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What matters in tech, in your inbox every morning.

The new TikTok, same as the old TikTok

Image: Ben Davis / Protocol
TikTok egg

Good morning! This Wednesday, we might finally know how the TikTok story ends, key takeaways from yesterday's Apple launch, the power of the social voting hub, and the FTC might be coming for Facebook next.

Also, you should sign up for our event about how to tackle cybersecurity in the work-from-home era. It takes place next Thursday at noon ET, and it should be fascinating.

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The Big Story

Meet the new TikTok

Let's try to see through all the politicking, the bluster, the "everything could change 10 more times before this is over," and instead actually look at what TikTok is becoming now.

Here's what we think we know, courtesy in part of a new FT story on the subject:

  • TikTok is expected to become its own corporate entity, TikTok Global, not wholly separate but definitely distinct from ByteDance.
  • That entity would be headquartered in the U.S., probably in Culver City, where TikTok already has a big office, but not necessarily. It plans to create 20,000 jobs in the U.S. as well.
  • ByteDance would still be the majority owner. Oracle would own part of the new TikTok, and other investors (existing and potentially new) might as well.
  • Oracle's job would be to store and process TikTok's data around the world, and U.S. data would be stored in the U.S.
  • Despite President Trump's insistence that the Treasury Department get some sort of finders' fee, that looks like it's not going to happen.

What we don't know? Well here's a partial list, otherwise we'd be here all day:

  • How the heck does this agreement square with the White House's determination to see TikTok sold to a U.S. company?
  • If ByteDance still controls TikTok's algorithm, how can Oracle, TikTok or the U.S. government be sure that the Chinese government isn't surreptitiously collecting user data or determining what videos people see?
  • Why did the Microsoft deal fall apart? Political connections clearly seemed to play a role, but Reuters also reported that ByteDance didn't like being called a security risk by Microsoft, and also thought its offer was too small.
  • Speaking of which, how much money is actually going to change hands here?
  • In what way is any of this materially different from the way things worked before, other than Oracle getting a monster cloud contract that used to belong to AWS and Google Cloud?

The deal still hasn't been made official, so, you know, standard shrug-emoji disclaimers apply. But President Trump noted his "high respect for Larry Ellison" yesterday, and said "I hear they're very close to a deal." I think we know roughly what that deal looks like now. As for why it took all this time and drama to get here? Harder to answer.

In related news: Microsoft, the jilted party in all this, could be looking for other ways to grow sooner than you think.

Gadgets

Lessons from an Apple event

There was no iPhone, I was wrong about podcasts and Apple's really serious about services. You already know the news, I'm sure (the short version: buy an iPad Air) but here are five quick takeaways from yesterday's event:

  • Apple One is a big deal. Right now it's just a way for Apple to turn Music and iCloud subscribers into TV+ and News+ subscribers. But in the long run, as I wrote about on Protocol, Apple One could be the beginning of Apple as a Service.
  • The Watch is the new entry device. For a long time it was Macs in schools, then it was iPods. Now, with the Watch SE, the Family Setup feature and the fact that you don't necessarily need an iPhone to use an Apple Watch, the Watch is going to be a lot of kids' first Apple device.
  • The iPad is Apple's favorite device. I can't prove this, and the iPhone is obviously its most important device, but Apple seems to see the iPad as its best expression of The Future. It even seems to build iOS (and increasingly macOS) with the iPad largely in mind.
  • Developers are pissed. Apple announced iOS 14 was coming today, evidently without giving third-party developers any heads up at all. Any goodwill Apple was starting to win back seemed to evaporate pretty quickly.
  • Health is not a fad at Apple. In fact, it's increasingly selling niche tracking and sensors — blood oxygen levels! — as upgrades on key devices. And no, Fitness+ won't kill Peloton, but it will sell a lot of Watches.

We've spent the last couple of years saying Apple was a hardware company trying to get into services. That increasingly misses the point: Apple sees its hardware as a service now, too. Apple's product is The Ever-Expanding Apple Universe, and you can get more and more of it for one monthly price. And if you compete with Apple? It's harder and harder to get in.

There are obviously more Apple events to come this fall. We'll see iPhones, and maybe Arm-based Macs? Maybe new over-ear AirPods, or smaller HomePods? In the meantime, I'll just be over here watching "Ted Lasso."

Elections

The voting hubs are working

One thing social companies seem to agree on: Getting people to vote is a good thing.

  • Twitter just became the latest company to put a hub of election information in a prominent place, in this case at the top of the Explore page for users in the U.S.
  • The page shows you how to follow local candidates, shows information about registering to vote, and suggests accounts tweeting helpful stuff.
  • Facebook and Instagram both have similar hubs in similar spots, and Snapchat's been pushing users to register to vote within the app. Are they all a little overly in your face? Yeah. But it seems like an OK trade.

