WhatsApp won’t stop users from calling or messaging contacts if they don’t agree to its new privacy policy

WhatsApp will no longer limit users from sending and receiving messages if they refuse a new privacy policy.

  • WhatsApp previously said it would limit functionality to users who refused a new privacy policy.
  • Now, the platform is reversing its decision, and says users won’t be forced to accept the policy.
  • The policy change has drawn criticisms, with some users migrating to Signal and Telegram.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Backpedaling, WhatsApp will no longer limit users from sending and receiving messages if they refuse a new privacy policy.

WhatsApp said earlier this month, that users who refused a new privacy policy would no longer receive calls or notifications, limiting functionality.

But for now, in a confusing rollout, WhatsApp has changed course, and it won’t restrict any functionality to users who don’t accept the policy, which went into effect on May 15, according to The Next Web.

WhatsApp also published an updated statement to its Help Center: “No one will have their accounts deleted or lose functionality of WhatsApp on May 15th because of this update,” it said.

The new privacy policy was originally planned for February, but was delayed by three months after critics claimed the update would allow the app to share more personal data with Facebook, WhatsApp’s parent company. WhatsApp has said the updated terms only apply to messaging business accounts, enabling businesses to link up with Facebook’s platform more easily.

Users migrated to rival encrypted messaging apps, like Signal and Telegram, after Whatsapp first introduced the policy in January. Downloads for Signal were up 4,200% from the previous week after WhatsApp first sent users a notification about the changes.

In January, India reportedly asked WhatsApp to reverse its new policy change. India is WhatsApp’s biggest market, and holds more than 400 million of the app’s 2 billion users.

WhatsApp did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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Mark Zuckerberg’s existential product crisis

Hello, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider Tech newsletter, where we break down the biggest news in tech, including:

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This week: Mark Zuckerberg’s existential product crisis

Mark Zuckerberg

Steve Jobs famously said Apple makes products that consumers don’t know they want. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a slightly different challenge: He’s creating products that people are explicitly telling Facebook they absolutely do not want.

For an organization founded on the “move fast” credo, all this product pushback is more than a little inconvenient. But this would be a problem for any company. It’s tough to grow a business when news of your next product drop doesn’t cause excitement but rather, alarm and opposition.

Sure, a lot of the pushback is coming from politicians and advocacy groups. But that’s the thing about being a network of platforms with 3.45 billion users: everyone is a user; and a lot of important users don’t want any more of what Facebook has to offer.

What Facebook is dealing with is much more existential than the typical constraints companies face when they get too big and powerful. Regulators can stop companies from acquiring other companies, and big businesses will often pull back on M&A when they’re under regulatory scrutiny. But a tech company can’t stop launching new products. In the fast-moving tech market, that’s a death sentence.

And so Facebook can only press forward, making concessions but not giving up. The scaled-back Diem digital currency is expected to launch in the US any day now, Instagram boss Adam Mosseri vows not to back down on IG for kids even if he gets “slapped around” for it, and WhatsApp is warning users that if they don’t agree to its new privacy terms they’ll lose functionality.

Take this product or be punished is an odd pitch, especially for a product you’re giving away for free. But if Facebook has taught us anything in its 17 years it’s that in the internet’s free consumer economy the most valuable asset a business can have is trust. Facebook treated that asset like it had no value and squandered it for years. Now it’s become Facebook’s biggest liability.

All the news that’s fit for profit

Chamath Palipahitiya

The hottest new thing tech VCs have discovered is: themselves.

A growing number of venture capital firms, including Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock, are becoming mini-media outlets in their own right and “going direct.” That means using things like podcasts, blogs, Twitter, and Clubhouse to speak to an audience directly, controlling the narrative and presenting information on your own terms, rather than relying on the press.

The result has been a lot of shop talk – some of it quite interesting – and self-promotion. As Becky Peterson reports, going direct is also a powerful way for tech elites to push political messages. In California, VCs who are bankrolling efforts to recall the governor and liberal district attorneys are also using their celebrity status with the tech industry to spread the message on their podcasts and other direct media channels.

“In the case of the “All-In” crew and some other prominent VC activists, an impulse toward iconoclastic contrarianism and self-assured sermonizing honed on social media has meshed with tech riches to create a potent new political force. Against the backdrops of liberal San Francisco and Los Angeles, the VCs have cast themselves as brave voices taking a stand against corruption and crime enabled by governments run by ‘far-left radicals.'”

