But they’re not dead yet

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Restaurants are reopening and sprawling onto sidewalks. New York City’s hottest spots are yo-yo-ing as Mayor Bill de Blasio weighs the safety of indoor dining, while the craps tables in Las Vegas casinos have reopened as if we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic that’s already killed half a million worldwide. Michelin-starred restaurants such as Noma have rebranded as burger joints to keep business going, and countless others have signed up for UberEats, Postmates, and Deliveroo. But there’s one place where the fryers have fallen silent and the serving spoons have been downed.

Buffets across the globe have…

With commercial flights grounded, the well-connected rely on these planes to move their precious cargo — from PPE to gold bullion

Around the world, air traffic has nearly ground to a halt. Commercial planes sit lined up on the tarmac, grounded by canceled routes and closed borders. The airline industry is forecasting slow business for the coming year, and some companies may not survive the downturn at all.

But some planes are still flying, and they are carrying precious cargo: For the past few months, charter planes have been shipping people and possessions to where they’re needed most. Charter planes provide a shadow world of transportation, moving essential cargo like personal protective equipment and medical staff, alongside less-than-essential cargo for the…

Keeping the internet running smoothly during the coronavirus crisis isn’t business as usual

An Openreach engineer inside the broadband exchange at the Openreach training center in Peterborough, U.K. Photo: Joe Giddens — PA Images/Getty Images

Jamie Goate first started setting up phone connections and broadband links 20 years ago, when he troubleshot dial-up internet connections and routed copper phone wires back to junction boxes. But he didn’t get his biggest job until about a month ago.

The U.K. National Health Service (NHS) had called his current employer — Openreach, a subsidiary of the multinational telecommunications firm BT Group — to help it set up field hospitals for treating Covid-19 patients inside existing conference centers. “They didn’t really understand what they needed,” says Goate. “It was just a call to arms.” Goate arrived on the site…

‘It’s a land grab for worker surveillance’

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Just about every office worker who still has a job is now working from home, growing weary of Zoom, and in many cases struggling to juggle childcare with remote meetings and deadlines.

But there’s a deeper worry bubbling under: Working from home — and the hodgepodge of sticky-tape solutions set up in a hurry to try and make working work — could pose a significant privacy risk.

“It’s a land grab for worker surveillance,” says Lilian Edwards, a professor who studies internet law at Newcastle University in the U.K. …

Advertising rates on the platform have dropped significantly during the coronavirus pandemic

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Newspapers, websites, and TV channels have all been decimated by the coronavirus. And YouTubers are also feeling the pinch.

While boredom-inducing stay-at-home orders may be good for YouTube channel traffic, increasing by 15%, according to the New York Times, YouTubers say that the rates companies pay to advertise on their videos are dropping significantly. That means that despite increased audiences, some YouTubers are making less money.

Carlos Pacheco, a former media buyer turned YouTube adviser, says that across 180 YouTube channels he works with — which have a total of nearly 68 million subscribers worldwide across a range of different…

To prevent the spread of misinformation, the platform has been prioritizing traditional news sources

Photo illustration. Images source: Viaframe/Getty

YouTube, like other social networks, has sent home its contractor-staffed human moderation teams in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. That means moderation decisions are increasingly left to an automated system that no one is really sure is up to the job. To make the job easier, YouTube has decided to prioritize what Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s CEO, called in a letter to creators “authoritative sources” in any search terms related to coronavirus.

That has taken effect: Search the site now for “coronavirus” and you’ll mostly be served up clips from established news programs and publications. In the U.K., that…

As studios pump out the type of content the site originally intended to subvert, the barrier to success rises

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When T-Series surpassed celebrity influencer PewDiePie in YouTube subscribers last year, most people in the West hadn’t yet heard of the Bollywood movie and music studio. An outspoken and controversial independent creator based in the U.K. had been displaced by a media monolith based in India.

The coup is a sign of how YouTube is changing. For the first half of its existence, the company had a slogan that sat under the logo on its homepage: “Broadcast Yourself.” It emphasized the individualistic, democratizing idea of the platform: Anyone with a camera and an internet connection could upload videos and potentially…

YouTube has made more than 50 policy changes in the last 24 months

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Fifteen years ago, Jawed Karim, Chad Hurley, and Steve Chen registered the domain name YouTube.com. The premise of the platform, the co-founders explained at the time, was “giving you a glimpse into other people’s lives.” Like many nascent internet projects, the founders were pro-free speech and instilled a hands-off ethos about what users could upload to the site, according to an early employee who spoke to me on the basis of anonymity.

Today the platform is hugely different. YouTube is the second-most visited site on the entire internet, and a major media force of its own. It’s the hub of…

It’s not just about throwing massive contracts at top streaming talent

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When Facebook launched its gaming creator program in January 2018, the reaction was muted. Facebook Watch, the company’s attempt to take on YouTube, had largely flopped, even in spite of increasingly desperate attempts to get users to click on the tab (the company eventually allowed users to turn off the infamous red dots in November 2019). And there was little indication that Facebook Gaming, even with influential players streaming their gameplay via the creator program, would ever be any different.

And yet two years later, Facebook is the fastest-growing live game streaming platform in the world, with 210% growth in…

It’s not about how many users you have. It’s about how long a half-life your videos have off the platform

Image: Chris Stokel-Walker

So Byte happened this weekend. Dom Hofmann’s shortform video sharing app, the successor to the long-lamented Vine, launched with a flurry of excitement on social media as people wondered if it would recapture the success of the original app.

Of course, it’s been three years since Hofmann’s previous app had its last hurrah, and in the intervening time we’ve seen the conversation around online video dominated by TikTok. (There’s a certain amount of hubris in Hofmann refusing to rename his long-trailed app, despite the fact that its likely largest competitor is owned by a company called Bytedance.) …

Chris Stokel-Walker

UK-based freelancer for The Guardian, The Economist, BuzzFeed News, the BBC and more. Tell me your story, or get me to write for you: stokel@gmail.com

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