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Thirteen years ago, Google topped Fortune’s annual preposition-ending “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. I wrote an epic cover story that detailed the many perks of being a Googler. Of course, there was the food, always the food, but also dry cleaning, oil changes, fitness centers, massages, language classes, and on and on and on. Google coddled its employees in ways that would leave most employers dumbfounded. Much of Silicon Valley, in a hyperbolically named “war for talent,” followed suit.
There were drawbacks. It’s questionable if an over-coddled workforce truly produces returns for shareholders. I recall arriving at Google for an evening event and seeing employees carrying dinners boxed in takeout containers getting on massive coaches that would drive them home. They clearly had stuck around just long enough to get a free meal—not exactly the point of the free food. It reminded me of my colleagues in Tokyo a decade earlier, who would go out drinking after work and then come back to the office for a free car-service ride home so they wouldn’t have to take public transportation—not because they were working late.
I dredge all this up having read a New York Times expose about bickering at tech companies, particularly Facebook, by childless workers who resent the special treatment being afforded stressed-out parents. It’s understandable that people would lack the empathy or the foresight to realize parents have a particular set of challenges. After all, their companies have so skewed the meaning of being an employee by instilling such a sense of entitlement that this kind of response is predictable.
The leadership of the tech companies have only themselves to blame.
California’s infamous law that aims to require Uber, Lyft, and others to classify their contractors as employees had a bevy of unintended consequences. It ensnared freelancers like writers, musicians, and others who gig for a living and get paid by multiple benefactors. The state quietly fixed its mistake last week with a new law that exempts those individuals. The fight over ride-hail and delivery drivers rages on.
In the mid-1970s, my dad took me to one of my first baseball games, a Cubs-Cardinals matchup at Wrigley Field in Chicago. When Lou Brock, who died Sunday at age 81, came up to bat, I booed him because, well, he was on the other team. My father quickly admonished me: “You don’t ever boo a superstar,” he said. I’d like to think I never did again.
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.
Extra, extra, read all about it. Why do press-shy top executives suddenly go on a big media tour? Theories: Their stock price needs a boost, they are about to do something else, they have a new book. It seems like option #3 with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, whose stock price is skyrocketing, has pledged to stay at his company for another decade, but has a book, No Rules Rules, coming out today. Hastings is suddenly everywhere, including in the Wall Street Journal, Variety, the New York Times, and the Financial Times. Probably worth reviewing if you are into the streaming wars. Most quotable quotes:
On working from home: "I don’t see any positives."
On politics: "The leaders who get elected are leaders who are facile or a liar."
On his employees: "They don’t have to be at Netflix forever."
Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. All the time this summer while we've focused on Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Kberg and the Whit, SoftBank Group's billionaire founder Masayoshi Son was hard at work behind the scenes propping up the tech market. Turns out SoftBank bought options on about $50 billion worth of tech stocks, likely fueling some of the summer's big rally. Now maybe it's unwinding the position. The stock market continued to unwind on Friday after Thursday's plunge, with stocks like Google, Zoom, and Facebook down another 3%.
Pedaling as fast as we can. As the new normal sinks in, even companies in premium market segments are taking note. Exercise equipment and programmer Peloton Interactive is cutting the price of its entry-level bike by about 15% (while introducing a new high-end model) and debuting a new treadmill about 30% cheaper than its current offering, Bloomberg reports. Similarly, Microsoft will announce a budget $300 version of its new Xbox gaming console, while the regular Xbox will cost $500.
Believing I had supernatural powers I slammed into a brick wall. More back and forth in the legal battle of Epic Games v Apple. Turned down in its pursuit of a temporary restraining order against Apple, Epic on Friday night filed for a preliminary injunction to force Apple to put Fortnite back in the iPhone app store. The number of active Fortnite users has dropped 60% since the ban, Epic says. In other Big Tech competition matters, Italian authorities opened an antitrust probe of Google, Apple, and...Dropbox. Huh.
Cool cats and kittens. In wireless world, another victory for Verizon in the semi-annual Rootmetrics rankings for best mobile network. These are the ones based on professionals driving around and conducting tests under similar conditions (as opposed to others who do crowdsourced rankings from speed test apps). Also, Verizon agreed to buy almost $7 billion of 5G gear from Samsung over the next few years, seemingly winning out over Nokia.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Magazine ads, sites, word of mouth? All marketing techniques are falling behind the champion of 2020: Instagram. In a compelling case study for Fortune, writer Stephanie Cain explains how the 'gram has revamped the wedding business.
An overwhelming number of wedding professionals, from stationers and musicians to event planners, say that Instagram is the most important platform for their marketing. Gone are the days when couples would meet with wedding vendors in person to discuss details. Today's couples are searching for, following, and even booking their wedding vendors via Instagram. Direct messages have become the new phone calls, and the feed is the new portfolio.
“The Instagram rabbit hole is a real thing, especially for engaged couples,” explains Marcy Blum, the event planner behind Marcy Blum Associates. “The platform is very visual. It’s very easy for a couple to see a wedding or design that resonates with them. Most couples will check out a planner’s Instagram before they are even interested in communicating with them.”
ON THE MOVE
Bankrupt telecom firm Frontier Communications is getting a new executive chairman courtesy of creditors. It's former Verizon executive John Stratton...HTC CEO Yves Maitre resigned for personal reasons after less than a year on the job. Co-founder Cher Wang becomes CEO again...David Perry, CEO of Boston agriculture tech startup Indigo Ag is out after six years and acting COO Ron Hovsepian takes over. Hovsepian is the former CEO of Novell...former Disney, Hulu, and Quibi exec Tim Connolly joins Apple's video unit in an unknown role...and in some news we missed on vacation, Stripe last month hired GM's CFO Dhivya Suryadevara as its own.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
How this Black woman tech CEO learned to be ‘unapologetically ambitious’ By Maria Aspan
Why the coronavirus pandemic has made 5G more essential than ever By Cristiano Amon and Sergio Buniac
TikTok’s appalling ‘Holocaust challenge’ signals Facebook-style problems ahead By Jeff John Roberts
Majority of tech employees and potential founders say big tech needs more regulation By Lucinda Shen
‘Don’t wait to be perfect:’ 4 top startup tips from a unicorn’s founder and investor By Beth Kowitt
TikTok: Everything to know about tech’s biggest soap opera By Danielle Abril
Podcast recommendations for a better life and career from Fortune’s 40 under 40 By Aric Jenkins
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BEFORE YOU GO
Space is full of beautiful sites. NASA released a library of new images mainly from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, with additions from other stargazers like the Hubble. It's a weird and wonderful way to start the week.