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The nation-state of the internet

18:50 | 8 December

The internet is a community, but can it be a nation-state? It’s a question that I have been pondering on and off this year, what with the rise of digital nomads and the deeply libertarian ethos baked into parts of the blockchain community. It’s clearly on a lot of other people’s minds as well: when we interviewed Matt Howard of Norwest on Equity a few weeks back, he noted (unprompted) that Uber is one of the few companies that could reach “nation-state” status when it IPOs.

Clearly, the internet is home to many, diverse communities of similar-minded people, but how do those communities transmute from disparate bands into a nation-state?

That question led me to Imagined Communities, a book from 1983 and one of the most lauded (and debated) social science works ever published. Certainly it is among the most heavily cited: Google Scholar pegs it at almost 93,000 citations.

Benedict Anderson, a political scientist and historian, ponders over a simple question: where does nationalism come from? How do we come to form a common bond with others under symbols like a flag, even though we have never — and will almost never — meet all of our comrades-in-arms? Why does every country consider itself “special,” yet for all intents and purposes they all look identical (heads of state, colors and flags, etc.) Also, why is the nation-state invented so late?

Anderson’s answer is his title: people come to form nations when they can imagine their community and the values and people it holds, and thus can demarcate the borders (physical and cognitive) of who is a member of that hypothetical club and who is not.

In order to imagine a community though, there needs to be media that actually links that community together. The printing press is the necessary invention, but Anderson tracks the rise of nation-states to the development of vernacular media — French language as opposed to the Latin of the Catholic Church. Lexicographers researched and published dictionaries and thesauruses, and the printing presses — under pressure from capitalism’s dictates — created rich shelves of books filled with the stories and myths of peoples who just a few decades ago didn’t “exist” in the mind’s eye.

The nation-state itself was developed first in South America in the decline and aftermath of the Spanish and Portuguese empires. Anderson argues for a sociological perspective on where these states originate from. Intense circulation among local elites — the bureaucrats, lawyers, and professionals of these states — and their lack of mobility back to their empires’ capitals created a community of people who realized they had more in common with each other than the people on the other side of the Atlantic.

As other communities globally start to understand their unique place in the world, they import these early models of nation-states through the rich print culture of books and newspapers. We aren’t looking at convergent evolution, but rather clones of one model for organizing the nation implemented across the world.

That’s effectively the heart of the thesis of this petite book, which numbers just over 200 pages of eminently readable if occasionally turgid writing. There are dozens of other epiphanies and thoughts roaming throughout those pages, and so the best way to get the full flavor is just to pick up a used copy and dive in.

For my purposes though, I was curious to see how well Anderson’s thesis could be applied to the nation-state of the internet. Certainly, the concept that the internet is its own sovereign entity has been with us almost since its invention (just take a look at John Perry Barlow’s original manifesto on the independence of cyberspace if you haven’t).

Isn’t the internet nothing but a series of imagined communities? Aren’t subreddits literally the seeds of nation-states? Every time Anderson mentioned the printing press or “print-capitalism,” I couldn’t help but replace the word “press” with WordPress and print-capitalism with advertising or surveillance capitalism. Aren’t we going through exactly the kind of media revolution that drove the first nation-states a few centuries ago?

Perhaps, but it’s an extraordinarily simplistic comparison, one that misses some of the key originators of these nation-states.

Photo by metamorworks via Getty Images

One of the key challenges is that nation-states weren’t a rupture in time, but rather were continuous with existing power structures. On this point, Anderson is quite absolute. In South America, nation-states were borne out of the colonial administrations, and elites — worried about losing their power — used the burgeoning form of the nation-state to protect their interests (Anderson calls this “official nationalism”). Anderson sees this pattern pretty much everywhere, and if not from colonial governments, then from the feudal arrangements of the late Middle Ages.

If you turn the gaze to the internet then, who are the elites? Perhaps Google or Facebook (or Uber), companies with “nation-state” status that are essentially empires on to themselves. Yet, the analogy to me feels stretched.

