Jan. 31 - Feb. 6, 2021
Big Tech is clearly on the side losing a tug-of-war between centralized and decentralized tech right now.
Frankly, this has not been the hottest story among mainstream tech reporters, especially in a week when they fixated on Jeff Bezos's exit as chief executive of Amazon. But signs are mounting of decentralization as a longer-term trend to watch in the industry -- one with potential to rearrange the pecking order of tech's winners and losers.
This is evident in the latest Blockchain 50 list published by Forbes, highlighting the top companies active in crypto. The 2021 edition includes 21 new names, many of them startups, while heavyweights like Facebook, Google, and Amazon have been elbowed out. Forbes notes that the titans "are still active in blockchain but kept lower profiles in the space over the past 12 months."
The week's other headlines:
- On-chain payments are on the rise. Analyst Ryan Todd of The Block noted that dollar-denominated stablecoins saw more transaction volume on public blockchains in January than payments processed by PayPal in all of the fourth quarter. Perhaps not surprisingly, PayPal announced last week that it will form a new crypto business unit to enable crypto payments at all the 29 million merchants on its network. Competitor Visa's CEO said the card giant could eventually process digital currencies over blockchain in the same way it handles traditional money. To that end, Visa announced a new partnership with the digital bank Anchorage to pilot a suite of application programming interfaces (APIs) that will allow traditional banks to offer bitcoin services.
- Ether hit a new all-time high above $1,700. The token was helped by the pending launch of new futures contracts pegged to it this week at the Chicago Merantile Exchange.
- Brave said it has surpassed 25 million monthly active users. Usage of the company's privacy-focused web browser has more than doubled over the last 12 months.
- IBM's blockchain unit has been eviscerated. CoinDesk reports that the once vaunted team is down to a skeleton staff, due largely to the company's wild miss of its revenue targets lately.
- Coinbase has chosen the Nasdaq Stock Market to do its upcoming direct listing, according to The Block.
- GameStop shares plunged 80%, effectively ending the recent short squeeze. In its aftermath, the narrative of small ivestors successfully revolting against Wall Street meanies became murkier. Some small investors who bought GameStop late in its surge lost money as it plummeted last week. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that some of the big winners were hedge funders who began shorting it only after it became a major national story. According to a report in the New York Times, regulators are now looking into the activities of a securities broker at insurance giant MassMutual who used his personal social accounts to encourage coordinated buying of GameStop early on.
- Crypto-focused Grayscale Investments announced its total assets under management have topped $30 billion.
- Blockchain sometimes makes for strange bedfellows. CoinDesk reports that a new $72 million venture fund to invest in crypto companies has an eclectic mix of backers. They include legendary hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, and rapper LL Cool J.
- Can Parler survive without Big Tech? CNBC pondered the question this week, detailing how and why the right-leaning social network faces a rocky road ahead.
- Myanmar's coup produced some unexpected hilarity on social media. As a military junta took over last week, a local woman was determined to maintain her routine of posting outdoor yoga videos. So she shot one in front of a military checkpoint, complete with convoy of black vehicles passing in the background around the 1:40 mark.
That's it for now. Thanks for spending some time with the newsletter today! If you'd like to get updates like this in your inbox every Sunday, please join our email list here.
— Peter A. McKay
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