Plus: WeWork has an HR problem.
Instagram is taking another bite out of Snapchat. The Verge’s Casey Newton has learned that “Facebook is developing a new messaging app called Threads that is meant to promote constant, intimate sharing between users and their closest friends” and will be a companion app to Instagram. The app is designed to allow users to interact with their “Closest Friends” list that currently exists as an option on Instagram, and it will let them share more detailed information like location, speed, and battery life. The idea is to have an app focused on someone’s closest circle of friends — which, as Newton points out, is what Snapchat already is. The average Snapchat user spends more time on the app than the average Instagram user, and Facebook has “long coveted Snapchat’s strong engagement among younger users.”
- Some background: Facebook stopped development on a separate messaging app called Direct in May. Beta testers at the time said it was too frustrating to “switch between Instagram and a second app whenever they wanted to send a message.” Threads now appears to be the latest project to make good on CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s stated mission earlier this year to make private messaging the future of the company.
Friends of Recode know this well: Recode Decode host Kara Swisher considers Evan Spiegel to be the chief product officer of Facebook, due to the number of times Facebook has “borrowed” Snapchat’s ideas. Watch this 2018 interview with the Snapchat CEO at Code.
[Casey Newton / The Verge]
WeWork has an HR problem. For a company that prides itself on sharing its hip work culture with the startups that lease its office space, it is ironic that WeWork can’t maintain its own human resources staff. According to the Information, almost a dozen HR employees are leaving the company. The Information found that most of the employees have left voluntarily, with some expressing “frustrations with the company’s leadership.” One executive claims to have left over alleged sexual harassment and gender discrimination that “HR leaders failed to investigate.”
This is unusual for a “tech” company: The Information points out that other tech firms typically pride themselves on their strong HR and “durable” culture. Netflix’s HR head worked there 14 years; the department leaders at Amazon and Google held their roles for more than a decade each.
[Cory Weinberg / The Information]
YouTube thinks it’s “more important than ever” to let people upload anything they want. In a letter addressed to creators on YouTube, CEO Susan Wojcicki says the platform is committed to remaining open because she thinks the upside of that approach very much outweighs the downside. As she and other Google executives have previously argued, Wojcicki says she is okay that some people will be upset with some things they find on YouTube, which could include “content that is outside the mainstream, controversial, or even offensive.”
Why now? Wojcicki’s letter comes after months of criticism about distasteful videos and comments that appeared on the site. (Watch Peter Kafka’s Code interview with Wojcicki about that here.) Critics, regulators, and politicians are also proposing various ways to scale back the protections offered by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a key part of the legal scaffolding used by YouTube and many other giant tech platforms built on users’ submissions.
[Peter Kafka / Recode]
This gig economy has become a test for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. A proposed bill in California called AB 5 would make it much harder for companies to classify employees as independent contractors, and so companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart, and DoorDash (which all depend on gig economy labor) are trying to shut it down. Now, Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell reports, AB 5 is offering Democrats running for president a way to take sides in the ongoing debate about the gig economy and its impact on workers. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in an op-ed earlier this month that “all Democrats need to stand up and say, without hedging, that we support AB 5.” Sen. Bernie Sanders and now Sen. Kamala Harris say they support AB 5, too. Out of the top four frontrunners, former Vice President Joe Biden is the only one who has yet to weigh in … but the pressure is on.
These endorsements are unusual: They show just how far Democratic presidential candidates are willing to go to let voters (and workers) know whose side they are on. More so than any other policy plan they’ve come up with, their endorsement of AB 5 is the clearest signal yet that they are siding with workers and labor unions — not Silicon Valley companies.
[Alexia Fernández Campbell / Vox]
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