Big tech CEOs are learning the art of the filibuster

You maniacs sold out our second-ever Interface live event, with Uncanny Valley author Anna Wiener, in record time. Thanks to everyone who bought a ticket, and we’ll look into finding a bigger venue for the next one. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing a good number of you on February 4th!

The basic idea behind journalism is that there are things people don’t know that they should know, and that someone ought to go find the people who do know about the things and ask them. Most of the time when a journalist interviews someone, they learn something useful, and then report it all back to us so we can have a shared understanding of reality and make better decisions about how to live.

Historically, a person that lots of journalists have wanted to talk to is the big tech CEO. As companies like Amazon and Apple grew in power, getting the chance to sit down with a Jeff Bezos or a Tim Cook became wildly appealing. Here were people who knew about many, many things — things that affected almost all of us — and could tell us about them with a candor that their employees typically will not permit themselves.

And yet when you think of what you have learned from reading the thoughts of tech CEOs over the past few years — well, what have you learned? If you hang around the darker, more thought-leader-y corners of Medium, it’s possible you’ll have gleaned a few insights into customer acquisition or recruiting. But if what you’re after is a CEO’s worldview — or even just a moderately unvarnished look into their decision-making process — you typically come up empty.

I thought about all this today while reading Adam Lashinsky’s “conversation” with Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai in Fortune. It’s the first long interview Pichai has given since being elevated to the role of Alphabet CEO, and Lashinsky asks him about many of the subjects you would expect from a journalist in his position.

Lashinsky asks why Alphabet exists, and whether Pichai will crack down on the spending of its non-Google companies. He asks what companies Pichai considers to be his competition, and whether he has a plan to deal with the possibility that the US government will attempt to break up Alphabet on antitrust grounds. And what Lashinsky gets back from Google is … almost nothing at all. Here’s a characteristically empty exchange:

Who do you see as your biggest competitors?

I’ve always worried as a company at scale your biggest competition is from within, that you stop executing well, you focus on the wrong things, you get distracted. I think when you focus on competitors you start chasing and playing by the rules of what other people are good at rather than what makes you good as a company.

Do you have a scenario you plan for in which regulators break up Alphabet on antitrust grounds?

At our scale we realize there will be scrutiny. We always engage constructively, and we take feedback to the extent there are areas where sometimes we may not agree with it. But obviously we understand the role of regulators.

So there you have it: Alphabet’s biggest competitor is itself (?), and its plan for an attempted breakup of the company is understanding the role that regulators play in society.

To be clear, I’m not not criticizing Fortune here. These are questions that almost anyone would have asked. And I doubt there are many reporters who would have gotten different answers.

But it’s clear that as prevailing sentiment about big tech companies has darkened, tech CEOs see increasingly little value in having meaningful public conversations. Instead, they grit their teeth through every question, treating every encounter as something in between a legal deposition and a hostage negotiation.

We saw this in 2018, when the New Yorker profiled Mark Zuckerberg. We saw it again last year, when Jack Dorsey went on a podcast tour. At some point this year Tim Cook will probably give a zero-calorie interview to someone, and if it’s a slow-enough news day I’ll write this column for a fourth time.

To some extent, CEOs’ reticence to engage is understandable. When you are effectively a head of state, and staring down the barrel of potentially company-ending regulation, you have strong incentives to do as little thinking in public as possible. But journalists, I think, have a responsibility to point that out in real time — to call a dodge a dodge.

For a long time I thought the point of journalism was to get into a room with the CEO and ask the big questions. I was embarrassingly late to realize that the bigger story was almost always elsewhere, in the events unfolding just outside the CEO’s field of vision. Access will always have its appeal, and I still wouldn’t turn down an interview with the CEO of any company I cover. But as I wrote about Dorsey’s podcast tour:

The CEO is traditionally in the best position to enact change. But we have learned that once social networks grow to a certain scale, they begin to operate beyond their creators’ control. You can ask the CEOs what they plan to do about it. But the answers will always tell you less than you hope.

The solution, as ever, is to fall back on that oldest journalistic principle: talk to the people who know the things you want to find out. And that starts with the recognition that the CEO doesn’t have a monopoly on knowledge — and that to the extent he knows anything useful, he is probably going to do his best not to talk about it.

