Welcome to “The Week in Tech,” where we recap some of the most interesting technology and mobile stories from the past week.
This week we talk about Seattle allowing Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize, Slack’s new app directory and fund, drone registration rules, the increase in music royalties, and hailing an Uber in Facebook Messenger.
Seattle lets Uber and Lyft drivers unionize
The Seattle City Council unanimously voted to allow drivers of taxicabs and ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft the ability to unionize, becoming the first city in the U.S. to do so.
This is a massive decision in the ongoing battle of whether these drivers are independent contractors, which they are currently categorized as, or true employees of their respective companies. The ability to unionize and collectively bargain pay and working conditions brings these workers closer to being employees.
Under this new ordinance, companies like Uber and Lyft would have to disclose to the city a list of all of its drivers in Seattle, which would be used by unions to contact these drivers to gain their support to be their bargaining representative.
The bill has already met a ton of resistance.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said he won’t sign the ordinance, but the bill can be put into place without his signature. Uber and Lyft say the move violates federal labor and antitrust laws and have asked for the ordinance to be reconsidered.
Slack launches app directory and fund
Slack, the super-hot team communications startup, just took steps to completely dominate the enterprise.
The company has launched an app directory to house all of the apps built for the platform and announced an $80 million fund to invest in startups who build software that integrates with the communications tool.
Slack revealed that 2 million people use the product every single day, and the launch of the directory and fund virtually guarantees the growth of the Slack ecosystem.
Enterprise app platform directories have been created in the past. Sales automation giant Salesforce created the AppExchange marketplace to great success, but other directories like those created by enterprise social network companies Jive and Yammer haven’t made much of a dent.
And there’s always the uncertainty of building products for another company’s platform. Ask Zynga about how that went.
Drone registration rules announced by FAA
If you own a drone, you better make sure it’s registered, or you’re going to pay.
The FAA just announced its new drone registration rules, forcing owners of drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds to register them. The rules go into effect on December 21.
If you’re caught with an unregistered drone, you may have to pay up to $27,000 in civil fines, $250,000 in criminal fines, and potentially spend three years in prison. Ouch.
Ruling raises music streaming royalties
Royalties paid to the music industry is by far the largest cost for free streaming music providers like Pandora. A recent ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board increased these royalties, but not as much as the music industry would have liked.
The music industry asked for the rates to be increased to 25 cents per 100 plays, while Pandora asked for them to be lowered to 11 cents. The ruling set the rates at 17 cents per 100 plays, only 3 cents more than the current rate.
The ruling is a huge win for Pandora, as it can keep its royalty costs under control. This decision impacts Pandora much more than other streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. On-demand services such as these allow users to select specific songs they want to hear, and thus pay different royalty rates.
Facebook Messenger now lets you hail Uber rides
Uber is everywhere, and Facebook wants you to do everything from Messenger. This is a perfect marriage.
You can now summon an Uber, track your driver’s location, and pay for your ride directly from Facebook Messenger. Even if you don’t have an Uber account, you can sign up without leaving Messenger. The feature can be found in the Transportation section of the Messenger app.
Uber is leveraging its API to integrate into as many apps as possible. Starting last May, users of Google Maps could hail an Uber ride, and now you can do so with Messenger. I wouldn’t be surprised Uber integrates into other local-based apps like OpenTable and Yelp in the near future.
What do you think of these stories? Have you read other interesting mobile and technology stories this week that are worth mentioning? Feel free to add your thoughts to the comments.
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Photo courtesy of Mark Warner on Flickr