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Year in tech: The stories making headlines in 2021

By Jane Wakefield
Technology journalist

2021 introduced us to technical terms including Metaverse and NFT (Non-Fungible Token).

Facebook has taken a dramatic new direction, moving towards virtual reality.

The Internet, which had withstood a series of blockages remarkably well, experienced some oscillations.

And we learned that those chips in all of our devices, which we take for granted, weren’t endless.

Here’s our recap of some of the biggest stories on the BBC Technology site over the past year.

January: Winter disconnection

Image source, Getty Images

Even though he lost the presidential election at the end of 2020, Donald Trump continued to make the headlines in 2021.

The tweet that led to the ban was considered particularly inflammatory given the assault on the Capitol the day before.

Events have sounded alarm bells on social media networks that previously allowed politicians to have more or less carte blanche to post online.

During the year, Facebook and Twitter adopted new rules on how to deal with the high-profile accounts of world leaders and politicians.

Of course, this wasn’t the last time we heard from Mr. Trump – but we’ll talk about that later.

February: What’s new with WhatsApp?

Facebook insisted the changes did not mark a drastic change, but admitted communication had been poor.

Privacy advocates have simply pointed out that WhatsApp is already collecting massive amounts of data for its parent company.

Days after the reaction was reported in the media, WhatsApp revealed that those who do not agree to its updated terms and conditions will not be able to receive or send messages after the May 15 deadline.

Later that year, WhatsApp was forced to rewrite its privacy policy following a £ 190million fine from the Irish data protection authority. He then had to provide a lot more information on what exactly he is doing with user information.

March: McAfee billed

Image source, Reuters

In the spring, antivirus creator John McAfee, who has always been a controversial figure, was charged with fraud – accused of promoting cryptocurrencies on Twitter in order to inflate the price.

At the time, he was already being held in Spain on separate charges relating to tax evasion.

April: Hold the chips

Image source, Getty Images

Computer chip factories are in full swing

It has been a year dominated by chip shortages – the result of a combination of factors, including the pandemic and the surge in demand for certain products as everyone has adjusted to work, to learning and socializing at home.

In April, Cisco became one of the first to warn that the computer chip shortage was a problem, although its suggestion that it could last for six months turned out to be rather optimistic.

May – Trump’s return?

Some have pointed out that it appeared to be little more than a glorified 1990-style blog – and just a month later it was shut down.

It has raised $ 1 billion to date, but has also sparked controversy and faces an SEC investigation.

June – Internet under pressure

Similar issues plagued Amazon Web Services, Akamai, and Cloudflare over the year, prompting some to question the reliance on a handful of companies to make the internet work.

July – goodbye to Jeff

Image source, Reuters

One of the original Silicon Valley innovators, Jeff Bezos, left Amazon, exactly 27 years after founding the online retail giant. To many he was a business visionary, and the company he founded is proof of that – worth $ 1.8 billion when he left.

But like all tech giants, Amazon has come under increased scrutiny, for example over how it treats its warehouse workers, as well as whether it is monopolizing retail sales in line.

Mr Bezos does not intend to step out of the spotlight, however. His latest obsession is space – in October, he and original Captain Kirk, aka William Shatner, of Star Trek, exploded in sub-orbit in his rocket, Blue Origin.

August – how to earn money during school holidays

Image source, Benyamin ahmed

This year we learned that NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token. What that meant was less understood – essentially a digital token that can be used as a way to pay for digital collectibles.

Elsewhere, an NFT of an animated cat GIF sold for over £ 365,000, while Jack Dorsey’s very first tweet reached £ 2.5million and web source code from Tim Berners-Lee NFT went for $ 5.4 million.

But the NFT craze was not without its critics: author David Gerard describes NFTS as the “new form of the worthless beanstalk.”

Either way, it was hard to ignore, and NFT entered Collins’ Dictionary of New Words for 2021 – along with Metaverse.

September: Bad vibes

The document, released by Apple and spotted by MacRumours, suggested that engine vibration could damage the phones’ optical image stabilization or closed-loop autofocus systems.

The BBC’s retelling of the story has gotten millions of hits.

October: the firm formerly Facebook

Image source, Getty Images

A rebranding for Facebook attracted less attention than a few hours outage of its services

It’s also the month Facebook announced its new focus on the metaverse – a concept that quickly became one of the most publicized words of 2021, and for which Mark Zuckerberg seems to have endless enthusiasm.

It’s basically a virtual reality version of the internet where Meta, along with other big names in tech, believe we’ll be living, playing, and working at some point in the future.

Of course, the more cynical wondered if the new enthusiasm for the metaverse – which came with not only a rebranding of the company, but a plan to hire 10,000 people in the EU to build it – wasn’t a distraction from Facebook’s current problems with real-world content. .

November – the hacker hunt

Image source, National Anti-Crime Agency

Rumors suggest marriage of alleged Evil Corp hacker Maksim Yakubets may have cost more than half a million dollars

It took him to a golf course and a shining skyscraper in Moscow. He didn’t find the pirates, but he did learn that they were making an enormous amount of money – besides driving necessary Lamborghinis, having stuffed weddings, and keeping exotic animals.

Any direct connection to the Russian state is denied by the Kremlin, but experts believe hackers are allowed to thrive in the country provided they do not target Russian nationals. While US law enforcement claims they are also enlisted for state hacking.

December – radioactive necklace

Image source, RIVM

This year, there has been a new wave of misinformation around vaccinations, Covid and politics.

The technology hasn’t been immune to conspiracy theories either, with attacks on 5G transmitters from those who believe they are omitting dangerous radio waves.

Despite no evidence that transmitters cause harm, the theory has spawned a line of products that claim to protect people from them.

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