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Elon Musk revealed new details about how he broke SEC rules

Apr 6, 2022

Eight days ago, over $625 million worth of ether and USDC was stolen in an exploit of the Ronin sidechain used for the popular play-to-earn game Axie Infinity. Now the game’s studio, Sky Mavis, is trying to pay its users back. Sky Mavis announced Wednesday that it has raised over $150 million in funding, which will be added on to the company’s existing balance sheet to reimburse users for the entire $625 million lost. Binance led the fundraising, its first investment in Sky Mavis. Existing backers a16z, Animoca Brands, Paradigm and Accel also invested in the round. “All users affected by the Ronin Validator Hack will be reimbursed,” the company said. “While racing for mainstream adoption, we made some trade-offs that ended up leaving us vulnerable to this sort of attack. It’s a lesson we’ve learned the hard way.” The hackers were able to siphon funds from the Ethereum sidechain when a person was able to compromise a majority of a small number of Sky Mavis’ Ronin validator nodes and Axie DAO validator nodes, Sky Mavis said. The company considered the hack “socially engineered" and is continuing to investigate. The company also said it was working with law enforcement to recover funds. In the meantime, the gaming studio will increase the number of validators from five to 21 over the next quarter. Binance will also provide Ronin users liquidity so that they can withdraw and deposit ether. Axie Infinity has about 2.2 million monthly active players. Many of the most committed players rely on the game for significant income and may have been severely impacted by the hack. The game is particularly popular in the Philippines, where users account for about 35% of global traffic. Many there have turned playing the game into a full-time job, and speculators have long feared that a hack could be economically destabilizing to millions of people. But Sky Mavis still sees play-to-earn as a net good. “We believe that Axie will go down in history as the first game to imbue players with true digital property rights and recent events have only strengthened this conviction,” the company said. Keep ReadingShow less Binance.US, the American arm of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, just raised a whopping $200 million seed round. Binance.US is now valued at $4.5 billion, the company said in a statement. The funding round was led by RRE Ventures, Foundation Capital, Origin Capital, VanEck and Circle Ventures. The funding round quickly sparked speculation that Binance could be gearing up to take the American entity public. The company, which says it’s able to process 1.4 million orders per second, plans to use the funds to boost spot trading and roll out new products and services. It will also be used for marketing and “consumer education initiatives.” In February, the Binance parent company announced a $200 million “strategic investment” in Forbes . Binance.US CEO Brian Shroder said the company has become profitable after only three years. The company looks to continue growing in the U.S. “from this position of strength, and with an eye toward continuing our rapid ascent alongside the ascent of the crypto industry at large,” he said in a statement. Binance’s foray into the U.S. market has been controversial. The company is reportedly under investigation by the Justice Department and the IRS over allegations that the exchange has been used for illicit activity. Binance.US is not allowed to operate in five states: Hawaii, Idaho, New York, Texas and Vermont. Binance.US also has grappled with leadership issues. Shroder was named CEO in September after the abrupt departures of two previous heads. Brian Brooks quit suddenly in August, citing “differences over strategic direction.” Her predecessor, Catherine Coley , left in June. Her departure turned into a crypto-world mystery: A well-known figure in industry circles, Coley has not been heard from since she left the company. Keep ReadingShow less A few years ago, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he wants Uber to be the "Amazon of transportation." Over the years, that played out with Uber Eats, an Explore page, scooters and more in an effort to get people on the Uber app as often as possible. Now, the company is going a step further with long-distance transportation options. Uber announced Wednesday that it's adding trains, buses, planes and car rentals to its U.K. app. The company isn't offering these services itself; instead, it'll partner with companies that provide them and build the software integrations needed for people to purchase tickets in its app. If all goes well in the U.K., Uber said it'll expand to other countries down the line. The announcement comes just after Uber was granted a license to continue operating in London for two and a half years. The plan builds on Uber's push to be a super app that offers both short- and long-distance travel options, or as Uber's U.K. head Jamie Heywood puts it: "a one-stop-shop for all your travel needs." Heywood said adding trains and other forms of mass transportation is a "natural progression" given that users can already book rides, bikes, boat services and scooters on the app. The company will also let people buy tickets for the Eurostar train, which offers travel from London to other European cities, through the app. Heywood added that flight integrations will come later this year. After that, Uber is looking into hotel bookings on the app as well. Currently, Uber focuses on offering local services: rides, scooters, food delivery, airport ride reservations and more. The U.K. pilot will test if users continue to use Uber on a wider scale for longer travel. Keep ReadingShow less You've asked for it. I've asked for it. Your physical therapist who loves to tweet about Lebron James being washed up has asked for it. And now we're getting it. My friends, we're talking about a Twitter edit button. The social media giant announced (via tweet , of course) on Tuesday that it was going to start testing an edit button with Twitter Blue users soon. But while everyone, including Twitter's newest board member , has pushed for the ability to edit tweets, we're about to get a heck of a lot more than we bargained for. The edit button could very well kick Twitter's worst traits — harassment, hate speech and misinformation — into overdrive. The innocuous benefits of an edit button are clear. Who doesn't hate going viral only to discover a dumb typo in their tweet? A nightmare, really. It could also allow journalists and government officials to correct erroneous information in tweets rather than having to issue a threaded correction or deleting what could be — at least in the case of official government accounts — a public record. Good, great. But the ideal internet is one thing. The internet we actually have is another beast entirely. Twitter has certainly made some efforts to clean up the platform's biggest sources of misinformation and purveyors of hate speech, booting a number of