Jeff Weiner on How Technology Accentuates Tribalism

This weekend is WIRED’s 25th Anniversary festival. We started it off with three conversations with brilliant CEOs about the future of work: Patrick Collison of Stripe, Stacy Brown-Philpot of TaskRabbit, and Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn. Here is the transcript of my talk with Weiner.

Nicholas Thompson: One thing that I love about you is that your career dates to 1994 and an essay that you read in WIRED magazine. So, explain how a review of a Nicholas Negroponte book led you to become who you are.

Jeff Weiner: It’s all true. I’m not sure I’d be sitting in this seat today if it weren’t for WIRED. I was first introduced to the internet prior to its commercialization while I was still in school as a senior at Wharton undergrad. I was on a consulting project with a buddy of mine and three DuPont engineers who were interested in leveraging this thing called the Internet for desktop teleconferencing. So I was exposed to the technology and became really fascinated by the implications and kind of developed this thesis that it was going to change everything, there would be this concept of convergence, and I had always been interesting in education reform. And so I really started to roll up my sleeves to better understand the opportunities and how it would impact society.

Fast forward, I ended up joining the corporate development group of Warner Brothers. I’d been in Boston in a consulting group for a little while. And shortly after joining, I read my copy of WIRED that month. It is probably close to 24 years to the day. And I would read WIRED cover to cover. Everything about it was fascinating to me—the look, the feel, the narration, the voice, how unique it was. And of course, it was covering something I was so fascinated by. I would even read the book reviews, including one in this particular edition about Nicholas Negroponte and his vision for the digital future. I ended up buying the book. And essentially what I picked up from it was everything that could be converted from an atom to a bit would be.

I had just joined Warner Brothers and I knew that everything about the place was going to be transformed. And within a month or two of that revelation the guy who was running corporate development at the time said Warner Brothers needed an interactive division. They would have a CD-ROM component, which was all the rage back then. They would have an online component, which most people in the group didn’t really understand or have experience with. I had just joined AOL about nine months prior. And it was going to have an out-of-home interactive entertainment component, a kiosk. That fell by the wayside. The CD-ROM component never got approved. But I volunteered to write the online business plan, and 24 years later, here we are.

NT: That is extraordinary. And that is, of course, one of the most important ideas of last 25 years, right. Everything that is an atom will become a bit. So let me ask you a very simple follow up question: What is the equivalent idea today?

JW: Let’s get Nicholas Negroponte on the phone and find out!

Jeff Weiner

Amy Lombard

For me, it’s far less about the technology today and it’s far more about the implications of technology on society. And I think increasingly, we need to proactively ask ourselves far more difficult, challenging questions—provocative questions—about the potential unintended consequences of these technologies. And to the best of our ability, try to understand the implications for society. I think it’s safe to say, certainly for those founders and CEOs that I know and work with in the Valley, people have the best of intentions when they are innovating, when they’re creating these breakthroughs, their visions for their companies. But you can see, it feels like every week there’s another headline that is talking about how some of this stuff is going in the wrong direction. And technology certainly didn’t create tribalism, tribalism is a part of human nature, it protects us. The whole idea of ingroups keeps us safe and secure.

But technology is dramatically accelerating and reinforcing tribalism at a time when increasingly we need to be coming together as a society—and you can talk about society in a town, a city, a state, a country, the world—when we increasingly need to be coming together to solve some pretty big challenges. So to me it would be about understanding the impact of technology as proactively as possible. And trying to create as much value, and trying to bring people together to the best of our ability.

NT: Alright. So, you set up an easy question in your answer, which is: You worry about the worst possible unintended consequences of technology. What is the worst possible unintended consequence of LinkedIn?

JW: So, you know, our vision is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. There’s over 3 billion people in the global workforce. And that vision was originally put into place to inspire our employees. It was true north. It was the dream, it wasn’t necessarily something we were going to measure ourselves against. That was our mission. That was the role of the mission, which is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. There’s roughly 780 million knowledge workers, or professionals, pre-professionals, students that aspire to become white-collar professionals in the world. Three billion people in the global workforce. The unintended consequence of too closely focusing on our mission without truly thinking through how we’re going to operationalize the vision is to reinforce unconscious bias, to reinforce these growing socioeconomic chasms on a global basis, especially here in the United States, by providing more and more opportunity for those that went to the right schools, worked at the right companies, and already have the right networks.

