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Bitcoin is fizzling. The only question is why it ever popped in the first place.
The Wall Street Journal lists the multiple data points that bolster the argument of the cryptocurrency’s diminished importance. Its “value” is down from nearly $20,000 to around $8,000. Web searches for the term “bitcoin” have shriveled. A popular app for trading bitcoin once was popular in Apple’s App Store; Now it barely ranks. A bitcoin investor told The Journal he felt like his cryptocurrency investments were a joke, as if he’d invested in comic books or baseball cards.
In fact, copies of Richie Rich or a 1970s Lou Brock card make a hell of a lot more sense than a digital currency that barely can be used to buy anything and has no intrinsic value. What’s alarming about the swift fall of bitcoin is how little time it was up. Cryptocurrencies have their theoretical place. The digital “ledger” technology that underlies them, blockchain, holds even more promise. But the bidding up and down of a worthless currency by speculators who had no idea what they were investing in has all the hallmarks of an investment scam.
Comparisons already are being drawn to dot-com stocks of 20 years ago. The thing is, those securities were based on companies, flimsy though they were, that dutifully filed their financial results with U.S. regulators and exchanges. Years after the bubble burst savvy investors made money on their remnants, precisely because there was some underlying value to them, even if it was only the cash on their balance sheets.
Will bitcoin bottom out and be worth something to someone? Maybe. For now, comics might be the better bet.
Can you doubt me now? Speaking of cryptocurrencies and such, the digital blockchain startup Ripple has faced accusations of overstating how close banks were to using its cross border payments service. Well, count one win for the startup. Santander Bank said it would start offering Ripple’s One Pay FX system to customers in Brazil, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. “Blockchain technology offers tremendous opportunities to improve the services we offer our customers,” Santander executive chairman Ana Botín told the Financial Times.
Mission mollify. Google is taking steps to address employee concerns about working with the military, after thousands objected to the company’s work helping the Air Force use artificial intelligence to analyze drone surveillance footage. On Wednesday, Google’s head of cloud, Diane Greene, held a town hall style meeting with employees and said the company is developing a set of ethical principles to govern the use of its products and services, the publication Defense One reported. The publication also says the military is considering a massive contract to move its IT operations to the cloud.
Cleaning up. New-ish Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi closed another chapter or two of the company’s troubled narrative before his arrival. On Thursday, Uber settled charges with the Federal Trade Commission for failing to disclose that in 2016 hackers stole personal data about more than 20 million customers. Uber will have to submit audits of its security procedures and agreed to pay penalties if it fails to notify the agency of future data breaches. Uber also won a key federal court ruling that drivers on its service are independent contractors, not employees.
Taking the market not by storm. With its high price and limited capabilities, Apple’s HomePod smart speaker is apparently not selling well. Apple has lowered its internal sales forecast and cut orders from its supplier, Bloomberg reports. And law enforcement agencies are having less trouble cracking the encryption on iPhones thanks to a software tool called GreyKey, Motherboard reports.
Taking the market not by storm, part two. Speaking of overpriced and underperforming, ESPN rolled out its $5 per month Internet streaming sports service, ESPN+, and the reviews were…not great. Here’s The Verge’s Chris Welch: “The biggest challenge that ESPN+ will face is convincing people that it’s not just some paid mishmash of stuff that ESPN finds unworthy of its core, traditional channels. ESPN insists that’s not true and that these are events it has never had the ideal platform for. That just sounds like a nicer way of saying it, but hey.”
Missing in action. Some Android phone makers didn’t update customers’ phones with critical security patches for the mobile OS even when they said they did. A code survey by Security Research Labs found almost all vendors skipped some patches, but ZTE and TCL were the biggest offenders. “Sometimes these guys just change the date without installing any patches,” researcher Karsten Nohl told Wired.
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few interesting longer reads I came across that are suitable for your weekend reading pleasure.
I Downloaded the Information That Facebook Has on Me. Yikes. (New York Times)
There was so much that Facebook knew about me—more than I wanted to know. But after looking at the totality of what the Silicon Valley company had obtained about yours truly, I decided to try to better understand how and why my data was collected and stored. I also sought to find out how much of my data could be removed.
How Slime-Crazed Kids Made Gunk a Booming Business (The Guardian)
So there are subsets of slime? Right, he says. There is fluffy slime, with a cloud-like texture. Rainbow-coloured slime. Glitter and sequin slime. The slime is endless. And unlike other, more passive trends that have boomed online, slime translates into real-life activity. It is back-to-basics arts and crafts. Parents seem to be pleased that their children are doing something creative and wholesome. But don’t get things twisted: the kids take it seriously.
Q&AA: Jared Leto Reflects on ‘America,’ Apps, and Creativity (Ad Age)
There are so many companies I work with, from Intercom to DocuSign. I like transformative technology that creates more efficiency in the world, companies that have a mission to not only [be] successful companies but also make the world a better place. Artificial intelligence is going to change everything at some point and it brings up a lot of questions and, for some people, fear. In fact, one of our lists was AI, bitcoin, fake news, Russia, for hot button topics in America.
12 Things Everyone Should Understand About Tech (Anil Dash’s blog)
7. There is never just one single genius creator of technology.
One of the most popular representations of technology innovation in popular culture is the genius in a dorm room or garage, coming up with a breakthrough innovation as a “Eureka!” moment. It feeds the common myth-making around people like Steve Jobs, where one individual gets credit for “inventing the iPhone” when it was the work of thousands of people. In reality, tech is always informed by the insights and values of the community where its creators are based, and nearly every breakthrough moment is preceded by years or decades of others trying to create similar products.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
It’s easy to complain about the lack of women employed at tech companies, but who is doing something about it? Seattle Times reporter Rachel Lerman digs into what some companies in her region—such as Redfin, Zillow, Expedia, and Tableau—have done to successfully raise the female proportion of their workforce. Sometimes, it’s not that complicated:
Working with Emerson’s company, Zillow committed to implementing specific tasks and practices to increase diversity—of women and other underrepresented groups—across all its brands, including Trulia and HotPads.
The company now recruits from a much larger range of schools to find students who come from diverse backgrounds, including by geography and income levels. Sticking to just the same top computer-science schools, Zillow reasoned, could cut out those who couldn’t afford the tuition or didn’t have opportunities to attend.
The company established affinity groups for employees of different races, as well as LGBTQ employees and employees with disabilities. Zillow also has made sure both men and women are interviewing potential hires.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Amazon’s Ring Video Doorbell Just Got a Lot Cheaper By Lisa Marie Segarra
BEFORE YOU GO
Are you a fan of screenwriter and director Tony Gilroy’s movies or are you going to be a fan of Tony Gilroy movies soon? Michael Clayton is a can’t-miss legal thriller if you’re new to the Gilroy oeuvre, which also includes all the Jason Bourne movies. This weekend, his latest, the diplomatic thriller Beirut starring Jon Hamm, is out and the reviews are strong.