Hello, and welcome to this Wednesday’s edition of the Insider Tech newsletter, where we break down the biggest news in tech. This will be the last weekly newsletter of 2020 — Insider Tech will be back in January!
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Soundtrack: For maximum enjoyment of this newsletter, we recommend listening to George Benson’s version of “Take Five.”
This week: Twitter’s app abattoir and MacKenzie Scott’s $4 billion example
Periscope, the livestreaming app, that Twitter acquired in 2015, is going the way of Vine. Twitter announced plans Tuesday to shut down the Periscope standalone app, the latest example of Twitter’s odd habit of euthanizing apps that it buys.
- Unlike the 2017 shutdown of video-clip-looping app Vine, which came as a shock to many loyal users and for which Twitter never really provided an explanation, Twitter ascribed Periscope’s death to simple economics: The app was not getting enough use to justify the ongoing costs of supporting it.
- Many commentators pointed out that Vine’s demise came shortly before TikTok conquered the world with its similar service of looping video clips. The counterargument is that TikTok’s secret sauce is more about the discovery AI than the basic concept of looping clips. Still, it’s reasonable to wonder whether Twitter is being myopic by sending Periscope into its app abattoir.
Meanwhile, in Google-land, a storm of outages caused havoc with some of the company’s most popular apps this week, including YouTube, Google Maps, and Gmail. In the case of Gmail, the service disruptions occurred on two successive days.
Speaking of Amazon, don’t miss Eugene Kim’s fantastic, in-depth report on Jeff Bezos’ renewed presence at the controls of the ecommerce giant. Among the takeaways:
- After recent years focusing on longer-term projects like the space company Blue Origin, Bezos is back in the trenches and heavily involved in day-to-day operations at Amazon.
- The return of Bezos was triggered by the disruptions caused by COVID-19, including supply-chain lockdowns and shipment delays, as well as Amazon’s coronavirus testing lab.
- But emerging threats like Shopify have caused Bezos to take a more hands-on approach.
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic via Getty Images; Taylor Borden/Business Insider
While Bezos tries to crush the competition, his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott is making headlines for her largesse. Scott has given away $4.2 billion to more than 300 organizations over the past 4 months.
The money is going to a variety of efforts including food banks and emergency relief funds that Scott says will hope those most affected by the coronavirus.
“This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling. Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires,” Scott wrote in a blog post.
Now that’s a good example to set for the holidays.
“Candidly, there has been a cultural shift in Europe which is leading to there being more founders on the continent, that’s been a catalyst for us.”
— Rytis Vitkauskas, partner at early-stage VC firm Lightspeed Venture Partners, regarding the firm’s decision to open an office in London and make its first on-the-ground foray into Europe.
It was only a matter of time before Amazon got into the taxi business. The “carriage-style” taxi unveiled this week is a completely autonomous vehicle — there’s no driver to chat with, and no steering wheel or other controls. The robotaxi is being developed by Zoox, the self-driving car company Amazon acquired in June for a reported $1.2 billion.
The electric vehicle is 143 inches long (shorter than a Mini Cooper) and sits 4 people on opposite facing bench seats. It can reach a top speed of 75 mph, which frankly sounds a bit terrifying.
Amazon won’t say when the robotaxi will begin to ply the streets with passengers aboard, though it apparently will not launch as a publicly available ride-hailing service until at least 2022, per Bloomberg. In the meantime, the robotaxi is being tested in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Foster City, Calif — if you see one in the wild, or get lucky enough to ride in one, please send us some photos.
Thursday, December 17, at 3 p.m. EST/ 12 p.m. PST Business Insider’s startups and VC reporter Melia Russell hosts a live panel discussion on how to get hired in VC, with a focus on young professionals breaking in. The panel of industry insiders will discuss what VC firms look for in candidates for analyst, associate, and junior partner jobs, and how those young professionals can best position themselves for success in the interview process.
Not necessarily in tech:
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