When I used to cover the financial services industry, one firm was known to insiders as “the bank most likely to step on a sharpened stick.” What they meant was that this bank seemed to be so accident-prone (or cursed) that if there was a problem to find, it would somehow find it.
It’s hard not to think of this phrase whenever Twitter does something. It’s not just that the company has lost 80% of its former market value over the past few years or that it failed to generate much interest from a raft of acquirers last year, despite all the leaks about the offers it was supposedly fielding.
Whenever the service even tries to do something good, it can’t seem to avoid shooting itself in the foot somehow. In the latest example, it announced that @ replies won’t count towards the 140-character limit, as it promised months ago. You might think that this new development would be a good thing. But most users appear to hate it, in part because the execution is clunky at best.
It’s true that almost every tweak Twitter makes to the service is received with howls of outrage. Many people just don’t like change. But there are valid criticisms of the latest move, which point out that it makes certain aspects of Twitter harder rather than easier.
Twitter is caught in a classic Catch-22. It needs to boost its user base to prove to investors that there’s still some juice in the engine. But every change it makes irritates hard-core users. And so it lurches forward, stumbling and then getting back up again, over and over, like some kind of cartoon zombie.
BITS AND BYTES
Things just got uglier in the legal dispute between Uber and Waymo. The executive at the center of the intellectual proprietary fight over self-driving car technology, Anthony Levandowski, is invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to testify because his lawyers don’t want to expose him to the potential of criminal charges. Alphabet’s lawsuit accuses Levandowski of stealing thousands of confidential documents when he left Google to found Otto, the self-driving truck company bought by Uber last year. (Reuters, New York Times)
Snap could lose $2 billion this year. That’s more than Twitter and Tesla combined. (Fortune)
Right now, business software firms are looking pretty sexy. Shares of MuleSoft, a specialist in integrating enterprise applications, have surged 40% since the company’s initial public offering a couple of weeks ago. Meanwhile, data analytics startup Looker just scored another $81.5 million in funding, led by Alphabet’s CapitalG. (Fortune, VentureBeat)
Ford is hiring hundreds of BlackBerry engineers. The team of close to 400 hardware and software experts will be dedicated to projects for self-driving cars, driver assistance, and other mobility services for connected vehicles. (Fortune)
This Starbucks location won’t handle walk-in customers. The coffee chain is testing a cafe in Seattle that is dedicated entirely to filling mobile orders. In part, it’s a test to figure out how it can eliminate the bottlenecks created by its app. (Reuters)
Stayed tuned: Apple could soon become the first $1 trillion company. Its market capitalization has surged more than $200 billion since the election—that’s the entire value of Pfizer. Right now, its valuation is around $760 billion. Ironically, American consumers think Google is the more valuable brand—although Apple is more “intimate” according to two new studies. (Fortune, Fortune, Fortune)
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
VR guru Palmer Luckey is leaving Facebook. The co-founder of Oculus Rift, which the social networking company bought in 2014 for $2 billion, is leaving for unspecified reasons. But he’s been keeping a low profile amid Facebook’s legal dispute with video game company Zenimax over intellectual property. (Fortune, New York Times)
Sheryl Sandberg doesn’t like the data on female leadership, but she’s still optimistic. If you look at the stats detailing the percentage of women who hold senior executive positions or run countries, not much has changed in the four years since the Facebook COO wrote Lean In. But she believes the current business and political climate will yield big changes in the next four years. (Fortune, USAToday)
Robo advisors are stealing jobs on Wall Street, and yet. The world’s biggest money manager BlackRock on Thursday said artificial intelligence investments inspired it to eliminate several dozen jobs, following a spate of similar downsizings at that could reduce headcount in financial services 10% by 2025. Ironically, consulting firm Accenture just released new research reaffirming a need for the human touch. (Fortune, Fortune)
This Japanese artificial intelligence expert just returned to Nest. Yoky Matsuoka, who left the smart thermostat company for a post at Twitter, is returning to the Google unit as chief technology officer. Most recently, she was working on a secretive health care project for Apple. (Fortune)
Microsoft’s PR pioneer has died. Pam Edstrom, 71, shaped the company’s communications strategy during its early days—when software certainly wasn’t a topic with mainstream America. (Fortune)
Microsoft is getting cozier with Samsung. The software giant has been working more closely with the South Korean conglomerate lately, which has become increasingly evident from the launch of the new Galaxy S8 smartphone line this week.
