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Can anyone make Yahoo cool again?

Image: Yahoo/Protocol
Yahoo

Good morning and May the 4th be with you! This Tuesday, what's next for Yahoo after being sold by Verizon, the crazy first day in Epic v. Apple and what to expect from Melinda Gates after her divorce from Bill.

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Housekeeping

Tomorrow's newsletter is going to be a couple of hours late. Facebook's Oversight Board is planning to announce its kinda-thought-it-might-never-happen decision on what to do with Donald Trump's account. We'll be in your inbox as soon as that comes out, with all the latest on what happened and what it means.

The Big Story

The new new new Yahoo

Apollo Global Management just bought Verizon Media — basically Yahoo and AOL — for $5 billion, and plans to rename the company to Yahoo. (Shame about the name; it could've resurrected CompuServe or Netscape is all I'm saying.) And the sale is … essentially an admission of defeat from Verizon?

  • That $5 billion sale price is about half what Verizon paid for the two companies, not including the huge sums it has poured into trying to make them a big business.

Verizon's plan for AOL and Yahoo once made some sense. When it bought the companies — AOL in 2015 and Yahoo in 2017 — the idea was to bring two giant brands together to form a third advertising giant next to Facebook and Google.

  • The market is so large that even a distant third- or fourth-place player would be a mammoth business.
  • Yahoo and AOL both also operated huge media businesses, and had first-party email and other products that could have helped Verizon compete head-on with the ad giants.

But this new deal has been a couple of years in the making. Verizon's thesis was the right one: Streaming did quickly come to dominate the internet. Yet in trying to buy its way to scale, Verizon bought two slowly dying brands, merged them into one, renamed the whole thing to Oath, and watched it all die even faster.

  • When Hans Vestberg took over as Verizon's CEO, it became clear that the company was going to spend its time and money on 5G spectrum and infrastructure projects, rather than trying to build media brands. Verizon splashed $53 billion on 5G spectrum in an auction earlier this year, and is spending billions more on its broadband infrastructure.
  • In recent years, Verizon's content moves have been almost entirely about partnerships. It offers Disney+, Apple Music, Discovery+ and other services to subscribers, often for free. The old Verizon thought it had to make and distribute its own content to be more than a dumb pipe; the new one believes that combining billing, accounts and data into a single place might be enough.

As for the new new new Yahoo? Apollo is now the third company to try and make the brand cool again. It's hard to know what, exactly, it will look like. "Apollo has a powerful vision that includes aggressively pursuing growth areas in commerce, content and betting," Vestberg said in a memo on Monday.

  • That means Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Fantasy and a few others will live on. But there's also a search engine, and the news sites, and an email app, and so much more to sort through. Culling Yahoo's product lineup is at the top of Apollo's list, the Financial Times reported.
  • One interesting apparent new possibility: turning Yahoo Finance into a Robinhood competitor. That alone would make the $5 billion price seem like a steal.

The appeal of the ad tech world may be stronger than ever, as the backlash against the Facebook-Google duopoly continues and as companies like Amazon and Roku prove there's plenty of digital ad money to go around. But Apollo will have to figure out what Yahoo is, what it isn't and whether anyone cares, or risk watching the company's value crash even further.

Epic v. Apple

Off to a rocky start

Day one at tech's trial of the year was … rocky. The tech setup didn't really work and the trial still hasn't really found a groove yet. But things are already rollicking. Here are four things to take away from the beginning of Epic v. Apple, courtesy of Protocol's Nick Statt and Ben Brody:

  • The court wasn't prepared for a Fortnite lawsuit. In the half hour leading up to the trial's start on Monday morning, the courtroom public access phone line was swarmed by young Fortnite fans talking over each other. "We just want mobile back please," was a common refrain as the court struggled to mute those dialing in.
  • Things got basic, and metaverse-y. Much of Sweeney's early testimony revolved around answering basic questions about Epic and Fortnite, including what the Unreal Engine is and what a "cosmetic" and video game "avatar" are. But he got properly animated when talking about Fortnite as a metaverse — which required some defining.
  • The 70-30 cut is a central character. Emails from Apple's Phil Schiller revealed reservations way back in 2011 about the 70-30 cut remaining "unchanged forever," while Apple's lawyers hit back at Sweeney during cross examination for once upon a time offering developers a 60-40 publishing split.
  • Apple thinks prior court rulings give it the win. Its lawyer, Karen Dunn, made sure to cite, by name, some of the freshest rulings in antitrust, particularly Ohio v. American Express, which was decided at the Supreme Court in 2018, and FTC v. Qualcomm, which ended in a federal appeals court last summer. Both are seen as defendant-friendly decisions, narrowing definitions in antitrust law and requiring plaintiffs to show more.

Titans

What Melinda Gates does next

Bill and Melinda Gates said they're getting divorced. But there's little question over what she'll do with her personal fortune, according to Protocol's Issie Lapowsky and Biz Carson.

  • In the male-dominated early computing era and the billionaire boys' club that sprung out of it, Melinda has been a singular figure. Unlike most other spouses of Big Tech billionaires, she has not shied away from the spotlight.
  • Instead, through her writing, philanthropy and investments, she's become a globally-recognized figure in her own right, using her wealth and her platform to train that spotlight on the needs of women.

