The 7 biggest tech stories of 2017 that weren’t the iPhone X

2017 has been a hectic year in the world of technology – from social media’s fight against fake news to the cyber attacks and Uber’s troubles in the US and UK.

It wasn’t just the tenth anniversary of the iPhone’s launch, which Apple marked by launching the iPhone X to much fanfare.

It was far from the biggest story of the year as cryptocurrency entered the mainstream and the Nintendo Switch reinvigorated the formerly flagging Japanese gaming giant.

Here’s a look back at the year in tech.

1. Russian interference, Facebook and fake news

After 2016 ended with questions over Russia’s ability to influence social media and flood it with misinformation, 2017 opened with a major judgment on the issue.

The US intelligence community ruled in January that Russia had used cyber attacks and fake news to influence the US presidential election.

The social networks responded by promising to do more to combat the spread of misinformation on their platforms.

(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Mark Zuckerberg defended Facebook’s work but said more must be done while Twitter banned Russian news sites RT and Sputnik – named in the US report – from using advertising on the social site.

In the UK, Twitter, Facebook and Google have come in for fierce criticism from MPs over its efforts, with a Commons select committee inquiry into fake news accusing the firms of doing “no work” in response to requests for information on Russian influence on British politics.

Expect 2018 to begin with more harsh questions and scrutiny on the social networking giants.

2. Nintendo Switch

Before the March launch of the Switch, Nintendo was seen as something of an also-ran in the gaming world.

Once mighty, and still home to much-loved franchises, but unable to truly battle PlayStation and Xbox.

However, as 2017 ends, Nintendo is looking back on one of its best-ever years.

The Switch, and its combination of home console and mobile gaming, has captured the public’s imagination and its two flagship games are both cited as among the best in their respective franchise histories.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey both wowed the critics while third-party ports such as Doom and Rocket League has proved just how agile the Switch can be.

Nintendo has stolen the gaming crown in 2017 and anticipation will be high in 2018 to see if they can continue the momentum.

3. WannaCry hits the NHS

Perhaps the most notable cyber attack of the year, WannaCry was the ransomware that swept around the world in May.

Its most alarming victim was the NHS, which saw hospital computer systems come to a standstill – with patients diverted to other units, appointments cancelled and accident-and-emergency wards forced to turn away some arrivals.

It highlighted not only the need for more education in cyber security, but also how vulnerable some companies and services remain.

4. Uber troubles

A year to forget for the car-hailing service. In February, former engineer Susan Fowler published a blog alleging sexism at the company.

Chief executive Travis Kalanick was also caught on video in a furious row with a driver over journey fares.

Kalanick would then take a leave of absence before resigning in June – one of a series of executives to leave during the year.

The company then saw Transport for London deny it a new licence to operate in the city in September, a decision put down to safety and Uber’s alleged attitude towards reporting of crime.

That decision is currently being appealed and Uber was then further criticised after admitting it had suffered a data breach in 2016, paying the hackers a so-called “bug bounty” to delete the data.

5. Twitter’s 280 characters

In a year where Twitter rolled out a wide range of new features as it attempted to grab new users, none were more newsworthy than the decision to double its signature character limit.

The poster child of brevity online, Twitter’s 140-character limit rose to 280, prompting a range of creative responses, negative and positive reviews.

Does such a change mean Twitter is no longer Twitter as we know it? Perhaps 2018 will tell us.

6. Bitcoin

Cryptocurrency has been bubbling along beneath the surface of the tech industry for some time but the end of 2017 saw Bitcoin burst into the public consciousness.

The value of Bitcoin rose more than 15-fold during the year, peaking at more than 20,000 dollars during December.

Questions remain over whether the anonymous nature of the currency and its mechanics can be trusted, and whether its price rise is just the latest “bubble”.

7. Net neutrality

Should all traffic on the internet be treated equally? That’s the question at the heart of the debate over net neutrality, rules which the US Federal Communications Commission controversially voted to do away with in December.

Though still far from a final decision on the issue, many consumers and online firms have expressed dismay at the decision, which they fear will lead to higher prices for access to some online services, particularly in the US, where competition is more of an issue.

Any possible impact on the UK varies depending on who you ask, but eyes will be on the debate as it rages into next year.


 

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