NT: Oh, I see. Your network could possibly reinforce all of the biases.

JW: Oh, not quite possibly—it does. And it does for all of us. And despite, again, the best of intentions, people have a tendency to want to work with and recruit those that look like them, that sound like them. And it’s not through, more often than not, it’s not through explicit bias. These are unconscious biases, and so I’ll give you a perfect anecdote here. We recently rolled out an Ask For a Referral capability on LinkedIn. And this makes all the sense in the world when you consider how many people find their jobs by virtue of who they know. So just a quick show of hands, How many people here have ever gotten a job by virtue of their network? Someone they knew at the company. So it’s about 90 plus percent. So we rolled out this functionality, made all the sense in the world. And it took off. And the results were incredible. We found that people asking for a referral within an organization they were interested in working for, by virtue of a job post on LinkedIn and tapping the power of their LinkedIn network, were eight times more likely to get the job. Eight times more likely to be hired. And it creates a more effective, efficient process for the prospect, for the company themselves, etcetera. So, our head of social impact, a woman named Meg Garlinghouse, who I’ve been working with for a really long time— we first met at Yahoo, and she’s one of, if not the, best in the business—she pulled me aside shortly after we launched this thing and she said, “I understand everyone’s celebrating the success of this product but have we considered the unintended consequences?” I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “What about the people that don’t have the networks?” Just stopped me cold in my tracks. I mean we have the wonderful privilege of working with some extraordinary organizations both here in the community locally and more broadly. Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula, Gear Up, organizations like this where you’ve got extraordinary talent that just doesn’t necessarily have access to the right four-year diploma, or the right people. But we work with these people, we hire them, we’re thrilled to have them join the company because they are so capable, they have all the raw materials, all the aptitude, the resiliency, the grit, the learning curves, the compassion by virtue of the experiences they’ve had in their life. But they don’t have the networks. And so with questions like that raised, we are able to ask ourselves these tough questions and then answer them hopefully in the right way. And what we ended up doing with that kind of ethos in mind, to broaden this aperture, to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce, we created something called the Career Advice Hub. And the Career Advice Hub enables any member of LinkedIn to raise their hand and ask for help, and for any member of LinkedIn to volunteer to help them, to mentor them. And within a few short months after launching that, we’ve already had two million people ask for help. And we’ve had over a million people volunteer to mentor folks, ideally outside of their network. So that would be an example of how we’re addressing them.

NT: When I get LinkedIn connection requests, I usually sort them by “has mutual connections” to “has no mutual connections,” so I will commit to reversing, flipping from lowest the highest now.

JW: So it’s wonderful to hear that. And in all seriousness, we want to potentially try to productize this to raise greater awareness for how people can begin to diversify their networks, because again there’s this almost self-fulfilling prophecy, this self-reinforcing dynamic, just sticking with the people you know. So it’s wonderful to hear you’re doing that. We’re going to try to facilitate that for everyone.

NT: And you’ve also, I noticed a couple of weeks ago, I don’t know the timing, you rolled out an AI system to help hirers find more diverse candidates. Is that an initiative that came out of the same realization in the same conversation? And how does it work?

JW: To some extent. We started to think about the concept of diversity and really extending diversity to include inclusion and belonging. We don’t think diversity is enough. Oftentimes with regard to diversity initiatives, people will look to hire folks into their organization that are more reflective of the customers that they serve, which is wonderful. But all too often that becomes a numbers exercise. And it needs to be much more than that, because you can bring a more diverse group of people into your company, but if they’re not included in the right discussions where decisions are being made, then it’s not going to achieve the objective that you were looking for. So there’s got to be diversity, there has to be inclusion, and inclusion is not enough. Oftentimes now you’ll hear people talking about diversity and inclusion—D&I. At LinkedIn, we also feel like it’s really important to focus on belonging. So if you use the meeting as the metaphor and diversity is making sure you have the right people within your organization, then inclusion is making sure they’re invited to the right meetings, belonging is ensuring that once those people are in the meetings, when they look up at the people around the table, they actually feel like they belong there. And if you don’t go that last mile, you may have the right people around the table, but they look up and they don’t see people that look like them, or sound like them, or have the right or similar backgrounds or experiences. And when they don’t feel like they belong, they’re not operating at their best.