Read the full story here:

Silicon Valley VCs are at war with the ‘far left radicals’ running California

District Attorney of San Francisco Chesa Boudin and Governor of California Gavin Newsom in the foreground with Silicon Valley VCs David Sacks, Cyan Banister, and Chamath Palihapitiya in the background with the California state flag between them.
From left: Chesa Boudin, District Attorney of San Francisco; Gavin Newsom, governor of California; David Sacks; Cyan Banister; and Chamath Palihapitiya.

Vernacular watch

“Unregretted Attrition”: The management principle at Amazon that business units should shed a certain portion of employees each year. As Eugene Kim and Ashley Stewart report, Amazon managers can go to extreme, and absurd, lengths to meet their URA targets, including hiring schlubs who aren’t up to snuff just to have bodies on hand to sacrifice.

“We might hire people that we know we’re going to fire, just to protect the rest of the team,” one manager told Insider.

Recommended readings:

Google’s No. 2 man Prabhakar Raghavan- and the boss of its most important product – is a quiet executive in charge of 21,500 people. Insiders reveal what it’s like to work with him.

Mental health startups have raised a record $1.9 billion in 2021 as COVID-19 pushes VC investors further into the space

Apple’s recent privacy changes are already wreaking havoc on Facebook advertisers, and ad buyers are scrambling to manage the disruptions

Hot German grocery delivery startup Gorillas has lost its 2nd cofounder in 3 months

Tech CEOs are savagely mocking WeWork’s chief exec for saying the ‘least engaged’ employees enjoy working from home

Here’s what startup employees with stock options should expect if their company goes public through a SPAC

Not necessarily in tech:

I took the personality test billionaire Ray Dalio rolled out to his hedge fund employees with the help of top psychologists. The results were mortifying – and accurate.

Thanks for reading, and if you like this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues they can sign up here to receive it.

– Alexei

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Tim Cook reportedly told Mark Zuckerberg that Facebook should delete all data it collected after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and he was ‘stunned’ by the suggestion

Tim Cook Mark Zuckerberg
Apple CEO Tim Cook, left, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, right.

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly had an unpleasant meeting in 2019.
  • They discussed Facebook’s user privacy after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the NYT reported.
  • Zuckerberg was said to be “stunned” by Cook’s proposed solution to delete any data Facebook had collected.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

In 2019, amidst a flock of billionaires gathered at the annual Sun Valley retreat in Idaho, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly had an ill-fated meeting.

Zuckerberg asked for Cook’s advice on dealing with user privacy issues in the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where data from over 50 million Facebook accounts was harvested, the New York Times reported on Monday, and Cook’s response “stunned” the young Facebook CEO.

Cook reportedly instructed Zuckerberg to delete all of the user data his company collects from outside of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

It was tantamount to Cook telling Zuckerberg that Facebook’s core business was “untenable,” according to the report.

Facebook notoriously tracks its users all over the web, even when they’re not using a Facebook service. That data is critical to Facebook advertising sales, which is core to how the social media giant makes money.

Read more: Apple is poised to rewrite its privacy rules for advertisers – here’s what’s at stake for all the players

Facebook and Apple have sparred publicly for years over privacy issues, going back to at least 2014 when Cook called out the business models of companies like Google and Facebook in an interview with Charlie Rose. “I think everyone has to ask, how do companies make their money? Follow the money,” he said. “And if they’re making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried. And you should really understand what’s happening to that data.”

Most recently, Apple appeared to take a direct shot at Facebook and with its iOS 14.5 update, coming this week, that will allow iPhone users worldwide to opt-out of tracking. In short, the new update enables iPhone users to stop Facebook from tracking them outside of Facebook’s own apps: The same suggestion Cook is said to have given Zuckerberg back in 2019.

Neither Apple nor Facebook responded to a request for comment as of publishing.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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Doctors and COVID-19 patients in India are turning to social media in desperate pleas for oxygen, blood plasma, and ICU beds

india second covid wave
India hits world record COVID-19 cases.

  • Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp have been flooded with desperate calls for COVID-19 help from people in India.
  • Doctors, politicians, and patients are seeking oxygen, ICU beds, and blood plasma.
  • India’s COVID-19 daily cases hit a world record on Sunday, with 350,000 new cases.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In India, social-media platforms are flooded with requests for oxygen, intensive care unit (ICU) beds, and blood plasma amid the deepening COVID-19 crisis.

