The Longform #7: Inside eBay’s cockroach cult

The Longform #7: Inside eBay’s cockroach cult

The Longform is a weekly newsletter that curates the best longform pieces from around the web, with a focus on business, technology, and innovation. If you haven't already, you can subscribe here.

📖 Top longform articles

Mark in the Middle (~25min): 2020 has been a tumultuous year for Facebook - given the internal protests over racial injustice, an upcoming election, and ongoing antitrust/privacy investigations. Casey Newton at the Verge explores how Mark Zuckerberg is attempting to balance the conflicting interests of its liberal-leaning employee base and more conservative user base.

How Signal Grew from Privacy App to Tech Powerhouse (~15min): Signal, the open source, E2E-encrypted messaging service, has exploded in popularity over the past several months as the communications backbone of protests around the world. Billy Perrigo walks readers through the app's inception, growth, and recent foray into the mainstream.

Inside eBay's Cockroach Cult (~15min): eBay's "Global Security and Resiliency" team is tasked with tracking and mitigating threats to eBay. As David Streitfeld explains in a piece that reads like surrealist fiction, this sometimes meant harassing critical journalists with a bizarre mix of cockroaches, physical surveillance, weaponized pizza, and more. 6 eBay employees have been charged in the scheme, and this NYT piece summarizes why.

The Mike Speiser Incubation Playbook (~15min): Every year, Mike Speiser launches a company or so. Of the first six businesses, four are unicorns and two had 9-figure exists (including the $60B IPO of Snowflake); the latest 10 or so businesses are following similar trajectories. Kevin Kwok walks us through the unique incubation/investment model employed by Mike, and how he's created an unfair advantage for himself and his businesses.

💻 Top new technology

Luna: The launch of Amazon's cloud gaming service marks the e-retailer's second major move in the gaming industry (the first being the acquisition of In classic Amazon style, it undercuts most competitors, at $5.99 a month for the core game library (currently ~100 titles).

Similar: GeForce Now (allows users to play games they've already purchased on other platforms such as Steam), Xbox Game Pass (Microsoft's), PlayStation Now (Sony's), Stadia (Google's)

Tables: Part of Google's Area 120 (Alphabet's in-house incubator), Tables is a no-code database that lets users create simple apps to match their custom business workflows. Like Airtable and Coda, Tables is focusing on automation - using "Bots" to keep data in-sync with external systems.

Similar: Airtable (the incumbent), Lists (Microsoft's version), Coda (provides advanced functionality and scripting), Seatable (self-hostable alternative), Baserow (another relatively new player, open source)

👀 Other interesting content

Blacklight: An easy-to-use web privacy inspector that returns third-party cookies, ad trackers, keyloggers, and fingerprinting scripts running on any domain entered by users; sample results for The Longform, Wikipedia, and Walmart.

More: The High Privacy Cost of a Free Website, What They Know Now

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