What’s new in tech
Fired by video link
Zoom is now being used by companies to lay people off, said Biz Carson in Protocol.com. “Under normal circumstances, hard meetings about staff cuts would happen in person, but amid the Covid-19 crisis, the best companies can do is video chat.” It’s an awkward alternative, however. TripActions, a travel-related startup, asked some 100 of its customer support and customer success team members to dial into a Zoom call last week, on which their boss first “launched into a spiel about the economy and coronavirus. Then she announced that everyone on the call was being laid off.” “People were crying and panicking,” said one laid-off employee. “It was 100 different videos of chaos.” Colleagues then “surreally watched as everyone began processing the news in their separate Zoom squares.”
Privilege and outrage in Silicon Valley
A Silicon Valley venture capital firm, DCVC, boasted to investors that it could get them expedited Covid-19 testing, said Theodore Schleifer in Vox.com, thanks to what it claimed was a “unique relationship with one of our portfolio companies.” After outrage from the firm’s own investors, DCVC managing partner Matt Ocko apologized, saying that “he merely planned to refer them to the companies”—a health-care delivery provider called Carbon Health and a lab called Curative—“where they could join the existing queue.” Ocko also said he wrote the email while he “was a little punch-drunk.” In any case, anybody who hoped to take advantage of the offer was quickly out of luck: Curative is no longer offering test kits anyway after the FDA cracked down on at-home collection.
Around the world, the internet is slowing down under the weight of demand from users stuck at home, said Cecilia Kang in The New York Times. Traffic on AT&T’s network is up 30 percent, and Verizon has seen a 22 percent increase. In areas under lockdown, the speed decreases are substantial: “Median download speeds dropped 38 percent in San Jose and 24 percent in New York.” In Europe, regulators have asked Netflix and YouTube to “reduce the size of their video files” to save bandwidth. Technicians in Italy, where “home internet use is up 90 percent,” are in the field adding capacity despite a national lockdown. In Spain, internet use has skyrocketed, too—except at 8 p.m., “when people across the country go to their windows to cheer health workers.”