Foursquare’s CEO says Yelp is shaking down local businesses

Jeff Glueck compares Foursquare to Robin Hood … so does that make Yelp the Sheriff of Nottingham?

Foursquare started out as a consumer app, and it’s still thinking about the next phase of personal computing. But under new CEO Jeff Glueck, the company is now making most of its money from other big businesses, not everyday people.

Put simply, the company takes the data from its consumer apps — Swarm and Foursquare, which let users check in at and review local businesses — and sells all that data to advertisers and enterprise customers. Glueck threw shade at competitor Yelp, implying its listings are biased.

“It’s almost a Robin Hood thing,” Glueck said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “Unlike Yelp — they have several thousand people who dial the pizzeria and the bar to try and get them to pay each month. Our ratings are really neutral. We recommend the great banh mi sandwich shop or the great ramen place, we’re not biased in any way.”

(Worth noting: Foursquare does sell ads that cause paying businesses to show up first in search results.)

And a quick refresher on English folklore: Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Here’s why it’s “almost” a Robin Hood story:

“At the aggregate, that data is powering Apple Maps or Uber pickups or better widgets in Samsung phones around the world, or Microsoft is using it to make Cortana smarter,” Glueck said. “We’re helping the little guys, but we’re charging the big Fortune 500 companies.”

For the other side of the coin, check out our podcast with Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman from last year:

You can listen to Recode Decode in the audio players above, or subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher. On Wednesday, we’ll have a bonus episode of Decode in which we review some of the most interesting and important things our guests have said about diversity.

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.



If DraftKings and FanDuel merge, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins would be the new CEO

FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles would become chairman of the new company.

Fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel are closing in on a merger, but there are still a number of details to be ironed out.

The most important piece of the puzzle: Deciding who would run the new joint entity.

Asa Mathat for Vox Media
FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles would become chairman of the new company.

That decision has now been made. DraftKings CEO Jason Robins will run the new DraftKings/FanDuel entity as CEO if and when a deal gets done, according to a source familiar with the discussions. FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles would become chairman of the board. Bloomberg first reported that a potential management decision had been made.

That’s not a bad compromise. Robins will get to run things as CEO, but Eccles will still retain some influence given the CEO technically reports to the board.

This deal, which has been long rumored, has still not been announced. But solving this key management issue — both Eccles and Robins have not historically gotten along — seems to be a sign we’ll be hearing about DraftDuel or FanKings in the not-so-distant future.

A FanDuel spokesperson declined to comment. A DraftKings spokesperson sent Recode the same statement they sent on Friday.

As we have stated previously, a potential combination would be interesting to consider. However, as a matter of policy, we don’t comment on rumors or speculation, and there can be no assurances at this time that any discussion about a combination would result in an agreement or merger.


Here are all the things Peter Thiel said about Donald Trump and Gawker on Monday

It was a lot.

Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel is a vocal and financial supporter of Donald Trump; he is also the man who helped bankrupt Gawker media. In the tech and media worlds, that essentially makes him Public Enemy No. 1.

On Monday Thiel set out to defend himself. At an hour-long press event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Thiel answered a bunch of questions about everything from his million dollar donation to Trump’s campaign to his multi-million dollar donation to Hulk Hogan’s lawyers.

Thiel said a lot, so we’ve pulled out some of his more interesting quotes here. We’re still sifting through everything, and will add more as we go.

On whether or not his support of Trump has hurt his business:

“Not in any meaningful way. … It certainly has generated a tremendous amount of discussion. I’ve gotten a lot of pushback from people, to say the least. But I think my friendships, close working business relationships, I think all those are very well intact.”

On Silicon Valley’s disconnect with the rest of the country:

“The story people in Silicon Valley always want to tell is the one in which their specific success as individuals and as companies gets conflated with a story of general success and general progress in the United States. ‘So we’re doing well, therefore our whole civilization is doing well, everybody’s doing well, the whole country’s taken to the next level.’ That’s the narrative people love to tell — specific success linked to general success. I think the truth has been one of more specific success, but more general failure.”