Pushback

Yesterday, we included a link to this story about Facebook and Twitter having evidence that could keep people out of prison—but the Stored Communications Act forbids them from giving it up. Alex Stamos pushed back against the article’s framing on Twitter, saying “Updating these Reagan-signed laws is totally reasonable, but I really dislike reporting that doesn’t take into account the last decade of tech companies fighting to keep user data classified as stored communications content.”

The Ratio

Today in news that could affect public perception of the big tech platforms.

Trending up: Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann is talking about his decision to pull all medical information from the platform after users started searching for vaccines. He said “we couldn’t ensure that we were giving people great information.”

Trending down: The spread of misinformation about climate change has increased during Australia’s bushfires, demonstrating the limits of Facebook’s fact-checking program. Fact checkers have focused on misleading photos and videos, but are leaving climate-related misinformation mostly untouched.

Governing

Clearview AI, the controversial facial-recognition company that has amassed a database of billions of photos, claimed it helped crack a case of alleged terrorism in a New York City subway station last August in a matter of seconds. The cops say that’s not true. Ryan Mac, Caroline Haskins and Logan McDonald from BuzzFeed report:

As it emerges from the shadows, Clearview is attempting to convince law enforcement that its facial recognition tool, which has been trained on photos scraped from Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other websites, is more accurate than any other on the market. However, emails, presentations, and flyers obtained by BuzzFeed News reveal that its claims to law enforcement agencies are impossible to verify — or flat-out wrong.

For example, the pitch email about its role in catching an alleged terrorist, which BuzzFeed News obtained via a public records request last month, explained that when the suspect’s photo was “searched in Clearview,” its software linked the image to an online profile with the man’s name in less than five seconds. Clearview AI’s website also takes credit in a flashy promotional video, using the incident, in which a man allegedly placed rice cookers made to look like bombs, as one example among thousands in which the company assisted law enforcement. But the NYPD says this account is not true.

Sixty years ago, Woody Bledsoe invented technology that could identify faces. Today, his place in the field of facial recognition has been largely forgotten. This profile dives into his story — and his relationship with the CIA, which seems to have become one of his clients. (Shaun Raviv / Wired)

Adrian Chen writes about why facial recognition has suddenly become a hot-button issue. “The most obvious answer is that the technology has been improved, streamlined, and commercialized,” he argues as part of a package of stories about facial recognition. (Adrian Chen / California Sunday Magazine)

People are retaliating against big tech by calling SWAT teams to executives’ homes. Facebook employees have been a particularly favorite target, with Instagram chief Adam Mosseri being swatted in November. This is insanely dangerous, and police departments have been slow to acknowledge the threat. Swatting is a violent crime and ought to be treated as one by the courts. (Sheera Frenkel / The New York Times)

Facebook is about to face off with the IRS in a rare trial to capture billions that the tax agency thinks Facebook owes. But onerous budget cuts have hamstrung the agency’s ability to bring the case. (Paul Kiel / ProPublica)

Facebook is worried about Democrats winning the presidential election. Many of them hold the social network responsible for Trump’s 2016 victory, assail it for allowing misinformation to spread, and have vowed to regulate it or break it up. (Sara Fischer and Scott Rosenberg / Axios)

Rep. David Cicilline is the House Democrat leading the investigation into Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Since he can’t issue fines or press criminal charges, he’s opted to convene high-profile hearings and give air time to smaller businesses frightened by the Big Four. (Nancy Scola and Cristiano Lima / Politico)

Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg wants to replicate and build off what Trump’s campaign did best, without mimicking his style. And that means lots of Facebook ads. (Mike Allen and Margaret Talev / Axios)

Twitter’s attempts to stop people from targeting ads using keywords that include sexist terms or racial slurs have created a confusing user experience. While users are still able to select those terms when targeting an ad, Twitter said the terms won’t “register” as keywords once the ad is published. (Shoshana Wodinsky / Gizmodo)

The report from FTI Consulting that strongly implicates Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the hacking of Jeff Bezos’ iPhone X in 2018 has not fully convinced the cybersecurity community. They say there are still open questions about the attack, starting with a most basic one: how exactly did the hack work? (Shannon Vavra / CyberScoop)

As India experiences the longest-ever internet blockade for a democracy, more countries are pressing the internet kill switch to snub dissent. Experts warn that the tactic is being used as a form of protest suppression. (Puja Changoiwala / OneZero)

Industry

TikTok announced a new licensing deal with Merlin, a global agency that represents tens of thousands of independent music labels and hundreds of thousands of artists. The deals allows TikTok to use music from the label on its platform and on its forthcoming music service, Resso. Ingrid Lunden from TechCrunch has the story:

The news is significant because this is the first major music licensing deal announced by TikTok as part of its wider efforts in the music industry. Notably, it’s not the first: I’ve confirmed TikTok has actually secured other major labels but has been restricted from going public on the details.