There is an even greater problem though. In Anderson’s world, language is the critical vehicle by which the nation-state connects its citizens together into one imagined community. It’s hard to imagine France without French, or England without English. The very symbols by which we imagine our community are symbols of that community, and it is that self-referencing that creates a critical feedback loop back to the community and reinforces its differentiation.

That would seem to knock out the lowly subreddit as a potential nation-state, but it does raise the question of one group: coders.

When I write in Python for instance, I connect with a group of people who share that language, who communicate in that language (not entirely mind you), and who share certain values in common by their choice of that language. In fact, software engineers can tie their choices of language so strongly to their identities that it is entirely possible that “Python developer” or “Go programmer” says more about that person than “American” or “Chinese.”

Where this gets interesting is when you carefully connect it to blockchain, which I take to mean a technology that can autonomously distribute “wealth.” Suddenly, you have an imagined community of software engineers, who speak in their own “language” able to create a bureaucracy that serves their interests, and with media that connects them all together (through the internet). The ingredients — at least as Anderson’s recipe would have them — are all there.

I am not going to push too hard in this direction, but one surprise I had with Anderson is how little he discussed the physical agglomeration of people. The imagining of (physical) borders is crucial for a community, and so the development of maps for each nation is a common pattern in their historical developments. But, the map, fundamentally, is a symbol, a reminder that “this place is our place” and not much more.

Indeed, nation-states bleed across physical borders all the time. Americans are used to the concept of worldwide taxation. France seats representatives from its overseas departments in the National Assembly, allowing French citizens across the former empire to vote and elect representatives to the country’s legislature. And anyone who has followed the Huawei CFO arrest in Canada this week should know that “jurisdiction” these days has few physical borders.

The barrier for the internet or its people to become nation-states is not physical then, but cognitive. One needs to not just imagine a community, but imagine it as the prime community. We will see an internet nation-state when we see people prioritizing fealty to one of these digital communities over the loyalty and patriotism to a meatspace country. There are already early acolytes in these communities who act exactly that way. The question is whether the rest of the adherents will join forces and create their own imagined (cyber)space.

 


0

Google Translate gets rid of some gender biases

21:56 | 7 December

Google is by no means perfect when it comes to issues relating to gender, but it’s clear the company is trying. Google recently made some important changes to its Translate tool — reducing gender bias by providing both masculine and feminine translations for gender-neutral words. Previously, Google would default gender-neutral words to the masculine form.

“So when the model produced one translation, it inadvertently replicated gender biases that already existed,” Google Translate Product Manager James Kuczmarski wrote on the company blog. “For example: it would skew masculine for words like ‘strong’ or ‘doctor,’ and feminine for other words, like ‘nurse’ or ‘beautiful.'”

gender specific translation

Now, Google will offer both feminine and masculine translations for single words when translating from English to French, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish, as well as when translating from Turkish to English. Down the road, Google says it does plan to address non-binary gender in translations. Google will also eventually bring this to its iOS and Android apps, and address gender biases in auto-complete.

 


0

The Epic Games Store is now live

10:32 | 7 December

It’s a busy week for Epic Games . Fresh from pushing out a major season 7 update for Fortnite, so the gaming giant has taken the wraps off its own games store.

First announced earlier this week, the Epic Games Store is targeted squarely at Steam — the giant in the digital game commerce space — and it quietly went live today.

Right now there’s a small cluster of games available including Hades, a new title from Supergiant Games that is in ‘early access’ for $19.99, and Epic’s own Fortnite and Unreal Tournament, both of which are free. But Epic is saying that’s there’s a lot more to come. In particular, the store will offer a free game every two weeks, starting out with Subnautica from December 14-17 and Super Meat Boy from December 28 until January 10.

What is most interesting about the store is the revenue split, which is just twelve percent. That has set off a change at Valve, the firm behind Steam, as we reported earlier this week:

While Valve will continue to take an App Store-like 30 percent from sales of game makers with less than 10 million in revenue, that figure drops to 25 percent until they hit 50 million revenue, from which point the slice drops to 20 percent.