India recorded more than 350,000 daily COVID-19 cases on Sunday, breaking the world record for the fifth consecutive day.

Doctors, politicians, and COVID-19 patients and their loved ones are using hashtags #CovidSOS and #COVIDEmergency2021 in Twitter posts to plead for supplies, The Verge first reported. Groups on WhatsApp and Facebook such as HumanKind Global are full of people searching for blood plasma and oxygen to help COVID-19 patients, The Verge reported.

Hospitals in the country are struggling to cope with shortages of beds and oxygen supplies – some say they only have a few hours’ of oxygen supply left. Crematoriums are also starting to melt from operating for so long.

Prashant Kanojia, member of the Rashtriya Lok Dal party in India and a former journalist, on Sunday tweeted with the hashtag #CovidSOS that a hospital in Meerut, north India, needed urgent oxygen supplies.

Read more: Hospitals in India are turning patients away and COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing. But Prime Minister Modi is on the campaign trail and ignoring the crisis.

In response to a thread by journalist Swati Chaturvedi to amplify people’s requests for help, one Twitter user said her relative was a critical cancer patient who couldn’t be transferred to ICU because there were no beds available.

Another Twitter user replied to the thread, saying that their friend’s father was “extremely critical” and needed a ventilator urgently in the National Capital Region of India.

Vinay Srivastava, an Indian journalist who had COVID-19, tweeted on April 16 that his oxygen levels had dropped and that he needed medical help. He was denied healthcare because he didn’t have the right paperwork, local media reported. He died the day after his Twitter plea.

Hemant Rajaura, a health reporter for Hindustan Newspaper, tweeted on Sunday that the oxygen supply in Irene Hospital in New Delhi had dropped, endangering patients.

The day before, he tweeted that Delhi needed 700 tons of oxygen to cope with demand, but that only 330 tons was reaching the city.

The US on Sunday said it would provide supplies for testing, drugs, personal protective equipment, ventilators, and vaccines to help India fight its current coronavirus wave. Less than 2% of India’s population is fully vaccinated.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to hide online status on WhatsApp to protect privacy

looking at phone texting outside night
WhatsApp’s online or “last seen” status tells other users when you’re using the app, but you can turn it off.

  • You can hide your WhatsApp online status if you don’t want others to see when you’re online.
  • WhatsApp normally allows everyone to view your online status, but it’s easy to change in the app’s settings.
  • If you hide your online status on WhatsApp, you also won’t be able to see other people’s online status.
  • This story is a part of Insider’s Guide to WhatsApp.

If you use WhatsApp regularly, chances are you’ve spotted the login status next to the name of some of your contacts. Though WhatsApp makes your online status visible to everyone by default, you can easily change it.

WhatsApp online status

WhatsApp online status allows users to see the last time their contacts were active on the platform and whether they are currently using the app.

When someone is “online,” it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve seen your message – it simply means they’re currently using the app. “Last seen” refers to the last time the person used WhatsApp and also doesn’t mean that they have seen your most recent message. The only way to tell if someone has seen your message is the blue checkmarks beside the message.

If you don’t want your WhatsApp contacts to know your “last seen” or online status, you can easily hide your status from everyone, or make it available to only your contacts, through the app’s settings.

Here’s how to hide your online status on WhatsApp.

How to turn off active status on Facebook and Messenger to appear offline everywhere you’re logged inHow to change your privacy settings on WhatsApp and protect yourselfHow to change your online status on Discord using your computer20 of the best WhatsApp tips and tricks for getting the most out of the popular messaging app

Read the original article on Business Insider

Thousands of users are reporting issues with Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook apps

Facebook-owned WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging services in the world, with over 1.2 billion users.

  • WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger went down on Friday.
  • DownDetector reported crashes beginning around 1:30 p.m. ET.
  • Facebook was not immediately available for additional comment.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger apps crashed on Friday.

The Facebook-owned sites and Messenger went down around 1:30 p.m. EST according to DownDetector. Facebook’s desktop site appeared to be working.

The outage appeared to impact users in numerous countries, including Mexico and India, according to comments on DownDetector.

The tech giant has not released a statement regarding the outages yet. Facebook was not immediately available for additional comment.

