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Gaming is the $130 billion business most grownups know nothing about but technologists love. For tech types, gaming has it all: nerdery, bandwidth, pretty pictures, and easy-to-understand applications of complicated technology.
The news of the week is that Google will offer a cloud-based gaming service called Stadia, one of several hoped-for “Netflix of gaming” products to hit the market. Instead of needing a high-powered PC, gamers will be able to play games with complex video effects on almost any device—a phone, TV set, or laptop—while the actual game program runs on Google’s cloud servers. Critics say it isn’t clear how well Stadia will work, what the economics will be, or even when exactly Google will flip the switch. No matter. Like Amazon, with the popular Twitch service it bought, and Microsoft, a significant player through its Xbox franchise and which also plans a “Netflix for ..” offering dubbed xCloud, Google wants its own cloud gaming entry.
It’s no wonder that Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, in reverse order, happen to be the biggest cloud services companies in the United States. Cloud gaming is a killer app and a way to pump profitable activity through capital-intensive cloud platforms.
Gaming also has shown up as an unlikely savior for cryptocurrencies. Fortune’s Jen Wieczner traveled to Hong Kong last week for the optimistically named Token 2049 conference and came back with this insight: one of the few applications “crypto” technologists are excited about is for payments in games.
This strikes me as grasping at straws. All this sound and fury for video games?
Oh well, unlike cryptocurrencies and blockchain software, at least gaming is a legitimately big business. And it’s fun too.
Seeing is believing. Using super high-frequency 60 GHz airwaves, Qualcomm announced a wireless virtual reality headset dubbed “Boundless XR for PC.” The headset will also work as a standalone device when not connected to a PC or gaming console. Elsewhere, as the company awaits the verdict in a Federal Trade Commission antitrust lawsuit, regulators in South Korea reduced a fine in a similar case there by 18% to $200 million.
Visions. After adding bitcoin to its Cash app, Square is ready to give back to the open source cryptocurrency ecosystem, says CEO Jack Dorsey. He says he wants to hire a few engineers and a designer for work on creating “a more accessible global financial system for the Internet.” The new employees will be allowed to work from wherever they want, report directly to Dorsey, and can even be paid in bitcoin, if they so choose, the CEO tweeted.
Nothing to see. Popular web sites in Europe ranging from Wikipedia to Reddit and Twitch are going dark for the day or posting protest banners to signal their opposition to a copyright law that the European Union may adopt next week. Article 11 of the proposed EU Copyright Directive imposes a tax on web sites that link to stories from other sites. Article 13 makes sites liable for uploaded content. The protesters say the provisions will hurt open expression online.
See you in court. Although it says it’s ready to pay local taxes, Airbnb has been suing cities and towns around the country to block the imposition of hotel and occupancy taxes on its users’ short-term rentals, an investigation by Wired found. Lately, the startup sued Boston, Miami, and Palm Beach County over tax collections and listing restrictions.
See you in the funny papers. The upcoming news subscription service from Apple will include the Wall Street Journal but not the Washington Post or New York Times, the New York Times reports. Hundreds of other publishers are participating in the service, expected to be announced at Apple’s media event on Monday.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
For some years, famed venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz had a rule that only CEOs and company founders could become general partners. But the firm wisely tossed aside that rule when it came to its star analyst Connie Chan, promoting her to partner last year. Michelle Toh at CNN Business spent some time with Chan for a snappy profile of the rising investor.
She says she’s currently looking for the “Western equivalent” of Pinduoduo, a Chinese e-commerce startup valued at $33 billion that allows people to save money when they enlist friends to buy the same item. She also sees Chinese firms monetizing video in a “unique way” she doesn’t see happening stateside. And like companies gaining traction in Asia, American players are just starting to develop “super apps,” which position themselves as all-in-one platforms where users can do everything, from message friends to binge-watch videos to online shop. Since the returns on her investments often take years to realize, “you have to make calls that look crazy,” said Chan.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Google Introduces New Tools to Help Journalists Fight Fake News By Danielle Abril
Amazon’s New Kindle Makes Reading a Bit Brighter By Erin Corbett
BEFORE YOU GO
Security isn’t easy, but a recent prosecution reminded me of the simple low-tech tricks conman Frank Abagnale used to swindle high-tech banks in the 1970s. In one of his schemes, Abagnale had phony checks printed listing the name of one bank but the routing number code of a different bank. As computers routed the check via the encoded numbers and humans saw the different printed name, the check would circulate between banks for months before anyone caught on that it was a phony.
Evaldas Rimasauskas pled guilty on Wednesday to stealing more than $100 million from Google and Facebook by creating a Latvian company with the same name as a supplier used by the two tech giants, Taiwanese hardware maker Quanta Computer. They paid his phony emailed invoices and the money ended up in accounts in Latvia, Cyprus, Slovakia, Lithuania, Hungary and Hong Kong. But the scheme quickly unraveled when it became clear the invoices were fake and Rimasauskas was arrested and extradited to the United States. Phony emails are a lot easier to trace than phony printed bar codes, it seems. Progress?