Before every episode of The Vergecast I sit down, read through a bunch of news, and take a bunch of notes. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my week, and I started thinking it might be fun to do every day on the site. So, every chance I can, I’m sitting down and writing some notes on the news as though I’ll be talking about it later. Are you into this? Am I into this? I don’t know. But it’s fun to do! Give me some feedback and we’ll keep mutating this into something good.
Hey — I’m back! It feels like this is more valuable earlier in the week, because the numbers towards the end of the week tend to drop. Is that true? Let me know. Anyway, let’s get on with it. Lots of embedded tweets today, for some reason.
TODAY IN POLICY NEWS
- Lots of policy news today: Mike Masnick from TechDirt (who I’ve been reading forever on policy stuff) wrote a piece for us today about pending legislation in Congress that would move the Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress and make it subject to the political appointment process. This is a bipartisan bill: it was introduced by a Democrat and a Republican, and Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont is prominently listed on the press release. What other snake-like copyright bill did Leahy support? Why, just SOPA / PIPA, of course.
- Hollywood money corrupts both sides of the aisle when it comes to the internet, y’all.
- Meanwhile, our man Ajit Pai at the FCC changed the terms of the Charter / Time Warner Cable merger agreement: previously Charter was required to serve 2 million more customers, with a million of those in places where it would have to compete with another provider. Now Charter has to serve 2 million new customers, and can’t count areas that are already served by another provider.
- You can read this two ways: Pai is clear that what he wants is much more broadband deployment, and Charter serving 2 million new people that didn’t have broadband before is a good thing if that’s the goal. But this also creates yet more monopolistic broadband service zones, with literally no competition to keep things like privacy rules in check. And Pai didn’t want any conditions on this merger when it was going through. Here’s former counselor to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, Gigi Sohn:
I say it’s entirely empty. Incumbent cablecos don’t have to compete. Competition lowers prices & improves service & closes #digitaldivide https://t.co/Fh7fYEPjX7
— Gigi Sohn (@gigibsohn) April 3, 2017
- As always, Pai is welcome to come on The Vergecast and talk about all this stuff. He hasn’t answered any hard questions in any interview yet. Wonder why.
CARS CARS CARS
- Elon Musk is having an incredible few weeks: SpaceX launched the first reused Falcon rocket last week (watch this great video from Loren Grush and Miriam Nielsen!) and today Telsa’s market cap passed Ford. Both of these things are huge milestones; he has every reason to be amped.
- But Tesla is just a much smaller company than Ford, as noted by The Wall Street Journal’s Chris Mims:
Tesla: delivered 76,000 cars last year, deeply in debt
Ford: 20x more revenue, billions in profits on millions of cars each year
and yet: https://t.co/QUDCgQy3MU
— Christopher Mims (@mims) April 3, 2017
- Walt agreed with this on Twitter and got a flip response from Elon, which, fair. The man is, again, having an incredible two weeks. But read Walt’s tweetstorm about how companies are valued on Wall Street by investors and how consumers value companies, and it’s clear that these two probably agree more than they disagree.
.@elonmusk 5/ I value companies based on products, innovation, profits, social responsibility & return to investors. How they’re run, attract talent.
— Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) April 3, 2017
- And Andy Hawkins notes that Detroit is actually kicking Silicon Valley’s ass when it comes to building self-driving cars. Because building cars is really hard, as I’m sure Elon would agree. Self-driving is an existential crisis for automakers; they’re all investing heavily in it. Meanwhile, everyone in the Valley is mostly… suing each other? This is going to be quite a ride.
- Ashley Carman reviewed a BMW 530i with the newest gesture-controlled iDrive in it, and it… isn’t great. The point of ScreenDrive is to hold car infotainment to the same standard a phone or tablet, and it’s super revealing how slapdash so much of it is when you really push it.
- The inventor of the Roland TR-808 drum machine died over the weekend, and our new social media manager (and working DJ!) Zainab Hasnain wrote a piece about how influential the device has been on music worldwide. It’s great.
- Sam Byford reviewed the Huawei P10, which seems… not well-done.
- Google released a guide to teens. Just… you have to look at this.
- After Verizon closes its Yahoo acquisition, AOL and Yahoo will be combined and renamed… Oath. Which is an all-time terrible idea, and I worked at AOL when they organized the entire company into “towns” and there was a “co-mayor of Tech Town.” Godspeed, Oathsters.
Billion+ Consumers, 20+ Brands, Unstoppable Team. #TakeTheOath. Summer 2017. pic.twitter.com/tM3Ac1Wi36
— Tim Armstrong (@timarmstrongaol) April 3, 2017
- Sean O’Kane wrote a monster piece examining exactly what’s going on with the extremely weird photography of the Trump White House — and noted that the Obama administration was highly criticized for its much more polished photos as well. A must-read.