white nationalists and even former President Donald Trump after he incited a violent attempted coup last January. But the platform has still struggled to contain misinformation during Russia's war against Ukraine while at the same time temporarily banning accounts helping track Russian actions that could help Ukrainians stay safe. (Twitter said it was a human error.) Introducing an edit button is a recipe for more chaos to ensue. It's easy to imagine troll farms working to crank out random viral tweets, only to change the text to propaganda when one actually hits. White nationalists, climate deniers, state actors or just any user looking to mess with people could do the same. Details are in short supply with how Twitter will implement its edit button. One mitigating factor could be a time limit for editing tweets. It's also totally possible — likely even — that users will be able to see if a tweet has been edited. But how many will click to see the original text is a totally different story. And even if people do click to see the pre-edit tweet text, they'll still be exposed to propaganda, hate speech or whatever else someone has decided to change. (Facebook has this option and it's not like the platform is a paragon of propriety.) There are also questions about how Twitter's algorithm will handle edited tweets. Will it make it so they appear in people's timelines less often post-editing or will it just keep serving it up? Will edited tweets end up in curated moments? Will they appear at the top of trending topics based on the retweets they garnered before being edited? All these questions raise major concerns. Throttling updates to an initially erroneous tweet will slow the spread of good information. But not throttling a tweet changed to include misinformation — say, a climate denial group turning a tweet about cats into one about how sunspots are causing the planet to overheat (they're not) — will give bad information normally trapped in a small echo chamber a much wider reach. This matters to users of the platform. The online world is already rife with lies, and adding more to the pile will make our daily existence that much more exhausting trying to discern fact from fiction and be yet another blow to democracy and shared reality. But it could also create a business headache for Twitter. If the edit button brings a new wave of misinformation, it's an open question of how brands will feel with their tweets — promoted or otherwise — next to a viral tweet about a gas pump with nearly 55,000 retweets that's been turned into one about, say, anti-vaccine talking points or targeted harassment. None of this is to say an edit button will be misused, of course. But if the past is any indication... Keep ReadingShow less It's not an April Fool's joke after all. Twitter announced Tuesday that it actually is working on an edit button, days after tweeting about it seemingly in jest. In fact, the company said it has been looking into the feature since last year and will begin testing with Twitter Blue members "in the coming months." Jay Sullivan, Twitter's head of consumer product, said an editing tool has been the most requested Twitter feature for years. "People want to be able to fix (sometimes embarrassing) mistakes, typos and hot takes in the moment," Sullivan tweeted, adding that people usually delete their tweet and try again if there's an error. Relatable! The company tweeted from its official Twitter account on Friday — April Fool's Day — that it was toying with the long-requested tool. But it seemed too good to be true, and Twitter just couldn't stop joking about it, so how were we supposed to believe it? When Reuters asked Twitter to clarify whether it was a joke, the company responded : "We cannot confirm or deny but we may edit our statement later." The bit continued on Monday, when Elon Musk polled his followers about whether Twitter should add an edit button, and Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal weighed in too. Sullivan said Twitter's work on the edit button is anything but a joke, and the platform is weighing rules like time limits and controls to ensure an edit button wouldn't "alter the record of the public conversation." Adding an edit tool has also been a controversial topic among Twitter employees, and former CEO Jack Dorsey has in the past said "we'll probably never do it." Right now, the closest thing to an edit button is the undo feature, but it's limited to Twitter Blue subscribers, who pay for extra Twitter perks. Twitter is testing the edit button for Twitter Blue subscribers as well, but it's unclear if a widely rolled out editing tool would be available to only those subscribers or to everyone. Sullivan said an edit button is one feature Twitter is looking into to give users "more choice and control" on the platform. Keep ReadingShow less A former employee gained access to Block's Cash App Investing customer data, the company said Tuesday. The former employee downloaded reports from the Block investing product on Dec. 10, 2021, Block reported to the SEC. “While this employee had regular access to these reports as part of their past job responsibilities, in this instance these reports were accessed without permission after their employment ended,” Block said in the filing. Block said the former employee, who was not named, obtained reports that included the names and brokerage account numbers of Cash App Investing customers. Information on the brokerage portfolio value, holdings and stock trading activity for some customers were also compromised, the company said. The former employee did not gain access to other critical data, such as usernames, passwords, Social Security numbers, birthdates or payment card information. Block said it is reaching out to roughly 8.2 million current and former customers to let them know of the breach. The company has also informed regulators and law enforcement authorities. Shares of Block fell more than 6% Tuesday reportedly on news of the breach. Keep ReadingShow less On the short list of Twitter troublemakers, Elon Musk has got to rank somewhere near the very top. Trump may have had him beat for a bit, but he’s already banned for life, so the title by default now goes to Musk, a grown man and billionaire whose tweets have at times been so reckless, they have their own federally mandated “ Twitter sitter .” So what happens when a tech company’s biggest shit-stirrer becomes its biggest shareholder — and a member of the board? We’re about to find out. In some ways, the news Tuesday that Twitter had appointed Musk to the board could have been ripped from any corporate playbook. CEO Parag Agrawal discussed the “ great value ” Musk would bring to the company, while co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey noted Agrawal and Musk would “ be an incredible team .” In an uncharacteristically formal response to Agrawal, Musk said he was “looking forward to working with Parag & Twitter board to make significant improvements to Twitter in coming months!” But the announcement was also instantly politicized, with Republican