This is a developing story.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Facebook announced a new plan to help users make COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Mark Zuckerberg
  • Facebook partnered with Boston Children’s Hospital to help users find nearby COVID-19 vaccine sites.
  • The tech firm will also label all COVID-19 vaccine posts with World Health Organization information.
  • “The data shows the vaccines are safe and they work,” Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook announced a plan on Monday morning to help get people on the platform vaccinated.

Facebook partnered with Boston Children’s Hospital to build a tool that helps American users find nearby vaccine sites. They’ll see the hours of operation and contact information for vaccine sites, and can access an external link to make an appointment.

The VaccineFinder tool will be offered in 71 different languages. Insider has reached out to Facebook for more information on the exact timing of the tool’s rollout.

More than 69.6 million adults in the US – or about 27% of the population over 18 – has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose as of March 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci said between 70% to 90% of Americans must get vaccinated to reach herd immunity, or when uncontrolled spread stops.

The number of daily vaccines administered has shot up in the last month, but some eligible groups, like non-English speaking immigrants and seniors without internet access, still struggle with getting vaccine appointments.

Facebook will also release a new Instagram Stories sticker for users who got vaccinated to share their experience with followers, and lauch WhatsApp chatbots in Brazil, Indonesia, and Argentina that help users make vaccine appointments.

“The data shows the vaccines are safe and they work,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Monday. “They’re our best hope for getting past this virus and getting back to normal life.”

In addition to helping users make vaccine appointments, Facebook announced a new label that contains information from the World Health Organization. Facebook will roll out the label on “all posts generally about COVID-19 vaccines” as a way to prevent misinformation from spreading. The vaccine label will appear globally in English, Spanish, Indonesian, Portuguese, Arabic, and French.

Facebook has made moves throughout the pandemic to curb misinformation, but false claims regarding COVID-19 on social media have marred the country’s response. Avaaz, a US non-profit, found 84% of Facebook posts containing medical misinformation were left online with no labels or warnings. Insider’s Rob Price reported doctors with verified Facebook accounts shared fake claims about COVID-19 with their hundreds of thousands of followers.

“We’re a year into a global pandemic, to which vaccines offer our only way out, and these accounts have been spreading falsehoods to deter people from getting vaccinated consistently,” Imran Ahmed, CEO of the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate, recently told Insider. “Their lies, and Facebook’s giving them a platform, have almost certainly cost lives.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

India has reportedly threatened to jail Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp employees if the firms don’t give up data regarding the farmers protests

Indian Farmers Protest
Members of human rights organisations hold placards in support of farmers during a protest against the central government’s recent agricultural reforms in Amritsar on December 10, 2020.

  • India is threatening to jail Twitter and Facebook employees, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • The threats are to pressure the tech companies to give up data related to the farmers protests.
  • Indian farmers have been protesting since late 2020 after the country passed agriculture reforms. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

India is reportedly threatening to jail WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook employees to pressure the firms into sharing data related to the farmers protests.

Sources told The Wall Street Journal the tech companies had been reluctant to provide India with the user data it requested. 

Indian farmers have staged a mass protest – among the largest in history – since late last year to demand the government repeal legislation that allowed farmers to sell directly to private buyers instead of selling to the government. Farmers argue selling to private buyers would drive down prices because the government guarantees a minimum price on all goods.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushed for the farming laws to modernize Indian agriculture, but the widespread protest has riled a key voting bloc. The tense protest has resulted in violence, arrests, and the government’s decision to cut internet for farmers.

The Indian government wrote letters to Facebook and Twitter citing specific employees in the country who risk jail time if the firms don’t comply, per The Journal.

Tech firms and the Indian government have clashed on multiple occasions during the demonstration. Twitter restricted, and later quietly restored, the accounts of journalists and activists sharing information about the protest. The firm then said it suspended up to 500 accounts flagged by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

“I politely remind the companies, whether it is Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or WhatsApp or anyone, they are free to work in India, do business, but they need to respect the Indian Constitution,” Ravi Shankar, the justice and technology minister, told India’s parliament.

Last year, Facebook invested a record $5.7 billion in the Indian telecommunications firm Jio, an move that could extend its reach into the world’s second most populous country. India has more Facebook users than any other country, per CNN.

Facebook and Twitter did not provide additional comment to Insider. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

3 ways the US economy is uniquely positioned for a great new era in the 2020s

cheers toast.JPG
America is ready for a new era that won’t be like times past.

Vaccines are rolling out and picking up speed. There’s finally a light at the end of America’s long coronavirus tunnel as massive advances in public health provide reason to be optimistic about 2021.