All in all, the store is very early-stage but you can imagine that Epic is working to add more flesh to the bones. It makes absolute sense that the company is aiming to capitalize on the phenomenal success of Fortnite — which was estimated to be grossing as much as $2 million per day in the summer — by building a destination for gamers. Indeed, a big clue came from its decision to bypass the Google Play Store and offer its Android app directly from its website — that’s a move that is estimated to cost Google around $50 million in lost earnings in 2018.

“As a developer ourselves, we have always wanted a platform with great economics that connects us directly with our players,” Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney told TechCrunch in an emailed statement sent earlier this week. “Thanks to the success of Fortnite, we now have this and are ready to share it with other developers.”

The Epic Games Store is part of a wider vision for the coming that prompted a range of investors to pump $1.25 billion into the company in October. That round was participation from the likes of KKR, Kleiner Perkins and Lightspeed Venture Partners and it is said to value the Epic Games business — which also includes Unreal Engine for game development — at more than $15 billion.

Epic is the only gaming firm to go after Valve this year. Discord introduced a game store in August — just months earlier, Valve appeared to go after Discord with the rollout of its own gamer chat system.

So everyone is going after everyone, but Epic’s big advantage continues to be Fortnite.

 


0

Mozilla and Qualcomm are bringing a native version of Firefox to Windows 10 on ARM

00:00 | 7 December

Microsoft is working with Google to bring a native ARM64 version of Chrome to Windows 10 on ARM and as Mozilla announced today, it, too, is working on bringing a native version of Firefox to Windows 10 on ARM. The organization is doing so in cooperation with Qualcomm.

Typically, to make any Windows 10 application run on ARM-based machines, Microsoft uses a number of emulation techniques. Those work quite well, but they do incur both power and performance cost. Native applications obviously don’t need emulation, so they run faster and more efficiently. Given that browsers are among the most-used applications, it’s no surprise that the major browser vendors are interested in offering the best support for the platform, even if we’re still talking about a very small niche for the time being.

We asked Mozilla for a release date for this Windows 10 on ARM version, but the organization has yet to provide us with this information. We’ll update this post once we learn more.

Qualcomm also today announced its new premium 8cx platform for PCs, which extends the company’s bet on the PC market. It’s probably no surprise that Mozilla chose today to make its announcement. In addition, though, Microsoft also today announced that it will move to the Chromium engine for its Edge browser. That leaves Firefox’s Gecko engine and WebKit, which Apple’s Safari uses, as the last two competitors with any major market share in the browser space.

 


0

Microsoft Edge goes Chromium

20:00 | 6 December

The rumors were true: Microsoft Edge is moving to the open-source Chromium platform, the same platform that powers Google’s Chrome browser. And once that is done, Microsoft is bringing Edge to macOS, too. In addition, Microsoft is decoupling Edge from the Windows update process to offer a faster update cadence — and with that, it’ll bring the new Edge to Windows 7 and 8 users, too.

It’ll be a while before any of this happens, though. There’s no code to test today and the first previews are still months away. But at some point in 2019, Microsoft’s EdgeHTML and Chakra will go away and Blink and V8 will take its place. The company expects to release a first developer preview early next year.

Obviously, there is a lot to unpack here. What’s clear, though, is that Microsoft is acknowledging that Chrome and Chromium are the de facto standard today, both for users and for developers.

Over the years, especially after Microsoft left the Internet Explorer brand behind, Edge had, for the most part, become a perfectly usable browser, but Microsoft acknowledges that there were always compatibility issues. While it was investing heavily in fixing those, what we’re hearing from Microsoft is a very pragmatic message: it simply wasn’t worth the investment in engineering resources anymore. What Microsoft had to do, after all, was reverse engineer its way around problems on certain sites.

microsoft edge on surface

In part, that’s because Edge never quite gained the market share where developers cared enough to test their code on the platform. And with the web as big as it is, the long tail of incompatible sites remains massive.

