Yesterday was another long week. Here's what you need to know...
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
A surprise Justice Department announcement yesterday punctured the relative calm of Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey's hearings on Capitol Hill about content bias and election interference issues.
Why it matters: The combination of policy concerns about competition with the politically contentious allegations of online censorship — not long after President Trump spent a week hammering social media companies — is already raising alarm bells for some.
Driving the news: Attorney General Jeff Sessions will meet with state attorneys general this month "to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms."
Between the lines: A boring day in Washington is a good one for Silicon Valley, notes Axios' David McCabe.
Despite the relative calm of the hearings, the unexpected DOJ statement raises the prospect of antitrust or other action against the companies. The Washington Post reported that the Sept. 25 meeting was planned before Wednesday.
What they're saying: “This is an enormous assertion of investigatory powers, in a highly charged political environment,” said Public Knowledge’s Gene Kimmelman, who served in the Justice Department’s antitrust division during the Obama administration. “I worry that this takes legitimate competition concerns into a dangerous realm of excessive governmental intrusion in the marketplace of ideas.”
Slack product chief April Underwood. Photo: Slack
While office communications is what brings businesses to Slack, the real secret to the company's success is the business processes that are also handled within the service.
What's new: There are now 1,500 apps for Slack and 94% of customers are using at least one of them. It's those integrations, not the company's market share, that represent its real moat against competition, Slack product chief April Underwood said in an interview before her talk at a Slack conference today.
"Slack is the only place you can seamlessly use these applications together," she said.
Why it matters: There are a host of companies that would dearly like to eat Slack's lunch, ranging from startups to giants like Microsoft and Salesforce. While they can compete with some of the chat features, replicating the ecosystem is a harder task.
On recent outages: "This is an area where we have room for improvement," Underwood said. "No question about it."
On adoption of threaded messaging, a long-requested feature: "Millions of people use threads every week," she said. As for whether that is more or less than the company had anticipated, Underwood said it doesn't really matter and isn't something she is losing sleep over.
"People that wanted threaded messages have them now," she said.
Just 4 out of 10 Americans trust tech companies to prevent foreign interference in the 2018 midterm elections — a significant loss of confidence from both parties since a February survey, according to a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll.
Between the lines: Democrats have lost more trust than Republicans. That's notable since Democrats have generally been bigger defenders of the platforms, which have been sharply criticized for exhibiting anti-conservative bias in moderating content
You can find more on the survey and its methodology here.
In another of our Axios/SurveyMonkey poll questions, two-thirds of Republicans believe the results of internet searches are skewed to the left — a shift that's driving significant public distrust in search engines.
Why it matters: The survey shows that tech companies will have a hard time convincing the public that their algorithms aren't built to favor any point of view, regardless of the reality. The distrust is driven largely by the right, but a significant minority of independents believe the results are biased toward the left, too. (The poll was conducted before Wednesday's congressional testimony by Facebook and Twitter executives.)
You can find more results here.
Investors haven't totally lost their infatuation with Silicon Valley as the heart of tech innovation, but skyrocketing costs of living and competition for talent have definitely cooled the affair. That was the message from several speakers at TechCrunch's Disrupt conference on Wednesday, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.
Why it matters: As technology and engineering jobs have spread into other industries and locations, more startup founders are questioning whether they need to be in Silicon Valley, though many still acknowledge the region's unique strengths.
What we're hearing: The Bay Area’s cost of living and intense competition for employees have become unsustainable, according to some investors.
But, but, but: While finding talented employees and engineers is no longer limited to Silicon Valley, the region remains unique in other ways.