June 6, 2021
Your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from governments all over the world cracking down on tech to a deep dive on how YouTube became YouTube.
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Best of Protocol
Meet China's tiny, adorable Tesla-slayer, by Zeyi Yang
- The Chinese government spent the last decade doing everything it could to boost the electric vehicle industry. But as EVs become commonplace in China and around the world, the local approach is starting to change. And that's making life complicated for lots of companies, including the one making the cutest EV we've seen yet.
SCOTUS limits core anti-hacking law in Van Buren decision, by Issie Lapowsky
- This decision was largely made deep in the weeds of the text of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act — there's a whole long section on the word "so" — but it has big ramifications. For one thing, it makes it significantly harder for companies to enforce their terms of service, because anyone with "access" can largely do what they like.
China's livestream queen makes nice with Beijing, by Shen Lu
- One of China's most famous and most influential streamers, Huang Wei (better known as Viya) has become something of a tech giant in her own right. That has brought her under the watchful eye of the Chinese government, which has identified streamers as a way to reach the masses.
India's social media crackdown could go global, by Ben Brody
- India has taken a harder line against social media companies recently after passing new rules that allow for much more censorship online. Other countries are watching, too, as governments everywhere look for ways to wrest some control back from platforms.
Why Google Cloud sees a big opening with SAP, by Joe Williams
- The cloud wars happen mostly behind the scenes, but the stakes are high and the dollar figures even higher. This particular story — about a preferential deal with Microsoft that's about to end, and the rush to get in on what's next — is a good peek into how fast it's all moving.
Sony gives us a glimpse of a post-console PlayStation, by Nick Statt
- Sony is stuck in a strange limbo right now. The PlayStation 5 is its shiny new object, but it's still so hard to find that most users are still using last-gen hardware — and Sony's game developers find themselves caught between generations. And all the while, Sony is continuing to invest in what appears to be clearly a cloud-based future. It's a little like what cable TV companies are going through; how do you bet on the future when there's still so much money to be made living in the past?
A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON
A recent study from the University of California-Berkeley and Brandeis University found that when Amazon raised their starting wage to $15/hr, the average hourly wage in the surrounding area rose by 4.7% as other employers followed their lead.
Best of Everything Else
The Pied Piper of SPACs — The New Yorker
- The Chamath Palihapitiya opus we've all been waiting for. Nobody embodies the wildness of life and business in 2021 better than the Bitcoin-pumping, thirst-trap-tweeting, SPAC-starting Palihapitiya. He's also yet more evidence that the Elon Musk Method — being the guy willing to say the crazy stuff — can be a heck of a business model.
Rituals for hypergrowth: An inside look at how YouTube scaled — Shishir Mehrotra
- It seemed like everyone in tech was sharing and reading this last week. It's a deep look at how YouTube's team worked during its early days at Google, as it quickly turned into the biggest thing in the world. There are a lot of specific ideas here about how to run meetings, how products get created and the importance of Bullpen time.
The Kings of Calm — The Atlantic
- A deep dive into the booming world of meditation apps. Which are kind of an oxymoron, when you think about it: These apps are designed to help relieve the stress caused in part by the constant pinging and buzzing from all the other apps on your home screen. Can tech save us from tech? Is there even any other option?
The failed promise of Kenya's smart city — Rest of World
- The story seems to always be the same: big plans, big funding and big dreams for how a connected, self-aware city could be better for everyone involved. And then it just … dies. This 12-year history of the "Silicon Savannah" project in Kenya gets at why these projects are so hard, and why the best-laid tech plans so often conflict with how the world actually works.
- The group is known as Chicken Drumstick, the main character is named Catfish, and the product was a wildly successful set of hacks for PUBG. All three became high-value targets for law enforcement — and for Tencent. The story of how Chicken Drumstick grew up and ultimately blew up is a rollicking one.
Bo Burnham Inside — Netflix
- This one's slightly off the beaten path for our normal recommendations, but you should watch it. Burnham spent the year in quarantine thinking about Instagram accounts, what the internet is doing to our brains, how to FaceTime with your mom, recursive Twitch streaming and much more. It's both hilarious and sort of brutal to watch, but it's worth it.
A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON
"Before working at Amazon, it was hard for me to pay my bills on time and save money." Going from $11 an hour at her last job to making more than $15/hr at Amazon meant Kimberly could afford a bigger place.
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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.