lawmakers and pundits alike cheering their favorite shitposter’s ascension to the top of the big bad company that unapologetically axed Trump. “Elon Musk being named to Twitter’s Board of Directors is just the start,” tweeted Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, who was temporarily suspended from Twitter last year. “2022 is the year that we take back our country.” Fox’s Tucker Carlson called it “a good day in America” when the news of Musk’s 9% stake was announced. Meanwhile, calls poured in from the right urging Musk to restore Trump’s account. This response is no accident. Less than two weeks before his stake in Twitter went public — but well after he actually accumulated the shares — Musk teased that he was “ giving serious thought ” to building his own social network, in light of what he described as Twitter’s failure “to adhere to free speech principles.” At the time, the tweet read like any of Musk’s other half-baked ideas — including, most recently, his attempt to challenge Vladimir Putin to hand-to-hand combat. In retrospect, it reads like a warning. For all of the excitement from the right, rank-and-file tweeps were decidedly less enthused about — and even openly critical of — Musk’s new role. And who can blame them? Musk’s apparent interest in pushing Twitter to prioritize free expression seems at total odds with the company’s ongoing efforts to create what it refers to as a “healthy” environment on the platform. What happens to all that work when it runs up against the views of the new most powerful person at Twitter? It’s too soon to tell. For now, Musk is taking to his newfound power like some kind of Silicon Valley Santa Claus, polling his followers on wish list items, like whether they want an edit button . But it’s also important to remember that Musk can be serious when he wants to be. You don’t make hundreds of billions of dollars building electric cars and rockets by doing everything for the lulz. For all his bluster and promises, Musk has made lots of wild wishes actually come true. The question now is whether he’ll take Twitter seriously too, or treat it like a plaything to shape to the liking of his many devoted fanboys. Agrawal for one shared Musk’s poll about the edit button with a good-natured jab parroting one of Musk’s own self-serious tweets from late last month. But as Twitter faces down the potential impact of its new troll king, it’s hard not to see the truth in it too. “The consequences of this poll will be important,” Agrawal wrote . “Please vote carefully.” Keep ReadingShow less The House Oversight and Reform Committee took on one of the major thorns in the side of the Biden administration’s climate goals in a hearing on Tuesday: the Postal Service’s refusal to completely electrify its fleet . Despite members of Congress' arguably most powerful committee asking tough questions, the USPS is doubling down on its investment in a new fleet of primarily gas-powered vehicles. This is despite ongoing pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency, and now lawmakers in the House. The White House has set a goal of electrifying all federal civilian vehicles by 2035, and mail trucks make up a major chunk of that fleet. The federal commitment to EVs could pay dividends by helping bring down costs for everyone. Yet the Post Office is weirdly not on board. Late last month, the independent agency placed an order for 50,000 “next-generation delivery vehicles,” of which just more than 10,000 will be EVs. This is just the start of its up to $11.3 billion planned investment with Oshkosh Defense to replace the Postal Service's old (10 mpg!) fleet . According to Victoria Stephen , executive director of USPS’ Next Generation Delivery Vehicles department, the agency faces “organizational and financial constraints” that prevent it from electrifying its fleet at a quicker pace. Though it is set up to be financially self-sufficient, the agency is doubling down on its central thesis when it comes to electrification: We’ll electrify if the funds to do so don’t come out of our own pockets. “Fleet electrification is a near-term opportunity, but not a mission-critical one,” Stephen said at the hearing, adding that the agency “remains in a crisis condition.” It's true that USPS has been in fairly dire financial straits in recent years owing to a byzantine set of circumstances put in place by a 2006 law . But Tammy Whitcomb, inspector general for the agency, caveated this reluctance in her testimony , citing recent research that found that EVs “are well-suited for most postal routes.” EVs are also generally more cost-effective over time because they require less maintenance and have lower operating costs. However, the potential long-term benefits have come up against upfront costs in the form of both the higher per-vehicle price of EVs and the cost of installing the necessary charging infrastructure. But Democratic lawmaker after Democratic lawmaker pressed Stephen on the Postal Service’s rationale while imploring the agency to reconsider. It seems we have a stalemate on our hands: If we want an electrified fleet, either Congress ponies up more funds ($6.9 billion, per a USPS analysis) or the public starts seeing substantial increases in the price of postage. Rep. Carolyn Maloney made it clear during today's hearing that Congressional Democrats would be open to offering more funding; after all, the dead-for-now Build Back Better Act included roughly $6 billion for these upgrades. Whitcomb’s office plans to release two more reports later this year, including an audit of how the Postal Service acquires vehicles and its compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as an analysis of whether the agency’s vehicle maintenance facilities are up to snuff as it introduces new vehicles, both conventional and electric. Keep ReadingShow less Apple is piloting a new feature that would allow app developers to raise subscription prices without requiring users to opt in. Instead, iPhone users will have to specifically opt out of those increases. It sounds like a win for developers, who can count on fewer users opting out, but seems like a bizarre choice for Apple, a company that historically emphasizes transparency for users (see: app ad-tracking ). Some Disney+ subscribers noticed something was off when the streaming service announced that a price increase would take effect on April 19, 2022. iPhone users are typically prompted with two options when a developer increases prices: to accept the price increase, or to manage their subscription. But when the price increase notification popped up on the iPhones of Disney+ subscribers in Europe last month, they didn’t have so many options. The only button they could tap said “OK.” Beneath that was some fine print telling them they could review their subscription. Apple confirmed to TechCrunch that the new language on the alerts was not a fluke. The company is piloting a program with Disney and other companies “across various app categories” to change the way in-app purchases operate. An Apple spokesperson acknowledged that the new