NT: But do you mean that LinkedIn…LinkedIn can solve that problem at LinkedIn. You as the CEO can change the way your corporate culture works, and you can solve the problem of recruiting at WIRED or at any other company. But do you actually think that LinkedIn can solve culture problems within outside organizations? Or is it just LinkedIn can solve pipeline of people coming in?

JW: So when you say “solve,” solve cultural or societal issues…

NT: Yeah, can you solve diversity in America, Jeff?

JW: I would love to think that we can help!

NT: No, but do you view LinkedIn’s mission as, working on this problem as on the outside, working on this problem as it relates to people come into the organizations, or do you view it as going higher up in a stack of how organizations are managed and run?

JW: The beauty of the vision is it’s all of it. So when we talk about every member of the global workforce, we mean it. So every employee of LinkedIn at this point, we are—it’s not just the vision, we’re operationalizing the vision. We are going to try to create economic opportunity for all three billion members of the global workforce. And there’s really two components of this “every” which is by far away the most important word in that vision statement. One is going beyond our core, the white collar worker the knowledge professional, to include frontline workers, middle skilled workers, and blue collar workers. And we have some really exciting initiatives underway along those lines.

And then it goes to the point we were talking about earlier. There are also professional aspirants. There are folks that want to become knowledge workers, folks that are working towards that end, that would fall more within our core addressable opportunity in terms of knowledge workers, who to the point we were just discussing, don’t necessarily have the right networks or don’t necessarily have the right degrees. And so we are very focused on that as well. And it comes from the kinds of products I was talking about earlier, the kinds of AI efforts, talent pooling searching capabilities that we’re developing to facilitate the way in which companies can go out and create a more diverse workforce, and create a greater sense of inclusion. It also includes the way we do business. So it’s on both fronts. And one example of that would be within our engineering ranks, for example. We’ve recently taken a page out of the German playbook, the vocational training playbook, and we’ve created an apprenticeship program for people that don’t have a traditional four-year CS background. And as long as they have completed coding bootcamp, we will train them and apprentice them, and hopefully be in a position where we can hire them as software engineers. And it’s not just on the R&D front. Our head of recruiting just recently created an apprenticeship program we call Ramp, which seeks to tap folks from underserved segments of our member population, underrepresented minorities, opportunity youth, veterans, people in the later stages of their career who are in midstream of making a huge change and may have trouble getting work, and we’re training them to be recruiters, because they have the networks that enable us to become more diverse. And with success, we want to open source that. This is not going to be proprietary. As much as we believe that could create a competitive advantage, it’s too important. It’s too aligned with our vision statement. So in the success, Brendan Browne, the head of recruiting, wants to graduate a thousand apprentices a thousand recruiters over the next ten years just within LinkedIn. And then we want to open that up, and share best practices with other companies to take that to the next level.

NT: I will say that as someone who worked in Silicon Valley for a Linux company in 1997, the fact that everybody at Microsoft is now talking about open source is the most extraordinary evolution I’ve seen! Let me ask you a little bit about the data you have. You probably have the best data set on the world’s workforce, probably better than any government. If not now, it will be soon. What are you seeing in the way jobs are changing, and the way churn is happening? I’ve seen lots of people are worried about the way AI will change jobs, that robotics will change jobs. What have you seen in the data set, and where are we headed? What do you know about how jobs will change that most of us don’t know?

JW: So in terms of forecasting the crystal ball, the data is a reflection of what’s happening now or what was happening. And we can certainly use that to try to connect dots and see some patterns, but we also partner with third parties, some incredibly bright folks—think tanks, consulting firms—to better understand these trends given what we’re trying to accomplish. McKinsey Global Institute would be a perfect example. They’re estimating currently roughly half of all work activities are susceptible, will be impacted by AI. So that’s current. This isn’t science fiction. And they more recently came out a study that suggested that between 400 and 800 million jobs could be displaced on a global basis by virtue of AI. That’s not a net number, and jobs will be created. But clearly this is going to have massive impact on society.

