A year in technology: Rise and falls of 2017

A woman wears VR googles, which isolates its users from the real world and opens the doors of a digital one.
A woman wears VR googles, which isolates its users from the real world and opens the doors of a digital one.

2017 will be remembered for bitcoin's rise, the death of net neutrality and large-scale data breaches

The rollercoaster ride of cryptocurrencies, digitally created money that works on a secure network known as a blockchain, dominated the headlines this year. But the innovation in tech - and cybercrime - did not stop in 2017, either. Here are this year's top tech stories that tried to steal the stage from bitcoin.

The meteoric rise of cryptocurrencies

After an impressive rise in value, bitcoin started 2017 with a $1,000 price tag. Some believed the meteoric rise of the infamous cryptocurrency was over and it would crash in 2017, while others insisted that its value will continue to see exponential growth. The latter group turned out to be right as, despite a hard crash mid-December, one Bitcoin was worth more than $14,000 when this was being written.

Other digital currencies, like Ethereum and IOTA, also gained fame this year. We are entering a new year with the same scenario as 2017; Bitcoin prices raised exponentially last year, and many believe it will crash in 2018.

Face ID and the age of biometrics with Apple

Along with its unique 10-year anniversary model, iPhone X, Apple unveiled a new authentication method - Face ID - on Sept. 12. It replaces the fingerprint-based Touch ID technology and knows the owner of the iPhone X via facial recognition. As with any innovation in popular technology, Face ID received harsh criticism for privacy and security reasons.

Apple claimed "the technology provides intuitive and secure authentication enabled by the TrueDepth camera system with advanced technologies to map the geometry of a user's face accurately." But what about an evil twin? Despite the developers said that the chance of fooling Face ID is "one in a million," many cases took the internet by storm when it was found that iPhone X can't tell the difference between twins, and in some cases, even cousins.

Cybercriminals get to Equifax data

You know you're having a bad year for data security and privacy when Equifax, one of the biggest credit monitoring companies in the U.S. responsible for storing hundreds of millions of sensitive user data, makes it public that it has been hacked.

The massive data breach allowed cybercriminals to get their hands on sensitive data belonging to 140 million U.S. citizens. The Atlanta-based company disclosed that social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver's license numbers were exposed in the attack.

AR takes off while VR standing still

2017 made it clear that virtual reality (VR) is not for everyone but augmented reality (AR) is. For starters, you need to have a costly headset to immerse yourself in VR. You need to isolate yourself from the real world completely. It turns out, that's not what consumers want, at least for now.AR, on the other hand, merges digitally created worlds with our physical one. You just need a smartphone to experience the wonders of augmented reality. And with their 2017 models, flagship smartphones made it clear that they want you to enjoy AR more.

Uber's rough year with scandals, data breach

If one company were grateful that 2017 is finally over, it would be Uber. The fast-growing ride-hailing startup had its fair share of crisis, both in and outside the tech industry.

The sexual harassment case and Travis Kalanick's political moves made headlines this year. But the cybersecurity failure is the main reason one of the first unicorns, startups with over $1 billion valuations, have made it to this list:

A breach on Uber's database exposed personal data of over 57 million customers and drivers. What's worse is that the attack actually happened in 2016, and Uber paid a ransom to cybercriminals, before concealing the whole ordeal for a year, not a very smart move for such a brilliant startup.

Apple admits slowing down older iPhones

It has been circulating the web for years, but Apple finally admitted that the company intentionally slows the performance of older iPhone models. According to the Cupertino company, it has nothing to do with the planned obsolescence, either.

"Li-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components," a spokesperson explained. By slowing down the devices, Apple aims to prevent such unexpected shutdowns. But millions of iPhone users around the world are not happy about it. We'll see if this policy will change in 2018.

Net neutrality in internet is dead

Net neutrality and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had an on-and-off relationship over the years. Net neutrality is seen as one of the main pillars of the internet by many authorities and users alike. It allows a "neutral" state of the internet, prohibiting internet service providers from speeding up, slowing down or fiddling with content.

Two years ago, the FCC brought net neutrality to prevent service providers from making "pay more to speed up" offers to internet users across the U.S. A December vote reversed that rule, and now internet providers are free to block, throttle or prioritize content.

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