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Week-in-Review: YouTube’s awful comments and Google’s $1B tech-free investment

Hello, weekend readers. This is Week-in-Review where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.


Last week, I talked about how the top gaming industry franchises were proving immortal and how that could change. I mainly asked questions and I got some great answers in my email. Keep the feedback coming.


An interesting corollary to that conversation was Niantic releasing its Harry Potter title this week, a game that takes liberal gameplay cues from Pokémon GO but attaches it to new IP. The big question is whether Niantic can strike gold twice; here’s an Extra Crunch interview my colleague Greg did with the startup’s CEO.




This week, the biggest tech topic at hand from the big companies was probably Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency, I’d normally dig into that but my colleague Josh did such a bang-up job breaking down Libra and why it’s important that I don’t feel the need to. You can read his explainer below.


Facebook announces Libra cryptocurrency: All you need to know 


In the midst of scouring this week’s headlines, a pretty low-key story from Friday caught my eye detailing how YouTube was testing a version of its app where the comments were hidden by default. Companies test this stuff all the time and it’s hardly a commitment but it did make me reflect on how the nature of user-submitted comments has shifted and how certain platforms develop community cultures based on the way those comments are sorted.



Web comments have been searching for their final form for a while now. Twitter turned comments into the main 140 character dish, but Twitter’s influence is getting baked into a ton of platforms. Sites like Instagram are starting to gain a greater understanding of how users want responses to complement their content and the opportunities they’ve seized on really showcase the user-submitted opportunities being wasted by platforms like YouTube and Twitch.


YouTube downgrading their comment visibility kind of highlights what a cesspool the company has allowed them to turn into, but rather than being a place where people are vile, the platform just hasn’t grown them into something useful or exciting over the past decade.


As Instagram continues to become a place where more and more famous users interact with each other, the comment fields are becoming the place where users “bond” with the accounts they follow even if they’re still lurking around and reading how the account responds to other high-profile users. 


This is how public channels with big audiences should operate. Sure, it’s partially a result of the culture of the platform, but algorithms can shape these cultures.


The issue is so many other comment systems are seemingly organized to treat anonymous users, real-name users and verified personalities the same. Ascribing an equal weight to all of these types of content is kind of a surprisingly quaint way to handle user-generated content, it’s also a great way for platforms to find engagement ceilings and the limits of what spam can become.


You don’t have to go searching far through TechCrunch’s stories to find some good old-fashioned “how I earned $72/hour working from home” spam, but just because something isn’t spam doesn’t means it’s worthwhile. Platforms have developed their own comment memes based on what can play the algorithms, it’s not particularly useful, “Like if Jimmy Fallon brought you here,” “Like if you’re watching this in 2019.”



Platforms organized around building communities have an incentive to elevate anonymous voices and foster relationships and dialogue. Back in the Gawker days, most of my time on the site was spent digging through the comments looking for commenters I recognized and enjoying their dialogue. That’s what Reddit has become in a lot of ways, a place where the posts are secondary to the reactions, but the forum systems of web 1.0 aren’t made for such general influencer-focused platforms of 2019 and it’s an area where there are a lot of wasted opportunities.


YouTube comments have garnered this reputation for being so laughable bad because the company has let the average of what’s submitted define them, acting as a one-size fits all for platforms that are decidedly more dynamic.


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lucas@techcrunch.com


On to the rest of the week’s news.





Trends of the week


Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context.



  • Tesla paints it black (for a price)

    Tesla is looking to keep those margins hopping and there next play to make your Tesla a bit more pricey is by making the white paint job on its vehicles, making white the standard color. It may seem like a rough deal, especially when you can a monitor stand for your new Apple Display for the same price. Read more here about why Elon did this.

  • Google drops a B on the Bay

    To those living in the arena of Silicon Valley, it’s no secret that the housing shortage is hurting wallets. How much of that is big tech’s fault and how much of it is the local government’s fault is hard to tell at times, but certainly neither is doing as much as they could. This week Google pledged a whopping $1 billion worth of assistance to the problem. Forking over $750 million worth of real estate and a quarter-billion dollars worth of funding for residential projects is quite the pledge, let’s see how the money gets spent. You can read more here.

  • Slate failures

    Google’s Pixel Slate tablet was such hot garbage that the company is leaving the tablet game for good and focusing on its Pixel laptop line instead. Read more here.



GAFA Gaffes


How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of awfulness:



  1. Apple recalls some MacBooks:

    [Apple issues voluntary recall of 2015 MacBook Pro batteries due to overheating concern]

  2. Google swats down shareholder vote:

    [Google defeats shareholders on ‘Dragonfly’ censored search in China]

  3. Facebook in hot water over fake review sales: 

    [Facebook and eBay told to tackle trade in fake reviews]

  4. Maps keeping it real fake:

    [Google responds to report that concluded there are millions of fake business listings on Maps]




Image via Getty Images / Feodora Chiosea


Extra Crunch



Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. TechCrunch’s Ron Miller wrote a story asking VCs and CEOs just how much startup founders should be paying themselves.



Startup founders need to decide how much salary is enough


“…Murat Bicer,  general partner at CRV,  says you could probably ask 10 VCs this question, and get 10 different answers, but he sees the range at the low end of perhaps $125,000 and at the high end maybe $200,000, depending on the location of the startup and the cost of living in a particular city…”


Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers. This week TechCrunch writers talked a bit about keeping your H-1B status and how you should be negotiating your term sheet with strategic investors.



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