May 28, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Welcome back. And speaking of back, "AXIOS" on HBO is back too. Season 2 premieres at 6pm ET/PT on Sunday, June 2. Check out the trailer here

And, today's Smart Brevity count is 1,216 words, or less than 5 minutes of your time.

1 big thing: Open is out and closed is in

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Today's tech giants achieved success and scale by promoting their openness, but, as Axios' Scott Rosenberg reports, the industry's open doors are shutting, one by one.

Why it matters: Being "open" allowed tech innovators and companies to claim a sort of moral high ground. Without it, they are increasingly vulnerable to legal and regulatory restraint and popular disaffection.

The big picture: A 50-year arc toward open technology has shaped today's industry.

  • Open platforms like the original personal computers sparked its early growth.
  • An open network — the internet — connected our devices and wove our digital world.
  • Open source software sat at the core of that world, making it run.
  • Open global trade knit together the businesses that emerged.

That arc looks to be ending, as a new wave of change closes tech's open frontiers.

  • Dominant tech platforms are privately owned and governed, and their owners will readily adjust the "openness" dial to suit their needs — booting users perceived to be undesirable, blocking competitors, and locking down key data structures (like Facebook's "social graph") to prevent users from choosing alternatives.
  • Cloud-based software models push businesses and individuals away from the digital commons and toward closed, privately owned data spaces.
  • Network access in the U.S. and most other countries is controlled by a small number of giant service providers, and the reversal of net neutrality rules means that they have a free hand to promote their own properties and stifle competitors.
  • The escalating trade war between the U.S. and China, which threatens to throttle growth in both countries, is splintering the global network economically, technically, and culturally, placing new barriers to international exchange.

Yes, but: Tech's open ideal brought its own set of problems, and many of these changes arose in response to them. Openness at global scale is difficult (and expensive) to keep safe. Plus, even today's more closed platforms have their own form of openness.

  • Facebook's critics see it as pre-empting or swallowing the open web, but its accounts are free and open to anyone.
  • Google stores and mines a vast private hoard of data collected from open-web sources, but its search tools, maps and other information offerings are also "open" in that they're designed for easy integration with other internet services.
  • YouTube provides open video hosting — but critics say the recommendation algorithm that helps viewers find more to watch also pushes them toward ever more extreme perspectives.

Go deeper: Scott has more here.

2. Scoop: Startup rises from Meta's ashes

Photo: Meta View

A new startup has acquired the assets of defunct augmented reality headset maker Meta.

What's new: Meta View, as the new company is known, has hired some of the old employees but plans to use the wide-field-of-view headset technology for a particular vertical market (which it hasn't yet identified).

Why it matters: The once-promising technology has a new home, but its vision of a desktop computer on your face died with the original Meta. Meta, which had developed 2 generations of its AR headset, abruptly closed its doors earlier this year.

Details:

  • Meta View's CEO is Jay Wright, the former Qualcomm executive who led its Vuforia AR effort, later sold to PTC.
  • The startup is being funded by Israel's Olive Tree Ventures and BNSG Capital.
  • It has somewhere between 11 and 50 employees, though the company isn't being more specific.

What they're saying: Wright tells Axios that the company is focused on a particular industry, with its planned hardware and software tailored to that market's needs.

  • He contrasts that approach to the rest of the industry, which he says is selling the equivalent of "sporks" rather than a needed utensil.
  • "When you are doing something general purpose, you make all these tradeoffs," he adds.

What they're not saying: Meta View isn't saying which market they are targeting or how much funding they have.

  • Wright says he is well aware that most of the current VR industry is also shifting toward business, as the consumer market has taken off more slowly than anticipated.
  • "I’m not crazy," he said. "I’ve got a plan."
3. Europe's privacy law celebrates first birthday

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's been a year since Europe's strict new privacy law, known as GDPR, went into effect.

What's happening: Ireland, which is tasked with investigating potential violations by most of the U.S. tech giants, has launched 19 cross-border probes, including 11 against Facebook, according to the BBC.

  • Twitter, LinkedIn and Google also face probes, per the BBC report.
  • Here are some of the other actions taken by various European regulators.

Why it matters: Despite fears GDPR's rules would be either too onerous or not go far enough, the law is emerging as a model for privacy legislation elsewhere, including in the U.S.

4. Doctored Pelosi video highlights Facebook's 2020 challenge

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty

Facebook's refusal to remove a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has reignited the debate over how tech platforms should respond to misinformation and hoaxes, Axios' Sara Fischer and I report.

Why it matters: Facebook's decision to eventually demote — not remove — the doctored video has critics questioning whether its standards and processes are adequate to handle constant attempts to spread misinformation on its platform ahead of the 2020 elections.

Driving the news:

  • Once Facebook confirmed that fact-checkers deemed the video "false," it began "dramatically reducing" the video's distribution and added a fact-checking prompt to a screen before the video is shared that shows a list of fact-checking articles about the video.
  • Facebook says it needs to tread carefully about how it labels something as "false" because research shows such steps can inadvertently lead to more distribution, not less.
  • YouTube very quickly removed the video from its platform, arguing the content violated its policies. Twitter has not commented on the record.

The delay in removing the video, which CNN reported was 32 hours, was attributable to the fact that Facebook outsources its fact-checking process to a network of third-party fact-checking partners, and they needed time to inspect the video themselves.

The big picture: Facebook is doing more to explain its rationale and policies, but critics aren't all happy with the platform's decision-making.

  • Some argued that Facebook is hiding from its responsibility as one of the world's largest news distributors, even if it's legally protected from having to make such decisions.

Our thought bubble: In an era where video can increasingly be faked, Facebook is surely going to face more tough challenges ahead.

  • Would Facebook have reacted differently if Pelosi had been shown saying things she never said? What if it had her advocating positions she never took?

The bottom line: Facebook outsources these decisions so that it doesn't have to make them itself. "We aren't in the news business. We are in the social media business," Monika Bickert, Facebook's head of global policy, said in an interview with Anderson Cooper.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Computex officially kicks off in Taipei, Taiwan. Already, though, ARM has announced its new chip cores, AMD introduced new processors and graphics chips, and Asus debuted a dual-screen laptop.

Trading Places

  • Riccardo Zacconi, the longtime head of Candy Crush maker King Digital, is stepping down. King was acquired by Activision Blizzard in 2016 for $5.9 billion. (CNET)
  • Lyft has hired Google's Jabari Hearn as head of brand and Heather Freeland, formerly of Facebook, as head of marketing operations. Leaving the company is recently hired CMO Joy Howard. (CNET)

ICYMI

  • In the ongoing trade war, China could target rare earth minerals and elements that are necessary components of tech, including smartphones and LED lights. (Axios)
  • Alibaba is considering a plan to raise $20 billion through a second public listing, this time in Hong Kong. (Bloomberg)
  • Facebook continues to work on a cryptocurrency that could launch in a dozen countries by next year. (Axios)
  • Snapchat is in talks to license music from the major labels to allow users to add tunes to their snaps, per WSJ. (Axios)
6. After you Login

I took my 6-year-old bowling on Saturday. Suffice it to say, it looked nothing like this incredible shot.

Ina Fried