prompt for Disney+ subscribers would be out of compliance with Apple’s current documentation, were it not part of the pilot program. The company did not offer any additional details, however, and also did not respond to Protocol’s request for comment. The pilot raises a lot of questions. For one, it’s unclear whether there are limits on how high developers can raise subscription prices automatically. Raising a subscription by $1, after all, would be less of a financial hit for users than a bad actor automatically raising subscriptions by large sums. It’s also unclear how much notice app developers would need to give users, if any notice at all. Apple has been in hot water for how it brokers payments through the App Store for years. The company takes up to 30% commission of in-app payments and does not allow developers to link to third-party billing options. Regulators in the EU and South Korea have targeted Apple for these policies, which they see as monopolizing the market. Companies like Epic have also tried to fight the so-called “app store tax” in court . But by creating a feature to increase subscription prices automatically, Apple may be trying to win back developers’ favor — and take a cut of those subscriptions as a bonus. Keep ReadingShow less Online payments service Fast announced Tuesday that it is closing its doors, a sudden, stunning end to a seemingly fast-growing ecommerce venture once considered a pandemic darling. The one-click-checkout software maker will discontinue service of its Fast Checkout on Friday, CEO and co-founder Domm Holland said in a statement. “Sometimes trailblazers don’t make it all the way to the mountaintop,” he said. Fast ran out of funds after failing to secure additional investment fast enough in what had become a tough fundraising environment, a Fast employee told Protocol. "We waited too long and we ran out of money," said the employee, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation. Fast "misjudged significantly" the mood in the VC community, he added: "What was acceptable revenue and burn and prospects for growth in the summer of 2021 looks looks very different in April of 2022." But Fast's pending demise has also created an expansion opportunity for another fintech. Affirm is hiring roughly 130 Fast engineers, the employee said. "With Fast winding down its operations and discontinuing its brand and products, we saw another opportunity to invite a great technology team to join us," an Affirm spokesperson said. The "buy now, pay later" company does not plan to offer a one-click-checkout product like Fast's. Fast's decision to shut down was first reported by The Information . The pandemic greatly accelerated innovation in online shopping, and several other companies created their own one-click-checkout systems, including Shopify and Bold Commerce . PayPal was always considered a direct competitor to Fast, while Amazon invented one-click online checkout so long ago that its patent has expired. Apple auto-fills payment information on Macs and iPhones, as does Google's Chrome browser. But Fast bet that it had a more modern, easier-to-use solution than the competition. Stripe invested $20 million in the company’s series A round in 2020. The company had raised a total of $120 million, with other major investors including Index Ventures and Lee Fixel’s Addition. The startup had big dreams of being not just a one-click-checkout company, but a one-click identity service. In a 2020 interview with Protocol , Holland said that the service was meant to become an “identity API,” storing critical information about users so they could shop around the internet seamlessly without repeatedly filling out forms with their address and contact information. Though that meant the company would in theory assemble a valuable database of customer information along the way, Holland told Protocol that the company would never sell it. “Absolutely not, it’s just not our model,” he said. Keep ReadingShow less Electric cars are a convenient way to reduce individual carbon emissions. They’re also pricey upfront. But GM and Honda say they’re ready to make EVs accessible to everyone. The automaking duo announced an expanded partnership to co-develop “a series of affordable electric vehicles" on Tuesday. The vehicles will use GM’s new modular platform and “Ultium” battery pack, combined with Honda’s interior and exterior design . The new EVs will be available in North America by 2027 and include an array of cars and crossovers. According to the press release, the two companies will also “discuss future EV battery technology collaboration opportunities, to further drive down the cost of electrification, improve performance and drive sustainability for future vehicles.” When the companies first announced their partnership in 2020, GM said vehicles would be made at GM’s North American plants and would go on sale in 2024. Things may have changed in terms of manufacturing, and now it's unclear whether the new EVs will be made in North America. GM spokesperson James Cain told Protocol that "we overwhelmingly build where we sell," including markets in North America, South America and China. "We're just not ready to announce our manufacturing strategy yet," he said. But by pooling resources, it appears GM and Honda also believe they can make production more efficient, hopefully reducing EV prices. Neither company, however, has named a target sticker price for the to-be-manufactured vehicles. Instead, they said the partnership will leverage “the two companies’ technology, design and sourcing strategies,” while they “work toward standardizing equipment and processes to achieve world-class quality, higher throughput and greater affordability." The partnership is similar to Volkswagen’s with Ford, which was announced in 2019 and expanded earlier this year. Ford plans to build 1.2 million vehicles using VW’s modular electric drive matrix over the course of six years starting in 2023. The need to bring down the cost of EVs is vital for ensuring we end the use of the internal combustion engine as our main means to get around. According to Kelley Blue Book , EVs currently cost $10,000 more up-front than vehicles in the U.S. overall. They're cheaper to drive , though, and people have been turning to them in greater numbers. The first quarter of this year saw a huge spike in EV sales, particularly for Tesla , which continues to outsell the EV competition. But traditional automakers are trying to catch up, from partnerships to Ford's historic restructuring earlier this year. If those efforts can help drive down EV costs, it could help them chase down Tesla. (It'd also be good for the climate, too, if that's your type of thing.) Honda did not respond to a request for comment. Keep ReadingShow less How did Elon Musk accumulate a 9.2% stake in Twitter without the world noticing? The most likely answer — and a running theme in his career — is that he broke the rules. SEC rules require most individuals who accumulate a stake of 5% or more in a company to disclose it in a Schedule 13G filing within 10 days