Because many web developers work on Macs, where they don’t have access to Edge, testing for it became even more of an afterthought. Hence Microsoft’s efforts to bring Edge to the Mac, 15 years after it abandoned Internet Explorer for Mac. The company doesn’t expect that Edge on Mac will gain any significant market share, but it believes that having it available on every platform will mean that more developers will test their web apps with Edge, too.

Microsoft also admits that it didn’t help that Edge only worked on Windows 10 — and that Edge updates were bound to Windows updates. I was never quite sure why that was the case, but as Microsoft will now happily acknowledge, that meant that millions of users on older Windows versions were left behind, and even those on Windows 10 often didn’t get the latest, most compatible version of Edge because their companies remained a few updates behind.

For better or worse, Chrome has become the default and Microsoft is going with the flow. The company could have opted to open source EdgeHTML and its JavaScript engine. That option was on the table, but in the end, it opted not to. The company says that’s due to the fact that the current version of Edge has so many hooks into Windows 10 that it simply wouldn’t make much sense to do this if Microsoft wants to take the new Edge to Windows 7 and the Mac. To be fair, this probably would’ve been a fool’s errand anyway, since it’s hard to imagine that an open-source community around Edge would’ve made much of a difference in solving the practical problems anyway.

With this move, Microsoft also plans to increase its involvement in the Chromium community. That means it’ll bring to Chromium some of the work it did to make Edge work really well with touchscreens, for example. But also, as previously reported, the company now publicly notes that it is working with Google and Qualcomm to bring a native implementation of the Chrome browser to Windows 10 on ARM, making it snappier and more battery friendly than the current version that heavily relies on emulation.

Microsoft hopes that if it can make the compatibility issues a thing of the past, users will still gravitate to its browser because of what differentiates it. Maybe that’s its Cortana integration or new integrations with Windows and Office. Or maybe those are new consumer services or, for the enterprise users, specific features that make the lives of IT managers a bit easier.

When the rumors of this change first appeared a few days ago, a number of pundits argued that this isn’t great for the web because it gives even more power over web standards to the Chromium project.

I share some of those concerns, but Microsoft is making a very pragmatic argument for this move and notes that Edge’s small market share didn’t allow it to make a dent in this process anyway. By becoming more active in the Chromium community, it’ll have more of a voice — or so it hopes — and be able to advocate for web standards and bring its own innovations to Chromium.

You’re browser is probably the most complex piece of software running on your computer right now. That means switching out engines is anything but trivial. The company isn’t detailing what its development process will look like and how it’ll go about this, but we’re being told that the company is looking at which parts of the Edge experience to keep and then will work with the Chromium community to bring those to the Chromium engine, too.

Microsoft stresses that it isn’t giving up on Edge, by the way. The browser isn’t going anywhere. If you’re a happy Edge user today, chances are this move will make you an even happier Edge user in the long run. If you aren’t, Microsoft hopes you’ll give it a fresh look when the new Chromium-based version launches. It’s on Microsoft now to build a browser that is differentiated enough to get people to give it another shot.

 

 

 


0

Google invests in Japanese AI and machine learning startup ABEJA

14:00 | 5 December

Google has made a rare investment in Japan after the company led a follow-on round for AI and machine learning startup ABEJA.

The deal amount is undisclosed but a little digging suggests that it is likely a single-digit million US dollar figure. That’s because six-year-old ABEJA did confirm that it has now raised JPY 6 billion ($53 million) from investors to date. The company has raised $45 million in disclosed capital, according to Crunchbase, which leaves around $8 million unaccounted for — although that covers both the Google investment and a previous Series A deal in 2014, which was also undisclosed.

Numbers aside, the deal is notable not only because it represents a Google deal in Japan, but because it is strategic in nature.

“Going forward, ABEJA and Google will collaborate on AI and ML solutions across various sectors, including retail and manufacturing, driving the application of AI solutions, along with further growth in the Japanese AI sector,” ABEJA said in a statement.

The startup’s core offering is a ‘platform as a service’ that uses machine learning to help over 150 companies develop business analysis and insight from their data piles. There is a specialist product for retail stores which hones in on customer and retail data — that’s used by some 100 corporate customers, according to ABEJA.

