From the Editor

Protocol turns 2: Read our favorite stories

Mark the occasion by diving back into some of our favorite pieces from our first two years.

Cake with Protocol logo

Happy birthday to us!

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Protocol turns 2 this weekend, and in some parallel universe in which we very much do not live, we’d be gathering the team together in a conference room today for an awkward toast with lukewarm champagne and some cake that nobody really wants to eat.

Remember office celebrations like that? I don’t miss them. Except, I kind of miss them. And I wish we could have one today because we have a lot to celebrate.

We launched Protocol on Feb. 5, 2020, just a few weeks before the world shut down. It was not the best moment for launching … anything. But two years later, Protocol is not just surviving but thriving. We’re now producing daily coverage, newsletters and events in six — and soon to be seven — specific coverage areas: Enterprise, Fintech, China, Workplace, Entertainment, Policy and, next month, Climate. Our readership is exploding. And our team is getting bigger and deeper with each passing day. Protocol now has more than 40 journalists covering the people, power and politics of tech, with nearly 20 additional colleagues on the business side making it all possible: And there’s a lot more still to come.

So, yeah, I wish we could celebrate together today in a (very large) conference room. But since we can’t do that, I’m going to mark the occasion by diving back into some of my favorite Protocol pieces from our first two years.

I’ll paste my list in below. I’d love to hear about your favorites too. Please drop me a note at Thank you, and thanks for reading Protocol.

An oral history of #hugops: How tech’s first responders built a culture of empathy, by Tom Krazit

  • When something breaks on the internet, the people who know how to fix it just want to give their colleagues a hug — even if they're rivals.

Concern trolls and power grabs: Inside Big Tech’s angry, geeky, often petty war for your privacy, by Issie Lapowsky

  • Inside the World Wide Web Consortium, where top engineers battle over the future of your data.

I helped build ByteDance’s vast censorship machine, by Shen Lu

  • "I wasn’t proud of it, and neither were my colleagues. But that’s life in today’s China."

Lasers and molten tin: Inside Intel’s plans for the world’s most advanced chip-making process, by Max A. Cherney

  • After years of manufacturing struggles, Intel has gone all-in on extreme ultraviolet lithography to make its most advanced chips. The technology is theoretically precise enough to hit your thumb with a laser pointer from the moon.

A 19-year-old built a flight-tracking Twitter bot. Elon Musk tried to pay him to stop, by Veronica Irwin

  • “I’ve put a lot of work into it, and $5k is just really not enough.”

Bad broadband maps are keeping people offline, and everybody knows it, by Ben Brody

  • The center of Maine’s lobster industry shows how much work towns must do to convince anyone they have poor internet access.

How Discord (somewhat accidentally) invented the future of the internet, by David Pierce

  • Discord's founders just wanted to create a way to talk to their gamer friends. They created something much bigger.

Brownsville, we have a problem, by Anna Kramer

  • The money and will of Elon Musk are reshaping a tiny Texas city. Its residents are divided on his vision for SpaceX, but their opinion may not matter at all.

How Dapper Labs scored NBA crypto millions, by Tomio Geron

  • The company behind CryptoKitties, the first glimmer that consumers might get excited about blockchain-backed digital goods, is poised to hit the mainstream with NBA Top Shot.

The cry-laughing emoji has absolutely earned this, by Becca Evans

  • Is it always sincere, or even trendy? No. Does it serve its purpose? Absolutely.

How ‘Big Buck Bunny’ — a movie you've probably never heard of — became an internet legacy, by Janko Roettgers

  • Video engineers have turned to “Big Buck Bunny” as the open-source movie blueprint. Used for video codec development, Netflix’s streaming testing and more, it’s a case study in how art and open source can work together.

Gensler: Bitcoin may be a commodity

The SEC has been vague about crypto. But Gensler said bitcoin is a commodity, “maybe.” It’s the clearest glimpse of his views on digital assets yet.

“Bitcoin — maybe that’s a commodity token. That has a big market value, but that goes over there,” Gensler said, referring to another regulator, the CFTC.

Photoillustration: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Protocol

SEC Chair Gary Gensler has long argued that many cryptocurrencies are subject to regulation as securities.

But he recently clarified that this view wouldn’t apply to the best-known cryptocurrency, bitcoin.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

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