So how can folks begin to get ahead of those trends? And that’s where our data can become I think really valuable for companies who are trying to answer these questions and develop the right workforce strategies so they can create work for their employees, for the jobs that are and will be, and not just the jobs that once were. Because we have a tendency to be looking in the rearview mirror too often here. And our workforce strategies could be a bit antiquated if we’re not looking proactively into the future. So we’ve developed one methodology in particular that enables us to look at the state in a really unique and hopefully valuable way, which we call skills gap analytics. So for any given locality anywhere in the world we can better understand the fastest growing jobs within that locality, the skills required to obtain those jobs, the aggregate skills of the workforce within that locality, measure the size of the gap, and then make that data accessible to people who are trying to fix it. And so that could be working with local governments, it could be working with local schools, in could be in cooperation with public and private sector. And then last year we rolled out a product called LinkedIn talent insights that was opened up as a beta pilot program. We just rolled it out generally available to all of our customers, and that enables them to do the same workforce planning within their organizations that we can do for governments around the world. Two really interesting trends we’re seeing here in the US: When I talk about a skills gap here on stage, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? what’s the first skill you think there would be a gap on?

Audience: Coding.

JW: Coding. That’s what everyone says. So software development, software engineering, cloud computing, data storage, web development, mobile development, and, of course, AI. Very top of mind, and when I meet with and talk to customers all over the world, I’m feeling a far greater sense of urgency on that front. But it turns out, that’s not the biggest skills gap in the United States. The biggest skills gap the United States is soft skills. Written communication, oral communication, team building, people leadership, collaboration. For jobs like sales, sales development, business development, customer service. This is the biggest gap, and it’s counter-intuitive. Everyone’s so keenly focused on technology and AI. It’s related though.

The good news comes on two fronts with regard to this particular gap. The first is that for as powerful as AI will ultimately become and is becoming, we’re still a ways away from computers being able to replicate and replace human interaction and human touch. So there’s wonderful incentive for people to develop these skills because those jobs are going to be more stable for a longer period of time. We’re also capable of closing these gaps now, today. Companies have the expertise within their organizations to train and re-skill their current workforce and future prospects. So that’s the good news on that front. With regard to technology this is also a bit counterintuitive because rather than try to just train everyone to become a software engineer, one of the things that’s going to be most important in terms of preparing the workforce to re-skill for that trend we were talking about earlier, is that people just have basic digital fluency skills. Before you start thinking about becoming an AI scientist, you need to know how to send email, how to work a spreadsheet, how to do word processing, and believe it or not, there are broad swaths of the population and the workforce that don’t have those skills. And it turns out if you don’t have these foundational skills, if you’re in a position where you need to re-skill for a more advanced technology, if you don’t have that foundation in place, it becomes almost prohibitively complex to learn multiple skills at the same time. So that’s an area we want to help people focus on as well.

NT: Alright. So, do not tell your children to be engineers but do tell them to go on the streams and to like and to comment and to share, because that is a very important soft skill! Thank you very much Jeff! That was fantastic.

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Facebook Messenger Might Allow You to Unsend Messages Soon

Facebook might be going through yet another data breach scandal but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stop working on its products.

Facebook may soon deliver a new feature allowing users to unsend messages in its Messenger app. It’s an interesting development after it was revealed that CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg actually seemed to delete messages he sent from the recipients’ inboxes. The incident raised privacy concerns and many took issue with Zuckerberg’s apparent abuse of power due to the fact that the ability to “unsend” a message isn’t available to other users.

After this news, Facebook said it would roll out the feature on a wider scale, but no news has developed since—until now. Screenshots from a Facebook Messenger user show the ability to unsend a message through the app, which was reported by tech news site TechCrunch. The site added that the user has previously provided tips on other features that later saw wider roll outs.

Additionally, it seems the feature only allows you to unsend the message after a certain amount of time before it will remain in the recipient’s inbox forever, according to Android Police. It’s also worth noting to anyone looking for the feature that the option seems to be on the Android app. It’s unclear how wide the roll-out is at the moment or when (or even if) it will be released more broadly.

Exclusive: Key EU lawmaker's plan to rein in online marketplaces a threat to Amazon

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Amazon could face a threat other than just EU antitrust scrutiny after a key EU lawmaker announced proposals aimed at curbing online marketplaces’ use of merchants’ data to boost sales of own brand products.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company’s logistics centre in Boves, France, August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

Seeking to ensure a level playing field between tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Apple and traditional businesses, the European Commission in April outlined draft rules to prevent unfair business practices.

