As Uber wraps up its driver improvement campaign, its head of driver product is leaving the company

Aaron Schildkrout joined Uber in 2015.

Uber’s head of driver product, Aaron Schildkrout, is leaving the company after three years. Schildkrout, who previously co-founded dating site HowAboutWe, announced his decision in an email to Uber staff on Wednesday.

His departure comes just as the company wrapped up its 180-day driver campaign — an effort that Schildkrout led with Rachel Holt, the regional general manager of the U.S. and Canada. The driver campaign, launched in June with the introduction of a long-sought after tipping feature, was part of Uber’s larger effort to repair its relationship with its drivers in the hope of retaining them on the platform.

The company began working on the campaign in the winter of 2016, as it became increasingly clear to many people internally that Uber’s relationship with its drivers had deteriorated. But it wasn’t just a moral or public image problem; it was a business one. The company had reached such a scale in the U.S. that the pool of available new drivers it could tap into had dwindled. That’s why it was imperative to make retaining drivers more of a focus.

“I think we have a privileged moment where the business need and the moral need are perfectly aligned,” Schildkrout told Recode in a previous interview.

The work on what was internally called “Driver Forward” may have started before 2017, but this year’s #deleteUber campaign — as well as the surfacing of a video of former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick berating an Uber driver — compounded the company’s driver issues, and gave the campaign the momentum that it needed.

According to Schildkrout’s email, he stayed to help see this campaign through, but had considered leaving before it began.

“Basically, 18 months of life-only-on-Zoom and frequent cross-country-commutes away from home have come to feel like not the best thing for me and my family,” he wrote in the email.

“As 180 Days of Change and this year approached their end, I decided it was the right time to do what has long felt personally necessary for me,” he continued.

Here’s the full email:

Hi Team –

After three years of amazing adventures at Uber, I’m off on my next journey.

Thank you so much to all the incredible people who I’ve had the great good fortune to work with here; I owe you a debt of gratitude for everything you’ve taught me and for the inspiration that’s come from building wonderful things for so many riders and drivers around the world together.

Why now? Basically, 18 months of life-only-on-Zoom and frequent cross-country-commutes away from home have come to feel like not the best thing for me and my family. I stayed to help see Driver Forward through, which I’m so so glad I did; this last year of work to transform our relationship with Drivers has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. As 180 Days of Change and this year approached their end, I decided it was the right time to do what has long felt personally necessary for me.

For my next journey…my first step is going to be to let the wheel of the mind slow to stillness, and then…we’ll see! I have no plans as of yet and can only wish that my next thing will be as full of tremendous learning, growth and impact as my time at Uber has been.

I’ll be rooting hard for all of you as you build Uber into something vast and grand – far far past the cynics’ doubts and the dreamers’ expectations. I have every faith in the ingenuity and drive of this amazing team.

Deepest regards,

Aaron


Recode – All

The FCC is voting to repeal net neutrality on Thursday. Here’s how to watch live.

The fun begins on Thursday, December 14 at 10:30 am ET / 7:30 am PT.

The Trump administration is set to repeal the rules that require internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally.

After months of debate, the Federal Communications Commission — led by Republican Chairman Ajit Pai — will officially vote on Thursday, December 14 to eliminate net neutrality protections implemented under former President Barack Obama. The meeting begins at 10:30 am ET / 7:30 am PT.

Live video of the debate will be available here.

To ardent open-internet supporters, Pai’s efforts will open the door for telecom giants to block or slow down access to web pages and other services. It will also create so-called “fast lanes,” where ISPs can charge web companies for faster delivery of their content.

To telecom giants like AT&T, Charter, Comcast* and Verizon, however, Pai’s repeal is another major victory that spares them from government regulation. And Pai contends that his approach — greater transparency, with another agency taking the lead in overseeing the web — is just enough to protect the internet from interference.

The vote today — which isn’t in doubt at the Republican-led FCC — follows months of public protest led by consumer groups like Free Press and tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google. More than 21 million comments flooded the telecom agency, many urging Pai to reverse course.

The FCC’s five commissioners will convene their meeting at 10:30 am ET. There are multiple items on the agenda, including a major overhaul of the country’s media ownership laws.

* Comcast, through its NBCU arm, is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this website.


Recode – All

Global internet speeds got 30 percent faster in 2017

Here are the countries with the fastest internet.

