Global Tech Roundup: Google suspends return to physical work over Omicron and others


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As usual, we have curated some of the biggest stories in the global tech scene just for you as you ease into the weekend. 

Chinese app giant Didi plans US stock market exit 

Just five months after its US debut, Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global has announced plans to take its shares off the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and move its listing to Hong Kong. 

The company, which made this announcement during the week, didn’t explain its reasons for the plan but said in a separate statement it would organise a shareholder vote at an appropriate time.  

It also claims that it will ensure its New York-listed stock is convertible into “freely tradable shares” on other internationally recognised stock exchanges.

The company claimed on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging network, that, “after rigorous investigation, the company will immediately begin delisting from the New York stock exchange and begin preparations for listing in Hong Kong.”

The announcement sent its stock up 15% in pre-market trading as investors bet that the move would appease Beijing and serve as a spark for a recovery of the company’s domestic business prospects. 

Since its US debut in July, Didi has come under intense pressure both from its local Beijing authorities and the external regulators. 

The firm was earlier advised to put its public offering on hold until an investigation of its data procedures was performed, but went ahead with the plans nonetheless. 

The powerful Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) then promptly ordered the removal of 25 of Didi’s mobile apps from app stores and forced the company to stop registering new customers, citing national security and public interest as justifications.

Facebook’s parent company, Meta, ordered to sell Giphy.

Facebook rebrands, becomes Meta- a social technology company

The UK’s competition watchdog CMA has ordered Facebook (now Meta) to reverse its acquisition of Giphy and to sell off the animated GIF company, 

The regulatory body made this announcement on Tuesday in a landmark move against Big Tech’s capacity to maintain market domination through sheer buying power.

“By requiring Facebook to sell Giphy, we are protecting millions of social media users and promoting competition and innovation in digital advertising, ” Stuart McIntosh, chair of the independent inquiry group heading the CMA probe, said. 

Facebook acquired the Gif-sharing search engine for an estimated $315 million (£236 million) last year to integrate Giphy’s massive collection of looping short video animations into its Instagram division. 

The CMA, on the other hand, ruled that the purchase was unfair to competing social media platforms and that Facebook should sell off some of its assets.

The CMA’s intervention comes after a lengthy examination into the Giphy acquisition that Facebook announced (and completed) in May 2020.

Its reports state that the acquisition by Facebook presents a number of competition issues, including that it would impair competition amongst social media platforms due to a lack of variety in the supply of animated GIFs. 

The regulator was concerned that Facebook might not simply deny rivals access to Giphy content for their users to reshare, but that the data-mining giant might change the terms of access. 

That would require rivals such as TikTok, Twitter, and Snapchat to provide it with more user data in order to access Giphy GIFs, for example.

Google suspends Mandatory workers’ return to the office amidst Omicron fears

Google, owned by Alphabet, has pushed back plans for employees to return to work in early January, citing growing concerns about the spread of the Omicron coronavirus type.

Google’s vice president of global security, Chris Rackow, said in an email to employees on Thursday that they will no longer be required to return to work on January 10th. 

But according to the company, it will wait until the new year to assess when U.S. offices can safely resume a stable, long-term working environment.

Google had previously planned to bring in workers three days a week starting January 10th under a hybrid model that combined office and remote employment, thereby terminating its optional work-from-home time. 

These plans have been suspended indefinitely, and other major tech firms have altered their return-to-work plans as well. 

Microsoft had also postponed plans to bring employees back to its U.S. offices indefinitely in September, while Amazon announced in August that it would delay its employees’ return to the office until at least Jan. 3, 2022. 

The announcement comes as firms and governments around the world scurry to respond to the threat of the Omicron variant. 

The novel virus has roiled financial markets and prompted concerns about its influence on the global economic recovery after being discovered in South Africa last week.

According to a preliminary report, the Omicron variation appears to be reinfecting humans at three times the rate of prior strains.

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