The proposal specifically targets app stores, search engines, e-commerce sites and hotel booking websites.

European Parliament lawmakers, whose approval is needed to ensure the proposal becomes legislation and under pressure to be seen as consumer-friendly ahead of elections in May, have since come up with about 680 amendments to beef up the draft.

Key among these is the one proposed last week by Danish center-left lawmaker Christel Schaldemose, the lead parliament negotiator, which takes aim at a case her compatriot, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, is looking into.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics centre in Boves, France, August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

Schaldemose has proposed setting up Chinese walls between subsidiaries, according to a draft seen by Reuters. She aims to get her committee to vote on the amendments on Dec. 6.

Vestager last month said she was gathering information on whether Amazon uses merchants’ data in a way that hurts competition. Her power lies in her ability to impose fines while Schaldemose’s proposal, if accepted, would be more far-reaching as it would apply to all companies regardless of their market power.

In her amendment, Schaldemose referred to investigations by antitrust regulators in the European Union and elsewhere into online intermediation services’ dual role as a marketplace and as a rival on the same platform.

“To ensure fairness, the provider of the online intermediation service should not be allowed to disclose the data generated by the transactions of a business user to third parties for commercial purposes, including within their own corporate structure, without the consent of the business user,” the draft said.

Lawmakers also want the rules to cover voice assistance services or virtual helpers such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant because of their increasing popularity.

After the committee vote, Schaldemose would then seek approval at the assembly a week later. EU lawmakers would then need to thrash out a common position with the Commission and EU countries before the proposals become law.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by David Evans

How to Benefit From A Standing Desk

Ever feel completely drained after a flight, long car ride, or just a day of sitting at a desk? Even though you were just sitting for a long time, you felt exhausted. There are so many negative side effects to simply sitting for extended periods of time. Yet, Americans sit for on average 8 hours a day, with most of these hours being at work. Sitting for such a long time can negatively affect your health, side effects include:

·      Weight gain

·      Poor blood circulation

·      Heart disease

·      Weakened muscles

·      Diabetes

·      Posture problems

·      Chronic Back and neck pain

·      Anxiety and Depression

Sitting for long periods of time can cause more harm than good, especially for office workers. In an attempt to avoid these side effects, standing desks have become more and more popular. Not only do they avoid these harmful consequences of sitting, but standing desks actually improve health. Studies have shown standing desks actually increase productivity and focus in the workplace. An article by the Washington Post cited a recent study conducted by Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center School of Public Health that tested the benefits of standing desks. The study, which monitored 167 employees in a Texan call center over a six-month period, found that employees using stand-capable desks were more productive than their colleagues in standard, seated desks. And, the productivity of the standing-desk workers continued to increase over their seated colleagues steadily. In the first month, the stand-capable group had 23 percent more successful calls than their seated colleagues, and by the sixth month, they had 53 percent more successful calls.

In addition to increasing productivity, standing desks have been sought out for numerous benefits. These benefits include:

·      May lower risk of weight gain and obesity

·      May Lower blood sugar levels

·      May lower risk of heart disease

·      Reduce back and neck pain

·      Improve mood and energy levels

With as many benefits that come with a standing desk, it is no wonder they have become so popular in the workplace. Improve your focus, productivity, and health with this simple office fix. 

Soyuz Rocket Failure Jeopardizes Future ISS Missions

A NASA astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut were forced to make a dramatic landing after their ride to space, a Russian Soyuz rocket, failed minutes after takeoff. The incident caused the crew to initiate emergency abort procedures, landing a few hundred miles away from the launch site. Both Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin are safe.

The crew launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:40 am ET and was scheduled to dock at the ISS six hours later. But about two minutes into the flight, the Soyuz suffered an unspecified failure and the onboard computer initiated the abort. “There was an issue with the booster from today’s launch,” a NASA spokesperson says. “The Soyuz capsule returned to Earth via a ballistic decent, which is a sharper angle of landing compared to normal.”

Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos (Russia’s space agency) has announced that all crew missions will be put on hold for the foreseeable future while the agency investigates the failure. The Russian state corporation, along with NASA are already analyzing data to determine what caused the anomaly. “NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and the NASA team are monitoring the situation carefully,” the space agency said in a statement following the mishap. “NASA is working closely with Roscosmos to ensure the safe return of the crew. Safety of the crew is the utmost priority for NASA. A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted.”

