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What matters in tech, in your inbox every morning.

WhatsApp is finally getting into payments

Image: Facebook
WhatsApp Pay

Good morning! This Tuesday, Basecamp picks a fight with Gmail, Facebook turns on the WhatsApp money tap, and Walmart's latest move against Amazon

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People Are Talking

Facebook's starting a venture fund, but one investor said antitrust concerns limit its options:

  • "Facebook can't buy 100-million-user apps anymore. It needs to buy them closer to 10 million."

If you run a company, Mark Cuban said now is the time to spread the wealth:

  • "If you are the CEO/Director of a public company, or investment fund, NOW is the time to re-evaluate your comp and reward structures and look at bottom up rather than top down reward structures & to give equity to everyone. Otherwise your brand and business could get CRUSHED."

On Protocol: Former Pinterest employees Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks said they were victims of racism and discrimination at the company:

  • "The company was happy to have our Black faces on the work but not to pay us."

The Big Story

David Heinemeier Hansson on remote work, email, and Twitter fights

Basecamp launched a new app yesterday: an email service called Hey. There's a good chance you already know about it — co-founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson have been ranting and raving about Hey, and email in general, for months.

I wrote about Hey on Protocol yesterday, but last week I caught up with Heinemeier Hansson on a number of subjects. The man has … opinions. Here are a few snippets from our conversation.

On the long-term effects of COVID-induced remote work:

  • "It is in these crises that we have the potential to make the leaps. [Without COVID] this would never have happened. You would never have seen the likes of Shopify and Facebook saying, 'The last three months have taught us that all we thought we knew was true about the modern office is actually bullshit. And we're going to legitimately learn from that and re jig our organization.'"

On making the switch from meetings and chat to long-form writing:

  • "Principle number one: Do not try to force all sorts of communication, collaboration, dissemination through this one tool that is synchronous video chat. The wonder of remote work is the transition to asynchronous modes of collaboration, which goes through mostly writing … once you realize all of this stuff can be asynchronous, it pairs with another thing, which is to give up on ASAP culture."

On why he and Fried felt like they had to work on email:

  • "When someone wins, nothing happens. Microsoft went through this exact same thing with the Internet Explorer. They won, and like they froze the web in a stasis for what, six years? Seven years? Gmail has basically frozen all innovation in email for a good decade. Nothing happened because no one dared step close to Gmail. Gmail seemed invincible."

On "spy pixels," and why Hey blocks trackers of all kinds:

  • "You take companies like MailChimp and Shopify and so on. They want to be in polite company. They can't be seen as pariahs. If you successfully brand spy pixels as a pariah tactic, you can get it dropped across the board."

On why he and Fried like to pick fights on Twitter:

  • "If I have something that I believe to be true, that's currently not accepted wisdom — in fact, it's the opposite of accepted wisdom — I have to be a rebel … Because inertia is one of the most powerful forces humans have ever known. And nothing stops inertia until it literally is derailed. You have to derail inertia to even get a chance to make an argument."

Social

'We accept credit, debit … and WhatsApp'

WhatsApp is finally, officially getting into payments. After two years of testing with another payment system called UPI in India, the world's most popular messaging app surprised everyone by rolling out an integrated Facebook Pay feature across Brazil yesterday.

  • Users link a credit or debit card to their WhatsApp account, and … that's it. They can send money right within a chat. Transactions are secured with either a fingerprint or a six-digit PIN.
  • Outside of the U.S., it's pretty normal to message — or "zap" — a business directly. (Brazillian users like to refer to WhatsApp as Zap Zap, which is awesome.) Now, in addition to viewing a store's catalog from within WhatsApp, users can also make purchases there, too.

This is hardly a small-potatoes beta rollout: With 120 million users, Brazil is WhatsApp's second-largest market. If anything, it's a sign that Facebook thinks it's found a way to monetize WhatsApp everywhere.

  • While person-to-person payments are free of charge for now, merchants pay a small transaction fee. Plus, Facebook has been looking to bring ads to WhatsApp, which makes the choice to integrate Facebook Pay all the more interesting.
  • When Facebook Pay launched in November, the company said the service would collect user data for targeted ads. Is this a sign that ads are finally heading to WhatsApp? Maybe.
  • "WhatsApp and Facebook will not automatically use your payment account and transaction details to inform the ads that you see," the company told us in a statement.

With Facebook Pay working in scores of countries already, the Brazil rollout is likely just the beginning. A global payment system from Facebook? Sounds … familiar.

  • "For the record, this was always the plan," David Marcus, who leads Facebook's Novi, tweeted. "There will be domestic P2P and merchant payment options on traditional rails, AND Novi when the Libra network launches. The latter will focus on cross-border payments at first." Given that the former could reach 2 billion people worldwide inside their go-to app, I'd bet on WhatsApp in that race.