These tools are working, too: As of last night, more than 450,000 people had registered to vote through Snapchat's mini app, and Snap told Axios that half the people it registered to vote in 2018 actually wound up casting a ballot.

Twitter also wants to point out how tough this all is. Its blog post announcing the election hub, lays out how complicated it is right now to find accurate election information:

  • "That's why we've banned political ads, expanded our policies around election misinformation, and are adding context to Tweets with labels for candidates, government and state-affiliated media accounts, and notices on Tweets with manipulated media. Trends now include additional context, Search results about voter registration lead with official sources, and people can report Tweets with deliberately misleading election information." Whew!

Getting out the vote has been a focus for social companies since long before the 2020 election, but they seem particularly focused on it this time.

A MESSAGE FROM PHILIPS

Philips

Stronger care … from more efficient operations

In a defining moment for healthcare, it's even more crucial to deliver patient-centered care efficiently. At Philips, we are committed to providing intelligent, automated workflows that seek to improve patient care. More efficient healthcare means stronger, more resilient healthcare.

Learn more.

People Are Talking

Bill Gates wrote a lovely eulogy for his father, Bill Sr., who died Monday:

  • "My dad had a profoundly positive influence on my most important roles — husband and father. When I am at my best, I know it is because of what I learned from my dad about respecting women, honoring individuality and guiding children's choices with love and respect."

Today's the day some of the biggest names on Instagram are refusing to post, and Kim Kardashian West explained why:

  • "I love that I can connect directly with you through Instagram and Facebook, but I can't sit by and stay silent while these platforms continue to allow the spreading of hate, propaganda and misinformation — created by groups to sow division and split America apart only to take steps after people are killed."

In the future, cable companies will have to stop caring whether you get cable. In fact, said Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts:

  • "Frankly, we're there."

Making Moves

Mike Fischer is the new CEO of Shadow. He has worked at Microsoft, Epic and elsewhere, and takes over as the game-streaming business is heating up in a big way. Jean-Baptiste Kempf (who you might know as the developer of VLC) is also the company's new CTO.

Jake Shapiro has moved to Apple, as its new head of creator partnerships for podcasts. The company's clearly interested in more exclusive shows, and Shapiro's going to be a good name to know.

Lybra Clemons joined Twilio as its new (and first) chief diversity, inclusion and belonging officer. She held a similar role at PayPal, and will report to Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson.

Everybody's going public today! And Snowflake looks poised to have a particularly good day: It raised its share price a couple of times, and is now valued at more than $30 billion.

In Other News

  • The FTC may file an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook by the end of the year, The Wall Street Journal reports. It's unclear what the specific legal basis of the suit would be, and a case may still not be filed.
  • The Senate antitrust subcommittee grilled Google's Donald Harrison yesterday. It focused on the company's ad market dominance, with Sen. Klobuchar bringing up its DoubleClick acquisition. Conservative censorship came up too, because of course it did.
  • Stripe is offering employees $20,000 if they relocate from San Francisco, NYC or Seattle, Bloomberg reports. But there's a catch: a salary cut of up to 10%.
  • AT&T is going big on ad-supported products. John Stankey said a lower-priced version of HBO Max is coming next spring with a "light ad load," and he floated the possibility of ad-subsidized cell phone plans in the next couple years.
  • Facebook's big VR event is today. We already know about the Quest 2, and Cnet speculates that we'll also see more social VR products, and possibly AR glasses.
  • Lyft wants you to vote: It's offering 50% off rides on Election Day, with the code 2020VOTE. Doesn't quite beat Uber's offer of free pizza, though.
  • Don't miss Emily Ratajkowski's piece on owning your image in a social media dominated industry. It includes the bizarre tale of Ratajkowski buying an artwork created from her own Instagram feed.
  • Nikola's facing yet another investigation. The Justice Department is reportedly examining the company, working with the SEC to determine if it misled investors.
  • Former Uber driver Rafaela Vasquez was charged with negligent homicide. Vasquez was Uber's backup driver in the first fatal self-driving car collision in 2018. Uber itself is not being charged.

One More Thing

Kanye West meets Y Combinator

Kanye wants to see a change in how ownership works in the music industry. He's done an impressive tour through some of tech and music's heavy hitters in the last day or so, tweeting screenshots and Google search results the whole way through. Tech names on the list? Most notably, Katie Jacobs Stanton, the Moxxie Ventures founder who West said is working with him to create a "Y Combinator for the music industry" to give artists more power. But Ben Horowitz got a shout-out, too, as did Reed Hastings. "Reed Hastings ... I like this guy." As ever, nobody tweets like Kanye.

A MESSAGE FROM PHILIPS

Philips

Stronger care … from more efficient operations

In a defining moment for healthcare, it's even more crucial to deliver patient-centered care efficiently. At Philips, we are committed to providing intelligent, automated workflows that seek to improve patient care. More efficient healthcare means stronger, more resilient healthcare.

Learn more.

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from 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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