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The options trading interfaces on E-Trade (L) and Robinhood (R). Illustration: Axios

To understand why Robinhood is so popular, it's best to think in terms of game design.

Why it matters: While other brokerages sell ultra-sophisticated investing tools or boring things like retirement planning, Robinhood makes an addictive mobile-native game.

As Matt Levine wrote in November:

"You can analyze Robinhood as a mobile gaming company. It makes an app that you can download to your phone, and then you can play a game on the app. As with many mobile games, there are in-app purchases, and you can end up spending a lot of money on the Robinhood game. The game is of course a stock-trading game. The purchases are stocks."

What they're saying: Noah Brier, of the indispensable Why Is This Interesting daily newsletter, this week compared E-Trade's option trading interface to Robinhood's.

"The former makes options look like a very serious thing you can lose a lot of money on. The latter resembles rating a YouTube video."

The bottom line: When a professional investor like Leon Cooperman says that the Robinhood mania will "end in tears," he's absolutely right on a literal basis: Bad design decisions might well have cost a young man's life. But if what he's talking about is total investment returns, he could be making a category error. People are attracted to games because of the enjoyment of playing them much more than because of the pleasure they get from any winnings.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Sep 21, 2020 - Economy & Business

Retail traders drove Snowflake and Unity Software's IPO surges

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The story of last week's Snowflake and Unity Software IPOs had little to do with data warehousing or 3D game development, and lots to do with dizzying "pops" after pricing.

What happened: The Robinhood effect.

AT&T spins off WarnerMedia, forming new media behemoth with Discovery

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

AT&T and Discovery have agreed to create a joint venture that would house WarnerMedia’s premium entertainment, sports and news assets with Discovery's nonfiction and international entertainment and sports businesses, the companies announced Monday.

Why it matters: It's a major course correction by AT&T. The deal essentially confirms shareholder fears that the company's $85 billion merger with Time Warner three years ago was not fully baked.

1 hour ago - Health

Child tax credits from COVID relief plan to begin arriving July 15

Biden arrives in the Rose Garden on May 13. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The expanded monthly child tax credit introduced in President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package will begin arriving in parents' bank accounts on July 15, the White House said Monday.

Why it matters: The credit, part of the administration's plan to transform the country's social safety net in the wake of the pandemic, would provide families with $300 monthly cash payments per child up to age 5 and $250 for children ages 6–17.

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