Welcome to The Long View—where we peruse the news of the week and strip it to the essentials. Let’s work out what really matters.
This week: The conviction of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes leads to greater scrutiny of startups, higher-frequency 5G NR is creeping towards reality, and Mozilla gets criticized for promoting climate-harming scams.
1. Holmes Case Causes Valley Rethink?
First up this week: Elizabeth Holmes has been found guilty of defrauding Theranos investors. But how will the affair change Silicon Valley’s startup-and-funding culture?
Analysis: Don’t fake it—just make it.
This could be a seminal moment, causing investors to look more closely at startup founders and their outlandish promises. On the other hand, key Theranos investors—e.g., Murdoch, Cox, DeVoss—hardly fit the mold of Silicon Valley VCs.
David Streitfeld: The Epic Rise and Fall
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s creation … Jay Gatsby … was a bootlegger [and] sold fake bonds. Ms. Holmes chose Silicon Valley, the last and greatest of all human dreams. [She] was a natural salesperson, as good at bending reality as Steve Jobs himself.
She and her deputy and boyfriend, Ramesh Balwani … thought they could brazen it out in the Silicon Valley tradition until they had something that actually worked. [But] the verdict signaled the end of an era. In Silicon Valley, where the line between talk and achievement is often vague, there is finally a limit. … It is an epic rise and fall that will be chewed over in the coffee shops and juice bars of Palo Alto, Calif., until the tech industry departs [for] off-world colonies.
So where does this conviction leave … her investors and former fans? Ripe for the next huckster that comes along, probably. Some Silicon Valley promises are so sweet we just can’t get enough of them. Immortality. Crypto. Flying cars. Mars. Digital harmony. Wealth beyond compare.
Think different, thinks DeanonymizedCoward:
[There’s a] fine line between bombastic marketing spam, “fake it ’til you make it” pitches, and outright fraud. … The first is repugnant and sometimes unethical, but generally legal.
[But] If your product requires bull**** to get funded—even if it ultimately works—you’re a fraud. … Regulatory reforms … and a sort of corporate death penalty … can fix a lot of this by making it less financially practical to engage in ****ty behavior.
Who else is to blame? Ask DS999:
I am sure some of her investors didn’t really care whether it worked. They just wanted to get in early, ride the hype train up, and sell before actual results mattered.
2. FAA and 5G Carriers Kiss and Make Up
Higher-frequency 5G NR is creeping towards reality in the U.S., thanks to the FAA backing down. After the aviation regulator had vetoed C-band deployment—based on precious little evidence—it looks like as much as 280 MHz of extra spectrum is now ready to switch on.
Analysis: Nomadic DevOps gets more bandwidth
While band 77 is nowhere near the much-vaunted “FR2” extremely high frequency bands, this is a useful chunk of extra spectrum for mobile and nomadic apps. Next stop: ubiquitous Ka-band.
Jon Brodkin: FAA agrees not to seek any more 5G delays
The Federal Aviation Administration tentatively agreed not to seek any more 5G delays from AT&T and Verizon, potentially ending a battle over the aviation industry’s unproven claim that 5G … will interfere with airplane altimeters. [Their] C-Band spectrum licenses are for the frequencies from 3.7 GHz to 3.98 GHz.
The deal incorporates voluntary commitments that AT&T and Verizon previously made, including “C-Band radio exclusion zones” around airports for six months. [They] modeled the exclusion zones after those used in France, which are 910×2100 meters.
Assuming there are no further problems, AT&T and Verizon would be able to use their spectrum licenses without extra restrictions after July 5. … President Biden applauded the agreement … calling it “a significant step in the right direction.”
In summary? Here’s Dieter Bohn:
The agency in charge of airplanes is mad about wireless things. But the agency in charge of wireless things and the companies that make them lost a game of chicken.
GREAT JOB AMERICA. … I always said I wanted Internet Service Providers to be Dumb Pipes, but I never expected them to be this dumb.
Has anyone read the FAA’s detailed report? bburdge has:
I can see why the FAA is backing down here now, it only makes sense when your key report could be paraphrased as: “We got a couple grad students to run some basic model comparisons … using altimeter data from the aviation industry (with a proven track record of lying to us) and then went golfing for eight months before publishing … but didn’t bother … to actually test anything.”
3. Mozilla Forgets its Values
Firefox custodian, the Mozilla Foundation, has angered many by promoting a “grossly irresponsible” “Ponzi scheme” that harms the environment. What is this awful thing? I hear you ask. It’s cryptocurrency.
Analysis: Imaginary money is bad—is this the last straw for Mozilla?
Less than a year ago, Mozilla said it wants to be carbon-neutral, but it’s already reneged on that promise: Distributed proof-of-work systems require … well, work. And that work uses ridiculous amounts of energy per DeFi transaction. Electricity production is a zero-sum game, so cryptocurrencies and NFTs cause climate change by emitting ridiculous amounts of CO₂e.
Liam Proven: Mozilla founder blasts browser maker
A few days ago, Mozilla Foundation invited netizens on Twitter to send in cryptocurrency donations. … This move by the Firefox browser maker rapidly drew criticism.
As recently as September, Moz’s web-standards lead Tantek Çelik slammed cryptocurrencies as being unsustainable, stating: “[They] are harmful for sustainability. … Their energy requirements grow without any discernible upper bound, which is grossly irresponsible given the global environmental crisis.”
Mozilla has accepted crypto-coin donations for years, perhaps as part of its long-ongoing efforts to alienate its own users: It’s only the payment provider that changed.
Chief among critics was Jamie “jwz” Zawinski:
I founded Mozilla and I’m here to say **** you and **** this. Everyone involved in the project should be witheringly ashamed of this decision to partner with planet-incinerating Ponzi grifters.
Stop saying you were promised flying cars. Unless you were born in 1935, you weren’t promised flying cars, you were promised a cyberpunk corporate dystopia.
It’s a shark-jump moment thinks Jeremy Keith:
The most convincing argument I’ve heard yet for switching away from Firefox as my main browser comes from Mozilla. I wasn’t expecting that plot twist.