On his $1.25 million donation to Donald Trump, which came shortly after Trump faced backlash for a tape in which he admitted to grabbing women inappropriately:

“I think the tape was in extremely poor taste, extremely inappropriate. I didn’t even think as much about the donation as I should have. My general perspective on this year was that money actually didn’t matter that much. The candidates who raised the most money on the presidential level did incredibly badly. I didn’t even think that Trump needed my money. He hadn’t raised that much money, they didn’t ask me for money, I hadn’t donated. So when they asked me I wasn’t sure they needed it, but I thought I’d go ahead and write them a check. But I didn’t think that much of this connection. Of course, I didn’t think anybody would think that you would donate to a candidate because of the worst thing they’ve done. You support candidates normally because of the things you like about them, not the things you dislike.”

On whether or not Trump would try and repeal LGBT rights if elected President:

“I have not had conversations with Mr. Trump on that specific subject. I do think he represents a sea change from the Republican party of [George W.] Bush. You just look at the way Bush was speaking about gay marriage at every single campaign event in the 2004 election. Everything [Trump’s] indicated is that he’d be quite expansive on gay rights.”

On whether Thiel supports a ban on Muslims coming to the U.S., a stance Trump has campaigned on:

“I don’t support a religious test. I certainly don’t support the specific language Trump has used in every instance. I think one thing that should be distinguished here is that the media always is taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally. I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally. So when they hear things like the Muslim comment, or the wall comment, or things like that, the question is not, ‘are we going to build a wall like the Great Wall of China?’ or ‘How exactly are you going to enforce these tests?’ What they hear is ‘we’re going to have a saner, more sensible immigration policy.’”

On why he funded Hulk Hogan’s sex tape lawsuit against Gawker, and why he kept it private:

“I got involved over a number of years and it was one of these things once you got involved, you started to believe in the justice of the case more and more because there were so many different people you interacted with who had been destroyed, in most cases it was not super prominent people, or super wealthy people. It was people who could not afford to do anything. And one of the striking things was that if you’re middle class, if you’re upper middle class, if you’re a single digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system. It costs too much. This was the modus operandi of Gawker in large part, to go after people who had no chance of fighting back. … My judgement was Mr. Hogan deserved to have his day in court.”

On whether or not he set a dangerous precedent by suing Gawker media into bankruptcy:

“I don’t think so. Let’s start with the facts of the case. It involved a sex tape. If you make a sex tape of someone with their permission, you are a pornographer. If you make a sex tape without their permission, we were told now, you are a journalist. I would submit that as an insult to all journalists. This is not about the first amendment, it is about the most egregious violation of privacy imaginable.”

On whether or not wealthy, powerful people should be able to sue a media organization for a story they disagree with:

“Wealthy people shouldn’t do that. I think if they try they won’t succeed. Gawker was a pretty flimsy business. It was a bad business, it didn’t make that much money. They could have withstood all the lawsuits. They lost because of the enormous verdict that came in against them. That’s why they lost at the end of the day … I was very careful in the Hulk Hogan litigation in picking a lawsuit where the fight was over privacy. We did not even bring a libel action because that was sort of the way I wanted to make clear in the Hogan case that it was not about the media more generally.”

On whether or not he’s currently suing any other media organizations:

“I’ve been involved in the Gawker case and nothing else.”


This drone footage shows the total devastation of an Italian town by Sunday’s earthquake

It was the most powerful earthquake to strike Italy in 36 years.

Drone footage taken by Italy’s fire and rescue agency reveals devastation after a 6.6 magnitude earthquake rocked central Italy Sunday morning. It was the most powerful earthquake to strike Italy in 36 years.

At least 15,000 people are now displaced in the region, where towns and villages are left in ruins, including several historic buildings. No deaths have been reported.

