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It’s a yes or no question. But what if the answer isn't so simple?

Image: Twitter / Protocol
It’s a yes or no question. But what if the answer isn't so simple?

Good morning! This Friday, how tech CEOs are starting to get tired of the Congressional hearings, why Deliveroo is trying to be more than a delivery company, Elon Musk has to delete one of his tweets and notaries are the hot new thing in tech.

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The Big Story

Hearings, hearings and more hearings

You get the sense Jack Dorsey is just … over it. During his appearance at yesterday's House hearing, along with Sundar Pichai and Mark Zuckerberg, Dorsey in particular seemed to have no patience for the proceedings.

Zuckerberg did most of the talking during the hearing. As Protocol's Issie Lapowsky and Emily Birnbaum wrote, he evaded some questions about extremism and denied that Facebook played a role in the Capitol riot, but also acknowledged issues on the platform.

  • He also did a good job of summing up the tech industry's take on things. "I think it's reasonable to expect large companies to have effective moderation systems," he said, "but not reasonable to expect that there are never any errors." He also acknowledged that transparency about those successes and failures is crucial.
  • Congress's response? Whatever those companies are doing is obviously not enough. And if they're simply too big to catch everything, Congress might have to do something about that.

This hearing was different from previous ones for one big reason: It was less focused on accusations of bias against conservatives, and far more concerned with how extremism and misinformation thrive on Google, Twitter and Facebook.

  • The focus on extremism makes sense, given how much the Capitol riot still looms both on those platforms and in the minds of Congress. But there still weren't many good questions, and even fewer revealing answers.
  • Another common topic, among Republicans in particular: How these platforms affect kids. (I'm betting Zuckerberg was not happy that BuzzFeed reported that Instagram is working on a kid-focused product last week.) All three CEOs expressed concern on the subject, but didn't offer much in the way of solutions.

But it wasn't that different. There was still the endless litigation of specific bad tweets, the pointed accusations that the CEOs are bad people who run bad companies that don't care, the constant "yes or no" questions that actually don't have such simple answers.

  • As the hours-long hearing went on — the 17th such hearing since late 2017, by the way — you could practically see the patience disappearing, especially in Dorsey.

Which brings us to the best moment of the whole thing, which was when Dorsey subtweeted the hearing mid-hearing with a yes-or-no poll, and got caught by Rep. Kathleen Rice. "Your multitasking skills are quite impressive," she told Dorsey.

IPOs

Can Deliveroo deliver(oo)?

Delivery companies — whether they're Amazon or Uber, Lyft or Flexport — generally fall into one of two categories. They're either a logistics company building a platform everyone can use to deliver stuff to your house, or they're going after an entire industry and just starting with delivering stuff to your house.

Deliveroo is very much going after an industry. It's right there in the first line of its IPO prospectus: "Our mission is to be the definitive online food company." As Protocol's Hirsh Chitkara writes, food delivery has been a good market for Deliveroo, especially in the last year, but the company's Galaxy Brain plan is much bigger.

  • Deliveroo is already in the cloud kitchen business, for instance, and it's building a white-label delivery tool for restaurants to use themselves.
  • The word "content" also shows up a few times in the prospectus; the company's pretty clearly interested in things like restaurant websites, food blogs and the like. "At Deliveroo, we think about food as content in the same way that other online platforms think about film or fashion," its prospectus reads.

But its vision isn't without big hurdles. In the here and now, the delivery business is a fickle one. Deliveroo faces some of the same risks as Uber, DoorDash and the rest:

  • Regulation looms large. Deliveroo is fighting over the status of contract workers in a handful of European countries. The recent U.K. Supreme Court ruling against Uber surely makes Deliveroo nervous, and some investors have already said they won't buy shares over concerns about how Deliveroo treats its workers.
  • Everybody's a competitor. I suspect this is why Deliveroo wants to be "the online food company" rather than "a delivery company," because the list of deep-pocketed players in that space grows practically every day.
  • The pandemic has been a double-edged sword. It's been great for demand, but awful for restaurants. What happens as people start going out again, now that there are simply fewer restaurants to choose from? Deliveroo obviously wants to vertically integrate, but that's a lot harder (and a lot less profitable) than just building a platform and skimming off the top.