With both companies trying to gain advantages over Apple and Google, the dominant forces in mobile ecosystems, the growing partnership makes strategic sense. Google’s Android software runs on four out of five smartphones worldwide, and Apple’s iOS runs most of the remainder. So Microsoft and Samsung can benefit by finding ways to depend more on each other and less on the two mobile giants. Fortune‘s Aaron Pressman weighs in on the relationship.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Why Apple Analysts Are Not Worried About the Samsung Galaxy S8, by Aaron Pressman
How E-Commerce Is Making Stores Relevant Again, by Phil Wahba
Millennials Can’t Stop Being Narcissistic on Instagram, Duh, by Jonathan Vanian
Facebook’s New ‘Personal Fundraiser Feature’ Is Latest Copycat Move, by Tom Huddleston, Jr.
How Companies Will Use AI to Sell to You, by Dan Lyons
Believe It or Not: Online Trolling and Abuse Could Get Worse, by Mathew Ingram
ONE MORE THING
The U.S. is building a national network for first responders. The 25-year contract awarded to AT&T by the Department of Commerce covers the creation of a broadband wireless system dedicated to policy, medical personnel, and other official agencies handling major emergencies. The idea has been on the drawing board for more than 15 years, since the 9/11 attacks. (Reuters)
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Enterprise Data World: Become a data-driven business. (April 2-7; Atlanta)
AppianWorld: Accelerate your digital business transformation. (April 3-5; San Francisco)
Magento Imagine: Strategies and technologies for digital commerce. (April 3-5; Las Vegas)
Open Networking Summit: The future of open source communications. (April 7-9; Santa Clara, Calif.)
MuleSoft Connect: Connect apps, data and devices. (April 18-20; San Francisco)
F8: Facebook’s developer conference. (April 18-19; San Jose, Calif.)
Marketing Nation Summit: Marketo’s annual event for digital marketers. (April 23-26; San Francisco)
JiveWorld: Strategies and technologies for workplace collaboration. (May 1-3; Las Vegas)
Apttus Accelerate: Perspectives on automating the “quote-to-cash” process. (May 2-4; San Francisco)
Collision: A tech conference created by the organizers of Europe’s Web Summit. (May 2-4; New Orleans)
Red Hat Summit: The premier open source technology event. (May 2-4; Boston)
Knowledge17: ServiceNow’s annual customer gathering. (May 7-11; Orlando, Fla.)
Gartner IT Operations Strategies & Solutions Summit: How to accommodate cloud services and other “digital” technologies. (May 8-10; Orlando, Fla.)
Gartner Digital Marketing Conference: Actionable advice about martech. (May 10-12: San Diego)
Outperform: The PROS annual conference about omnichannel commerce technology. (May 10-12; Chicago)
Build: Microsoft’s annual conference for software developers. (May 10-12; Seattle)
Google I/O: Alphabet’s annual developer conference. (May 17-19; Mountain View, California)
Epicor Insights: Strategies for retail and resource planning. (May 22-25; Nashville)
Signal: Twilio’s annual developer confab. (May 24-25; San Francisco)
Apple Worldwide Developer Conference: An annual gathering of iOS, macOS, and watchOS coders. (June 5-9; San Francisco)
Pure//Accelerate: The future of data storage. (June 12-14; San Francisco)
MongoDB World: A gathering of the world’s fastest-growing database community. (June 20-21; Chicago)
Cisco Live: Education for technology innovators. (June 25-29; Las Vegas)
.NEXT: Nutanix’s conference on the future of enterprise cloud services. (June 28-30; Washington, D.C.)
Microsoft Ignite: Hands-on learning and industry insights for business leaders. (Sept. 25-29; Orlando, Florida)