It was a hugely eventful week thanks to COVID-19, and many of you are no doubt overloaded on the news. It’s okay to take a step back, shut everything off, and do whatever it takes to regain your equilibrium—play some video games, read a good book, watch a bad movie, whatever it takes.
Whether or not you plan on taking a “sanity shutdown,” here are some interesting tidbits from the past few days.
Well, Slack is Having Quite a Month
Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, is having an unusual month, to say the least. Slack was already one of the world’s most popular messaging platforms before the COVID-19 crisis swept the globe. And now, with billions of people working from home, Slack is facing an unprecedented surge in traffic.
Butterfield took a few minutes from the chaos to break down how exactly he’s managing through these complicated times, and it’s well worth reading for anyone who’s ever had to manage a team through a crisis, or even just keep an app running through a spike in demand. It’s quite a long breakdown (by Twitter standards) but well worth your time, so click on it for the full thread:
My day job (also: night job) is CEO of Slack, a publicly traded company with investors to whom I am a fiduciary, 110k+ paying customers of all sizes, and thousands of employees I care about very, very much. The last few weeks have been 🤯😳😢 Here’s what it’s been like. [Thread]
— Stewart Butterfield (@stewart) March 26, 2020
When in doubt, Butterfield seems to conclude, make sure you have the resources and structure to handle those worst-case scenarios. “One thing we can say is that averaging out the best and the worst case to draw a line down the middle doesn’t make any sense,” he wrote. “We want to guide to something we know we can achieve, and that means factoring in the downside scenarios more heavily. And that’s what we did.”
In the third and fourth quarters of last year, Slack added roughly 5,000 new customers. In mid-March (halfway through the first quarter of this year), the company had added 9,000 new customers—and rising. By March 25, some 12.5 million people were using Slack simultaneously, up from 10.5 million a mere six days before. That’s astounding growth. Butterfield claims that uptime remains 99.999 percent despite that added load on the network and infrastructure.
“And if you’re on the frontlines fighting COVID-19, we will do anything we can,” he concluded. “Use it for free, ask us for advice. Email email@example.com. We are profoundly grateful for all you are doing.”
Apple Might Delay Its Next Phone Launch
A new report is suggesting that Apple might delay the launch of the next iPhone by a few months. Apple, of course, declined to confirm that rumor. If you follow the company, you know that it prefers to schedule its annual phone launch for September or October, just as the holiday shopping season begins to ramp up; pushing the date by “a few months” might mean the new iPhone comes out in November or December. But who knows at this point?
Right now, Apple is facing a squeeze from two directions. On one side, spiking unemployment and self-isolation are suppressing consumer demand. On the other, the factories that produce Apple products aren’t fully back online. While that hasn’t stopped Apple from releasing new products (most notably the new iPad Pro), and it likely won’t curtail much of the company’s burgeoning services business, pushing back the next iPhone would represent a major change (and massive challenge) for the company’s operations.
COVID-19 and the Tech Backlash
Before COVID-19 hit, many of the tech industry’s largest companies were facing something of a backlash. Congress excoriated Mark Zuckerberg over Facebook’s data and privacy violations; Amazon was likewise dealing with scrutiny for its competitive practices; and Google was under the microscope for how it did business, including how it handled several sexual-harassment complaints.
But with everyone isolated at home, some of these tech firms are enjoying a quick, positive shift in public opinion. Billions of people are relying on Facebook’s services to communicate; Amazon is shipping essential products as fast as it can; and other tech companies are stepping up with the apps and infrastructure necessary to get us through this crisis.
As Steven Levy summed up in a recent Wired column:
“The pandemic does not make any of the complaints about the tech giants less valid. They are still drivers of surveillance capitalism who duck their fair share of taxes and abuse their power in the marketplace. We in the press must still cover them aggressively and skeptically. And we still need a reckoning that protects the privacy of citizens, levels the competitive playing field, and holds these giants to account. But the momentum for that reckoning doesn’t seem sustainable at a moment when, to prop up our diminished lives, we are desperately dependent on what they’ve built. And glad that they built it.”
Whether that goodwill persists after this situation remains to be seen.
Have a great weekend! Remember to wash those hands!