As she charts her own course apart from Bill, there's no reason to believe she'll stop now.

  • Beyond the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda already struck out on her own in 2015 and started Pivotal Ventures, an investment company and incubator dedicated to increasing women's power and influence.
  • Pivotal Ventures was one of the first backers of All Raise, a nonprofit that's trying to increase the number of female founders and female funders in the tech industry, and helped launch The Holding Co., an incubator and investment arm to "redesign how we care for each other in the 21st century."

It's still unclear how the Gateses will divide their estimated $130 billion fortune in the divorce, but how Melinda will put the money to use won't be much of a question.

A MESSAGE FROM INTEL

"I've been working at Intel on developer solutions for 24 years, and when I think about the hardware that we provide, what our customers ultimately want to do with it is turn it into solutions, or essentially create new magic," says Intel's Bill Pearson: "Developers provide the magic."

Learn more

People Are Talking

On Protocol | Enterprise: Spotify went all-in on Google Cloud, and VP of platforms Tyson Singer said it was all about speed and simplicity:

  • "We wanted to spend more time focused on our business, and less time on infrastructure. That's an interesting thing for somebody who leads the infrastructure organization to say, but it's something that I actually truly believe in."

On Protocol: Charlotte Newman is suing Amazon over allegations of discrimination and harassment, and said the issues were company-wide:

  • "There were also these moments where I think there was just a culture that was created where people felt emboldened to, or like they had permission to say and do things towards me that were, I think, motivated by bias in some way. It sort of recalled caricatures of Black people."

Don't worry about the crazy Bitcoin price swings, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said:

  • "It's nothing new in crypto. Volatility is everywhere. Um, and actually Bitcoin is probably less volatile than a similar-sized asset like an Apple stock or even a Tesla stock."

STMicroelectronics CEO Jean-Marc Chéry said the chip shortage would permanently reshape supply chains, and customers would need to start holding inventory:

  • "If they expect the semiconductor [suppliers] to be the bank, to keep having a big working capital to support them, they can forget it."

Making Moves

Samy Bengio is joining Apple to run an AI research unit. He joins from Google, which he left in the midst of its recent AI team turmoil.

Ajit Pai is a new visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, in addition to his gig at Searchlight Capital Partners.

Sony is investing in Discord, and the two companies are partnering to bring Discord into the PlayStation Network. Pretty sure that's the nail in the coffin of a Microsoft acquisition.

Vitalik Buterin is a crypto billionaire now, as the price of Ether jumped to $3,200. Buterin created Etherum, and his 333,500 Ether are worth a little over $1 billion.

Intel is investing $3.5 billion in its plant in New Mexico, as it continues to ramp up production capacity around the U.S.

In Other News

  • On Protocol: VCs are crowdfunding themselves. Firms like Backstage Capital and Earnest Capital are tapping into their network of followers to fund their operational costs, with backers getting a slice of the firm's profit.
  • Twitter announced paid features for Spaces, letting users sell tickets to access the live audio conversations. Twitter's keeping a "small amount" of the revenue. It also rolled out Spaces to everyone with over 600 followers, potentially spelling trouble for Clubhouse, which has seemingly seen downloads plummet since February.
  • Fidelity halved its Ant Group valuation, marking its shares at prices that implied a valuation of $144 billion. That's below what Fidelity originally paid for its shares in Ant.
  • The Basecamp debacle was made worse by a disastrous all-hands meeting, Platformer reported. The Friday meeting reportedly left some employees in tears, and head of strategy Ryan Singer was suspended after questioning the existence of white supremacy at Basecamp.
  • Arrival partnered with Uber to make electric cars for ride-hailing drivers. Uber will help with the cars' design.
  • Meet the Meebits, the latest NFT project from CryptoPunks developer Larva Labs. Expect the 3D avatars to sell for ludicrous amounts of money.

Work In The Future

Never commute again

In a big new paper on remote work, three researchers found that there's a real productivity increase associated with work-from-home. The reasons vary pretty widely, from improved infrastructure to comfort with your surroundings. But there's one thing everybody has in common: They get more done when they don't spend hours getting to and from work.

The study estimates "that higher levels of WFH will boost productivity by about 4.6%. Over half of this productivity gain reflects the savings in commuting time afforded by WFH." Higher-paid workers tend to have longer commutes, the researchers found, and as they work from home, more cities will have to grapple with the lost income. But the point is this: Commuting sucks. And no matter what happens to your team going forward, you should try and minimize everyone's commute times. Because commute time kills work time.

A MESSAGE FROM INTEL

"I've been working at Intel on developer solutions for 24 years, and when I think about the hardware that we provide, what our customers ultimately want to do with it is turn it into solutions, or essentially create new magic," says Intel's Bill Pearson: "Developers provide the magic."

Learn more

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Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.

Update: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated who was affected by recent defendant-friendly antitrust decisions. It is the plaintiffs that must provide more evidence, not the defendants.

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