of the event, meaning the purchase, transfer or other means by which they got their hands on the shares. Given the way trades settle, there’s been some uncertainty over which date to use, but in 2016, the SEC said the clock starts the day after the trade date. Musk’s filing gives the date of the event as March 14, which would mean he should have filed on March 24. Instead, he filed on April 4, disclosing a stake of more than 73 million shares, well above the 5% filing threshold. What happened in between? Traders who examined activity in Twitter shares offered the following insights. Before Monday’s filing, Twitter’s typical trading volume in recent weeks was 17 million shares a day. They estimated that traders working on Musk’s behalf could buy at most 3 million shares a day without noticeably moving the stock. Let’s assume, as our trader sources did, that Musk bought a stake just below 5%, or roughly 40 million shares, before March 24, and crossed the 5% threshold on that date, which his filing suggests. (Notably, there was a big jump in volume on March 18.) It’s possible that Musk’s traders hadn’t gotten to his target stake by March 24. At that point, Musk may have faced a choice: File on time and see Twitter shares rise dramatically in price, as it did on Monday, or delay the filing and buy more shares at a cheaper price. If that transpired, Musk’s savings would be substantial, in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And investors who sold shares to him in the last week of March, not knowing he was accumulating a large stake in the company, have corresponding losses. The fines the SEC has handed out for similar violations are a parking ticket for a man of Musk’s wealth. (The SEC is considering new rules which would require much faster disclosures, by the way.) Securities lawyers might have more luck extracting a payout from selling shareholders. All of this does raise a question for Twitter, which just announced it would name Musk to its board : You now have a director who has been charged with securities fraud and repeatedly both expressed in words and demonstrated in action his contempt for the Securities and Exchange Commission and its rules. Any qualms about him overseeing your corporate governance? Max A. Cherney contributed to this report. Keep ReadingShow less Amazon is taking on SpaceX's internet satellite constellation, Starlink. The company signed a deal with three companies to launch up to 83 of its Project Kuiper internet satellites, marking what Amazon calls the biggest rocket deal in commercial space history. The company made a deal with United Launch Alliance for 38 launches; signed on with Arianespace for 18 launches; and partnered with Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin for 12 launches, with the option for Amazon to add up to 15 more. Notably absent on the launch list is SpaceX, but then that's to be expected given what's going into orbit. Project Kuiper plans to send satellites to low-Earth orbit over the course of five years, and it has two prototypes prepared to launch this year. Those satellites would provide a similar internet service to Starlink, Elon Musk's low-Earth orbit satellite constellation. That would once again put him in competition with Bezos — who is no longer Amazon's CEO but remains its executive chairman — for billionaire space supremacy. Dave Limp, senior vice president at Amazon for Devices and Services, told the Wall Street Journal that the company signed these deals to help meet a deadline set by the Federal Communications Commission. The agency gave Project Kuiper the authorization to deploy 3,236 broadband satellites last year . The terms require at least half of those satellites be operational within six years. “We still have lots of work ahead, but the team has continued to hit milestone after milestone across every aspect of our satellite system. These launch agreements reflect our incredible commitment and belief in Project Kuiper,” Limp said in a statement. Limp declined to tell the Journal exactly how much the company is spending on these launches, but he said that it's in the billions. Amazon said it would "invest more than $10 billion" to build this network of high-speed internet when it came to an agreement with the FCC. The company is making it clear that there's room for another big player in the satellite internet game aside from Starlink. But Amazon is playing catch-up to Musk's satellite internet service, which has roughly 2,000 satellites already in orbit and 250,000 subscribers, according to Elon himself . But Amazon is clearly putting some serious money into its forthcoming satellite internet service, and Limp told the Journal there can be more than one satellite broadband company to serve more unconnected and underserved people around the world. Of course, doing so will also increase the risk of space junk and mess up astronomers' view of the heavens , so while the world could well use more satellite internet providers, low-Earth orbit might be a different story. Keep ReadingShow less Elon Musk will ( unsurprisingly ) join Twitter's board of directors after becoming the company's biggest shareholder, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing dated Monday. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said the company spent weeks talking with Musk about the decision. "It became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board," Agrawal tweeted Tuesday morning. "He’s both a passionate believer and intense critic of the service which is exactly what we need on @Twitter, and in the boardroom, to make us stronger in the long-term," he added in a Twitter thread. Agrawal's observation is correct: Musk is Twitter's biggest fan and biggest headache. He's weighed in on everything from whether Twitter should have an edit button (which Agrawal notably responded to) to the platform's algorithm. Musk went so far as to say he'd seriously consider launching his own social media platform after questioning whether Twitter adheres to principles of "free speech" as he sees them. Now, he has a front row seat to Twitter's decision-makers, and can just talk to these people instead of shitposting to the world about it. "Looking forward to working with Parag & Twitter board to make significant improvements to Twitter in coming months!" Musk responded to Agrawal. News of Musk joining the board came shortly after he revealed his massive stake — more than 9% — in the company. It’s highly likely Twitter was aware of Musk’s accumulation of shares before he made it public. If he didn't inform the company directly, large institutional shareholders unloading their stakes would likely have tipped the company off. Keep ReadingShow less Tech is among the highest-paid industries in the U.S., according to Glassdoor data . So it's not at all surprising that interns also report making the most at tech companies — but the amount these companies are handing their interns is wild nonetheless. Roblox and Uber offer the first and second highest-paying internships in the U.S. for 2022, according to Glassdoor’s top 25 