Central Italy is still struggling to rebuild after a 6.2 magnitude quake killed nearly 300 people in August.

Italian officials also deployed drones and robots to survey damage in aftermath of the August quake. Ground robots checked structurally unstable buildings, while drones were flown to investigate and provide a bird’s eye view of the damage. The ground robots were used to create a 3D map of severe damage to historic fourteenth century churches only days after the August earthquake to help plan recovery efforts with Italian authorities.

Drones are becoming a staple of post-disaster recovery efforts, since they are much faster, cheaper and often provide more precise footage than a helicopter.


With the Touch Bar, Apple again puts its faith in third-party developers

And it makes the calculator the killer app. Seriously — you heard it here first.

A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry.

Apple introduced new MacBook Pros last week, and in addition to bright new screens, fast new processors and — of course — ever-thinner form factors, Apple introduced a new hardware feature called the Touch Bar. It’s a high-quality miniature screen that runs the length of the keyboard, replacing the old F-keys row above the numeric keys. In person, this display looks great, and it has a unique coating that makes using it feel super smooth.

As you might expect, Apple’s Mac OS and first-party apps use Touch Bar right away, but if it is going to become a must-have feature worthy of driving Mac buyers to upgrade, third-party developers will also have to embrace it. At launch, Apple already had buy-in from big firms such as Microsoft and Adobe. But the real question is whether the rest of the developer community will follow suit, and if so, how soon?

Sticking to its guns

I’ve lamented before that, after using a number of touch-enabled Windows notebooks, using a non-touch Mac notebook felt like a step backward. It’s easy to see Apple’s decision to put a small touchscreen above the keyboard as a simple, stubborn unwillingness to bend to the larger trends in the PC industry, just as it once resisted larger smartphone screens. To its credit, with the Touch Bar, Apple has put together a touch technology that its executives clearly believe is a better option than a touchscreen.

Apple has long suggested that reaching up to touch the screen of a Mac is unnatural, and that it breaks the usage model of the notebook. In theory, I agree that touching a notebook screen seems unnatural. But I also know, now that I’ve been doing it for a while, that it feels pretty natural to me to reach up to touch the screen to scroll a web page.

Keeping the Touch Bar on the horizontal axis means, as a user, that I’m not reaching for the screen. But it also means I’m looking down from the screen toward the keys to find the specific custom keys that each application serves up on the Touch Bar. I suppose that over time you could develop some muscle memory for the unique Touch Bar keys you use often, but that seems unlikely.

After the Apple keynote on Thursday, I participated in a deep-dive session, and had the chance to spend some time with the new hardware. I can tell you this much: The Touch Bar is addictively enjoyable to use.

It works as you would expect for tasks such as scrolling through pictures and video (fast and fun), changing system settings (precise as physical buttons), and using the calculator (it’s the killer app — seriously, you heard it here first).

But where the Touch Bar really shows promise is with large, complicated apps such as Microsoft Word and Excel, and Adobe Photoshop. These apps tend to have tons of features that get lost in icon-dense ribbons or buried deep in drop-down menus. With Touch Bar, the developer can surface some of these features, making them visible and more easily accessible for the average user. Power users might scoff, but for many people this level of increased visibility could lead to real productivity gains.

Apple tells me that it is very easy for a developer to enable the Touch Bar for their apps, and noted that partners appearing onstage this week did so in a very short amount of time. It will be interesting to see if other major Mac software developers do the same in the coming weeks. And it will be perhaps more telling if smaller developers, with more constrained development time and budgets, decide such an update is worthwhile for their users.

Touch ID Impact or 3D Touch Impact?

