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Top Internet Tech Stories of 2021
From the metaverse to an orb that scans your retina and pays you cryptocurrency in return, these were the tech stories that defined 2021.
2021 has been a crazy year, as I’m sure you’ll all agree. Things got weird on the tech front too, with the crypto market going nuts, Facebook rebranding to Meta, and more. Check out my annual summary of tech news below…
Notes from the Present 📱
Top 5 Internet Technology Stories of 2021
My second-to-last column of the year was a review of the year in tech news stories. A newsworthy story in the tech industry often isn’t about the best technology. Sometimes it’s hype, other times controversy, and still other times it’s a story that is stranger than fiction. There was plenty of all of that in 2021. Here’s my list:
Web3 and NFTs; even Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, put an NFT (non-fungible token) of the web’s code up for sale at Sotheby’s this year. Sale price: $5.4m. Other crypto fans bought bored ape NFTs.
Meta → Facebook’s pivot to the metaverse, which I covered in a recent newsletter.
Photoshop on the Web; heck of a technical achievement, because Photoshop is a highly complex app and many thought it would never become a web app.
Apple’s browser engine ban; again, maybe not a big deal for “normies” (as Web3 fans call non-tech people). But basically, Apple restricts browser competition on iOS and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is one government agency looking into it.
Worldcoin and The Orb; not a joke…a company called Worldcoin launched a metallic ball this year — “The Orb” — that scans your retina and pays you cryptocurrency in return. It has raised $25 million from VCs and other investors.
Billionaires Call Out Web3 on Twitter
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey decided to take on the Web3 boosters this week:
Fellow billionaire Elon Musk joined in the fun:
It was reminiscient, to me, of the early days of Web 2.0 — when the term was only vaguely defined and there were black and white opinions of its validity. I suspect we’ll see a lot more of this debate over Web3 in 2022.
Web3 Infrastructure, For Real
On a serious note, I appreciated this background detail tweet from the Head of Product at Ankr, a company that provides Web3 Infrastructure. It was also good to hear an acknowledgement that Web3 “runs parallel to Web 2.0,” rather than trying to usurp it. Neuroth wrote an explainer post for my employer The New Stack, if you want to dive deeper into this topic.
Coinbase Defines the Metaverse
This blog post nicely framed how the metaverse intersects with crypto. It was published by Coinbase, a crypto exchange that has a lot of motivation to encourage crypto usage within the emerging virtual world.
Meta Wants Blockchain in the Metaverse
“Meta, Facebook’s parent company, is aiming for “deep compatibility” with blockchain technology, according to an internal post on Tuesday from a top executive.”
Worth noting, as the NYT reporter did in his piece, that one of Meta’s board members is Marc Andreessen — whose VC firm a16z is Silicon Valley’s heaviest investor in crypto/web3.
Notes from the Past ☎️
Early Web 2.0 Definitions Were Bad Too
Here’s how bad the early days of Web 2.0 were, in terms of defining what it meant. In March 2005, I reported on ReadWriteWeb that the term “Web 2.0” now had a Wikipedia entry. The initial definition was awful, as this excerpt shows:
“Web 2.0 defines a newer incarnation of the World Wide Web typified by the transition from the typical website hosting HTML/XHTML pages, to a platform that provides a point of presence (sometimes known as a Web portal) […]”
Gen Z and iPods
This is why I don’t use TikTok…
YouTube Co-Founder Disses LiveJournal
In a 2005 email dug up by Internal Tech Emails, YouTube’s Chad Hurley proves he was an early adoptor at being a social media troll, when he calls the early 2000s blogging platform LiveJournal “an intellectually unsatisfying and pathetic project.” (for the record, I think that’s totally unfair — I was never a big LJ user, but it was an excellent journaling/blogging tool for its time)
TheFacebook in 2004
How fast the tech world moves. When Facebook launched in 2004, as thefacebook, its design was about as professional-looking as ReadWriteWeb’s at that point (which is to say, not very!). Via Web Design Museum.
One More Thing 📞
It was a windy week where I live…but also this tweet sums up 2021, doesn’t it? The whole year has been like trying to take a selfie in a hurricane.
Happy Christmas and see you in the new year! Do reach out by email (just hit reply) or on Twitter (@ricmac) if you have any content suggestions, or just want to touch base.