Alphabet makes cuts, Twitter bans third-party clients, and Netflix’s Reed Hastings steps down
Howdy, folks! Happy Friday. While our fearless Week in Review leader Greg enjoys parental leave, I’m filling in, curating the latest on the tech news front. It was a roller coaster of a week once again as economic headwinds took a brutal, demoralizing toll, and as chaos reigned at Elon Musk’s Twitter. Somewhere in the midst of all that, Boston Dynamics demoed an improved bipedal robot, Wikipedia launched a redesign and major universities banned TikTok from their campus networks. Yeah — a lot happened.
Before we get down to business, a friendly reminder that TechCrunch Early Stage 2023 is on April 20 in Boston. It’s a one-day summit for founders who are in the first stages of growing their companies, who have built a product but don’t know how to monetize, and who have an idea but aren’t sure where to find the resources to turn it into a viable business. At Early Stage, experts will share advice on protecting intellectual property, structuring cap tables, developing target customer personas and more. You won’t want to miss it.
Alphabet makes deep cuts: Alphabet, the parent holding company of Google, announced on Friday that it’s cutting around 6% of its global workforce, or roughly 12,000 roles, Paul reports. In an open letter published by Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, the narrative followed a similar trajectory to that of other companies that have downsized in recent months, noting that the company had “hired for a different economic reality” than what it’s up against today.
Twitter bans third-party clients: After cutting off prominent app makers like Tweetbot and Twitterific, Twitter quietly updated its developer terms to ban third-party Twitter clients altogether. The “restrictions” section of Twitter’s 5,000-some-word developer agreement was updated with a clause prohibiting “use or access [to] the Licensed Materials to create or attempt to create a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Applications,” a decision that seems unlikely to foster much goodwill at a time when Twitter faces challenges on a number of fronts.
Beating a Hastings retreat: Netflix founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings announced Thursday that he would step down after more than two decades at the company, Taylor writes. While news of his departure comes as a shock, Hastings noted in the announcement that Netflix has planned its next era of leadership “for many years.” Netflix will maintain its co-CEO structure in Hastings’ absence, promoting COO Greg Peters to the tandem role with Ted Sarandos.
College students, no TikTok for you: Public universities across a widening swath of U.S. states have banned TikTok in recent months, and two of the country’s largest colleges followed suit earlier this week. As Taylor reports, the University of Texas and Texas A&M University took action against the social app, which is owned by Beijing-based parent company ByteDance — prohibiting campus network and device users from accessing TikTok. The flurry of recent bans was inspired by executive orders issued by a number of state governors.
Wikipedia gets a makeover: This week, Wikipedia, a resource used by billions every month, got its first makeover on the desktop in over a decade, Sarah writes. The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the Wikipedia project, launched an updated interface aimed at making the site more accessible and easier to use, with additions like improved search, a more prominently located tool for switching between languages, an updated header offering access to commonly used links, and more.
Pour one out for AmazonSmile: Just a few days after announcing a significant round of layoffs, Amazon said that it would end AmazonSmile, its donation program that redirects 0.5% of the cost of all eligible products toward charities. Amazon claimed that the program had “not grown to create the impact that [it] had originally hoped,” but as Romain notes, since 2013, Amazon has donated $400 million through AmazonSmile. Ending it is seems more likely a move to cut costs.
Payday for data breach victims: If you were one of the nearly 77 million people affected by last year’s T-Mobile breach, you may have a few bucks coming your way. Devin reports that the company will pay $350 million to be split up by customers and lawyers, plus $150 million “for data security and related technology.” The breach apparently occurred sometime early last year, after which collections of T-Mobile customer data were put up for sale on various criminal forums.
Robots that grab as well as throw: TechCrunch’s intrepid Matt Burns writes about a demo video this week showing Hyundai-backed Boston Dynamics’ humanoid robot, Atlas, equipped with gripper hands that can pick up and drop off anything the robot can grab independently. The claw-like gripper consists of one fixed finger and one moving finger; Boston Dynamics says that the grippers were designed for heavy-lifting tasks, like Atlas holding a keg over its head during a Super Bowl commercial. Nifty.
Dungeons & Dragons: After weeks of backlash and protests from fans, Wizards of the Coast — the Hasbro-owned publisher of Dungeons & Dragons — announced it will now license Dungeons & Dragons’ core mechanics under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. This gives the community “a worldwide, royalty-free, non-sublicensable, non-exclusive, irrevocable license” to publish and sell works based on Dungeons & Dragons — a massive change of heart for the gaming giant, which was considering implementing a new license that would require certain Dungeons & Dragons content creators to start paying a 25% royalty.
Whether it’s to pass the time while commuting or to liven up the morning jog, TechCrunch likely has a podcast to suit your fancy. On startup-focused Equity this week, Natasha, Mary Ann and Rebecca jumped on the mic to talk through a diverse news week, including deals from Sophia Amoruso’s new fund, Welcome Homes, and a look at compliment-focused social media apps. Found, meanwhile, featured Mir Hwang, the co-founder and CEO of GigFinesse, who talked about how his struggles to book music gigs as a teenager pushed him to launch the company that connects artists with venues for live shows.
TC , TechCrunch’s premium channel for deep dives, surveys, guest posts and general analysis, was jam-packed with content this week (as always). Here’s some of the most popular posts:
On Twitter’s data leak response: Carly writes about Twitter’s alleged data breach that exposed the contact information of millions of users. In an unattributed blog post, Twitter said it had conducted a “thorough investigation” and found “no evidence” that recent Twitter user data sold online was obtained by exploiting a vulnerability of Twitter’s systems. But as she notes, it’s unclear if Twitter has the technical means, such as logs, to determine if any user data was exfiltrated.
The last unicorns: VCs think a majority of unicorns aren’t worth $1 billion anymore. Rebecca takes a look at the current investment landscape, finding that many of the companies that reached unicorn status last year are in danger of losing it as economic conditions worsen.
Sexism in the workplace: Women-founded startups raised 1.9% of all VC funds in 2022, a drop from 2021, Dominic-Madori writes. That percentage is a notable drop from the 2.4% all-women teams raised in 2021. The decline was expected, but stark nonetheless. Aside from 2016, the last time all-women-led startups raised such a low percentage of funds was in 2012, another period of funding decline caused by economic uncertainty and an election.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.