Feb 6, 2020

Axios Login

If you haven't had a chance to check out Axios.com in the last day or so, you should check it out. We have an all-new design. Let us know what you think. Also, we're recruiting Axios readers to try out the beta version of our first-ever mobile app. Apply to join the beta testing program.

As for Login, it looks pretty much the same, but all the 1,144 words are different, so you might want to give it read. It should only take about 4 minutes to read.

Situational awareness: Twitter shares are climbing this morning after the company reported fourth-quarter revenue and user growth that beat Wall Street expectations.

1 big thing: Finger pointing continues over Iowa app fiasco

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's been two days since app problems delayed returns and cast a stain on the Iowa caucus, but the blame game continues.

So far, two things seem pretty clear. It's not a good idea to rely on an app as the primary means of tabulating election results, and the app used in Iowa was also pretty bad.

Recap: The Iowa Democratic Party commissioned a mobile app to convey results of local caucuses to the state Democratic Party. Finding issues with the app, many precincts chose to phone in results instead, but the party didn't have enough staff to handle those reports, delaying the results.

The big picture: The problems in Iowa come at a particularly tough time. The U.S. is already struggling to bolster the stability and reliability of its elections, which are under stress from extreme partisanship, the spread of conspiracy theories on social media, and the still-fresh memories of Russian meddling in the 2016 contest.

As Axios' Scott Rosenberg reports in today's Codebook, security is essential to election technology, but it's not the only thing. Voting systems, whether paper or digital, also need to be straightforward, transparent and auditable.

  • Despite advances in technology, paper is seen as the gold standard because it offers all three.
  • But, if you are going to use technology, you want to make sure it is thoroughly tested and proven reliable. The app used in Iowa, made by a startup called Shadow, was neither.
  • In fact, according to reports, it was buggy and error-prone, difficult to use and not even designed to be used in production, relying on a testing protocol for distribution.

And, while there is no evidence of any hacking having taken place, ProPublica reports the app was also highly susceptible to intrusion. The same report says the Homeland Security Department offered to help test the app, but the Iowa Democratic Party declined the offer.

What they're saying:

  • Zeynep Tufekci, on Twitter: "Who needs the Russians when elite arrogance, matched in magnitude by their incompetence, can screw things up this badly? If only it were the Russians! That'd be easier to fix. Worse, there was no need for that damn app."
  • Shadow CEO Gerard Niemira, in a statement on the firm's website: "We sincerely regret the delay in the reporting of the results of last night's Iowa caucuses and the uncertainty it has caused to the candidates, their campaigns, and Democratic caucus-goers. As the Iowa Democratic Party has confirmed, the underlying data and collection process via Shadow's mobile caucus app was sound and accurate, but our process to transmit that caucus results data generated via the app to the IDP was not."
  • Tara McGowan, co-founder of Democrat tech startup ACRONYM, to Axios: "We don't want things like this to discourage people taking risks because the aversion to the risks could be the reason we lose in November."

The bottom line: This was essentially a playbook for how not to employ technology in an election.

What's next: Nevada was reported to be planning to use the same app for its caucus, but it has decided not to in the wake of the Iowa fiasco.

2. Spotify buys The Ringer in latest podcast push

Photo: Spotify

Spotify on Wednesday announced plans to acquire The Ringer, a sports media company founded by former ESPN personality Bill Simmons, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

Why it matters: The acquisition speaks to Spotify's massive investment in podcasting over the past year, as the company works to expand its offering from music only to all audio, including podcasts.

Details: This is Spotify's first major investment in a podcast content company. Deal terms were not disclosed.

  • Content: The move will help Spotify expand into global and local sports content. The Ringer currently owns and produces more than 30 podcasts, including its two most popular series, "The Bill Simmons Podcast" and "The Rewatchables."
  • Employees: All of The Ringer's roughly 90 employees are expected to join Spotify. No layoffs are planned with the deal.
  • Exclusivity: The Ringer shows that are currently exclusive on podcast platforms like Luminary and Pandora will remain exclusive. The programs available on all podcast platforms will be available everywhere for the foreseeable future.┬áThere may be some podcasts from The Ringer that become Spotify exclusives in the future, although that's not expected to be the case for the most part.

The big picture: It's Spotify's fourth major investment in a podcasting company in the past year. Its series of investments began last February with technology and production, and have more recently transitioned to content.

  • Last year, Spotify paid $340 million to acquire Gimlet, one of the fastest-growing podcast production studios, and Anchor, among the fastest-growing podcast production and hosting studios.
  • It later spent $56 million to acquire Parcast, a story-based podcast studio.

Our thought bubble: The big question is whether this and other moves by Spotify and Luminary will mark the end of a world in which podcasts were largely openly and freely distributed.

3. Europe investigating Qualcomm over 5G

Along with quarterly earnings, Qualcomm disclosed on Wednesday that European regulators are investigating whether the wireless giant leveraged its position in the 5G modem business to boost its position in radio frequency chips.

Context: Qualcomm has tangled frequently with regulators around the globe. It has faced previous issues in Europe and a settled probe in China, and is now fighting an unfavorable ruling in the U.S.

Qualcomm said in a regulatory filing that it received a request for information from European regulators on Dec. 3 and is in the process of responding.

  • While it doesn't believe its business practices violate the law, it said "it is difficult to predict the outcome of this matter" and noted it could be fined up to 10% of annual revenue.
4. NBA player makes tech investment move

Andre Iguodala speaking at the 2018 Players Technology Summit in San Francisco. Photo: Gene X. Hwang/Orange Photography

Andre Iguodala, the NBA star and tech investor, got two new jobs in less than 24 hours on Wednesday.

Early in the day, Comcast Ventures announced Iguodala as a venture partner for its Catalyst Fund. Then, in the afternoon, news broke that a deal had been reached by the Memphis Grizzlies to trade Iguodala to the Miami Heat.

Why it matters: Iguodala had been sitting out this season, on a sabbatical of sorts, spending more time than usual getting to know his tech investments.

Go deeper:

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Earnings reports include Uber and Pinterest.
  • The House Homeland Security Committee is holding a hearing on government use of facial recognition and other biometric technology.

Trading Places


  • Huawei is suing Verizon, alleging patent violations, adding to the Chinese company's ongoing tensions in the U.S. (The Verge)
  • Child safety advocates from around the world are calling on Facebook to delay its plan to move to encrypted messaging until it can adequately address child exploitation concerns. (Financial Times)
  • Apple has reportedly fixed a MacOS bug that allowed portions of encrypted messages to be displayed in unencrypted fashion. (The Verge)
  • Nintendo is delaying shipments of Chinese-made Switch consoles and peripherals to Japan, citing coronavirus fears. (Bloomberg)
6. After you Login

Today marks the 15th anniversary of Google Maps. Here are some of the top Street View images from the last 15 years. And, for the nostalgic, here's the original blog post launching the product, written by one Bret Taylor (the same one who is now Salesforce's president).