The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories
When very large companies mate, you sometimes get the chance to observe a peculiar ritual after the deal-making dance ends. The exhausted partners pause, look each other in the eye, and declare that they will take on strange new names.
Yesterday we learned that Verizon’s deal to acquire Yahoo’s media business and merge it with its own AOL brand will be consummated by the christening of a new entity, to be named Oath. The Oath logo places special emphasis on that widely beloved punctuation mark, the colon.
Although Business Insider’s initial report left the impression that the Yahoo and AOL names were going to be retired, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong circled back fast to correct everyone. Liberally spraying hashtags like “#TakeTheOath,” he insisted that Oath is not so much a replacement brand as a corporate umbrella for Verizon’s disparate media properties (in similar fashion to Google’s Alphabet holding company).
Whatever the structure, the Oath name just oozes “creepy” (Vanity Fair). It brings to mind a “weird cult” (Gizmodo). The Verge asked: is it a marketing campaign for the upcoming Facebook satire movie The Circle? Or the name of a heavy metal band?
Generally, the best thing you might end up thinking about even the most successful corporate rebranding efforts is, “Gee, that was confusing.” (Think: Alphabet and Google.) The worst conclusion you’re likely to reach is, “They have utterly lost their minds.” (Think: Tribune and Tronc.)
It’s much too soon to tell where on this spectrum Oath will land. So far the meter is bouncing toward crazy. But you never know! Verizon used to be Bell Atlantic. When it merged its wireless unit with Vodafone in 2000 it dubbed the new entity Verizon. Now that once-puzzling name sits on the whole gigantic company. So laugh all you want: Oath might be with us for a long time.
Trump tries to clamp down on skilled-worker visas
The H-1B visa program is a tool that companies have long used to bring engineers from overseas into the U.S. to work in three-year stints. The employers have always said they have to look abroad to fill their rosters because there’s just not enough trained and talented people available domestically. Critics have always maintained that the companies are just trying to get tech talent on the cheap.
The whole H-1B argument is taking on a new urgency and edge with the rise of the Trump era’s close-the-borders fervor. As the annual H-1B lottery opened yesterday, it was still unclear just how far the new administration intends to go in reshaping the visa program.
The federal agency that oversees H-1Bs announced last week that it would no longer consider entry-level computer programming work to qualify as an H-1B “specialty occupation” (The New York Times). The government also warned companies not to discriminate against U.S.-born workers and said it would make site visits at companies with high H-1B numbers (The Washington Post).
The U.S. government grants 85,000 H-1B visas a year, and in recent years Indian outsourcing firms have swamped the application pool with truckloads of applications. It’s a lottery, so that’s like buying more tickets to increase your yield. The latest government moves appear to be aimed more at these outsourcing companies — like Tata and Infosys — than at U.S. tech giants like Microsoft or Google.
Ironically, the application process is still strictly on paper. Applications can be inches thick. Last year the government stopped taking applications a week after it opened the window — it already had received 236,000 submissions.
Tesla: Worth More than Ford, GM (In Stock)
Market-capitalization boasting rights are fleeting. Any company can beat its chest and declares that it’s the “most valuable” firm in its class when its stock hits a pinnacle. Most of the time, that’s just a little pause in the roller-coaster ride of the free market.
This week, stock in Tesla took a sudden leap thanks to some good sales numbers for the most recent quarter. In terms of market cap — the aggregate worth of all the shares in the company at the current market price — that hurdled the little electric-car startup past Ford (yesterday) and GM (today). All the companies are at roughly $50 million in market cap right now, so expect these rankings to keep changing.
Tesla only sold 4000 cars last month (those other companies each sold more than 50 times that). But investors are betting that Elon Musk’s company has a dazzling future.
Don’t write Detroit off yet, though: As the self-driving revolution explodes, the big car companies look like they might wind up on top again. Sure, Google, Uber, and Tesla get all the headlines. But a new report (Wired) finds that it’s actually Ford and GM that are leading the autonomous-vehicle race where it counts: in the likelihood of bringing such products to a mass market.
It’s Official: Your Internet Provider Now Owns You
There was no big ceremony, but yesterday President Trump signed into law that bill Congress recently approved allowing big internet providers to sell your data to advertisers without asking your permission (Recode).
AT&T and Comcast have both been insisting that they didn’t sell your data before and they’re not going to start now. That could be. But then why, exactly, did they lobby so hard for this law? The FCC rule that it strikes down, these companies argue, unfairly discriminated against them by prohibiting them from adopting practices that are the norm for companies like Facebook and Google. But, but: In much of the U.S., people have no choice of ISPs. The service providers already have monopolies, and now they’re looking to be rapacious about it.
If you are just using your high-speed network connection to binge-watch TV shows, maybe you don’t care about this latest privacy breakdown. But if you get that the internet is where you are living much of your life and conducting much of your work today, you might prefer to have some say in who gets to track your activities there.