highest-paying internships for 2022. The median monthly pay for Roblox is a whopping $9,667, while the median monthly pay for Uber sits at $8,333. For an internship. Tech companies were the most represented on Glassdoor’s list, with 17 making the cut. Nine tech companies cracked the top 10 on Glassdoor's list for highest-paying internships, with Capital One being the only non-tech firm in the top 10. Salesforce notched the No. 4 spot, followed by Amazon, Meta, Nvidia, LinkedIn, HubSpot and Expedia Group, in that order. Of the top 25 companies overall, Google ranked last on the list, paying its interns a median monthly pay of $6,454 (modest, right?). Apple, Oracle, eBay and PayPal are also notable companies on report. Roblox’s pay this year is $856 more per month than Nvidia offered last year , when it had the highest-paying internship. The median monthly pay for interns at Uber, Salesforce, Amazon and others also rose considerably. Uber, for instance, is paying about $980 more per month than it did last year. But that doesn’t mean all tech companies are giving their interns more money. The median monthly pay for interns at LinkedIn, Nvidia, Google and others dropped compared to last year, while pay at Meta remained around $8,000 for both summers. Google came in at the bottom of the list, paying its interns about $6,454 per month compared to $7,129 in 2021. Interns are also way more against remote work than their salaried counterparts. The percentage of interns who spoke negatively about remote work for their summer jobs jumped to 70% last summer, compared to about 58% in the summer of 2020, Glassdoor found. Many interns said it was difficult to communicate and connect with workers in a remote environment. “Zooming out to look at both review sentiment and frequency of mentions, it’s clear that remote work has become a major — and negative — part of interns’ experience,” Glassdoor wrote in its report. Keep ReadingShow less Elon Musk cares a lot about Twitter. He’s among the platform’s biggest shitposters, critics and now investors . Last night, his deep love for the social network prompted him to act on a particularly touchy subject: the edit button. “Do you want an edit button?” Musk asked his 80 million followers in a Twitter poll Monday night. The majority have indicated “yes” (although it was humorously misspelled as “yse”) so far. On a typical day, the poll wouldn’t really be a big deal. Musk has polled his followers before on everything from Twitter’s algorithm to whether he should sell some of his Tesla stock (OK, the latter poll was actually a big deal ). But Musk now owns 9% of Twitter, and (perhaps relatedly!) this survey caught the eye of Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal. And Agrawal — who is notably not a shitposter — weighed in. “The consequences of this poll will be important,” Agrawal quote-retweeted , actually quoting a previous Musk tweet in the process . “Please vote carefully.” That was probably a clapback. Right? The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully.https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1511143607385874434\u00a0\u2026 — Parag Agrawal (@Parag Agrawal) 1649121795 Well, making it all the more confusing is the way Twitter announced an edit button plan last week on April 1 . Haha, funny! Obviously Twitter never confirmed whether it was definitely an April Fools' joke, but it told Reuters on Friday that it “may edit our statement later.” Helpful! Then Michael Sayman, a product lead at Twitter, made it all the more confusing by bringing together Musk's poll and the April 1 plans: “For those asking about the edit button, we have an official statement posted on April 1." Still, whatever happens with an edit button on Twitter doesn’t really matter in this situation. The point is that Musk's thoughts about Twitter matter, and leaders of the platform are learning either to play along with a highly influential shitposter or respond to the whims of a major shareholder. Musk's plans to be a passive investor in the company mean he likely wouldn’t seek a takeover. (Probably? Though who knows, really.) But while he may be giving some thought to his own social media company, his recent moves and criticism indicates that he might still want to change the platform that already exists — one tweet at a time. Keep ReadingShow less The electric vehicle future is here, it's just unevenly distributed. Tesla had a massive first quarter in 2022 and continues to be the leader in EV sales that could climb ever higher due to wild gas prices . The company reported delivering a total of 310,048 vehicles in the first quarter of 2022, up nearly 68% compared to the same quarter in 2021. Tesla's Model 3 and Model Y made up the majority of its cars delivered for a total of 295,324 units for the quarter. In its announcement to investors, Tesla said it achieved these numbers "despite ongoing supply chain challenges and factory shutdowns." The automaker hit record high sales last quarter, but it still announced a price hike of between 5% and 10% across its entire range in mid-March, citing inflation as the reason for the uptick in prices. (It's hardly alone in the EV maker price hike department.) Compared to the auto market as a whole, EV sales were high in the first quarter, according to an Autodata report viewed by TechCrunch , as traditional automakers electrify their offerings and EV manufacturers ramp up business. Hyundai has already sold 6,244 units of the Ioniq 5, its latest EV, which hit dealerships in late 2021. Not exactly Tesla sales, but then no company has yet to challenge it for EV supremacy. Last month, Electrek reported that roughly 70% of all EV registrations last year were Teslas. Nissan and Chevrolet — the second and third place automakers for EVs — accounted for just 8.5% and 7% of the market respectively. Globally, EV sales hit 6.6 million in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency . That represents more than 9% of the total global car market, showing that EVs still have a long ways to go. Monday's blockbuster United Nations climate report indicates changes could be coming, though. The report shows EV battery prices dropped 85% over the 2010s, which is great news given the need to rapidly end the use of the internal combustion engine. Prices for some commodities needed to make batteries — notably nickel — have spiked recently following the Russian war against Ukraine. But if the soaring Tesla sales and U.N. report are any combined indications, EVs aren't going to slow down anytime soon. Keep ReadingShow less Developers, companies and regulators have tried to pressure Google and Apple to change their App Store commission structure for more than two years now. Last month, it appeared that Google was ready to play nice. The company announced a pilot program with Spotify that will allow the company to collect payments outside of Google's own billing system. The pilot, which will roll out in select markets, will allow developers to bypass Google's fees. If things go as planned, what Google calls “user billing choice” could soon