This incident marks the first failure for the Russian human spaceflight program since 1983 when a Soyuz exploded on the launch pad. (The two Soviet cosmonauts on board, Vladimir Titov and Gennady Strekalov, were able to jettison to safety). But it’s also the second mishap in recent months for Russia’s trusty Soyuz. In August, the crew members onboard the space station discovered an air leak originating from one of the Soyuz capsules that was docked with the orbital outpost. The leak was eventually traced to a tiny hole in the Soyuz’s orbital module. Crew members were able to repair the ship and no one was in any danger, however, the leak has been a source of controversy as officials work to determine how the hole was made. Russian media outlets have tried to suggest on-orbit sabotage, implying that one of the crew members on board ISS intentionally drilled the hole. NASA has refuted those claims and Bridenstine is currently in Russia for the launch as well as to meet with Russian space officials.

Currently, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft is the only vehicle capable of ferrying crews to the ISS. In 2011, NASA’s fleet of space shuttles was retired, leaving the agency (and others around the world) dependent upon Russia for access to space. Commercial companies like SpaceX and Boeing are building NASA’s next generation space taxis, but they are not yet ready to fly. (The first flights of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner crew capsules are expected to take off next year).

This failure raises serious questions about the future of the International Space Station, as the Soyuz spacecraft (and rocket) are the only means by which crews can reach it. It is not clear how long the Soyuz vehicle will be grounded, or how long the current crew—American astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, German Commander Alexander Gerst, and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev— can remain in orbit. They’re scheduled to come home on December 13, although it’s likely their mission will be extended.

Their scheduled replacements (cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques and NASA astronaut Anne McClain) were slated to launch on Dec. 20, but as of now their flight is uncertain pending the outcome of this investigation. NASA is still working out the plans going forward concerning both the crew and space station. While the agency can run the space station from the ground, agency officials prefer to have crew onboard, resulting in an extended stay in space for Auñón-Chancellor, Gerst, and Prokopyev. Supplies on board are ample so the crew is in good shape in terms of consumables.

Transportation, however, may be a bit trickier. Each Soyuz spacecraft is only certified to stay docked to the space station for approximately 200 days. With their lifeboat’s shelf life set to expire in January 2019, the crew could either be stranded or forced to abandon the space station. Both the rocket and the spacecraft to be used for the next launch are nearly ready to fly, however, so it’s entirely possible that the next Soyuz could launch without people on board, serving as an extra lifeboat to fetch the current crew.

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Microsoft's patent move: Giant leap forward or business as usual?

When Microsoft surprised everyone by releasing its entire 60,000 patent portfolio to the open-source community, someone asked me if I thought the move would finally convince everyone Microsoft is truly an open-source friendly company.

“Oh no,” I replied.

Must read: Microsoft open-sources its patent portfolio

Sure enough, some folks are still convinced that Microsoft is intending to “embrace, extend, and extinguish” open source. Many others believe, however, that Microsoft has truly evolved and has become an open-source company.

Is it a trap?

On the purely positive side, we have Jim Zemlin, The Linux Foundation‘s executive director:

“We were thrilled to welcome Microsoft as a platinum member of the Linux Foundation in 2016 and we are absolutely delighted to see their continuing evolution into a full-fledged supporter of the entire Linux ecosystem and open-source community.”

Patrick McBride, Red Hat‘s senior director of patents added, “What a milestone moment for open source and OIN! Microsoft is joining a unique shared effort that Red Hat has helped lead to bring patent peace to the Linux community. Developers and customers will be the beneficiaries. Now is a perfect time for others to join as well.”

On the haters’ side, there is Florian Mueller, editor of the FOSSPatents blog, who thinks:

‘Microsoft loves Linux’ is a lie. And now Microsoft wants us to think that Microsoft battles patent trolls. This too is a Microsoft lie.”

He also said joining the OIN, which Mueller considers a pro-patent IBM front group, “imposes no actual new constraints on them.” This is just a cynical PR move from Mueller’s viewpoint.