But the world that reopens won’t be the same one that shut down nearly a year ago, and the good news could go beyond a return to “normalcy:” the American economy of the 2020s could be the best in decades, with real optimism about enough jobs being created to put 10 million-plus Americans back to work. 

The pandemic has already transformed the personal and professional worlds in ways that will have long-lasting repercussions.

First, the Biden administration wants to “go big” on a $1.9 trillion stimulus that could supercharge the economy when the world comes out of lockdown (without overheating it), following more than $3 trillion of stimulus spending in 2020. Second, regulatory actions announced at the end of the Trump era have the potential to reshape the tech sector that dominated the first two decades of the 21st century and still dominates the stock market.

And finally, the world of work was changed to a largely remote one, with ripple effects for both worker productivity and across the housing market. With office workers doing their jobs from home, the era of the “superstar city,” where New York and San Francisco hoovered up the best jobs and talent, may have ended in 2020. 

President Joe Biden promised in mid-February that big stimulus spending would bring the economy “roaring back” but all of these changes may add up to more than just a new “roaring twenties,” but a whole new economic era.

Because of prior stimulus, American consumers are sitting on approximately $1.6 trillion of pent-up spending after 11 months of solitary leisure activities, according to Commerce Dept. figures released on Friday.

In other words, the boom is coming. And based on the three drivers outlined below, the ensuing recovery could usher in a wholly unique era of American economic prosperity.

(1) Wall Street sees stimulus sparking a boom

As momentum gathered for Democratic passage of Biden’s stimulus in February, Wall Street banks began to upgrade their projections for economic growth, factoring in expectations of a successful vaccine rollout.

A team of JPMorgan strategists led by John Normand wrote on February 12 that the economic expansion over the next year “will be much stronger than average” on account of pent-up demand, augmented incomes through stimulus, and support from the Federal Reserve including quantitative easing. US strategists at the bank believe the consumer’s recovery will be the dominant theme for 2021 with “blowout expectations for the rest of the year.”

Baby Boomer
Experts are predicting a return to “normalcy” and a surge in economic growth by the end of 2021.

Bank of America strategists led by Candace Browning Platt wrote that the service sector is “like a coiled spring waiting to be let loose,” with a reopened economy not just meeting demand repressed by the pandemic but also boosting employment since some services sectors account for an outsized share of jobs. 

BofA’s Michelle Meyer agreed, writing that it was time to “fasten your seatbelts” as evidence pours in to support the view of strong economic growth in 2021 – in fact, “the strongest in nearly four decades.” Rather than a coiled spring, she wrote of a “rubber-band” cycle, with a big decline leading to just as fast a snapback. 

The recovery should avoid the sluggishness of the post-2008 decade, according to Meyer, because of healthy household savings and aggressive stimulus, two interrelated factors. Finally, BofA’s Ethan Harris wrote that while the 2010-2019 recovery was the slowest in history, the 2021 recovery may be among the fastest.

The Commerce Dept. data from January show consumer finances are strong, as the $900 billion stimulus passed in December boosted spending by 2.4% and personal household income by 10% – the second highest on record

(2) A tech breakup could create (a lot) more jobs

The FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) stocks drove 40% of the stock market rebound in July 2020, per BofA Research, but what if they get broken up in the 2020s?

As the Trump administration drew to a close in 2020, the Dept. of Justice and Federal Trade Commission launched respective actions against Google and Facebook. The case against Facebook, in particular, seeks a true break-up including the forced separation of Instagram and WhatsApp. These cases wouldn’t reach the trial stage until well into the new decade, but they have the potential to transform the economy.

Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at NYU and well-known tech industry pundit, told Insider that Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram could be worth more if they were forced to break up into three separate companies – and this could translate into more jobs for workers, more opportunities for entrepreneurs, and more value for investors. 

As independent companies, Instagram and WhatsApp could engage in aggressive hiring that they previously couldn’t do under Facebook, he said. What’s more, with Facebook and other monopolies weakened, investors would be more willing to allocate more funds to more companies that challenge these big tech players.

facebook apps
A tech breakup could be coming this decade.

“Consider that two years after the federal government broke up Rockefeller’s Standard Oil into 34 separate firms, their combined value had doubled,” Galloway added. “The companies spun out of the breakup of AT&T in 1983 outperformed the S&P 500 for the next decade. We’ll see the same thing in big tech.”

