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The Download

The Download: China’s delivery apps, and why Russia’s invasion has stalled

Plus: Big Tech is refusing to admit whether it's shadowbanning us

This is today's edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what's going on in the world of technology.

Shanghai’s lockdown is giving China’s online grocery apps a second chance

During Shanghai’s ongoing month-long lockdown, online grocery apps have been a lifeline for residents unable to leave their homes. People are swarming onto the services, including Dingdong, Alibaba’s Hema, and Meituan’s Maicai, at designated times to try to purchase as much as they can before the stocks run out in seconds.

The Shanghai lockdown is the latest stage of a two-year roller-coaster ride for the online grocery industry in China. Its rise and fall and rise again has mirrored the tightening and loosening of China’s covid-19 restrictions: while the apps are incredibly popular during restrictions, they’ve struggled whenever lockdowns are relaxed.

Now, as China continues with its zero-covid strategy, the harsh lockdown measures have given the industry another chance to shine after a year of disappointing business returns. Whether it continues to succeed when things are back to normal is another question. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

Quote of the day
“We think the Chinese economy at this moment is in the worst shape in the past 30 years.”

—Weijian Shan, the founder of one of Asia’s biggest private equity investors, criticizes the Chinese government’s policies in a video seen by the Financial Times.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Why Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is falling apart
It doesn’t appear to be learning from the mistakes it’s made, and it’s made a lot of them. (Foreign Affairs $)
+ Meta’s attempts to curb misinformation about the war in Ukraine are harming local publishers. (Coda Story)
+ The conflict in Ukraine could last for years, Nato says. (BBC)
+ The UK is sending 8,000 soldiers to eastern Europe. (The Guardian

2 Social media refuses to admin whether it’s shadowbanning us
And that means users trust platforms even less. (The Atlantic $)
+ Elon Musk’s links to China could come back to bite him at Twitter. (NYT $)
+ His plans to open up the company’s algorithms could also open a can of worms. (TR) 
+ It looks like Twitter has been overstating its audience figures for three whole years. (FT $)
+ But the platform does play host to the odd gem. (Intelligencer $)

3 How one man escaped Shanghai’s brutal lockdown
After three weeks of intense hunger and uncertainty. (Coda Story)
+ Weibo will post users’ IP locations to crack down on “bad behavior.” (CNN)
+ Tim Cook is worried China’s covid lockdowns could affect demand for Apple gear. (WSJ $)

4 Netflix wants to lure Asian subscribers away from local streaming rivals
But they’re much cheaper. (WSJ $)
+ Hollywood has had enough of those pesky VPNs. (Wired $)

5 It’s getting tougher to predict what the future holds for Big Tech
The boom years of crazy growth are coming to an end. Now what? (NYT $)
+ Snap’s Evan Spiegel isn’t sold on the metaverse. (The Verge)

6 Meet the Bitcoin fanatics who think crypto is a dirty word 🪙
Because crypto going mainstream means more clueless newbies. (The Verge)
+ Banks are basically influencers now. (Bloomberg $)
+ Scam loan apps are becoming a massive problem in India. (Rest of World)

7 Is Groups the last good thing on Facebook?
Other platforms just aren’t as easy to form strong communities on. (The Atlantic $)
+ Landlord influencers don’t care if you don’t like them. (Input)

8 Detecting depression can be tough. Video games could help
But they’re not enough alone for a diagnosis. (WP $)

9 We don’t know who’s behind the spike in spam calls 📞
We do, however, know they’re probably going to keep coming. (Slate)

10 Spanish workers are transforming old phones into furniture
Which is a fun approach to tackling our growing e-waste problem. (Bloomberg $)

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet 'em at me.)

+ To celebrate Penélope Cruz’s 48th birthday, this look back through her 20 best movies is a reminder of just how great an actress she is.
+ Desk-bound for lunch? Here are some easy recipes.
+ Turns out the Aristocats really enjoyed German industrial metal.
+ Here’s why Selling Sunset is one of the most unhinged shows on television.
+ Brush up on the fascinating history of the famous names behind LA’s most eye-catching buildings.
+ I’m sorry, but Donald Trump calling tomatoes “very dangerous” is very, very funny.
+ If you’re feeling a bit burnt out ahead of the weekend, embracing some slow living could help.

Deep Dive

Humans and technology

illustration showing various types of ancient and modern legal tender
illustration showing various types of ancient and modern legal tender

Money is about to enter a new era of competition

Digital technology is poised to change our relationship with money and, for some countries, the ability to manage their economies.

worldcoin orb
worldcoin orb

Deception, exploited workers, and cash handouts: How Worldcoin recruited its first half a million test users

The startup promises a fairly-distributed, cryptocurrency-based universal basic income. So far all it's done is build a biometric database from the bodies of the poor.

Las Vegas aerial view of neighborhood near desert
Las Vegas aerial view of neighborhood near desert

House-flipping algorithms are coming to your neighborhood

Despite millions of dollars in losses, iBuying’s failure doesn’t signal the end of tech-led disruption, just a fumbled beginning.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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