be available to app developers worldwide. But two companies not part of the pilot — Amazon-owned Audible and Barnes & Noble — seem surprised that they're not getting the same treatment as Spotify. A Google Play policy change that went into effect March 31 requires purchases to go through Google Play’s billing systems. And the two companies, which knew about the changes for more than 18 months, have been caught flat-footed. As of now, Android users cannot buy Amazon audible titles or Barnes & Noble digital books in those respective apps. Explaining the billing issues to The Verge , Barnes & Noble said that it was “not given the option of participating in an alternative billing program.” Protocol contacted both Barnes & Noble and Audible, but both companies could not be reached for comment. If you’re a Barnes & Noble NOOK Android app user, don’t panic. Because of the billing policy update, users can’t buy books through the app directly. However, Android users can still purchase content on BN.com, which will be synced to their NOOK app library, according to the Barnes & Noble website. Users can also continue purchasing through the app on their phones, so long as they don’t update to the new version, 6.1. Audible listeners will find themselves in a similar situation. They can always purchase titles at Audible.com, and have those titles sync to their devices. They can also still use in-app credits to purchase books for listening, or continue to make purchases if they don’t upgrade the app. It's not clear when Google will enable other companies to offer third-party billing options, or why Audible and Barnes & Noble took so long to adapt to Google's billing policies. One thing is certain: The app store tax battle is far from over. Keep ReadingShow less Microsoft unveiled Monday a preview of Azure virtual machines powered by the Arm-based Ampere server chips, putting additional pressure on Intel's server teams to stay competitive. The Ampere Altra chips powering the virtual machines will deliver a 50% price-performance improvement over x86 chips, Microsoft said. Last year Ampere said that it had inked a deal with Microsoft to provide chips for use in Azure. The virtual machines can be used for web, application and video game servers, among other uses. “Organizations are facing a complex set of challenges as they deploy a broad range of workloads globally, from the edge to the cloud,” head of Product for Azure Compute Platform Paul Nash wrote in a blog post . “There is also a need for a new breed of operationally efficient cloud-native computing solutions that can meet this demand without a massive growth in infrastructure footprint and energy consumption.” The virtual machines will support Ubuntu Linux, CentOS and Windows. Each machine will provide up to 64 virtual processors, with up to eight gigabytes of ram per processor, and optional high-performance local flash storage. Ampere’s Altra chips and other Arm-based processors like AWS' Graviton have become more important to server buyers after years of promises , as companies seek chips that deliver higher performance with less power use. To date, Arm designs are far off from unseating AMD or Intel chips that dominate data center processing but continue to make gains, according to Jefferies data . Microsoft announced its intention to offer Arm-based computing in Azure with chips made by Qualcomm and Cavium. Marvell acquired Cavium, and shut down the project; Qualcomm too killed the effort. Ampere is led by former Intel president Renee James, and quietly has raised more than $400 million from Oracle over the past several years. According to recent SEC filings , Oracle appears to control between 20% to 50% of the company. Keep ReadingShow less Unagi founder and CEO David Hyman told The Verge that Google is offering the 20 mph scooters to most of its U.S. employees to help with the commute to work, which most haven’t had to undertake regularly in the last two years. The $990 scooters are available on a subscription basis, and Google will reportedly reimburse employees the discounted monthly rate of $44.10 a month, in addition to the $50 enrollment fee. Whether free scooters will excite Googlers about resuming in-office work three days a week remains to be seen. Some Googlers challenged the company's hybrid policy in an all-hands last month: One anonymous employee invoked Bay Area traffic, sky-high gas prices and varying preferences around work environments in asking why Google's policy isn't "work from office when you want or when it makes sense to." Another complained that some teams "blanket ban" remote work and that Google rejects requests to work remotely "even if managers are supportive." Across employers, traveling to work remains one of the biggest concerns about heading back to the office: 31% of hybrid workers across companies surveyed by Conference Board last month said they’re concerned about the increased time and cost of commuting. They’ll likely just have to get used to it at Google, where the company hasn’t shown any signs that it will concede to a remote-first model. Leaders "find it really hard to lead virtually," former Google HR chief Laszlo Bock told Bloomberg on Friday before predicting a slow, "boil the frog" return to full-time, in-office work within five years. Keep ReadingShow less Roelof Botha is the new leader of Sequoia, replacing Doug Leone as senior steward of the firm, according to a letter to the firm's LPs. It's a major power transition for one of Silicon Valley's most storied firms. Botha had already been the firm's invisible hand and one of the most powerful people in venture capital as steward of the firm and lead of its U.S. and Europe business. With the promotion, Botha will be in charge of the firm's global operations and compliance now that it's a registered investment advisor. Sequoia China will continue be run by Neil Shen, the firm's only other steward. Botha, 48, has long been a quietly powerful force inside Sequoia, helping drive the launch of programs like Sequoia Scouts and the development of the new evergreen model of the Sequoia Capital Fund. He became a steward of the firm in 2017, and in the last two years, began transition talks with Leone, according to Forbes. He will become senior steward on July 5, the day after Leone's 65th birthday, cementing his primary role in the next generation of Sequoia's leadership. Keep ReadingShow less The U.K.'s top regulator has been cracking the whip on crypto companies, but the government just sent a strong message on its blockchain game plan: The British are coming. The U.K. government on Monday unveiled a big push into crypto, including a plan to mint its own NFT. “I am announcing today that the Chancellor has asked the Royal Mint to create a non-fungible token — an NFT… to be issued by the Summer, an emblem of the forward-looking approach we are determined to take,” John Glen , economic secretary to the Treasury, said in a speech. The announcement was part of an ambitious plan to "make the U.K. a global hub for crypto-asset technology" and "to ensure firms can invest, innovate