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Power

The gaming business is booming in lockdown. Verizon is doubling down with FaZe Clan.

The sponsorship is focused on Verizon's 5G wireless services.

Fortnite on a gaming computer

Partnering with FaZe Clan associates Verizon with FaZe Clan's more than 80 online influencers and FaZe's professional teams in games, including Fortnite.

Photo: Vlad Gorshkov/Unsplash

With COVID-19 cutting into revenue from wireless and advertising, Verizon is doubling down on one sector of the tech industry that's booming during quarantine: video games.

Verizon plans to announce Tuesday that it has become a lead sponsor of FaZe Clan, one of the world's most popular and influential video gaming organizations. The move comes just a month after Verizon announced a long-term partnership with the professional North American league for League of Legends, the world's most popular esport, which is owned by Riot Games (which is, in turn, controlled by Tencent).

Partnering with FaZe Clan, which recently surpassed 1 billion views on its YouTube channel, associates Verizon with the group's more than 80 online influencers and FaZe's professional teams in games including Fortnite and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The sponsorship is focused on Verizon's 5G wireless services.

"If Verizon were to pick any two organizations to associate with in esports, FaZe and League of Legends are pretty much the best-case scenario," said Rod "Slasher" Breslau, a leading esports analyst. "Having a company the size of Verizon commit to this space is extremely important to show how video games and esports are one of the few bright spots in terms of reaching the audiences these companies want."

FaZe Clan is building a competitive roster for Valorant, Riot's hot new shooter. People close to the deal said FaZe will soon put Verizon's (undisclosed amount of) money to work as it expands into Valorant, including as prize money for a new Valorant tournament to be announced as soon as Tuesday. The new tournament, part of Valorant's Ignition Series, would be an element of FaZe's expansion from recorded into live gaming content.

"Gaming and esports are already at a critical mass, and this relationship with FaZe is about how to take it to the next level, both from a B-to-B standpoint but also from a consumer and player perspective," said John Nitti, Verizon's chief media officer.

Jeffrey Pabst, FaZe's chief revenue officer, said: "People look for a technology partner on the esports side, but we're also a content company turning out huge amounts of content on our phones and other devices. Verizon, especially with their 5G infrastructure, is going to take what we're doing and put it on steroids."

People

Beeper built the universal messaging app the world needed

It's an app for all your social apps. And part of an entirely new way to think about chat.

Beeper is an app for all your messaging apps, including the hard-to-access ones.

Image: Beeper

Eric Migicovsky likes to tinker. And the former CEO of Pebble — he's now a partner at Y Combinator — knows a thing or two about messaging. "You remember on the Pebble," he asked me, "how we had this microphone, and on Android you could reply to all kinds of messages?" Migicovsky liked that feature, and he especially liked that it didn't care which app you used. Android-using Pebble wearers could speak their replies to texts, Messenger chats, almost any notification that popped up.

That kind of universal, non-siloed approach to messaging appealed to Migicovsky, and it didn't really exist anywhere else. "Remember Trillian from back in the day?" he asked, somewhat wistfully. "Or Adium?" They were the gold-standard of universal messaging apps; users could log in to their AIM, MSN, GChat and Yahoo accounts, and chat with everyone in one place.

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Politics

In 2020, COVID-19 derailed the privacy debate

From biometric monitoring to unregulated contact tracing, the crisis opened up new privacy vulnerabilities that regulators did little to address.

Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, says the COVID-19 pandemic has become a "cash grab" for surveillance tech companies.

Photo: Lianhao Qu/Unsplash

As the coronavirus began its inexorable spread across the United States last spring, Adam Schwartz, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, worried the virus would bring with it another scourge: mass surveillance.

"A lot of really bad ideas were being advanced here in the U.S. and a lot of really bad ideas were being actually implemented in foreign countries," Schwartz said.

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
People

The year our personal lives took center stage at work

2020's blurring of professional and personal boundaries exacerbated disparities, humanized leaders and put personal values front and center.

In 2020, the personal and the professional became inextricable at work.

Photo: Tom Werner/Getty Images

For those of us lucky enough to keep our jobs and privileged enough to be able to work from home, our whole selves were bared at work this year. Our homes and faces were blown up for virtual inspection. Our children's demands and crises filled our working hours, and our working mothers became schoolteachers and housewives, whether they wanted to or not. Our illnesses became vital public information, and our tragedies shared. Our work lives ate into our social lives until there was no boundary between them.

In 2020, the personal and the professional became inextricable at work. Remote work might be the most sexy 2020 trend, but for the CEOs and leaders I spoke with, the de-professionalization of work could be the most important effect on a personal level. It's the one that has caused the most harm to women in the workplace and destroyed work-life balance for basically everyone. It's also what has contributed to the majority of work-from-home Americans being more satisfied with their work lives than they were before, mostly because they feel more connected to their families, they're able to set their own schedules and they're more comfortable at home, according to a Morning Consult poll. While we can't know exactly how many and who will be going back to the office just yet, as long as there is some kind of flexible work schedule, people's personal lives will be part of their work lives and vice versa.

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (@ anna_c_kramer), where she helps write and produce Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Politics

What the Biden administration can learn from Ajit Pai’s FCC

The Biden administration's goals for internet infrastructure would be best pursued using economic incentives rather than heavy-handed directives, argues Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai gave the private sector plenty of latitude. Will that continue under the Biden administration after Pai steps down?

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

As Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai prepares to step down on Jan. 20, there are more than a few lessons the incoming Biden administration could learn from his tenure at the agency. Perhaps the most important lesson is that each of the new administration's goals for internet infrastructure — bridging the digital divide, universal broadband, rapid deployment of 5G — is best pursued using a regulatory approach that emphasizes economic incentives over heavy-handed directives.

Since March 1, internet usage has increased by roughly 30%, yet our networks have not buckled under pandemic-era pressures. Unlike much of Europe, we have not seen our access or speeds limited. This level of resilience is no accident. Under Pai, the private sector has had the appropriate incentives and latitude to do what it does best: invest in opportunity and innovate. The regulatory strategy and decisions got us to where we are today.

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Douglas Holtz-Eakin
Douglas Holtz-Eakin (@djheakin) is president of the American Action Forum and former director of the Congressional Budget Office.
Protocol | Enterprise

How Christian Klein’s reboot of SAP’s strategy is working out

The pandemic wasn't kind to the company. But the way it's working with the major COVID-19 vaccine makers is a model for what comes next.

Christian Klein became SAP's sole CEO in April.

Photo: Picture Alliance/Getty Images

Christian Klein took over as SAP's sole CEO in April. It wasn't an ideal time to take the helm of an organization that sells expensive enterprise software.

As the spread of COVID-19 forced corporations everywhere to cut costs, one of the first places they looked was IT budgets. Specifically, companies around the world trimmed spending on back-end products, such as those offered by SAP, many of which still run via on-premise data centers.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

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