The Merlin deal is therefore a template of what TikTok is likely signing with others: it includes both its mainstay short-form videos — where music plays a key role (the app, before it was acquired by Bytedance, was even called ‘Musically’) — as well as new music streaming services.

TikTok moved its operations to a new office in Los Angeles. “While we are a global company, having a permanent office in LA speaks to our commitment to the U.S. market and deepens our bonds with the city,” writes Vanessa Pappas, TikTok’s general manager in the United States.

Twitter is rolling out a new feature that lets users add iMessage-like reactions to direct messages. The company first started testing this emoji reaction feature last year, but it’s now rolling the capability out to all users on the web, iOS, and Android. (Chance Miller / 9To5Mac)

American bathrooms have become the stage set of the moment. With good lighting, acoustics, and privacy, they’re the ideal place for the dramatic entrances, exits, skits, dances and story times of TikTok. (Taylor Lorenz / The New York Times)

Angelina Jolie is producing a BBC show to help kids spot fake news. The show explains the stories behind news and offers facts and information that helps kids over the age of 13 make up their own minds on pressing international issues. (Brian Steinberg / Variety)

Josh Constine makes the case that Facebook and Instagram should mark stories as “watched” so users stop seeing story reruns across both apps. Co-signed. (Josh Constine / TechCrunch)

TripAdvisor is cutting hundreds of jobs in an attempt to cut costs as competition from Google intensifies. The search giant has launched a variety of travel search tools, as well as reviews of hotels and restaurants, that directly compete with TripAdvisor — and appear at the top of the world’s most-used search engine. (Mark Gurman and Olivia Carville / Bloomberg)

Tinder launched some new safety features, including a photo verification system that’ll place a blue check mark on daters’ profiles. The system requires daters to take a selfie in real time that matches a pose shown by a model in a sample image. (Ashley Carman / The Verge)

And finally…

Yesterday in this space, we brought you the story of United States senators flouting their own rules against bringing electronic devices into the room for the ongoing impeachment trial of Donald Trump. On Wednesday, senators were spotted wearing Apple Watches. Today, Niels Lesniewski writes in Roll Call, they’re taking a decidedly analog approach to solving the agony of losing their smartphones:

Sen. Richard M. Burr is trying to help out his antsy Senate colleagues.

The North Carolina Republican is providing an assortment of fidget spinners and other gizmos to his GOP colleagues at this week’s Thursday lunch.

Another approach to resolving their boredom could be simply paying attention to the trial, but I realize that’s a big ask.

Talk to us

Send us tips, comments, questions, and your questions for Sundar Pichai: casey@theverge.com and zoe@theverge.com.

Samsung to debut AirDrop competitor alongside Galaxy S20, report claims

Samsung is developing its own alternative to Apple’s AirDrop file sharing service that will launch with the upcoming Galaxy S20, XDA Developers reports. Screenshots of the feature show that it will work similarly to AirDrop, allowing you to “share instantly with people nearby,” so long as their device has Quick Share turned on. You’ll also be able to restrict who can send you files to just people in your contacts, or else leave it wide open so that strangers can send you pictures of space sloths.

Despite how useful AirDrop has been on iOS and macOS since its initial launch in 2011, Android has struggled to come up with a viable competitor. For a while Android included an NFC-based version called Android Beam, but this was discontinued with Android 10. Google’s Files app also contains similar functionality, but it’s not the same as having the feature built directly into Android.

There are signs that this could change soon. XDA Developers has reported multiple times on an upcoming Android feature called Nearby Sharing which appears to be accessed directly from the operating system’s quick settings panel. The feature was first spotted under the name Fast Share back in June 2019, but appears to still be under development as of earlier this month.

