The Big Story
What Happened with OpenAI?
Miss out on the latest drama with OpenAI firing and then rehiring their artificial intelligence visionary CEO, Sam Altman? Check out the below timeline to catch up on the biggest highlights from the week’s unpredictable events.
Over the course of about a week, AI leader and CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman, was ousted by the company’s Board of Directors after ruling him “not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.” Following this announcement, investor and employee pushback grew with almost all of the company’s 700+ employees threatening to leave if Altman was not restored as CEO. Five days after the initial announcement, Sam Altman was reinstated as CEO, Greg Brockman rejoined as President and a new Board is in the process of being appointed without original members Ilya Sutskever (Co-Founder and Chief Scientist at OpenAI), Helen Toner and Tasha McCauley.
Friday, November 17th
- OpenAI announces a leadership transition in this tweet. According to the company’s statement, Founder and CEO Sam Altman was terminated after a deliberative review process by the board, which found Altman “not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities. The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.”
- In OpenAI’s announcement, they also reveal that CTO, Mira Murati, will be named as interim CEO. In addition, President and Co-Founder Greg Brockman will be stepping down as a chairman but will remain in his role reporting to the CEO.
- Later in the evening, Greg Brockman announces that he has quit as President of OpenAI after hearing the news earlier that day. In a tweet later that night, Brockman lays out the timeline of how things unfolded at the company and with Chief Scientist and Board Member, Ilya Sutskever.
Saturday, November 18th
- Investor and employee concerns continue to grow. Many employees are now publicly congregating and speaking out in favor of Sam Altman. According to a report from The Verge, the OpenAI Board entered into discussions to reinstate Altman.
Sunday, November 19th
- Despite pressure from investors and OpenAI employees, the Board announces their appointment of former CEO of Twitch, Emmett Shear, as standing CEO. Emmett Shear takes to X to announce his new role at OpenAI, stating “I will drive changes in the organization – up to and including pushing strongly for significant governance changes if necessary.”
Monday, November 20th
- Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella makes a statement on X reassuring their commitment to OpenAI and the decision to appoint Shear as CEO. In the same post, Nadella also shares that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team.
- The Verge reveals that nearly all of OpenAI’s 700+ employees have signed a letter to OpenAI’s board stating that they will leave if the board does not reinstate Altman and Brockman to their previous positions and then resign. The letter reads, “Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary should we choose to join.” Both Mira Murati and Ilya Sutskever signed this letter.
- Ilya Sutskever publicly announces on X his regret for participating in Altman’s ouster stating, “I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.”
Tuesday, November 21st
- OpenAI announces official roll out of voice capability for ChatGPT. Ex-OpenAI President, Greg Brockman posts about ChatGPT Voice and encourages users to try out the feature.
Wednesday, November 22nd
- Late on Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, OpenAI releases a statement that they have “reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo.”
- With this announcement, independent directors Tasha McCauley and Helen Toner will be leaving the board alongside Chief Scientist, Ilya Sutskever. It’s recently been reported that Altman and Toner had disagreements leading up to his ouster over a research paper written for CSET. Altman felt that the paper criticized OpenAI’s safety measures, while praising a competitor’s (Anthropic) approach.
- Greg Brockman announces his return to OpenAI as President.
As one of X’s longest standing and biggest advertisers, Apple just recently decided to pause all ads on the platform due to concerns of antisemitic and far-right content on the site. This decision comes shortly after Elon Musk publicly endorsed an antisemitic post on his platform. No, this isn’t the first time an advertiser decided to leave the platform for safety concerns and it likely won’t be the last. Apple’s big decision to split not only costs X their desperately needed ad dollars from the tech giant, but potentially from other brands too. According to advertisers, this departure should have brands thinking about the effectiveness of X as an advertising platform. The outcome of Apple’s decision will be a big blow to X’s already wavering ad revenue, which has reportedly dropped by 59% since Musk’s takeover.
Right in time for the holiday season, a new collaboration was announced between Meta and Amazon. The two industry giants have joined forces to give shoppers in the US a seamless shopping experience while scrolling through their Instagram and Facebook feeds. With one easy step of linking the two accounts together, users can easily purchase products through in-feed ads without having to enter all their personal information and card details. As of now, advertisers seem excited and hopeful about this partnership, considering all of the new ad insights and conversion value that it has the potential of bringing. Meta also seems to be pleased with this partnership as it will help to bring new targeting insights, which has been a struggle for the social giant after Apple’s privacy changes in 2021, and of course, increased revenue.
Snapchat introduced Snapchat+ in 2022, which allows paying subscribers to access the social app’s experimental and pre-released features and capabilities. Recently, Snapchat announced their test of an ad-free plan for Australian Snapchat+ subscribers. With this plan, users can choose to pay $10.50 a month to avoid disruptions from Story and Lens ads. Snapchat does note that users may still see sponsored My AI responses. Based on the Australia test, Snapchat may consider rolling this out to a larger group. For advertisers, these subscription plans that are starting to pop up on various social media platforms recently could potentially harm ad reach on platform, ultimately affecting campaign performance and ROI. Rest assured, considering the significance of ad revenue to Snapchat and others, any negative impact to advertising ecosystems will likely be prevented.
In addition to Google’s latest core search algorithm update, which began to roll out on November 2nd, they also just introduced their Reviews Update this month. According to Google, this update will evaluate articles, blog posts, and other opinionated and analytical content that lives within the search engine with the goal of rewarding high-quality content. Google defines high-quality content as “content that provides insightful analysis and original research and is written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well.” With this update, Google also announced that they will now start to regularly evaluate review and opinion-based content without any further announcements. Although this may cause short-term site traffic fluctuations for some sites, Google assured that this is temporary and sites with reviews should carefully follow their quality guidelines to be safe.
With third-party cookies being phased out in 2024, Google laid out their plan to navigate the cookie-less world in a recent Q&A video featuring Google Display Ads’ Senior Product Manager, Radhika Mani. Mani started with, “In a future without third-party cookies, marketers will need to adopt more durable audience strategies.” These more durable audience strategies, Mani revealed, come in the form of new privacy-preserving tools like the Privacy Sandbox’s Protected Audience API. “The API incorporates several privacy preserving techniques such as minimum thresholds of users to serve an ad and shorter list membership durations. And it does not allow pervasive tracking mechanisms that don’t offer users control over how their data is controlled, such as fingerprinting.” Mani also assured that advertisers will still be able to build audience lists. And with less expansive tracking, Google plans for enhanced AI solutions, like Optimized Targeting and Smart Bidding, to boost ad relevance among the right audience. Google advises online marketers to start familiarizing and investing in these automated and consent-based solutions sooner rather than later.
At the beginning of November, The Walt Disney Company announced full ownership of Hulu, buying out Comcast’s 33% stake for $8.6 billion. This payday for Comcast could potentially get even bigger after the agreed-upon appraisal of Hulu takes place, though this is likely to be determined next year. Disney and Hulu aren’t strangers as Disney has been united with Hulu since 2019 after they acquired 21st Century Fox. Although Disney did not say much regarding the acquisition, they did state that this move will “further Disney’s streaming objectives.”