Internet download speeds grew more than 30 percent this year for both wireline and mobile connections as compared to a year earlier, according to new data from internet speed-test company Ookla. That makes the average download speed 40 Mbps for broadband and 20 Mbps for mobile.

Growth was driven by network improvements in many countries, including Norway, Australia and India, which saw its broadband speeds increase 77 percent this year, making it the most improved of the world’s largest countries. It still ranks 76th out of all countries, with an average broadband download speed of 18.82 Mpbs.

Here are the countries that currently have the fastest internet speeds:

Note that the U.S. ranks 44th in mobile download speeds, at 26.32 Mbps. Rankings and averages are based on November 2017 data, and are compared with data from November 2016. See all the countries’ speeds and ranks here.


Recode – All

Twitter’s hilarious new ad addresses one of its biggest problems — that Twitter is too hard to use

Twitter launched two new digital ads with comedian Romesh Ranganathan.

Well-played, Twitter.

The social company came out with a new video ad on Wednesday that puts a pretty hilarious spin on one of Twitter’s biggest real-world problems — its product is too hard to use, especially for new users signing up for the first time.

The ad shows a distraught user — “Kenny G” — trying to create an account, before comedian Romesh Ranganathan arrives to talk him through the process as a kind of crisis negotiator.

It’s better if you just watch it. We’ll wait.

While the ad is funny, it’s also a reminder that even more than a decade after launch, Twitter is still trying to explain what it is to people.

“I don’t know what to do,” says Kenny G in the ad. “I don’t understand this.”

You’re not alone, Kenny G.

Explaining Twitter to the masses has been a serious obstacle for the company over the last few years. As a result, its user growth has virtually stalled.

Twitter has run other ads in the past to try and explain what Twitter is or how to use it, but they’ve been more serious.

This ad, along with a second one featuring Ranganathan teaching a distraught user how to search for things on Twitter, is running online in places like Pandora and Amazon in the U.S., U.K. and Canada.


Recode – All

Recode Daily: The internet is ready for Thursday’s net neutrality vote to be over

Plus, an upset in Alabama, San Francisco mayor Ed Lee was a friend to Silicon Valley, Steve Bannon’s dirty-tricks campaign against Twitter, and Santa’s brand book.

Alabama elected Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate — the first time the state has elected a Democrat to that seat in decades. Pundits argue that Jones’ defeat of Roy Moore is a repudiation of both Donald Trump, who endorsed Moore, and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, who invested heavily in Moore’s candidacy. [New York Times]

You’ve read about it a lot in this newsletter — the FCC will finally vote on net neutrality tomorrow. In the last days and hours before the vote, protests mostly moved off the streets and online — Reddit, Etsy and Kickstarter were among the sites warning against FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to roll back the Obama-era regulations. The biggest tech companies, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft were less vocal — perhaps because they are facing more hostility and regulatory battles with Washington, D.C., than in past years. Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell says we should all calm down. [The New York Times]

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who had a close relationship with the tech industry, died yesterday morning of a heart attack at age 65.Board of Supervisors President London Breed has been sworn in as acting mayor. The city’s first Asian-American mayor, Lee had been in office since 2011; he was reelected in 2015 and quickly positioned himself as an advocate to attract and keep companies like Twitter in the city. Silicon Valley sent condolences via Twitter, including expressions from Marc Benioff, Jack Dorsey and Max Levchin. [Meghann Farnsworth / Recode]

Apple is investing $ 390 million into Finisar, a high-tech manufacturer, which will re-open a plant in Texas. The two companies say the investment will create 500 jobs at the facility, which will make chips for iPhone Xs and Air Pods. [CNBC]

The Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino is testing a microwave-powered weapon-sensing device among its surveillance tactics.Marketed by a Canadian security outfit, the Patscan Cognitive Microwave Radar combines short-range radar with machine-learning algorithms to scan individual guess for guns, knives and bombs in real time, without making them walk through metal detectors and other buzzkill tactics. [Robbie Gonzalez / Wired]

Top stories from Recode

Twitter will now let you publish an entire tweetstorm all at once.

Rant away!

Anyone can now build augmented reality face masks inside Facebook.

Facebook is opening up its AR platform to everyone.

Homeis wants to be a social network for urban immigrants.

But the company hates the word “immigrants.”

Building a restaurant business on the shoulders of the delivery industry is a recipe for disaster.

If one of the best-run restaurant groups in the country walks away with a 12-percent margin, imagine how your local restaurant is doing.

This is cool

Feeling Christmassy yet? This will cure you.


Recode – All