As well as letting you share with other Samsung smartphone users, Quick Share also lets you transfer data to SmartThings devices. To do so, it uploads your file to Samsung Cloud, before downloading it on the device itself. This mode appears to be more limited, with a data cap of 1GB at a time, up to a maximum of 2GB a day.

Samsung isn’t the only Android manufacturer working on an AirDrop competitor. Last year, three of China’s biggest smartphone manufacturers — Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo — announced that they are working on a peer-to-peer transfer protocol that will work across their devices. The feature is expected to launch next month. Meanwhile, OnePlus also has its own file transfer system called FileDash, which is limited to its own devices.

Samsung’s Galaxy S20 is expected to launch on February 11th, where we could also see Quick Share officially detailed. XDA Developers says the feature is likely to come to all devices launching with One UI 2.1 or later, but speculates that it may end up on older Samsung devices in time.

Ikea and Teenage Engineering launch co-developed speakers and party products

Two and a half years after Ikea first announced its collaboration with Swedish design collective Teenage Engineering, the products are going on sale. The Frekvens range (which translates to “frequency”) will be rolling out in US stores from today through February 1st, according to Ikea.

Teenage Engineering is best known for its music products like the iconic OP-1 synthesizer, so it’s no surprise that the Frekvens collection sees Ikea continue its expansion into the world of home audio. There are two speakers in the range, a $69.99 model and a more portable $19.99 option with a belt clip, along with a $149 subwoofer combo and a $10 light-up speaker base.

“The Items got narrowed down towards sound,” Teenage Engineering founder Jesper Kouthoofd says. “What we said was ‘why do you have to hide speakers. They are furniture in their own right.’ Sounds should not be hidden. So when you start to build a modular system and add fronts and accessories on, it’s a more fun way to think about sound.”

It’s just not a party until someone pours a martini on a table tennis racquet on the floor.

The rest of the range includes more traditional Ikea products and is designed to help you host a stylishly minimalist home party. There are various lights, furniture, crockery, and other somewhat incongruous items like a cajón and a reflective raincoat. Many of the lights and speakers are able to be connected together.

“We know that for younger people spontinuity is key,” Ikea creative design leader Michael Nikolic says. “The idea of gathering some friends could become a reality in minutes. What is needed to have a good party at home? That’s what we wanted to investigate with Frekvens. Together with Teenage Engineering, we have explored the possibilities of taking the party with us.”

Here are some selected items from the collection:

Speaker with subwoofer, $149

Portable speaker, $19.99

Cups, $9.99 for four

Side table, $29.99

Eating set, $17.99

Cajón drum, $29.99

LED multi-use light, $40

Blanket, $49.99

Raincoat, $24.99

Transcription service Rev is raising prices for the first time to $1.25 a minute

Online transcription service Rev is raising its prices for the first time ever, from $1 a minute to $1.25. The price hike was disclosed in a message the company sent to Rev transcribers on Thursday outlining the change and assuring the contract workers that this is not expected to significantly impact the number of job orders available. The company, which has been around since 2010, is one of the leading online transcription services, and it made its name largely off its advertised $1 per minute rate.

“We’ve already spoken with dozens of clients. They seem to get it: companies raise prices. Rev has been charging $1 per minute since we launched almost a decade ago and that’s been far less than our competition,” reads Rev’s message to transcribers. “So, while we suspect some may not like it, based on the conversations we’ve had we also anticipate the negative response to be fairly limited. For you, that means Revvers shouldn’t expect a noticeable drop in the number of jobs available.”

To help offset any negative effects of its price hike, Rev says that it will start paying its transcribers “more on average” starting in March, yet not across the board and only for “harder jobs.” Rev did not elaborate on this distinction. The company says it is also going to make its grading system fairer, among other changes designed to make transcribing for Rev more manageable.

Yet one Rev transcriber who spoke with The Verge on Thursday said some workers are “quite unhappy” with the change, considering Rev will be earning more money per minute transcribed while base pay for all transcriptions will remain the same.

Pricing and pay rates are particular hot button issues for Rev and its labor force. The company found itself embroiled in controversy this past November for a series of damning reports about working conditions for its contract labor force, starting with the news that the company would be slashing its minimum pay rate from 45 cents per minute transcribed to 30 cents.