“ABEJA has strong technical capabilities and ML expertise, and is respected across the industry for its track record of collaboration and the effective deployment of its tech solutions,” said Shinichi Abe, Managing Director of Google Cloud Japan, in a pre-prepared statement. “This investment paves the way for collaboration with ABEJA in innovative solutions in the retail and manufacturing sector, as well as other verticals.”

Google has placed significant emphasis on AI and machine learning in China — where it opened a lab in Beijing one year ago — but that aside the majority of its research and focus has come from the U.S. and also Europe, where its Deep Mind unit is headquartered. Google did acquire startups in India and Singapore that include AI and ML capabilities, but those deals were aimed at growing its in-house product teams which are customizing and creating services for those growing local markets.

 


0

Google’s Flutter toolkit goes beyond mobile with Project Hummingbird

21:15 | 4 December

Flutter, Google’s toolkit for building cross-platform applications, hit version 1.0 today. Traditionally, the project always focused on iOS and Android apps, but as the company announced today, it’s now looking at bringing Flutter to the web, too. That project, currently called Hummingbird, is essentially an experimental web-based implementation of the Flutter runtime.

“From the beginning, we designed Flutter to be a portable UI toolkit, not just a mobile UI toolkit,” Google’s group product manager for Flutter, Tim Sneath, told me. “And so we’ve been experimenting with how we can bring Flutter to different places.”

Hummingbird takes the Dart code that all Flutter applications are written in and then compiles it to JavaScript, which in turn allows the code to run in any modern browser. Developers have always been able to compile Dart to JavaScript, so this part isn’t new, but ensuring that the Flutter engine would work, and bringing all the relevant Flutter features to the web was a major engineering effort. Indeed, Google built three prototypes to see how this could work. Just bringing the widgets over wasn’t enough. A combination of the Flutter widgets and its layout system was also discarded and in the end, the team decided to build a full Flutter web engine that retains all of the layers that sit above the dart:ui library.

“One of the great things about Flutter itself is that it compiles to machine code, to Arm code. But Hummingbird extends that further and says, okay, we’ll also compile to JavaScript and we’ll replace the Flutter engine on the web with the Hummingbird engine which then enables Flutter code to run without changes in web browsers. And that, of course, extends Flutter’s perspective to a whole new ecosystem.”

With tools like Electron, it’s easy enough to bring a web app to the desktop, too, so there’s now also a pathway for bringing Flutter apps to Windows and MacOS that way, though there is already another project in progress to embed Flutter into native desktop apps, too.

It’s worth noting that Google always touted the fact that Flutter compiled to native code — and the speed gains it got from that. Compiling to the web is a bit of a tradeoff, though. Sneath acknowledged as much and stressed that Hummingbird is an experimental project and that Google isn’t releasing any code today. Right now, it’s a technical demonstration.

“If you can go native, you should go native,” he said. “Think of it as an extension of Flutter’s reach rather than a solution to the problem that Flutter itself is solving.”

In its current iteration, the Flutter web engine can handle most apps, but there’s still a lot of work to do to ensure that all widgets run correctly, for example. The team is also looking at building a plugin system and ways to embed Flutter and into existing web apps — and existing web apps into Flutter web apps.

 

 


0

India’s Drivezy raises $20M for its on-demand vehicle rental service

00:12 | 29 November

It’s been a year for on-demand services in India. Drivezy today became the latest to refuel after it raised a $20 million Series B.

The round was led by existing investor Das Capital, with participation from automotive giant Yamaha, Axan Partners and IT-Farm. The deal takes Drivezy, which was formerly known as JustRide, to $31 million raised to date. In addition, the startup has also inked a $100 million asset financing deal backed by Japan’s AnyPay which will see new cars and motorbikes added to Drivezy’s fleet over the next year.

Drivezy — which graduated Y Combinator and Google’s Launchpad Accelerator program — claims to have a fleet of around 8,000 vehicles, that includes 5,000 two-wheelers (motorbikes and scooters) and 3,000 cars. That attracts around 37,000 customers every month. Abhishek Mahajan, one of the company’s five co-founders, told TechCrunch in an interview that the fleet should add a further 50,000-60,000 new vehicles, 75 percent of which would be two-wheelers, thanks to the AnyPay deal.