Also: Open source: Why it’s time to be more open

Other anti-Microsoft die-hards on Reddit, Twitter, and other social networks also insist that this new Microsoft is the same as the old Microsoft. Or, as one person, harking back to Star Wars, remarked: “It’s a trap!”

Microsoft finally gets open source

At Microsoft, the company insists that it has been changing its open-source ways for years. In a recent Open Source Virtual Conference keynote, John Gossman, a distinguished Microsoft Azure team engineer, described former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s 2001 comment that Linux was “a cancer” as being ” a fundamental misunderstanding of open source.”

Also: Open-source licensing war: Commons Clause

With Satya Nadella as CEO, Microsoft finally gets open source.

What the patent experts are saying…

But it’s not just Microsoft staffers who are saying Microsoft’s attitude toward open-source has evolved. Andrew “Andy” Updegrove, patent expert and founding partner at the Boston-area law-firm Gesmer Updegrove, said:

“While this may seem surprising to those who have not followed Microsoft’s evolution in recent years, it is in fact more a formal recognition of where they, and the realities of the IT environment are today.”

Daniel Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), whose work was once used by Ballmer against Linux, wasn’t surprised by this move:

“With the

acquisition of GitHub and other things the company is done they’ve really changed their tune in the past 15 years. They also hired as an in-house attorney a former staff attorney of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC). It may be like the Korean War that doesn’t have a formal end date, but I think now Microsoft and open-source software are on the same page and working together.”

Prominent open-source attorney and Columbia University law professor, Eben Moglen, also sees this as a move towards patent peace. Moglen remarked:

“Microsoft’s decision signals the transition from the period of patent war to the making of industry-wide patent peace for free and open-source (FOSS) software. Microsoft’s participation in the OIN licensing structure will be the tent pole for the extension of OIN’s big tent across the world of IT. For SFLC and other parties whose job it is to secure the interests of individual FOSS programmers and their non-profit projects, this is also the moment of opportunity to ensure their safety and respect for their mode of development across the entire industry, including by companies who continue to engage in patenting their own R&D.”

Also: Open source is 20: How it changed programming

Why is Microsoft doing this when it makes money from patents?

Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s executive vice president of the cloud and enterprise group, described the decision as a “fundamental philosophical change” — resulting from an understanding that open-source is inherently more valuable to Microsoft than patent profits.

John Ferrell, chair at the Silicon Valley technology law firm Carr & Ferrell, thinks there may be a more pragmatic reason behind Microsoft’s move:

“Microsoft’s gesture to donate 60,000 patents to the OIN is indeed a philosophical change for this giant, but the change likely is rooted in the realization that the Company is much better suited to fight in the marketplace rather than to fight in the courtroom. Virtually every patent-owning company that gets into a patent battle with Microsoft is fighting from a position of asymmetrical advantage. Where damages are based on a percent of sales, Microsoft almost always has more to lose. Especially companies that leverage open-source software, these companies tend to be small and patent infringement for Microsoft is difficult and expensive to police.”

Ferrell, the litigator, continued:

“From a defensive standpoint, small companies with one or two patents arguably infringed by Microsoft are especially annoying and potentially damaging to this goliath. Microsoft is a huge target and is constantly barraged with patent lawsuits by small and large companies trying to gain a foothold or monetize their development efforts at the expense of Microsoft’s deep pockets.”

An additional reason for Microsoft’s change of heart, according to Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange, an open-source network services company, is:

“Microsoft boss Nadella wants to buy new credit in the open-source industry, distancing the company from the business model and practises of his predecessors, i.e. Gates’ and Ballmer’s sincere dislike of open source developers” Nadella, however, “recognizes that Microsoft’s future revenue will come from providing cloud services, rather than selling operating system licenses. And for cloud services, Linux is now the operating system of choice – underpinned by the fact that already

half of the Microsoft Azure services are based on Linux today.”

Also: Open-source vulnerabilities which will not die: Who is to blame?

Will this bring peace to our time?

Bradley Kuhn, president of the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), appreciates Microsoft joining OIN patent non-aggression pact, noting: “Perhaps it will bring peace in our time regarding Microsoft’s historical patent aggression.”

Microsoft needs to do more, Kuhn added, “We call on Microsoft to make this just the beginning of their efforts to stop their patent aggression efforts against the software freedom community.”

