Virtual Skinny: Friday Alert!


Good to Know: The U.S. FAA just hit the red alert button on Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones. Don’t even think about turning it on during a flight on account of its explosive batteries.  Exhibit A.    



When You Make the Effort …

AirBnB is stepping its anti-discrimination policy game all the way up.  

When You’ve Been Exposed …

In Dec. 2015, Harvard University hosted its very own #ExposeParty when it dropped a bombshell of a report calling out some exclusionary behavior taking place on AirBnB.  The paper said that users with ‘African-American- sounding names’ had a hard time simply booking reservations. It’s the ole “we’re booked for those dates” excuse. #AirbnbWhileBlack

When You’ve Gotta Move Quick …

Can you say damage control? AirBnB brought in heavy-hitters like former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former director of American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office Laura W. Murphy to give their two cents on what it can do to reduce discrimination on its platform.

When You Want to Hear Solutions …

Murphy put together the 32-page report with some practical fixes. Starting Nov. 1, users must agree to treat others on the platform fairly and sans bias. Other things will happen like ‘instant booking’ so people can make reservations without first getting approval from the host. And, AirBnB plans to focus less on users’ photos and more on objective information on people’s profiles.

When You’ll Wait and See…

Verdict is still out on whether these changes will actually work. Mixed reviews from advocacy groups and even from founders of competing startups targeting people of color. But, it all raises a bigger question of Internet companies’ role in changing social attitudes and perceptions.


Out with the Old, In with the New …

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission wants to make your cable TV watching a little easier. This week, the agency put out its final proposal on those expensive cable boxes. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler doesn’t want your cable provider (think: Comcast) to force you to rent pricey cable boxes. He’d much rather the provider offer an app for people to stream content on their device of choice (Apple TV, Roku, etc.). Wheeler says the change would be good innovation. The agency is set to vote on the proposal later this month (Sept. 29). Who knows? The cable industry may finally catch up to 2016. #SorryNotSorry

Trying to Stop A Moving Train …

Fun Fact: For many years, the U.S. oversaw the basic operations of the Internet. But like most good things, that is coming to an end. The U.S. plans to transition its oversight duties to ICANN. Formally, known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The nonprofit group deals with the Internet’s daily operations. The transition is supposed to go down October 1st, but some Republicans aren’t having it. Four top Republicans just sent a letter to the Obama Administration basically saying that the switch won’t be going down on their watch. Reason for the opposition? They don’t want the U.S. to “giv[e] up control” of the Interwebs. The Internet and broader tech community says that’s not the case. The community sees it as a positive for the Internet’s global support. Republicans probably don’t have the votes to stop the transition, but it’ll at least make for good political drama heading into election season this fall.


The 90s comeback game is so strong. Super Mario is coming to the iPhone. mario

Alphabet (formerly known as Google) is teaming up with Chipotle to deliver burritos via drone. Virginia Tech will be the first test-site because it’s FAA approved. 

You can now hail a ride from Lyft or Gett directly from Google Maps

Norway is calling out Facebook for removing its Prime Minister’s post of the Pulitzer-prize winning ‘napalm girl’ photo during the Vietnam war.

Snapchat just hired Morgan Stanley to take out a new line of credit. The Information is reporting that the company’s gearing up for an IPO. Maybe, maybe not … 


While we’re on Snapchat, the company just hired former White House strategic communications advisor Rachel Racusen. Racusen is Snapchat’s new Director of Communications . 


IPO: Known as ‘initial public offering.’  The first time when a private company releases stock to the public. Reasons for an IPO vary (e.g., to raise money to grow the company more or to allow the company’s owners and employees to make money off of their company stock).

Virtual Skinny: Read Up!


Good to Know: Turns out that if you’ve got a case of imposter syndrome (when you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing), it may actually be a good indicator that you’re on the right track. 


Taking Over For the ’16? 

Alphabet, Inc., aka Google, just bumped Apple from the #1 spot.  It’s now considered the world’s most valuable company. The company pulled in US $ 21.3 billion in the last quarter of 2015.

Playing by the Rules … 

Google was never one for Wall Street, but now Alphabet is following the rules and doing things like letting investors in on just how it’s main advertising business is doing. This is turning out to be a good move seeing as Alphabet’s stock price went up by 43% from just a year ago.

No Growing Pains Here … 

Alphabet is still growing thanks to advertising including things like search advertising, YouTube, the Google Play Store, and Google’s mobile app store. While it’s bringing in the cash, it’s still shelling out a bunch of it for projects that are in the works (e.g., self-driving cars).  These projects known as moonshots are costing the company about US $3.6 billion per year. But, as long as it let’s people know exactly what’s profitable and what’s not, Wall Street should be pretty forgiving. 


When Things Aren’t Look So Rosy …

While Alphabet is killing it on Wall Street, Yahoo is doing quite the opposite. CEO Marissa Mayer is still struggling to get the company back on track. Rumor has it that she’ll be making even more employee cuts – 15% of employees or 1600 people are ’bout to get pink slips. In addition to cuts, we’re expected to learn Yahoo’s latest plan to get itself on track when the company puts out its earnings report for Q4 2015. Will it sell its main Internet business or not? Looks like we’ll find out sooner rather than later …

Game Over … 

The U.S. and European Union (EU) had until the end of January 2016 to reach an agreement on how American companies would transfer European citizens’ personal information in a way that protects people’s privacys.  They gave it the good ol’ college try but came up empty.  They just couldn’t agree on certain things, namely how the U.S. government would keep its nose out of Europeans’ personal biz. The U.S. said it was willing to do things like appoint a government official to be a contact for Europeans on data misuse issues. But, the EU wasn’t impressed.  Not sure whether both sides will meet somewhere in the middle. But, in the meantime, the EU’s making an outline of its proposal public. 


Is Uber the Walmart of rides? The ride hailing company just royally ticked off its New York City drivers. The company reduced its UberX rates by 15%. The company says lower rates will increase demands and decrease wait times between trips. Drivers beg to differ. Some want out of the service all together but can’t because they’ve taken on car loans via Uber. Oy!

Welcome to the club. WhatsApp, messaging app owned by Facebook, just reached the billion users club. Now, it’s trying to figure out how to make money while staying true to its roots (i.e., no ads, please).  Sidenote: the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo-Brazzaville are not the same country, but WhatsApp seems to think so. 

Speaking of the billion users club, Gmail is officially in too.

Popular e-mail app Airmail is now available for iPhones.