Mahajan said that Drivezy is currently market leader when it comes to self-drive two-wheelers — “self-drive” meaning vehicles that can be rented for a trip — with motorbikes and scooters accounting for “the bulk” of transactions but just 20 percent of revenue. (That’s opposed to 80 percent for cars.) Revenue itself is 25 percent of the cut of a rental.

Aside from the asset financing deal — which will see AnyPay’s Harbourfront Capital vehicle own the new assets — Drivezy uses peer-to-peer and dealership partners for its fleet. The peer-to-peer appeal centers around increasing the utility of vehicles (and providing additional income to owners) and that’s a similar pitch to car dealerships, who can draw income from vehicles used on Drivezy that would otherwise sit idle waiting to be purchased.

But the AnyPay deal is a “game changer,” according to Mahajan.

“When we fast forward five years, we can’t imagine a scenario that car ownership in India goes from eight percent [right now] to U.S. level of 80 percent. India will have to skip a cycle on the culture of ownership and move into sustainable sharing of cars model,” he added.

Drivezy isn’t alone in believing that future. The company’s main rivals include Revv, which raised $14.3 million led by Hyundai this year, and Zoomcar, which has raised $100 million from investors that include Ford and India’s Mahindra & Mahindra. With Yamaha jumping aboard with Drivezy, India’s on-demand rentals market has three automotive firms in the race.

For now, there’s no plan to move overseas but Mahajan said that markets like Southeast Asia could become expansion targets in the future once the India business is more developed.

 


0

It turns out some Google staff do believe in controversial plan to re-enter China

18:59 | 28 November

Google’s controversial plan to launch products custom made for China has been panned by politicians, free speech advocates, ex-staff and many others, but there appears to be some support within Google from employees who actually favor the strategy.

Under a project code-named “Dragonfly,” Google is reportedly planning to introduce a censored search product and a news app in what would mark a remarkable return to China after the firm left in 2010.

The services have triggered a wave of controversy since word of them was first reported in August. Just this week, a public memo written by current Google staff urged that Dragonfly should be dropped because it “aids the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable.” The internal backlash has been fairly well covered, but there is also support inside the search giant. A pro-Dragonfly letter that has been in circulation for a number of weeks has picked up 500 signatures in an effort to stop the project from being dropped.

The letter — which was provided to TechCrunch by a source within Google — principally argues that China is part of Google’s wider mission of connecting people with information.

Here’s a core excerpt:

Dragonfly is well aligned with Google’s mission. China has the largest number of Internet users of all countries in the world, and yet, most of Google’s services are unavailable in China. This situation heavily contradicts our mission, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. While there are some prior success, Google should keep the effort in finding out how to bring more of our products and services, including Search, to the Chinese users.

That’s a pretty simplistic take on the situation but, in fairness, the letter does concede that Dragonfly is a “challenging product” that could “end up doing more harm than good.” Simply dumping it, the employees argue, would miss out on a chance to “learn how different approaches may work out in China.”

The letter is unsigned — unlike yesterday’s anti-Dragonfly memo, which is on Medium — and it is tempting to cast it as some artificial, management-led response to the situation; particularly since Google CEO Sundar Pichai is due to face Congress next week. However, TechCrunch understands that it was submitted anonymously by an employee using an internal system.

It is not surprising to see some at Google argue in favor of entering China — there are over 85,000 people working for Google, that’s a lot of opinions and viewpoints as we’ve seen before — but it is difficult to present a credible argument that the move is anything but financially-driven.

Search still makes up the bulk of Google’s revenues and, with China’s the largest market in the world for smartphone users, app spending and more, the company is leaving money off the table by opting out of the country.

Unlike many hot button issues in Silicon Valley, controversy over Google’s Dragonfly project doesn’t break down along domestic political party lines. It’s rare to find an issue that Vice President Mike Pence and left-leaning free speech advocates agree on — a fact that makes the apparent internal support for Dragonfly even more puzzling.