Specifically, he said, “We now ask Microsoft, as a sign of good faith and to confirm its intention to end all patent aggression against Linux and its users, to now submit to upstream the exfat code themselves under GPLv2-or-later.”

Exfat, a file system, was open-sourced by Samsung with the SFC’s help in 2013. But Kuhn said, “Microsoft has not included any patents they might hold on exfat into the patent non-aggression pact.”

In general, it should be noticed, when asked about FAT-related patents, Erich Andersen, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and chief intellectual property (IP) counsel, has said:

“We’re licensing all patents we own that read on the ‘Linux system.'” And, in addition, all of Microsoft’s 60,000 granted patents relating to the Linux system are covered by the OIN’s requirements.

In a subsequent e-mail Kuhn noted, “Ultimately, the OIN license agreement is quite narrowly confined to the ‘ OIN Linux System Definition‘ and therefore doesn’t assure that patent aggression must stop immediately; rather, Microsoft is only required to stop for those patents that read on technologies in the OIN Linux System Definition.”

So, for example, BSD specific code, wouldn’t necessarily be covered.

Therefore, Kuhn suggested:

“Expanding the ‘Linux System Definition’ would be a useful way to solve this problem through OIN.”

Historically, OIN has been expanding the Linux System Definition.

Kuhn concluded:

“More importantly, Microsoft can help solve it unilaterally by submitting patches that implement technology from their patents into upstream projects that are already contained in the Linux System Definition. I suggest they start with upstreaming exfat in Linux themselves.

Also: Hollywood goes open source


So, while there are a few people who think Microsoft is up to no good, the experts agree that this is a laudable move by Microsoft to show its open-source bona fides. That’s not to say some still want to see more proof of Microsoft’s intentions, but overall, people agree this is a major step forward for Microsoft, Linux, and open-source intellectual property law regulation.

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Digital-only banks take sizeable share in France but lose money: regulator

PARIS (Reuters) – A new breed of digital-only banks has spread in France but still struggles to make any money, a report by France’s banking regulator ACPR said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of cash machines Orange Bank is seen on the facade of the Bank headquarters in Montreuil near Paris, France, October 27, 2017. Picture taken October 27, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

With rare exceptions, none of the twelve online banks has reached breakeven in 2017, the regulator said after reviewing their operations over the first half of this year.

About 6.5 percent of French people are clients these banks, which capture one third of all newly-opened accounts, according to the report.

A majority of the online banks, which include Orange Bank, Credit Agricole’s BforBank and Societe Generale’s Boursorama Banque, were taken over by traditional lenders.

Half of them expect to break even in 2020, an assumption that ACPR is challenging as their business model rests on high spending to win customers while charging almost no fees.

Reporting by Inti Landauro and Matthieu Protard; Editing by Mathieu Rosemain

Pentagon says memo asking for Broadcom-CA deal review is likely fake

(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Defense said on Wednesday that a memo purporting to show the Pentagon asking for a national security review of chipmaker Broadcom Inc’s (AVGO.O) $19 billion deal to buy software company CA Technologies (CA.O) was likely fake.

A sign to the campus offices of chip maker Broadcom Ltd, is shown in Irvine, California, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Broadcom said in a statement that the two companies are American, “and there is no basis in fact or law for CFIUS review of our pending transaction.”

The Pentagon is looking into who wrote the fake memo, according to a spokeswoman. She said they considered it likely to be fake based on an initial assessment.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is the government panel that reviews deals for potential national security risks. Panel members include representatives of several U.S. departments, including the Department of Defense and the Treasury Department.

Earlier this year, U.S. President Donald Trump blocked Broadcom’s $117 billion hostile bid for semiconductor peer Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O), arguing it posed a threat to U.S. national security and gave an edge to Chinese companies looking to build next-generation wireless networks.

Since then, Broadcom has redomiciled from Singapore to the United States, placing it formally outside the purview of CFIUS, the government panel that reviews deals for potential national security risks.

Shares of Broadcom were down 2.3 percent at $239.00 and those of CA slipped 1.6 percent at $43.28.

Broadcom announced the deal to buy CA Technologies in July.

Several media reports on Wednesday said U.S. Senator Rand Paul had called for a review of the deal. Paul did not respond to requests for comment.

Reporting by Munsif Vengattil and Sonam Rai in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Susan Thomas

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