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What caught my eye in tech: May 2020

Every month in 2020, I’m going to be sharing the top 5 interesting things in tech that have caught my eye. Enjoy!

1. Trump tweet censored by Twitter

The killing of George Floyd has sparked renewed pressure on the world to change, and those in power to step up.

A lot of this pressure has been focused on tech companies that refuse to rid their platform of hate. Whilst technology is certainly not the most important part of this story, the censoring of a tweet marks a significant turning point. Twitter, historically, has failed to make a stand but this month set a new and welcomed precedent. Masked with a warning was a tweet from Donald Trump promoting violence in response to rioting following George Floyd’s killing. In addition, whilst a person can choose to view it, they are not able to spread it through a retweet. Whilst I applaud this effort from Twitter, more needs to be done and that extends to other platforms too. Unfortunately at the time of writing, Facebook has yet to follow suit and openly allows the same message to exist and spread on its platforms freely.

Trump responded to this by signing an executive order to remove section 230 of the CDA Act of 1996. Section 230 states companies like these aren’t liable for what is said on their platforms as long as they try to remove it. However, Trump has likely performed a flex of power that wasn’t thought through. As this NY Times article points out it’s this very section that provides him with a shield to post the messages he does today.

More on the inaction by Facebook via Bloomberg

2. Christopher Nolan X Fortnite

Last month I covered Epic Games hosting of an innovative Travis Scott concert within the Fortnite world, a real game changer! This month Christopher Nolan has thrown his hat in the ring and will be bringing one of his films into the game, to be screened later this summer. The film is TBC but it’s likely to be “iconic”, The Dark Knight perhaps?

How this came about is of interest to me as it further explores new opportunities for revenue generation in free to play games such as this. ‘Tenet’ is Nolan’s upcoming movie due to be released later this month and it was a trailer for this film within the game that spawned the announcement. Sneaker drops, e-sports events, public events… it’s feasible to think we’ll see ads for these at some point.

More on the screening via NME

3. Will ByteDance take the tech giant crown?

We all know TikTok has been making waves this year but now we have a glimpse as to how much cash it’s riding on. According to Bloomberg, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, raked in $3bn in net profit last year and attributed much of it’s success to the growth of TikTok. To put it into perspective, Snapchat’s revenue was $1.7bn. With the growth trajectory of TikTok and the cash pile it sits on, ByteDance is one of the first genuine competitors to the dominance of the big players in Facebook and Alphabet. Unlike those companies, with ByteDance based in China, it has a footing in a market they’ve struggled to gain access to and ultimately provides them a real potential to be bigger than both.

More on the profit reveal via Bloomberg

4. Spotify signs Joe Rogan in exclusive content deal

In February I wrote about Spotify looking to grow its podcast dominance by acquiring exclusive content. In news that rocked the industry, Spotify continued on this quest by putting pen to paper with Joe Rogan (US comedian) in a $100m deal. I’m going to be honest, I had no idea who Joe Rogan was before this news and to be even more honest, I still don’t. What strikes me about this deal however is Joe Rogan seems to be a big name, has an existing strong fanbase, and makes good money off of his podcasts already… why does he need Spotify? If it turns out he thinks he does then is he not the one benefitting in this deal and not Spotify? Gain access to a huge audience, grow your personal brand, and then go it alone again? A very real possibility.

More on the deal via Forbes

5. The end of Silicon Valley (and cities) as we know it?

A lot of folks within the tech industry, amongst others, have spent the past few months working from home due to Covid-19. With many companies on the fence about remote work in recent years, this forced experiment has provided some with enough positive insight to convince those at the top it’s here to stay. Twitter, Facebook, and Google have all come out and said many of their staff can work from home through to next year. Others such as Shopify have even gone all in and are now transitioning to become a permanently remote-first company.

Away from the effect on the lives of employees, cities are likely to be deeply impacted by this shift and none more than Silicon Valley. Astronomical doesn’t even begin to describe the cost of housing in the region, with prices largely being propped up by the high salaries of tech employees. If all these employees are now leaving, you can guess what happens next!

Cities have needed a rethink for many years and it seems like we’ve just had the kick needed to start this process.

More via Wired

One more thing: Elon Musk’s SpaceX launches astronauts into space

After 9 years, with the help of SpaceX, NASA launched a space shuttle mission. It’s the first time a commercial company has been involved in space flight in this manner, with NASA providing the astronauts and SpaceX the shuttle. SpaceX went to town and a lot changed. Touchscreens in the cockpit, rockets landing themselves back on earth after use, and rockstar entrances for the astronauts in Tesla cars and new suits. A mesmerising watch…

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