Following that, an investigation from The Verge found that Rev transcribers were routinely subjected to disturbing audio recordings without adequate mental health benefits or even without any warning prior to the recording. The audio clips have included such incidents as violent police recordings, descriptions of child abuse, and graphic medical videos. A day later, Rev banned people under the age of 18 from transcribing for its service; prior to the rule change, loose labor law allowed minors to do contract labor like the kind Rev uses to supply customers.

Google I/O 2020 will kick off on May 12th

Google has just revealed that its next I/O developer conference will take place from May 12th to May 14th. The company revealed the date after users participated in its annual I/O teaser, which this year was a collaborative online game to restore a fictional satellite network.

When the game was completed, the constellation of satellites spelled out the date.

Image: Google

In a tweet, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said I/O 2020 will be at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, which is in Mountain View near Google’s HQ and is where Google has hosted the event for the past few years.

Arguably the biggest news of I/O 2019 was the announcement of the budget-friendly Pixel 3A and 3A XL, which my colleague Dieter Bohn found to be a decent phone with a great camera. There are already rumors swirling about a potential Pixel 4A, including that it may have a hole-punch display, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a square camera bump. 9to5Google reported that it may arrive at around the same time as the Pixel 3A did last year, so the 4A seems like a possible candidate for an I/O reveal.

Last year, we also saw the reveal of the Nest Hub Max, so perhaps Google will announce more Nest hardware at I/O 2020 as well. At I/O, Google also typically shows off upcoming updates to Android as well as other updates to its software and services.

Sonos CEO apologizes for confusion, says legacy products will work ‘as long as possible’

Sonos CEO Patrick Spence just published a statement on the company’s website to try to clear up an announcement made earlier this week: on Tuesday, Sonos announced that it will cease delivering software updates and new features to its oldest products in May. The company said those devices should continue functioning properly in the near term, but it wasn’t enough to prevent an uproar from longtime customers, with many blasting Sonos for what they perceive as planned obsolescence. That frustration is what Spence is responding to today. “We heard you,” is how Spence begins the letter to customers. “We did not get this right from the start.”

Spence apologizes for any confusion and reiterates that the so-called legacy products will “continue to work as they do today.” Legacy products include the original Sonos Play:5, Zone Players, and Connect / Connect:Amp devices manufactured between 2011 and 2015.

“Many of you have invested heavily in your Sonos systems, and we intend to honor that investment for as long as possible.” Similarly, Spence pledges that Sonos will deliver bug fixes and security patches to legacy products “for as long as possible” — without any hard timeline. Most interesting, he says “if we run into something core to the experience that can’t be addressed, we’ll work to offer an alternative solution and let you know about any changes you’ll see in your experience.”

The letter from Sonos’ CEO doesn’t retract anything that the company announced earlier this week; Spence is just trying to be as clear as possible about what’s happening come May. Sonos has insisted that these products, some of which are a decade old, have been taken to their technological limits.

Spence again confirms that Sonos is planning a way for customers to fork any legacy devices they might own off of their main Sonos system with more modern speakers. (Sonos architected its system so that all devices share the same software. Once one product is no longer eligible for updates, the whole setup stops receiving them. This workaround is designed to avoid that problem.)

“I hope that you’ll forgive our misstep, and let us earn back your trust,” Spence concludes. “Without you, Sonos wouldn’t exist and we’ll work harder than ever to earn your loyalty every single day.” His entire statement follows below:

We heard you. We did not get this right from the start. My apologies for that and I wanted to personally assure you of the path forward:

First, rest assured that come May, when we end new software updates for our legacy products, they will continue to work as they do today. We are not bricking them, we are not forcing them into obsolescence, and we are not taking anything away. Many of you have invested heavily in your Sonos systems, and we intend to honor that investment for as long as possible. While legacy Sonos products won’t get new software features, we pledge to keep them updated with bug fixes and security patches for as long as possible. If we run into something core to the experience that can’t be addressed, we’ll work to offer an alternative solution and let you know about any changes you’ll see in your experience.

Secondly, we heard you on the issue of legacy products and modern products not being able to coexist in your home. We are working on a way to split your system so that modern products work together and get the latest features, while legacy products work together and remain in their current state. We’re finalizing details on this plan and will share more in the coming weeks.

While we have a lot of great products and features in the pipeline, we want our customers to upgrade to our latest and greatest products when they’re excited by what the new products offer, not because they feel forced to do so. That’s the intent of the trade up program we launched for our loyal customers.