and scale up in this country,” Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the Exchequer, also said in a statement. The U.K. plan includes setting up a “financial market infrastructure sandbox” where crypto companies can experiment and innovate and the formation of a crypto engagement group that will work with the crypto industry and explore ways to make the U.K. tax system more competitive in relation to the crypto-asset market. The announcement comes at a time when crypto appeared to be facing heightened regulatory pressure in the U.K., and illustrates the tensions at play where governments at once see an economic opportunity in encouraging the development of crypto as a high-growth financial sector and seek to contain risks of unregulated markets in digital assets. The Financial Conduct Authority has ordered companies offering crypto products and services to register with the British regulator, and the Advertising Standards Authority has sent enforcement notices to companies for using FOMO and light-hearted memes to advertise crypto. The FCA also has warned consumers that crypto assets are “high-risk” and “people should be prepared to lose all their money if they choose to invest in them.” The unveiling of the U.K. crypto strategy also follows a controversial EU vote that essentially bans anonymous crypto transactions in the region. “We hear the concerns … some of which are valid,” Glen said. “We’ve already said that we’ll seek to protect consumers by legislating to bring certain crypto assets into the scope of financial promotions regulation … and it’s essential that investors understand the risks they are taking.” Keep ReadingShow less Some employees at the game developer and publisher Activision Blizzard are organizing a walkout today to protest the company dropping its vaccine mandate . ABK Workers Alliance announced the walkout on Friday. The alliance is asking Activision to reverse the lifted vaccine requirement, give workers the option for remote work and allow employees to decide whether to work remotely or in an office. Activision said its new vaccination policy would take effect “immediately.” Activision Blizzard Chief Administrative Officer Brian Bulatao emailed workers on Friday afternoon, after news of the lifted vaccine mandate went public, saying the company will still let workers return to the office on a voluntary basis. “We will continue to monitor conditions and make adjustments to the policy as needed,” Bulatao said in the email, which was obtained by Protocol. Bulatao added that while the company as a whole does not require vaccines to enter its U.S. offices, leaders of Activision Publishing, Blizzard and King can still determine what policies work best for their workers “based on local conditions and risk.” “We will continue to clarify our plans as we get closer to our full return date,” Bulatao said. It’s unclear how many people are participating in the walkout, and ABK group member Jessica Gonzalez did not respond to Protocol’s request for comment. Members are asking members of ABK and those in the industry to participate in the event online by using the hashtags #SickOfThis and #GameWorkersUnite. Activision workers walked out over company decisions several times in 2021. In December, employees staged a walkout over lawsuits alleging widespread sexual harassment and discrimination. Activision encouraged the strike, saying employees could take personal time off for participating and wouldn’t face any consequences. A handful of other companies, including Adidas and Starbucks, have also lifted requirements to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Meta recently said it would no longer require its workers to receive their booster shot to head back to the office, but primary vaccinations are still required. Keep ReadingShow less OK, maybe Elon Musk wasn’t all talk when he said he thought about launching his own social media company. Musk bought a big stake in Twitter — 73,486,938 shares, to be exact — according to a new Securities and Exchange Commission filing made March 14. That purchase makes up a roughly 9.2% passive stake that is worth about $2.9 billion based on the social media platform’s closing price on Friday. Twitter shares jumped about 26% in premarket trading Monday morning after the SEC filing was released. Musk has a huge Twitter presence , and many of his tweets should really be taken with a grain of salt. He's made promises and tweeted thoughts about issues that haven't always panned out. But maybe not all of his tweets should not be taken lightly: Musk has been using his own profile to scrutinize Twitter itself, and he recently said he was giving serious thought to starting his own social media platform. Am giving serious thought to this — Elon Musk (@Elon Musk) 1648348050 “Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy. What should be done?” Musk tweeted late last month after polling his followers about whether Twitter adheres to free speech principles. “Is a new platform needed?” he added to his Twitter thread. Wedbush analyst Dan Ives told CNBC Monday that Musk’s investment in Twitter could mean he’s trying to “take a more aggressive stance” on the platform. “This eventually could lead to some sort of buyout,” Ives said. At the same time, Musk’s online presence has also landed him in hot water. He made an agreement with the SEC to get his tweets pre-approved after tweeting that he could take Tesla private without filing the regulatory notices with the SEC to make that sort of announcement. Musk hasn’t been all that happy with the SEC deal, but the commission’s been standing by it. Keep ReadingShow less AMD said early Monday that it plans to acquire networking chipmaker Pensando for $1.9 billion in cash, in a bid to arm itself with tech that competes with directly with Nvidia and Intel’s data-center chip packages. Pensando was founded by several former Cisco engineers, and makes edge computing technology that competes with AWS Nitro, Intel’s DPU launched last year and Nvidia’s data processing units called BlueField. In a release distributed in advance of the announcement, AMD said that buying the closely held Pensando will give it a networking platform that will bolster its existing server chip lineup. Pensando’s chips are an increasingly important part of data center design, as it becomes impossible to simply throw larger numbers of processors at demanding computing tasks. As regular chips scale up, the networking connections become a bottleneck, and the DPU’s goal ( Intel calls it an IPU ) is to free up the central processor to perform other functions. AMD said it expects the deal to close before July, and if it does, Pensando CEO Prem Jain will move to AMD’s data center unit headed by Vice President Forrest Norrod. Pensando counts large cloud businesses such as Azure, IBM Cloud and Oracle as customers. The Milpitas, California-based company began operations roughly five years ago, and has raised more than $300 million, according to Crunchbase. Keep ReadingShow less

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