Internal financial documents leaked to the Wall Street Journal reveal that SpaceX is in the early stages of launching an internet satellite business, one it hopes will bring in enough revenue to fund its ambitious Mars travel efforts over the next decade. The company projects its internet business will bring in $30 billion in revenue and have over 40 million subscribers by 2025. That would make it almost as large as the two largest U.S. broadband providers, Comcast and Charter, combined. Elon Musk has a history of fumbling on big promises, including a recent delivery shortfall for Tesla vehicles. CZ
SpaceX wants to be an ISP—and it has some very Elon Musk-like subscriber projections
Amazon might launch a touch-screen Echo soon
A premium display-equipped version of the Amazon Echo speaker has been the subject of rumors for over a year now, and it could launch next month, according to CNET. The site's unnamed source claims that Amazon has accelerated the launch to stay ahead of Google, whose recent launch of multi-user support for the Google Home speaker served as a "wake-up call." If CNET's report is accurate, the device would be Amazon's second new Echo product in as many months, following this week's launch of the camera-equipped Echo Look.
This wouldn't be Amazon's first Alexa device with a display, as the voice assistant also appears on the company's Fire tablets and Fire TV media players. But the premium Echo device could help establish more of an on-screen presence for Alexa, ahead of its arrival on smartphones, car dashboards, and even refrigerators. JN
A new Starbucks will be bigger than your triple venti latte
Soon Starbucks fans will have a new spot to line up in front of while they wait for the return of Unicorn Frappuccinos. The Seattle-based coffee chain just announced their plan to open the world's largest Starbucks on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, taking over from a Crate & Barrel flagship, according to the Chicago Tribune.
This won't be merely another place to pick up coffee and kale chips, though, but the newest iteration of their high-end concept, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. The 43,000-square foot, four-level Roastery will be a "fully sensorial coffee environment" and continue executive chairman Howard Schulz's dream of being the "Willy Wonka of coffee" where consumers can buy espresso drinks, pour-over coffees, coffee beans, coffee cups, coffee makers, coffee accessories, and—at least at the Seattle store—bicycles. The Chicago location is expected to open in 2019, making it the third Roastery in the country. The first opened in Seattle in 2014, and the second is scheduled to open in New York City in 2018. International Roastery outposts are planned for Shanghai, Milan, and Tokyo, with plans to open 20 to 30 over time. Perhaps by then our spellcheck will accept "Roastery" as a word.
Google raters are people, too
In response to complaints that Google's advertising algorithm was serving up ads alongside racist and Holocaust-denying content, the company promised to do better. To stave off a boycott by some of the biggest companies in the world, they hired a vast team of round-the-clock raters to give that overly logical algorithm a human touch and to ensure that no ads were ending up next to offensive content.
But who are these raters of the lost algorithm (just go with that, please) who tirelessly monitor ad content on YouTube? Turns out no one really knows. According to Ars Technica, "Even Google engineers who work with rater data don't know who these people are." To get to the bottom of that mystery, Ars Technica took a deep dive into the world of these online raters and it's a fascinating peek into what makes the simple act of Googling work. Read it here while thinking up better "raters" puns. ML
The stars of “The Circle” put Jack Dorsey in the hot seat
STX Entertainment released a roundtable discussion with the stars and director of The Circle, alongside Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Based on Dave Eggers's novel of the same name, the film follows a young woman on her rapid rise in a tech and social media company, which involves taking part in an experiment that crosses ethical lines of surveillance, privacy, and personal freedom.
And to help contextualize these issues IRL, The Circle cast stopped by Twitter HQ for a live chat with Dorsey, where they mainly covered diversity and inclusion in Silicon Valley and the responsibilities tech companies have in how people use their platforms.
Watch the full discussion below or click here for Dorsey's highlights.
Remember that email you never responded to? Now you can reply to it guilt-free
Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt, hosts of the excellent Reply All internet culture podcast, have created a new holiday that everyone with an email account should be celebrating—Email Debt Forgiveness Day. It's this Sunday and gives you the excuse to respond to emails that are long overdue, without any apology or explanation. "You don't ask for forgiveness, you just act like you've already achieved it," Vogt told me.
The holiday was inspired by so-called tax amnesty days, and was invented as a way to cope with the anxiety that comes with life in the modern world and an email inbox that is forever ticking upward. "We have an incredible amount of anxiety about answering emails," said Goldman. "So if we can get everyone in the United States…" "The world," added Vogt. "Yes, if we can get everyone in the world to celebrate this holiday, it's a freebie." Instead of explaining the delay in response, Goldman and Vogt suggest simply linking to their website, which explains the origin of the sudden response.
The unofficial holiday is now in its third year. Goldman and Vogt estimate that there are hundreds of celebrants around the world. This Sunday, Goldman plans to pick up loose ends of stories he started to report on and then abandoned, and then to write a long-overdue email to his brother. Vogt plans to spend his Sunday making a dent in the thousands of messages in his inbox. He isn't sure that he'll make it through that morass, but as he notes, "What else do you have to do on Sunday?"
Ryan Seacrest, Ludacris, and YouTube are teaming up to find the next Justin Bieber
Never forget that YouTube is to blame for the rise of Justin Bieber. The talented Canadian upstart posted videos of his singing and guitar-playing, and the rest is history. Many have tried to replicate Bieber's path to a level of fame that means having your face on bedsheets and being able to wear rose-gold grills without irony, but few have succeeded. Now the unlikely combination of Ryan Seacrest, Ludacris, and YouTube hope to change that with an online talent show that just might unleash the next Justin Bieber upon the world, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The competition is called Best.Cover.Ever and it will give rising musicians the chance to perform their best cover versions of either the Backstreet Boys "As Long as You Love Me," Demi Lovato's "Confident," or Jason Derulo's "Trumpets" and earn a shot to perform with the original recording artist. Up-and-coming youngsters have until May 19 to find out who the Backstreet Boys are and then submit their song to YouTube.
