Snapchat and Twitter, two social media services that seemed to be struggling just months ago, posted better-than-anticipated earnings this past week. Google, which is facing down employee protests and regulatory scrutiny in the United States and Europe, posted a 22 percent increase in revenue.
Our Google beat reporter, Daisuke Wakabayashi, wrote why it’s possible for tech firms to continue earning record profits even as the public’s perception of them sours. Google, he said, is the “internet’s ultimate beachfront property.” If you want to swim in the ocean, you need to walk across Google’s private beach first.
Even if you don’t like the way a tech company behaves, boycotting may be an impossible challenge.
I’ve been fascinated by Kashmir Hill’s series at Gizmodo about her struggles to extricate herself from the so-called Big Five: Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook. She recounted all the missed texts and wrong turns she made as she tried to get through her day without the technology that I take for granted. The series is a warning about the uphill battle we’d all face if we decided to limit our collective tech addiction.
And as long as it remains difficult to quit, tech’s profits will continue to soar.
In other news:
■ Newsrooms are increasingly relying on artificial intelligence to churn out quick news pieces about earthquakes, sports scores and — of course — earnings. “Robot reporters” are on the rise at Bloomberg, The Washington Post and other publications. Here at The Times, our A.I. experimentation has been limited to newsletter personalization, Jaclyn Peiser reports. Maybe someday soon, a robot reporter will be picking these stories to share with you.
■ Did you know the North Pole could move? I learned that the magnetic north pole is heading toward Siberia at a surprising pace, thanks to a fascinating report from Shannon Hall. The pole, which I’d always assumed was a fixed point, is on the move thanks to the “sloshing” of liquid iron in the outer core of the Earth, and we have to continually track it so that navigation systems remain reliable. But we’re a bit behind because of the government shutdown.
■ Instacart revised its tipping policy this past week after backlash from the delivery people who pick up items for shoppers and deliver them to their doorsteps. Late last year, Instacart started counting tips against payments to its delivery people, essentially stripping them of their tips.
“It’s offensive, it’s unethical, and in this climate it’s a very dumb thing to do,” one Instacart courier told Kevin Roose. Now, Instacart has reversed course and will include tips on top of the delivery fee it pays its shoppers.