After a summer hiatus, Codebrief is back! I’ll be experimenting with the format over the coming weeks, so let me know what works and what doesn’t. The general charge will be to “organize the internet“; There’s so much good content out there, my goal is to put it in front of readers each week. Additionally, I wrote two articles this week, one about the Apple Watch Series 4 (below), and one highlighting the history of watchmaker Patek Phillipe, for the rappers out there.
In 2017, Tim Cook announced to the world that the Apple Watch was the “#1 watch in the world” – in revenue – not just in units sold. So how does the new Series 4 move the needle? Unlike most categories, Apple doesn’t make the “nicest watch” (leave that to others (my history of Patek Phillipe). But, wearing an Apple Watch does convey a different type of status, one equally coveted in today’s world: “Taking care of one’s self is the newest status symbol, and the Apple Watch might just be the best way to communicate to others that you live a life worthy of such status… Usually, an Apple product is a symbol that you own the nicest product in that given category (as John Gruber deftly put it in his review). The Apple Watch though, is something slightly different: it’s a symbol that you’re living the nicest life possible.” Read my full take here.
📷 Why Instagram’s founders left: TechCrunch has an in-depth, well-sourced analysis of why Instagram’s two founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, have put in their two weeks notice at parent company Facebook. Perhaps this paragraph explains it most succinctly: “Systrom and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg historically got along, but they had occasional diverging opinions. A source said that a few times a year they’d clash before resolving things. Those clashes included “Sharing back to Facebook. Kevin wanted to keep the sharing on Instagram but at some point Mark wanted content production on Instagram to flow to Facebook. But things got more heated lately. “Recently Mark decided to pull all of the links to Instagram from Facebook.”
In short, Instagram’s co-founders built a spectacular product and sold it to Zuckerberg before they had to worry about making money. The relationship was perfectly symbiotic: Instagram could build its ad business off the back of Facebook’s already well-developed network, and Facebook could continue to grow, even as its main product (Facebook.com, that is) stagnated. And now that it’s increasingly looking like Instagram has won the product battle against Snapchat by introducing Stories, it’s again up to Facebook to figure out how to monetize a well-built Instagram product. Oh, for another tale of founder-is-acquired-then-leaves-Facebook check out Forbes’ great profile of WhatsApp founder (and recent Facebook defector) Brian Acton. Key quote: “Facebook ‘isn’t the bad guy. I think of them as just very good businesspeople.’ Sound like the Instagram story?
🎙 Chris Dixon and Fred Wilson, two of the best VCs in the game, sit down to talk tech trends. If you think podcasting is booming in the U.S., just look at China. Director John Chu, now of Crazy Rich Asians fame, shot a video on the new iPhone XS Max to demonstrate its capabilities. It was shot handheld using the iPhone’s default stabilizing system, with no post-production tricks. Pretty cool when software can make hardware totally obsolete. And a thought-provoking “annotated Twitter thread” from Andressen Horowitz’s Steven Sinofsky, in which he starts by positing: “Alt-view on Amazon global domination of all retail and the last company standing. 🙂 Recent moves by Amazon are an indication not of domination but convergence towards the same drivers of retail success in prior generation. ‘Everyone eventually becomes their parents.’”
⌚️ GQ goes watch shopping with Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding (and damn did that movie blow up). Speaking of watches, Hodinkee discusses (with an assist from John Gruber) the Apple Watch and its implications for the future of watch making (cautiously optimistic?).
👟 Recall the monster Yeezy release we mentioned last week: why are the shoes, once exclusive, so easy to buy now? It’s actually a brilliant lesson in marketing and brand building: “After years of limited releases that have built up the brand’s mystique and enriched resellers, Adidas is finally offering fans (more) equal access to the shoe. In the end, that may do as much for Yeezy’s cult status as originally offering the sneaker to an elite few did.”
🥑 And because Kanye’s always in the news, get ready for both Yandhi and Tha Carter V this Friday – thank god Lil Wayne’s legal troubles are finally over. These financial companies are trying to change the way millienials think about Wall Street. Inside the $2.1 billion deal that brought Versace into Michael Kors (now Capri Holdings). Or, how big fashion is all about consolidating power: get the consumers early (i.e. an affordable Michael Kors handbag) and have the brands in-house to go upmarket as their tastes evolve and reap the rewards (i.e. selling that same consumer a $10k Versace sofa)
🎧 A preview of the soon-to-be-released Super Deluxe Edition of The Beatles (White Album). P.S. If you’re a Beatles fan, Rob Sheffield’s (The Rolling Stone writer behind the previous story) book Dreaming the Beatles is a must read.