We’re not even one full month into 2021 and the world of tech has been as wild and unpredictable as ever. Here’s a round up of highlights from the last few weeks and my thoughts on why they’re important for the future.
The only place to begin must be the fallout from the shocking scenes of the US Congress being stormed by protesters. Following this, Donald Trump was banned from every major social network, from Facebook and Twitter, to Snapchat and YouTube (see The Independent). The Telegraph also reported that Twitter suspended 70,000 accounts linked to the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy. So why does this matter? Because social media giants have for years avoided lawsuits and regulations by claiming to be platforms, not publishers. If they’re now taking responsibility for, and deciding, what is posted on their platform, they become a publisher and the defences and arguments they’ve used to date to avoid the stronger laws that apply to publishers will no longer protect them.
It’s been another roller coaster month for cryptocurrency. Sky News reported that Bitcoin saw 20% wiped off its value (roughly $10,000 per coin at its peak). This promoted additional warnings about cryptocurrency being a bubble and possible further fluctuations for investors in coming months, including from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which said crypto investing is “very high risk” and customers “should be prepared to lose all their money” (see CityAM). If you do have crypto, make sure it’s safe and accessible – don’t be like the programmer that The Guardian revealed had forgotten his password to £175m worth of Bitcoin.
While the jury is still out on crypto, global investors have huge confidence in the London tech scene. CityAM revealed that tech investors poured £7.7bn into the capital during 2020, which accounts for a quarter of Europe’s whole VC investment for the year. The future appears bright for the city, despite the disruption from Covid-19 and Brexit. It’s no surprise then that Deliveroo is looking to float on the London Stock Exchange this year, with a value in excess of £5bn – Sky News has the full story.
Next up, WhatsApp. Where to start? The company announced a compulsory privacy update that caused uproar in the tech world. Users will soon have their data shared from the messaging app to Facebook. Alternative messaging apps, including Telegram and Signal (the latter being used by whistle-blower Edward Snowden), have since seen a surge in downloads. CNBC’s write-up covers the relevant facts.
And finally, the latest gadgets have been revealed at CES 2021. The Independent has done a handy summary of the products we might be able to see in the next year or so. As always, some of them won’t live up to the hype, but it’s fun nonetheless to see what products could be on the horizon.
That’s the main headlines for now – what a start to a new year! We read and curate stories every day at Firefly, so if you’d like these sent to your inbox daily, sign up to Firewire here.