Thank you for being a Sonos customer. Thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback. I hope that you’ll forgive our misstep, and let us earn back your trust. Without you, Sonos wouldn’t exist and we’ll work harder than ever to earn your loyalty every single day.

If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact us.

How to delete Cortana recordings and protect your privacy

If you use a PC, Xbox, or other Microsoft device, chatting with Cortana can be an easy way to get things done while your hands are occupied.

But as with all voice assistants, beware of corporate snooping. In August, Motherboard discovered that Microsoft contractors listen to recordings of Cortana voice commands, sometimes from personal computers and browsers with little security.

Cortana recordings are now transcribed in “secure facilities,” according to Microsoft. But the transcription program is still in place, which means someone, somewhere still might be listening to everything you say to your voice assistant.

Don’t worry: if this creeps you out, you can delete your recordings. Here’s how.

The first step is to open a Windows PC and sign in to the same Microsoft account you’ve been using to chat with Cortana. Once you’ve done that:

  • Type “Settings” into the search bar next to the Start button. The Settings app will come up; click on it. You can also click the Start button and scroll down to the Settings icon.
  • Click on “Accounts” in the bottom-left corner
  • Click on the “Manage my Microsoft account” link under your username. You’ll be redirected to Microsoft’s website and signed in to your Microsoft account.

  • Click “Privacy” on the left side of the menu at the top of the page

  • You’ll be prompted to reenter your Microsoft password; do that. You may also be required to verify your identity with two-factor authentication if you’ve set that up.

  • You should now be back in the Privacy section of Microsoft’s website. Click on “My activity” in the menu under the banner.

  • Open the menu that says “Filter by data type” on the left side of the screen. Click “Voice,” which is the second option.

  • In the center of the screen, you’ll see a list of Cortana recordings associated with your Microsoft account. You can click on the play button to listen to each recording individually.
  • To delete all of your voice recordings, select “Clear activity” at the top right of the list. To delete individual recordings, click the “Clear” link at the bottom of each item (just next to the “View details” link).

Note: Doing this won’t prevent Cortana from sending your voice recordings to Microsoft. For that, you’ll need to disable online speech recognition.

How to stop Cortana from recording your voice

  • Go back into Settings. This time, scroll down to Cortana in the right-hand column.
  • Click “Permissions” in the menu on the left side
  • Click “Manage the information Cortana can access from this device.” Scroll down and select “Speech Privacy Settings.”

  • Toggle Online speech recognition off

Now, Cortana will only use device-based speech recognition, which is less accurate than its cloud-based recognition engine and has limited functionality. But Microsoft will no longer transcribe or collect any of your voice recordings.

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Samsung’s next foldable may have an ‘ultra thin’ glass display

We first heard last month that Samsung’s rumored new foldable, possibly called the Galaxy Z Flip, will apparently fold clamshell-style similar to Motorola’s upcoming Razr and might have a glass screen. Today, leaker Max Weinbach of XDA Developers shared a few more rumors about that glass screen on Twitter.

According to Weinbach, the phone’s OLED screen will use a type of glass that Samsung may call “Samsung Ultra Thin Glass.” Leaker Ice Universe used similar language last month, saying that the phone would have “an ultra-thin glass cover,” and we noted last month that Samsung has applied for a trademark for the term in Europe. Weinbach also says that the upcoming foldable will have a crease in the middle — which you can see in the image at the top of this post, taken from apparent leaked images of the phone floating around Chinese social media.

Weinbach also said that the smaller screen that’s accessible when the phone is closed can be used to see how much battery you have left, how fast your phone is charging, and act as a viewfinder for the camera. In a follow-up tweet, he clarified that his source for the information probably meant to say that the screen is one inch in size, not .1 inch.

Here are some more apparent photos of the phone taken from Chinese social media, if you want to visualize the device and get a better look at that crease:

Image: 王奔宏 via Weibo

If it’s true that Samsung’s new foldable has a glass screen, that would differentiate it from the Razr and Samsung’s first foldable, the Galaxy Fold, both of which have plastic screens. And perhaps this rumored glass screen is more durable than the unreliable plastic one that almost shipped on the Galaxy Fold before it was delayed and Samsung was forced to revamp the design.

