The Congressional hearing of big tech dominated the headlines this week. The CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google all teleconferenced (using WebEx no less) into the Capital for a long, politically charged hearing. There was little focus on any one issue, with the congressmen and women bouncing between market dominance, censorship, and anticompetitive business practices.
In the weekly news cycle the themes from the hearing continued as pressure mounted for the government to respond to growing evidence, and a bit of panic, around TikTok and Chinese parent company Bytedance. Rumors kicked up late in the week that Microsoft, one of the few big tech companies missing from the Congressional hearings, was considering a purchase of the social network. Just yesterday the latests whispers suggest Microsoft and Bytedance have backed away from the negotiating table following comments from the White House.
From Around the Web
- Google’s Top Search Result? Surprise! It’s Google – The Markup
In the beging, Google focused on getting users off its search results and onto the correct site as quickly as possible. That’s no longer that case, as 41% of search results end with information the tech giant provides. This isn’t surprising to anyone who’s used Google in the past five years, and is a perfect example of the changing tech landscape.
- Parsing Tim Cook’s Opening Statement From Today’s Congressional Antitrust Hearing - Daring Fireball
Tim largely ignores the internet and its role in the success of the iPhone in his opening remarks. The App Store didn’t invent software distribution. It’s disingenuous to act as though without it, we would all still rely on CDs in the mail for installing software. Beyond this point, I really enjoyed John Gruber's analysis of the Tim Cook's opening remarks.
- Fortnite’s Tim Sweeney Comes Out Swinging at Apple, Google - Bloomberg
The App Store and Play Store have transformed the way we interact, and made downloading new apps less of a risk through thorough review and testing processes. With this in mind, the companies that run these stores, primarily Apple and Google, are mammoths and the financial demands they impose on developers feel less like getting a “fair share” and more like a mob shakedown. I hope Apple and Google can change their revenue models and take a smaller cut before US and EU regulators come for them.
- Facebook hate-speech boycott had little effect on revenue - Axios
For anyone following along at home, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Many of the companies that implemented “boycotts”, or pulling their ad spending from Facebook, only did so on a limited scale. This, coupled with the lack of serious competition for hyper-targeted advertisements meant they would be back in no time.
- Stories and Lessons from working with Jeff Bezos on the Original Kindle - Dan Rose - Twitter
Dan provides a compelling example of working with Jeff Bezos during the development of the Kindle, and how the Amazon CEO leveraged unconventional management methods to achieve incredible results. Personally, I really enjoy these first hand accounts of technology history being made, and am thankful Twitter provides a platform for sharing them.
- Mellow made its ‘smart’ sous vide machine dumb unless you pay a monthly fee - The Verge
It’s no secret that today’s “smart devices” have a very dangerous downside. Always on connectivity and control comes at a cost, and those costs aren’t always well understood at launch. With this in mind, the letter Mellow, a connected souse vide machine, sent to its customers informing them of the change is a master class in how not to handle addressing technical debt. Blaming the founders for their short-sighted and inexperienced decisions is a fast track to loosing trust. I can tell you with confidence, I will never be a Mellow customer.
- Trump says he will ban TikTok from operating in the US - The Hill
The big story of the week comes courtesy of The White House. I’m curious how such a ban could be enforced as there’s no precedent for such a thing. The cascading consequences of blocking one of the largest social networks, popular with an increasing vocal demographic, will also be interesting.
- The Economy Is in Record Decline, but Not for the Tech Giants - The New York Times
This makes sense. Tech provides us the ability to work and socialize from the safety of our homes. As we come to depend more and more on remote communication and entertainment, the companies that provide the platforms, content, and infrastructure to provide these new creature comforts will win a disproportionate number of consumers wallets.
I'm adding photos to the Weekly Roundup posts. While they don't always match the theme of the week, they are photos I've taken over the past decade. Rather than sharing stock images or scraping a semi-relevant photo from one of the links shared, I've decided to share some of my own photographic work.
This week's photo was taken at Zion National Park in the fall of 2017. It's a classic shot of the Watchman, the large mountain in the background. If you ever find yourself in Zion National Park and are looking to take a similar photo, I'd recommend getting there early, as there's limited space on the bridge and photographers back in quick.
I've also decided that, when a specific new source isn't required, such as in the opening paragraph, I'll use Bloomberg. The Bloomberg staff generaly report in an unbiased, business focused way that I resonate most closely with. The downside to this is that you may bump into their paywall.
That’s it for this Weekly Roundup; wishing you all a healthy and productive week ahead.