Weekend Roundup: Palantir Goes Public; Facebook Merging Apps

It’s the weekend! Before you log off, here were some of the biggest tech stories of the week, including Palantir’s launch on the public markets and Facebook’s big plans for its future. Let’s jump in!

Palantir Goes Public 

Palantir, arguably the most secretive “unicorn” (i.e., a startup with a valuation of more than $1 billion) in Silicon Valley, has finally gone public. That first day of trading (which featured some technical difficulties) placed the company’s value at roughly $21 billion—not bad for a data-analytics firm that most folks haven’t heard of. 

Actually, Palantir might not be a Silicon Valley company for much longer. A few months ago, CEO Alex Karp suggested publicly that he might move the firm’s headquarters to Denver. The reason? Silicon Valley’s culture is apparently hostile to a startup that regularly signs contracts with defense contractors, the federal government, and law enforcement.  

“I had people protesting me. People protesting me, some of whom I think asked really legitimate questions. I’ve asked myself if I were younger, at college, would I be protesting me? And you know, it depends?” Karp told Axios about his company’s defense work. 

Protests or no, Palantir is now on the public markets—bringing with it a lot more scrutiny. Can the company succeed in its new environment? That will hinge on many factors, including whether its data services can continue to entice clients with deep pockets. 

Facebook Wants to Voltron Its Apps

Remember Voltron? It was a cartoon about a bunch of intergalactic explorers who could unite their respective vehicles to form the giant, ultra-powerful title robot. Those plucky explorers knew that, melded into the immense Voltron, they could repulse any galactic threat.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg might not have been thinking of Voltron when he decided to begin merging all of the apps in Facebook’s ecosystem into a larger whole, but he’s definitely trying to create something stronger than its parts. According to an interesting piece in Fast Company, Facebook’s previous ethos—that WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger would operate as pretty much autonomous platforms—is giving way to a greater interconnectedness. It’s an enormously complex undertaking, and signs of progress have been very slow; for example, Facebook only just rolled out the “Accounts Center” that allows users of all its services to manage their settings. 

In theory, such a massive merging might allow Facebook to repulse the huge threat of a government anti-trust suit. But the move could backfire. “Why are they integrating them? If the only reason is to hurt competitors or to forestall an antitrust remedy like breakup, then that could present concerns,” Michael Carrier, a professor at Rutgers Law School, told Fast Company.

As if Facebook already didn’t have to worry about with regard to the election, consumer privacy, and other issues, now it’s working on this huge do-or-die effort behind the scenes. If it doesn’t succeed, and the U.S. government decides that Facebook is getting too big for its own good, its social networks could end up looking very different. 

Amazon Digs Deeper Into Biometrics

Amazon is rolling out a new biometric platform, dubbed Amazon One, for its brick-and-mortar stores. As opposed to confirming identity from a thumbprint or even a user’s face, Amazon One will demand a palmprint. But will consumers go for pay-with-your-palm? Or will privacy concerns wreck the idea before it takes off? 

In any case, Amazon is publicly hoping that other retailers will adopt its technology. If they do, it could give the e-commerce giant yet another line of business—and something else for rivals to worry about.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Remember to keep washing those hands!