Airbnb has a new plan to lure more business travelers
Today Airbnb said it will launch a new search filter to surface accommodations for business travelers. Listings categorized as "business" promise Wi-Fi and a desk—or other workspace accoutrements like toiletries—that you would ordinarily find at hotels. The new filter launches Monday.
Already Airbnb offers 150,000 business-ready homes. It also says that 250,000 companies use the site to book stays for jet-setting workers. Though Airbnb mostly caters to vacationers right now, it is increasingly positioning itself as more than just a cheap and quirky option for traveling on a budget. This year it bought Luxury Retreats to grow its upscale listings. Now it's targeting business travelers, making it a creeping concern for traditional hotels. RR
Google is trying to bring the internet to Cuba
The internet does not really exist in Cuba. (Hey, Raul Castro!) It's partially a side effect of the government trying to limit access to a world of information, earning Cuba the title of "one of the most restrictive media environments in the world," as reported by NPR. Those restrictions, combined with a lack of infrastructure and the means to purchase state-of-the-art electronics, translates to very few Cubans (fewer than 5% by some estimates) having access to the open internet. The internet that does exist is usually limited to tourist areas and bigger hotels, and is expensive. In my personal experience, it's also generally more sluggish than the dialup modem you used to access eWorld on your clamshell Mac.
While travelers to Cuba may appreciate the chance for a de facto digital detox, the people who live and work in Cuba have to exist without access in an increasingly digital world. Now Google is looking to make accessing the internet a little easier for those Cubans who do have it. The company just launched its own servers in the country. In a blog post, Google noted that Cubans "who already have access to the internet and want to use our services can expect to see an improvement in terms of quality of service," because content can now be cached locally. That applies not only to Google, but to Google-owned sites like YouTube. That means Cubans can now access pro-American videos like this.
Sidewire, where the political elite chat, turns on reader reactions, hopes for the best
Sidewire, the chat app for newsmakers, is making its first big step toward integrating readers into these dialogues with the launch of Reactions. Sidewire readers, who have heretofore been limited to marking favorite comments with a heart, can now add one of four reactions (a smiley or angry emoji, and a question mark or exclamation point) as well as add a question or comment. The difference for Sidewire is that newsmakers will still control whether to include responses or inquiries. They will be able to decide whether and how much to pull reader participation into chat. "You don't have to see it unless you want to," says Sidewire CEO Andy Bromberg. Sidewire is celebrating Reactions today with several high-profile chats, including ones with the bestselling author of the Hillary Clinton campaign tell-all Shattered, Silicon Valley's darling House Rep. Ro Khanna, and former Democratic campaign vet Bob Shrum.
Bromberg says the Sidewire community of political professionals, elected representatives, and journalists has seen an uptick in interest along with almost every other form of media covering the new presidential administration. Reactions, then, is both a natural evolution and a big risk. As I learned when reporting on Sidewire last year, newsmakers like it because there aren't any trolls. But readers could become disillusioned if they feel their voices aren't being heard and included. Sidewire has built a very civil, engaged community of pros talking to each other; now we'll find out if the audience is as professional.
It’s Friday, so why not apply for a membership to Mar-a-Lago?
If you're looking to play a few rounds of golf and hobnob with the president this summer, today is your lucky day. A new website is offering membership "applications" to Donald Trump's favorite Florida estate and private club. Why? "Because you're already paying for it," say the anonymous folks behind mar.alago.me. The website got some attention this morning after a few journalists tweeted that they received a mysterious envelope and application in the mail. The site is a joke, but with a serious point to make. It includes links to several stories about Mar-a-Lago's security issues, its cost to taxpayers, and how it's used to pedal political influence. Check it out here—or just go ahead an apply now.
Facebook complies with over 83% of U.S. law enforcement requests for data
In its latest Global Government Requests Report Facebook revealed a ton of stats about requests from law enforcement and other government agencies for user data across the world. For the July 2016 – December 2016 period global requests for data shot up 9% from the previous six-month period. Some highlights:
• In the U.S. there were 26,014 government requests and Facebook provided "some data" in 83.46% of those requests
• In Canada, there were 773 government requests and Facebook provided "some data" in 84.48% of those requests
• In the U.K. there were 6,366 government requests and Facebook provided "some data" in 88.69% of those requests
• In Germany, there were 4,422 government requests and Facebook provided "some data" in 54.03% of those requests
• In France, there were 4,478 government requests and Facebook provided "some data" in 68.38% of those requests
• In Australia, there were 657 government requests and Facebook provided "some data" in 63.93% of those requests
• In Russia, there were 4 government requests and Facebook provided "some data" in 0% of those requests
• In Iraq, there was 1 government request and Facebook provided "some data" in 0% of those requests
• In Vatican City, there was 1 government request and Facebook provided "some data" in 0% of those requests MG
Apple is now providing the song snippets for popular music video app Musical.ly
The third-party app allows users to create their own music videos using song snippets, which made it a natural fit for Apple to augment Musical.ly's existing song snippet content, reports Recode. The deal gives Apple a whole new, young audience for its Apple Music subscription service and Musical.ly benefits from now being able to expand from 30 countries to 120 thanks to the licensing rights working with Apple provides. MG