A 2018 report by anti-monopoly think tank Open Markets Institute, called “America’s Concentration Crisis,” revealed just how many industries have come to be dominated by certain power players in recent years. Three companies hold 85% of social networking site market share – Facebook comprises 70% of that share alone. It’s a similar story for the search engine industry, where the two largest firms own 97% of the market share, with Alphabet leading the way at 91%.

Matt Stoller, director of American Economic Liberties Project and author of “Goliath,” a 100-year history of antitrust policy, also said that a tech break-up would benefit the economy.

“Facebook is suppressing the growth of new and vital sectors of the economy by refusing to allow anyone else to create innovations within the social networking space,” he told Insider. “It’s similar to IBM, which blocked the creation of a software industry until the antitrust case of the late 1960s forced the company to unbundle its hardware from its software.”

(3) The work-from-home revolution could bolster new cities

Around the 1990s, the “superstar effect” became a feature of the American economy. The concept explains the vast difference in earnings between a star and a superstar in the same field. Think: Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, and New York City.

But there’s another word for the dynamic when a superstar gobbles up most of the gains: monopoly. Stoller has argued for years that a shift in antitrust regulation since the 1970s has allowed for the rise of more monopolies across the economy, resulting in less competition and greater inequality. Starting in the 1970s, Stoller wrote for Vice in 2019, regional inequality widened as a result of airlines cutting routes to the rural, small, and medium-sized cities they no longer needed to serve in a more concentrated economy.

new york city
New York City has been a “superstar city” in recent decades, gobbling up a big share of the job market.

New York City, the country’s media and finance hub, had 10.1 million employees in its metropolitan area in November 2019, and Los Angeles, center of the entertainment industry, had 6.2 million employees. San Francisco, the heart of tech, has 2.5 million employees, although that doesn’t account for the millions more in the Bay Area’s other cities: Oakland and San Jose. These three superstar cities house more jobs than some entire states have alone: Consider Alabama’s 2 million employees in the same time period.

Such job concentration leads to a higher cost of living. The median home value in the US is $266,104, but that jumps to $512,941 in the NYC metro area and $1.3 million in San Francisco.

But when it comes to cities, the pandemic may have snapped that thread, freeing up remote work for white-collar employees on a massive scale. So what happens when the workers that were locked for decades into superstar cities – especially San Francisco and New York – are free to fan out around the country? The answer could well be a new era of more broadly shared prosperity and a correction to decades of increasing regional inequality.

The labor and real-estate markets both still have underlying inequities. Service workers still have to physically report to their jobs while remote workers don’t, and some of those who have fled expensive addresses have endured salary cuts. Meanwhile, the housing market got so expensive in 2020 that it’s discouraged many from the dream of homeownership for good.

Richard Florida, urban studies theorist and economics professor at the University of Toronto, told Insider that remote working will accelerate the movement of families out of superstar cities into suburbs and the 1% who are seeking lower taxes. Anywhere from 14 million to 23 million remote workers plan to move, mostly from big cities, an Upwork study found in October

austin texas
Californians have been trading in San Francisco for Austin, Texas.

“I have long said that we will see the rise of the rest, given the incredible expensiveness and affordability of existing superstar cities,” he said. “But it’s not going to be the rise of everywhere. It’s going to be the rise of a dozen or two dozen places.” These places will consequently attract new talent, changing economic development. 

Florida doesn’t see bigger cities going away, though, predicting a resurgence as we inch closer to widespread vaccination, even if remote work is likely here to stay. He did predict that post-pandemic cities will be reshaped and revived by a newfound focus on interpersonal interaction that facilitates creativity and spontaneity.

“Even as offices decline, the community or the neighborhood or the city itself will take on more of the functions of an office,” he said. “People will gravitate to places where they can meet and interact with others outside of the home and outside of the office.”

Insider’s Josh Barro has already argued that 2021 should be great for the economy in general. Indeed, markets hit record highs at the turn of the year, seemingly pricing in a vaccine-led recovery. Just a few months later, it’s beginning to look like the biggest boomtime for the US economy in a generation. Some experts have even floated the idea of a new “Roaring ’20s,” with animal spirits unleashed after roughly 18 months of isolation, as pent-up capitalist energy explodes when lockdown finally lifts.

Instead of flappers and a jazz revolution, we’ll have digital nomads and zoom concerts, but one thing is certain: increased competition among cities and technology companies, if done right, has the potential to improve life for all Americans over the next decade. 

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