What’s not clear to me yet is whether the Touch Bar is one of those new features that will instantly resonate with customers and become a part of their daily lives or if it is merely an interesting technology that makes for a great demo but never really takes off in common use. A good example of the first was Apple’s introduction of Touch ID on the iPhone (and available now on the MacBook Pros with Touch Bar). That technology fundamentally changed the way the vast majority of iPhone users interact with their phone every single time they pick it up. An example of the latter is 3D Touch, an interesting technology that I often forget is on my phone unless I accidently trigger it. 3D Touch may eventually become an integral part of the iPhone interface, but right now it doesn’t feel like most people see it that way. It’s too soon to tell which way the Touch Bar will go.

One thing is clear: Apple sees it as a feature some customers will pay to have, as the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar carries a roughly $300 premium over a comparable model without it (Note: The Touch Bar model also has a better CPU). After a brief hands-on, the Touch Bar feels to me like an important refinement to a tried-and-true interface. I’m not sure yet if it’s better or worse than a touchscreen, but I look forward to testing the hardware in the coming weeks to see how it impacts my usage. And I’ll be watching closely to see which developers embrace the technology and which do not.

Tom Mainelli has covered the technology industry since 1995. He manages IDC’s Devices and Displays group, which covers a broad range of hardware categories including PCs, tablets, smartphones, thin clients, displays and wearables. Mainelli is also driving new research at IDC around the technologies of augmented and virtual reality. Reach him @TomMainelli.


Stitch Fix has hired top Salesforce engineering exec Cathy Polinsky as CTO

The startup’s executive team is now three-quarters women. Yes, that’s a rarity.

Stitch Fix, the online retailer and personal styling service, has hired Salesforce engineering SVP Cathy Polinsky as its new chief technology officer. Polinsky is filling a role vacated by the company’s only other CTO, Jeff Barrett, who left Stitch Fix earlier this year.

Polinsky joins five-year-old Stitch Fix from Salesforce, where she has spent the last seven years. She was most recently the head of engineering for the company’s search division. Polinsky previously spent more than four years at Yahoo and also worked as an engineer at Amazon at the start of her career.

Polinsky said she had hoped to graduate to a CTO role after Salesforce, but thought that time wouldn’t come for a couple more years. The opportunity at Stitch Fix sped up the timeline.

She said she was drawn to the technical challenges facing the retailer as it grows, which reminded her of Amazon’s early days. Polinsky also believed in the value of the Stitch Fix service, having been a customer.

“I’ve loved the brand for a long time,” she said in an interview. “I don’t like shopping, I don’t have time to shop, but I do want to look good.”

Polinsky becomes the sixth woman on Stitch Fix’s eight-person executive team, led by founder and CEO Katrina Lake. Yes, that ratio is a rarity for a fast-growing startup in the Bay Area.

Stitch Fix sells hundreds of millions of dollars worth of clothing a year to customers who use its personal styling service. New customers fill out a style survey and then are mailed a box of five items that a stylist, with the help of an algorithm, has chosen for them. Stitch Fix started out focusing on women, but added a men’s service earlier this year.

Polinksky’s team handles engineering for all customer-facing software, as well as the behind-the-scenes software tools that are used by Stitch Fix stylists and warehouse employees. The company’s algorithm team, which makes the technology that helps stylists personalize their recommendations for individual customers, still reports to Chief Algorithms Officer Eric Colson.


Live updates of Peter Thiel’s defense of Donald Trump

The Facebook board member will also take questions from the National Press Club.

It’s deplorable to wake up at the crack of dawn to hear Peter Thiel rant on about whatever rage is on his mind today. (Death? How the U.S. is on the wrong path? That a little coerced light petting is acceptable if it could make America great again? Unfair special rights for everyone but him? The fact that Nick Denton has demonstrably more style than he ever will?)

But here I sit in my kitchen in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, which is crawling with gays and freaks and straight people who like to dress like Donald Trump but in drag for Halloween to await what the Facebook board member, well-known investor and man on a mission has to say about the Republican presidential candidate.

It is just about to start as various rumpled press people walk across the camera at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. You can watch here along with me, whilst I live blog and look forward to the secret lawsuit that I am pretty sure is coming soon from Thiel. You can also tweet at #NPCLive.