Sam Altman returns to OpenAI, Apple adopts RCS, and Binance CEO pleads guilty to charges

Hey, folks, welcome to the Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s regular recap of the past days in tech. The headlines have been dominated — nay, overwhelmed — by the drama unfolding at AI startup OpenAI, but there’s a lot more going on in the week leading up to Thanksgiving. So much for a sleepy pre-holiday!

In this edition of WiR, apart from the OpenAI saga, we cover Apple finally bringing RCS to iPhones, a former Silicon Valley VC darling convicted of investor fraud, Cruise co-founder Kyle Vogt who resigned and Amazon sells cars online. Also on the agenda is Elon Musk’s case over claims of hateful ads on Twitter, Google’s secret deal with Spotify, Binance’s CEO pleading guilty to federal charges, and the Signal detailing the cost of keeping private messaging services online.

There is so much to achieve — so let’s not delay. But first, a reminder to sign up here to receive WiR in your inbox every Saturday if you haven’t already.

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Sam Altman returns to OpenAI: After a roller coaster of a week and change, Sam Altman, who was CEO of OpenAI on Friday morning, is CEO again. The board of directors that fired him realized, eventually, that firing him might not have been the best course of action — after intense pressure from the OpenAI rank-and-file, VCs, close partner Microsoft and a themselves. For a play-by-play of how it all went down, check out our timeline of events.

Apple (finally) includes RCS: Apple plans to add support for the RCS standard to iOS next year, the iPhone maker said Thursday in a change that will solve widespread text messaging compatibility issues between iPhones and Android smartphones. But, as Manish reports, the company stopped short of dispelling so-called “green bubble” fears; Messages from Android phones will still be displayed as green bubbles on iOS.

Conviction of fraud: Mike Rothenberg, an ex-VC known for hosting lavish parties, was convicted late Friday on 21 counts of defrauding investors. The verdict, handed down by a jury in Northern California, ends a 10-year journey for Rothenberg, who burst onto the Bay Area scene in 2013 at the age of 27 with a $5 million fund and substantial charm to convince TechCrunch that his one-man company is special enough to merit coverage.

Vogt quits Cruise: Kyle Vogt, the serial entrepreneur who co-founded and led Cruise from a startup in a garage through its acquisition and ownership by General Motors, resigned last week – as Cruise executive and co- founder Dan Kan. a month after the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise’s permits to operate self-driving vehicles on public roads following an accident that saw a pedestrian run over and dragged 20 feet by the AV.

Sue X ads: Media Matters on Thursday published an article with screenshots showing ads from IBM, Apple, Oracle and others appearing next to hateful content on Elon Musk’s X, formerly Twitter. Musk filed a lawsuit accusing the news organization of defamation. But the lawsuit appears to prove the very thing it claims is defamatory, Devin reports.

Spotify’s secret deal with Google: A Google executive said during testimony in the Epic versus Google trial that a deal with Spotify allowed the audio company to skip Play Store fees, as first reported by The Verge. Don Harrison, Google’s head of partnerships, said that Spotify is free when it processes its own payments and pays a small 4% fee when Google processes them – and that both companies have committed to keeping the $50 million each in a “success fund.”

Binance CEO faces federal charges: Changpeng Zhao, also known as “CZ,” the founder and CEO of Binance, resigned and pleaded guilty to several charges brought by the Department of Justice and other US agencies. The world’s largest crypto exchange, Binance agreed to pay about $4.3 billion to settle DOJ investigations, the agency said in a press release on Tuesday.

The value of privacy: End-to-end encrypted messaging app Signal has released an interesting overview of the costs required to develop and maintain its pro-privacy systems that protect user data from tracking by default. the blog post, written by Signal president Meredith Whittaker and developer Joshua Lund, revealed that the company currently spends about $14 million per year on infrastructure to run the private messaging service and an additional $19 million per year on staff costs. That costs $33 million to keep the lights on.


With Thanksgiving happening this week, you might be in need of podcasts to drown out the sound of inter-family kerfuffles and sportsball games. (I know I am.) Fortunately, TechCrunch has plenty of options in its stable.

Equity published two – count them, BOTH — this week’s episodes. The first recaps of OpenAI’s wild weekend, from the firing of Sam Altman to the latest event (on November 20). The second – featuring former Equity host Matthew Lynley, Alex and yours truly – considered what the latest OpenAI twists and turns could do for startup founders.

Meanwhile, FOUND has Studs co-founders and close friends Lisa Bubbers and Anna Harman talk about their ear-piercing business, which aims to help Gen Zers and millennials create their “dream earscapes” with piercing studios opening in whole country.


TC+ subscribers have access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys — which you already know if you’re a subscriber. If you’re not, consider signing up. Here are some highlights from this week:

Pay attention to what’s happening on the OpenAI board: Dominic-Madori examines OpenAI’s unusual board structure, which is technically part of a nonprofit with control over OpenAI’s for-profit division. In his words: “If this company structure gives you the ick, you’re not alone.”

Who would have guessed that powerful humans would win the AI ​​fight? One way to think about the OpenAI shakeup of the last few days is that a nonprofit board with a specific mission felt that one of the company’s leaders was not acting on those goals. So they canned him. Another way to think about it, Alex colorfully writes, is that “a bunch of idiots who have no idea what they’re doing are executing a power play against the real value engine of their company, and are -canned as an answer.”

OpenAI and the dangers of vendor lock-in: Companies that choose a flexible approach to depend on an AI model vendor should feel better after all the OpenAI drama, Ron wrote. If there’s any objective lesson to be learned from all of this, he says, it’s that it’s never a good idea to partner with a vendor.

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