For better or worse, it’s usually easier to understand positions motivated specifically by partisan animus. We’re likely to hear American politicians on both sides of the aisle take a swing at Google on the issue next week when Google CEO Sundar Pichai appears before the House Judiciary Committee.

There may be a legion of principled engineers with good intentions who live and work far from China, but the real question is what the strategy of those leading Dragonfly and other initiatives is. And, on that question, there is a lot of uncertainty.

Former Googlers in Asia have told TechCrunch that they don’t believe Google’s management grasps the significance of re-entry into China. It’s a tough question and this memo, despite gaining some popularity, doesn’t really offer a particularly compelling or different answer. It does show, however, that some people in Google still believe that the company is focused on doing good. That’s something — both with respect to Google’s peers in the tech industry (Yes, that’s you, Facebook), and in light of Google’s own assorted recent ethical crises.

Here’s the pro-Dragonfly letter in full:

Dragonfly is Google’s Mission, Too

Dear Googlers,

Project Dragonfly, which aims at bringing Search back to China, has been a source of controversy since revealed. Some expect Dragonfly to bring benefits to the Chinese users and support it; others have concerns of adhering to censorship and surveillance requirements by the Chinese government and oppose it. Some are comparing it to Maven and have even resigned to call for cancellation.

We understand that Googlers are diverse: Googlers vary in their backgrounds and values, and hence, may focus on different aspects of Dragonfly and have different expectations. Nonetheless, we believe that continuing work on Dragonfly is needed, and will be helpful to all Googlers regardless of their backgrounds and expectations.

Dragonfly is well aligned with Google’s mission. China has the largest number of Internet users of all countries in the world, and yet, most of Google’s services are unavailable in China. This situation heavily contradicts our mission, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. While there are some prior success, Google should keep the effort in finding out how to bring more of our products and services, including Search, to the Chinese users.

Dragonfly still faces many difficulties and uncertainties, which can only be resolved by continuing efforts. The regulation requirements set by the Chinese government (like censorship) makes Dragonfly a challenging project. If we are not careful enough, the project can end up doing more harm than good. In any case, only with continuing efforts on Dragonfly can we learn how different approaches may work out in China, and find out if there is a way that is good for both the Chinese users and Google. Even if we fail, the findings can still be useful for bringing other services to China.

Given the good motivation and the challenging nature of the project, we believe that Google should continue on Dragonfly, which benefits both Google and the massive user base in China.

We hereby request you to sign and support Project Dragonfly to be continued and fully explored.

Signed

 


0

Google’s Sundar Pichai will reportedly face Congress next week

17:21 | 28 November

Google may have dodged a raised right hand moment on the Hill this year as top executives from Twitter and Facebook faced Congress, but the company will now have its own time in the hot seat.

According to the Washington Post, Google CEO Sundar Pichai will appear before the House Judiciary Committee on December 5, just one week from today. While there are any number of reasons that Congress might want to hear from Google, Pichai’s appearance will reportedly serve as a response to unsubstantiated claims that Google has an anti-conservative bias.

Pichai agreed to testify some time this year back in September at the request of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, one vocal critic who has accused the company of algorithmic bias. While that issue might still be at the forefront for some committee Republicans, getting the company’s chief executive on the stand will open the entire can of worms on Google’s recent controversies.

For Google, a lot has happened since September. For one, the company is still dealing with internal and external criticism about its plans to build a search engine tailored to meet China’s censorship specifications. In October Google also revealed that it was aware of a bug in Google+ that exposed user data dating all the way back to 2015. As recently as this month, Google has been dealing with walkouts and a widespread backlash against its handling of sexual harassment cases within the company. And that’s just to name a few.

Needless to say, Pichai will have plenty to answer for in his time on the witness stand. Assuming the plan goes forward as reported, we can expect House Republicans and Democrats alike to come out swinging on their pet issues in a likely lengthy and wide-ranging testimony.

 


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