February 20th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

A Loud and Clear Message

It’s unusual when a company as young as Facebook drops $19 billion on an acquisition, especially when its on a company some folks hadn’t even heard of. But the messaging juggernaut called WhatsApp is huge (in terms of users and messages) and dangerous (in terms of the threat they posed to Facebook) and totally mobile (which is where Facebook needs to be). Here’s Buzzfeed on why Facebook had to have WhatsApp.

+ WSJ: What is WhatsApp? One highly addicted user explains.

+ Kara Swisher: “We have now established a price floor for what it costs not to have a mobile operating system in a world in which having a mobile operating system counts for an awful lot these days.”

+ Aside from the race towards mobile and the acquisition of a ton of active users, I think there are a couple interesting aspects to this deal. First, WhatsApp is really about sending messages to individuals or small groups. These messages are usually more private than Facebook posts. Private is the new public. Second, WhatsApp prides itself on not collecting data about its users and then selling that information to highest-bidding advertiser. The app has no ads at all. Facebook has derived much of its value from the data collection and advertising model. In other words, the value of your personal data helped pay for a company that doesn’t collect any of it.


Greatest Job Rejections Ever

“I worry about what [an acquiring] company would do with our population: we’ve made such an important promise to our users — no ads, no gimmicks, no games — that to have someone come along and buy us seems awfully unethical. It goes against my personal integrity” That was WhatsApp founder Brian Acton not too long ago. From WiredUK: WhatsApp: The inside story.

+ WhatsApp’s CEO Jan Koum lived on welfare and foodstamps in the 1990s. He couldn’t afford calls home to Ukraine. In the long run, that turned out to be a good thing.

+ And looking back, Brian Acton is probably pretty happy he got rejected when he applied for jobs a few years back. Twitter said no. And Facebook said no.


Fighting in Kiev

“A horrible tragedy has been happening on the streets in Kiev and other cities of Ukraine. Information that I have indicates that about 50 people have been killed as of today, but there have been reports that there are many more victims. Hundreds of people have been hospitalized.” That’s the latest from a human rights commissioner in Ukraine where things look like they could get a whole lot worse.

+ The New Yorker: Will Ukraine break apart?

+ InFocus: Intense photos from the streets of Kiev.

+ NPR: Four things to know about what’s happening in Ukraine.


For the Win

“It’s coinciding with the national debate, but honestly, this was a business decision. I characterize it internally as a win-win-win-win. We usually look for a win-win, but this is a quad-win.” That’s a Gap executive on his company’s plans to raise the minimum wage for its workers to $10 an hour.


Five Ring Circus

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. And give me a few speedskaters while you’re at it. A lot of Olympic teams are made up, in part, of people born in different countries.

+ WSJ: Forget medals. Sochi Olympians vie for puppy love.

+ Speaking of puppies, uh, that’s a wolf in your hotel hallway.

+ There are a lot of restrictions when it comes to logos and sponsorships in the Olympics. But snowboarders tend to find a way around rules. (And surprisingly, this story isn’t about their underwear.)


Beyond the Keg Stand

“Far from being freakish and unpredictable events, fatal and near-fatal falls from fraternity-house roofs, balconies, windows, and sleeping porches are fairly regular occurrences across the country.” From The Atlantic, a yearlong investigation of Greek houses: The Dark Power of Fraternities.


Think Negative

“Imagining a positive outcome conveys the sense that you’re approaching your goals, which takes the edge off the need to achieve.” The New Yorker’s Adam Alter on the powerlessness of positive thinking.


The Bet

Buzzfeed’s Matthew Chaprales: Think You Could Be A Professional Gambler? Here’s What It’s Actually Like: “I mostly hate Las Vegas; everything is wrong here. They promote all the wrong values. But hey, I have to make a living, and the only place I can make a living legally is here.” (Or you could move to Silicon Valley and launch a messaging app.)

+ Slate: What’s it like to earn a living through Poker? (And can you trust an answer from a poker player?)


Cover Me

Why is that name obscured by a photo? Why are those headlines always yellow? Learn that and more in this piece on the anatomy of a magazine cover.


The Bottom of the News

“You may never know their names or see their faces, but becoming a go-to voice in Hollywood requires just as much hard work and hustle as making it on the big screen.” From Narratively: Secrets From Voiceover School. (Related: Lake Bell directed and starred in a fun movie on this topic called: In a World…)

+ The excellent Om Malik is leaving the day to day grind of his creation, GigaOm: Here’s his post on the subject: “Living a 24-hour news life has come at a personal cost. I still wake in middle of the night to check the stream to see if something is breaking, worrying whether I missed some news. It is a unique type of addiction that only a few can understand.” (Om, wait, take me with you…)

+ Kansas focuses on spanking.

+ James Franco on Shia LaBeouf in the NYT. Wait, what?

+ Mental Floss: The original locations of famous fast food chains.

+ Winter is coming. Again. The Polar Vortex isn’t done yet.

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