats.
- Amazon gave Alexa a body. A … sexy body?
- Squarespace turned Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" into "5 to 9" to promote side-hustle life.
- Indeed went the other way, promising to help people get their 9-to-5s back after a really tough year.
- John Travolta made a TikTok. It's technically a Scotts Miracle-Gro commercial, but I'm counting this one as tech anyway.
- Dexcom grabbed Nick Jonas to show off its new glucose monitor, which works without fingersticks. The best thing since Mars rovers.
- Vroom made a thriller movie about car dealerships.
- Mercari's ad basically assumes you've never heard of Mercari. Which seems like a good call.
- Fiverr went to Four Seasons Total Landscaping, and thus won the super-topical award. (And we haven't seen the full ad yet.)
- And Robinhood wins the ironic-timing award, with an ad about how "we are all investors."
So far, though, the best ad I've seen is GM's electric vehicle commercial starring Will Ferrell. Let's crush those lugers.
Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or our tips line, email@example.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.