Jun 18, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

LA readers: I'll be in town Thursday morning to moderate a discussion on the housing crisis as part of the Axios Hometown Tour. You can click here for more information or here to RSVP.

Today's Smart Brevity count: 880 words, ~ 3 minute read.

1 big thing: Facebook is still betting big

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Love Facebook or hate it, you can't say the besieged company is shying away from new products or big thinking.

What's happening: In the past 18 months — amid Cambridge Analytica and all the other scandals — the company has launched bold new moves to help find you a date, to put cameras inside your home and, now, to encourage you to adopt a whole new cryptocurrency.

  • At the F8 developer conference in 2018, CEO Mark Zuckerberg signaled the company would continue to make big bets in the face of criticism when he promised "to keep people safe and to keep building."

Driving the news:

  • Overnight, Facebook announced plans for Libra, its long-awaited cryptocurrency project. As Axios' Kia Kokolitcheva reports, Facebook is not going it alone, as Libra has other partners and will be overseen by a separate Swiss company. Still, it's the central part of a project to give Facebook a role in the payments industry. Facebook plans to develop its own wallet app for the currency and also offer Libra within its messaging services.
  • Last week, at Code Conference, Facebook's Andrew Bosworth promised the company has new Portal hardware coming this fall. He wouldn't say how many devices the company had sold since its November debut, but said Facebook is pleased with how the public has received its smart video chat camera so far.
  • Facebook is building a dating service. This year at F8, the company announced it's expanding to 14 additional countries and will be in the U.S. by the end of the year. It also plans to be in Europe by early next year. It's currently in Colombia, Thailand, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guyana, and Suriname.

Why it matters: On the positive side, Facebook isn't allowing privacy or antitrust concerns to thwart its ambitions. On the negative side, Facebook isn't allowing privacy or antitrust concerns to thwart its ambitions.

  • For Facebook users, this means new features and products and, overall, a service that is growing in utility rather than fading from relevance.
  • For its critics, these projects are all fresh new reasons for alarm. The company now has a whole bunch of new ways to gather data, although it has promised it won't be making use of the information gathered for dating in the rest of Facebook's app, and it also says it won't be listening in to calls made via Portal.

The big picture: The moves come as both privacy and antitrust regulators are taking a harder look at Facebook and other tech giants, while presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren and some other critics argue Facebook should be broken up.

2. Luxury goods, Amazon-style

Image courtesy of Verishop

Former Snapchat chief strategy officer Imran Khan is today launching a digital marketplace for luxury goods, Axios' Sara Fischer reports. Verishop will feature more than 150 contemporary brands across multiple lifestyle categories.

Why it matters: 3 decades into the internet era, there still isn't a major e-commerce destination for department-store-quality shopping online. This is especially true given Amazon has chosen to focus on basic goods instead of luxury.

Between the lines: Traditional luxury department stores haven't been able to crack the digital marketplace in a meaningful way.

  • Some luxury aggregation retail sites have broken through — like Rue La La, Gilt, The RealReal and Tradesy — but most have focused on consignment or resale of older goods from luxury brands through third-party sellers.

Be smart: Today's only luxury marketplaces have many risks for consumers, like receiving counterfeit goods or poor quality control on shipping and handling. This is why luxury is still often purchased in store.

Go deeper: Sara has more here.

3. Supreme Court ruling could apply to social media

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Monday that constitutional protections from government censorship of free speech don't extend to a private operator of public-access television.

The case in question dates back to 2012 and involved the decision by Manhattan Community Access Corporation to refuse to air videos from producers it said had used threatening language, per Scotusblog.

Our thought bubble: If the Supreme Court holds that even public-access TV has the right to establish its own policies regulating speech, surely Twitter, Facebook and others do as well.

4. Bring still pictures to life
Animation courtesy University of Washington

Want to see Steph Curry bust out of a still picture? Well, now you can, thanks to a new 3D animation algorithm from the University of Washington.

How it works: As Axios' Kaveh Waddell reports, the technology can allow any head-to-toe photo or painting break free of its flat confines and come sauntering out into the world.

  • The system, called "Photo Wake-Up," creates a 3D model of the person or character from a single image — which is notoriously difficult.
  • Then, it animates the person — jumping, walking or running right out of the frame.
  • It fills in the background so that the moving person doesn't leave behind an empty silhouette.

To see other moving pictures, from Iron Man to Matisse to a lunar astronaut, watch this video from the University of Washington.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Cannes Lions continues in France.

Trading Places

  • Okta added former Pepsi CIO and Procter & Gamble executive Robert L. Dixon, Jr. to its board of directors.
  • CompTIA has hired Cinnamon Rogers as EVP for public advocacy. Rogers previously served as SVP of government affairs at the Telecommunications Industry Association.


  • A newly created alliance in the digital ad industry committed to improving safety for both people and brands online. (Axios)
  • Atlassian, which says it has spent upwards of $1 billion to acquire more than 20 companies, published its standard term sheet in an effort to make future deals more straightforward. (CNBC)
  • Microsoft has resumed selling Huawei laptops online, but apparently only to move through its existing inventory. (The Verge)
6. After you Login

This is a story worth reading. Just trust me.

Ina Fried