A MESSAGE FROM WORKDAY

Workday

Protocol's Transformation of Work Summit

How can tech help identify and match in-demand skills with job opportunity? Speakers include Future of Work Caucus co-chairs Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Representative Bryan Steil (R-WI), CEO of Jobs for the Future Maria Flynn, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies Matthew Sigelman, and CEO of Colorado State University Global Dr. Becky Takeda-Tinker. Presented by Workday.

Register here

Gaming

Real-world AR gaming, minus the real world

Turns out Pikachu and Jigglypuff have been staying home, too: Pokémon Go maker Niantic has seen significant usage changes as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

  • "You could see walking distances go down," Pokémon Go senior product manager Matt Slemon told Protocol's Janko Roettgers this week. He said changes varied widely depending on the severity of a country's lockdowns, and even between cities like New York and San Francisco.

Niantic responded by adding shelter-in-place-friendly features like remote raids, and announced details yesterday for the first virtual Pokémon Go Fest in late July. The event will have challenges, games, and "free downloadable and printable paper crafts and decorations" so you can turn your home into conference HQ.

  • The team's also been working on a social layer called Niantic Social that will eventually give players a persistent identity across all of the company's games, and a way to find their friends no matter what they're playing.

There will be more games, too: Niantic CEO John Hanke recently told reporters that the company has 10 new titles on its roadmap, with plans to roll out two per year over the next five years.

  • Not all of those titles will be games. "The platform that we are building is not a games-specific platform," Slemon said, reminding us that the company's first-ever app, Field Trip, wasn't about gaming, either. COO Megan Quinn tweeted that the company plans to launch at least two new apps on Niantic's platform every year "for the foreseeable future."
  • Hanke, for his part, hinted at plans to support fitness, shopping and more with future Niantic titles. "We're eager to do work in that area, where the lines blur," he said.

Number of the Day

1,120

That's how many kilometers two Chinese ground observatories managed to send a quantum encrypted key, via a communications satellite. That's a 10x increase in the real-world distance over which quantum encrypted keys have been sent in the past without the use of relays . And by not using extra relays, the researchers said they were able to increase "the practical security of quantum key distribution to an unprecedented level."

In Other News

  • U.S. companies can work with Huawei on 5G, the Department of Commerce said. Is everyone best friends now? Hardly. But it means American companies can be part of standards bodies where Huawei is also a participant.
  • Apple said the App Store facilitated $519 billion in trade last year. That's ads, food deliveries, travel bookings, and lots more – so this is less "look how much money Apple makes" and more "look how much money people are spending on their phones."
  • Walmart's working with Shopify to bring more sellers onto the Walmart Marketplace. It means a lot of new businesses can start selling on Walmart.com, as the big-box company continues to try to take on Amazon.
  • It seemed like a huge DDOS attack on practically the whole internet, but the reality was less interesting: A T-Mobile network config issue made it seem like the internet was collapsing, but it was really just T-Mobile collapsing.
  • Tech employees donated millions to the Black Lives Matter Foundation, but BuzzFeed News found that the organization has nothing to do with the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Six former eBay employees were charged with cyberstalking a couple that wrote a newsletter critical of eBay. In an attempt to get the newsletter shut down, the employees illegally surveilled the couple, and sent them "a box of live cockroaches, a funeral wreath and a bloody pig mask."
  • On Protocol: When TikTok gets into controversy, it has an interesting playbook: It starts prioritizing educational videos, evidently hoping to have the platform appear more useful and positive.
  • Jeff Bezos may testify in front of Congress after all, as part of the House's antitrust investigation. Sounds like that could happen this summer.

One More Thing

Computers lie, phones tell the truth

Shiri Melumad, a professor at Penn, once said that "smartphones are not unlike adult pacifiers." Now, she says they don't just make us feel better, but that they also make us more honest. Studies of tweets and restaurant reviews found that people typing on their phones used far more first-person pronouns and revealed far more personal information than those working on a computer. Since we're so comforted by our phones, and since it's so much harder to type on the smaller keyboard, we tend to focus more narrowly, the theory goes – and thus we give away more of ourselves. The lesson, I guess: If you want to play it cool, get out the laptop.

A MESSAGE FROM WORKDAY

Workday

Protocol's Transformation of Work Summit

How can tech help identify and match in-demand skills with job opportunity? Speakers include Future of Work Caucus co-chairs Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Representative Bryan Steil (R-WI), CEO of Jobs for the Future Maria Flynn, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies Matthew Sigelman, and CEO of Colorado State University Global Dr. Becky Takeda-Tinker. Presented by Workday.

Register here

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to me, david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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