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Vaccine mandates and metaverse debates

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Your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from tech's ubiquitous illustration style to the future of the creator economy.

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The Best of Protocol

Why is tech illustration stuck on repeat? Ask the overworked, underpaid illustrators, by Hirsh Chitkara

  • You've definitely seen the illustrations. The whimsical, simple silhouette drawings even have their own name: "Corporate Memphis." It is … everywhere. (And now that you know it, you'll see it even more.) Because like everything else in tech, art has become commoditized and turned into the product of dropdown menus. But maybe there's a comeback in sight.

Apple just reignited the encryption fight. Everyone should have seen it coming, by Ben Brody

  • The debate over Apple's plan to use people's devices to detect CSAM shows no sign of slowing down. It's in some ways the same argument as ever between those who want privacy through encryption, and those who see encryption as permission for bad people to do bad things. Apple's proposed middle ground might be a good one, but there are plenty of people uninterested in middle grounds.

Alibaba's rape allegation is a milestone in China's #MeToo movement, by Shen Lu

  • An allegation of rape sparked quick change within Alibaba, especially after it became a global news story. And it's bringing more attention and scrutiny to the business drinking culture and workplace sexual harassment that are all too common in China. These issues are more public than ever, and could create change beyond just Alibaba.

Vaccine mandates aren't enough. Big Tech wants employees to prove it, by Allison Levitsky

  • Not very long ago, the idea of a corporate vaccine mandate — get vaxxed or you can't come into the office — would have been massively controversial. Now, it's increasingly the norm. And companies big and small are having to figure out how to enforce those mandates in a moment of all-new COVID uncertainty.

Niantic CEO John Hanke says the metaverse is a 'dystopian nightmare,' by Nick Statt

  • This is not what you'd expect the CEO behind Pokémon Go to say! But Hanke's not wrong when he says that the world depicted in books like "Snow Crash" and "Ready Player One" isn't one we should aspire to. Instead, he said, "the world doesn't devolve into the kind of place that drives sci-fi heroes to escape into a virtual one."


Ransomware victims paid over $416 million worth of cryptocurrency to attackers in 2020, more than quadrupling 2019 totals. As of July 2021, we know that ransomware attackers have taken in at least $210 million worth of cryptocurrency from victims. Shouldn't we just ban crypto? The answer is no. Cryptocurrency is actually instrumental in fighting ransomware.

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The best of everything else

How Google bought Android — according to folks in the room — Ars Technica

  • This is an excerpt from "Androids: The Team That Built the Android Operating System," a new book by longtime Googler Chet Haase. It digs into a wild point in the history of Android, just before it was acquired by Google and promptly took over the world. It's a fun, in-the-weeds tale.

The creator economy is in crisis. Now let's fix it. — Li Jin

  • The creator economy is made out to be a boon for personal autonomy and freedom, the ability to do what you want and get paid for it. It sounds great! It also sounds like the gig economy, as Li Jin points out in this piece. What does it mean to "work for yourself" when it actually seems like people work for TikTok and Twitch? And can we undo that dynamic?

Facebook is rebuilding its ads to know a lot less about you — The Verge

  • There's a lot of good thinking in this interview with Graham Mudd, Facebook's VP of product marketing for ads. It's not like it's unclear to Facebook that it needs to solve for privacy, right? But doing that without crushing its business makes for a big, unwieldy ship to steer.

Folding Phones Are the New 3D TV — Wired

  • Calling anything "the new 3D TV" is a pretty sick burn. But the comparison here does track. Samsung's push into foldable devices so far seems like a solution in search of a problem, undeniably nifty technology that actually makes the user experience worse instead of better. That's the challenge for Samsung now: not to make foldables work, but to make them worthwhile.

An Exact Breakdown of How One CEO Spent His First Two Years of Company-Building — First Round Review

  • A really fun breakdown, at somewhat terrifying levels of detail, of what it's like to be a CEO. Levels co-founder Sam Corcos tracked his time in 15-minute increments for multiple years, and came out of it with some good tips on how to get more done … and some terrifying realities about modern life.


The key to tackling ransomware is disrupting the ransomware supply chain — developers, affiliates, infrastructure services providers, launderers and cashout points — and the blockchain is the only data source that ties these actors together. So while it may seem counterintuitive at first, ransomware groups' use of cryptocurrency for ransom payments is actually beneficial to ransomware investigations.

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Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to, or our tips line, Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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