Weekend Roundup: Former Zappos CEO Dies; Musk’s Mars Date

It’s almost the weekend! Before you shut down that work browser and do something fun and/or productive, let’s review some of the biggest tech stories from the past several days, including a prominent CEO’s passing, Elon Musk’s new Mars prediction, and Trump playing chicken with a vital internet law.

Former Zappos CEO Dies, Leaving Huge E-Commerce Legacy

When former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh died Nov. 27 due to injuries from a house fire, many in the technology world were stunned. Hsieh not only ran one of the pioneering e-commerce sites, but his intense focus on crafting the ideal company culture was enormously influential.

In addition to Zappos, his entrepreneurial efforts involved a number of other companies, including LinkExchange, Venture Frogs, JetSuite, and a long-running effort to revitalize downtown Las Vegas (where Zappos was based).

Anyone interested in tech management should read up on Hsieh’s interesting experiments with workplace organization, including “Holocracy,” an attempt to flatten management structures and give everyone at a company more say in strategy and operations. Although it’s questionable whether Holocracy can truly work in large companies, it was just one example of Hsieh deciding to take the plunge with an interesting idea. He’ll be remembered for helping establish e-commerce as a true marketplace force. 

Elon Musk Thinks We’ll Have Humans on Mars Within 5 Years

During an awards show, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk breezily predicted that humans will walk on Mars by 2026, and maybe before. “If we get lucky, maybe four years,” he told the audience (hat tip to CNBC for the transcription). “We want to send an uncrewed vehicle there in two years.”

Musk is infamous for overly optimistic timelines, so you should take his prediction about a Mars landing by 2026 with a proverbial grain of salt. However, he’s also very intent on being the one to place human beings on the Red Planet, and he’s proven successful at achieving his goals, even years later than he originally predicted. In other words, you probably shouldn’t bet against him pulling off this stunt at some point, even if it’s more like 2036.

Trump Wants to Repeal Section 230 

As he prepares to leave office in January, President Donald Trump seems to be focused on repealing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites from lawsuits over content that users post. The President seems angry at what he views as ‘censorship’ or interference from Twitter and other social networks, which have taken to slapping on warnings about the truthfulness of his posts. 

Trump seems so intent on repealing Section 230, in fact, that he’s threatening to veto an annual defense-spending bill unless that repeal is included in the text. Or as he put it in a Tweet: “If the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the [NDAA], I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill when sent to the very beautiful Resolute desk.”

In reality, though, the broad swaths of the web that depend on Section 230 probably shouldn’t freak out just yet, as it seems unlikely that such a measure will pass as part of the defense bill—and Trump only has a very limited time left in office. However, debate over whether Section 230 should be reformed will likely continue for some time to come. 

Have a great weekend, everyone! Stay safe.