Rocket League is killing online multiplayer on macOS and Linux

Today, Epic Games-owned Psyonix announced that it will stop supporting Rocket League on macOS and Linux starting in March. Psyonix says it will release a final patch on both platforms that month that will turn off online features, which means you won’t be able to play online multiplayer anymore. You’ll still be able to play matches with your friends sitting in front of your computer, though.

According to a support document, here is what will still work after the patch:

  • Local Matches
  • Split-Screen Play
  • Garage/Inventory (existing items will not be removed from your inventory)
  • Career Stats
  • Replays
  • Steam Workshop Maps (downloaded before the final patch)
  • Custom Training Packs (downloaded before the final patch)

And here’s what won’t work after the patch:

  • Online Matchmaking
  • Private Matches
  • Tournaments
  • Rocket Pass
  • Item Shop / Esports Shop
  • In-Game Events
  • Friends List
  • Clubs
  • News Panel
  • New Custom Training Packs
  • New Steam Workshop Maps
  • Leaderboards
  • League Rankings

In its announcement post, Psyonix said that “it is no longer viable for us to maintain support for the macOS and Linux (SteamOS) platforms.” And in the support article, it said “we want Rocket League to be the best experience possible for all our players. This includes adapting to use new technologies.” But those statements don’t tell us anything about why the studio is pulling online features for Rocket League from macOS and Linux.

Dropping support for two platforms is kind of ironic because Rocket League was the poster child for cross-platform online multiplayer games. Sony had long claimed that supporting cross-platform multiplayer between Xbox and PS4 would be up to the developers. But a Psyonix VP proved that was wrong in 2016, revealing to IGN that the game was “at the point where all we need is the go-ahead on the Sony side and we can, in less than a business day, turn it on and have it up and working no problem.” But that Sony hadn’t approved it. (Sony finally allowed cross-platform play for Rocket League last January.)

Epic Games, the creator of the smash-hit Fortnite, bought Psyonix last May. At the time, it was unclear how long Rocket League would remain on Steam before presumably becoming an Epic Games Store exclusive on PC. But for now, it’s still only available on Steam for PC, macOS, and Linux. If you bought a copy from Steam, you can continue to play that same copy online with a Windows PC.

Uber is bringing its self-driving cars to Washington, DC

Uber’s self-driving cars will soon be jockeying for space on the streets of Washington, DC, with the ride-hailing company announcing it will begin collecting data to support the development of its fleet of autonomous vehicles. The vehicles will not be operating in autonomous mode, though. They will instead be operated by human drivers to start out, collecting mapping data and capturing driving scenarios which Uber’s engineers will then reproduce in simulation.

That said, the company hopes to eventually allow its self-driving cars in Washington to, well, self-drive. “Our hope is that this first round of manually driven data collection will lay the foundation for testing our vehicles in self-driving mode in Washington, DC,” the company’s Advanced Technologies Group said in a Medium post. “While we are excited about the possibilities, we remain committed to ensuring that every mile we drive on public roads contributes safe and meaningful learnings to inform our development work.”

Uber has been approaching its self-driving tests with an abundance of caution since a fatal crash in Tempe, Arizona, involving one of its autonomous vehicles in March 2018. The vehicle, which only had one safety driver behind the wheel, struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg while she was walking her bike across the street.

Police later said the safety driver wasn’t watching the road, but was instead streaming The Voice on her phone at the time of the crash. After a lengthy investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board split the blame between Uber, the safety driver, the victim, and the state of Arizona in a blistering official report that also took the federal government to task for failing to properly regulate the industry. The company was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by local authorities. Uber settled a lawsuit with Herzberg’s family for an undisclosed sum.

Testing officially resumed nine months after the crash, with the company’s Volvo SUVs operating in a closed loop in downtown Pittsburgh, where Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group is headquartered. Uber is also gathering data in three other cities, including San Francisco, Dallas, and Toronto. But to date, it has yet to authorize autonomous testing in any of those cities other than Pittsburgh. The company recently unveiled its third-generation vehicle, which it plans to start testing this year.

Uber isn’t the only company operating self-driving cars in our nation’s capitol. Argo, the AV startup backed by Ford and Volkswagen, has been testing its cars in DC since 2018. Boston-based Optimus Ride is also operating a small fleet of autonomous shuttles in the northern Virginia suburbs.