The market hasn't been terribly bullish on companies like Uber and DoorDash so far in 2021, and it's possible that Deliveroo missed its moment to have a huge IPO. It's planning to list in London starting on April 7, and it's a race to cash out while everyone's still home.

A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON

A recent report studying voluntary increases to wages by businesses found that when Amazon raised its pay to $15 in 2018, it led to a 4.7% increase in wages for employees at other companies in the same market. The study also found no significant job losses in the community after the wage increase.

Read more

People Are Talking

President Biden took a strong stance on China's rise to prominence:

  • "They have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world. That's not gonna happen on my watch."

On the 20th anniversary of Mac OS X, Imran Chaudhri told a great story about how he dealt with Steve Jobs:

  • "In 1995, while interning at Apple, I bought a NeXT cube for $150 at Stanford surplus. While designing Mac OS X with Steve, he liked to tell us how the NeXT was better. So I started bringing in my cube to win arguments by showing him that things weren't as good as he remembered. This happened so often that it got to the point where if he walked in and saw the cube in the room, he'd just let it go."

Could the U.S. ban Bitcoin? Ray Dalio thinks so:

  • "I think that it would be very likely that you will have it under a certain set of circumstances outlawed the way gold was outlawed."

Sina Estavi compared Jack Dorsey's tweet NFT to the "Mona Lisa," and said paying $2.9 million for it was an easy decision:

  • "It's a piece of human history in the form of a digital asset. Who knows what will be the price of the first tweet of human history 50 years from now."

Number of the day

25

That's how many AI companies Apple has acquired since 2016, according to GlobalData. It's more than any other company: Google has acquired 14 over the same span, Microsoft 12 and Facebook just nine. And yet Siri still can't reliably set a timer.

In Other News

  • Elon Musk has to rehire a union activist at Tesla and delete one of his tweets from 2018, the NLRB ruled. It had been investigating Tesla's anti-union efforts for some time.
  • After Amazon poo-pooed the idea of workers peeing in bottles, Vice published pictures of the bottles. Like we said yesterday, this was never going to turn out well for Amazon.
  • The Senate voted to continue PPP. That means small businesses can continue to get support through the end of May.
  • Notaries are the next big thing. Notarize just closed a $130 million series D round, days after DocuSign released its own competitor. Move over, e-signatures, the notaries are here now.
  • Microsoft's Discord talks are advancing. The Wall Street Journal reported the two companies are now in exclusive talks, and could complete a deal next month. Of course, that's what we thought about TikTok. So I wouldn't hold your breath.
  • Slack has yet more features coming. After teasing things like Stories and Clubhouse-style audio channels last fall, Stewart Butterfield said they're getting closer to reality. The Slack you know is really nothing like the Slack that's coming soon.
  • WeWork is going public (for real this time). It has reportedly agreed to a merger with the BowX Acquisition Corp., a SPAC that would value WeWork at about $9 billion.
  • Californians can get vaccinated soon. Governor Gavin Newsom announced that everyone 50 and older will be eligible on April 1, and everyone 16 and older two weeks later. This might move up some companies' office reopenings, which are already starting to happen.

NFT of the day

Image: Parallel

NFTs are usually talked about synonymously with digital art, but that's not actually correct. And developers are starting to broaden the definition. A new game called Parallel — which is still pretty early in development, but sounds a bit like a dystopian, digital Magic: The Gathering — will have NFTs baked into the gameplay and is selling NFT cards ahead of launch. Imagine, say, Fortnite skins you can buy, but it's only you who gets to wear them. Parallel's going to make a fortune, isn't it?

A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON

A recent report studying voluntary increases to wages by businesses found that when Amazon raised its pay to $15 in 2018, it led to a 4.7% increase in wages for employees at other companies in the same market. The study also found no significant job losses in the community after the wage increase.

Read 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.

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